Above the Last Crossing
Mount Monroe 5372'
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail / Monroe Loop Trail
6 Miles (From Marshfield Station) 2850' Elevation gain
Kevin, Judy, Emma and Blue
We hadn't made this hike in winter before, so it was a new W4k for each of us. The forecast was for mild temps and indeed there seemed to be an inversion, making for one of the warmest January hikes we've ever experienced. The forecast for increasing winds throughout the day did not materialize during our hike. There was a gentle breeze at the hut and a steady 15-20mph on the summit. As we approached the hut the sun was engulfed by a massive cloud that dropped down from Washington. Friends on Mount Eisenhower said they watched the Northern Presidentials disappear but stayed in the sun themselves.
Along the Ammonoosuc River
The trail had a few inches of new snow over a lot of ice so traction was a must. Micro-spikes worked for the entire hike for me, not so for Jude. Jude had snow clumping issues to the point where she had to stop and clear them over and over. This did not happen to me and our only guess is that our weight difference was the factor. The snow under her boots was compressed just enough to stick while my extra weight pushed it down and spread it out enough that it couldn't stick. Just a guess... The dogs had no traction issues, but Emma had snowballing issues on her "feathers", the long fur on the backs of her legs. Her paws were fine, but large snowballs kept clumping on her leg fur so we had to stop and break them off several times. Fortunately it was warm enough that they didn't freeze and become impossible to remove. If that was the case we would have called it a day. Blue had no such issues.
Waiting for the Bi-peds
There were good ice bridges on this day, but a short warm spell could easily change that. It was sort of amazing to see a ravine in early January with very little snow, seemed more like October or November. The last crossing up high was barely a hop, more like a slightly long step to get across. There seemed to be a little bit more snow above the crossing, but it was probably due to riming on the trees from the constant fog rather than actual snow. At this point the sun disappeared and the fog descended and the views were gone for the day. Even standing right at the hut it was easy to imagine becoming disoriented and lost in the stark white landscape. As we made our way across the frozen snow towards the Monroe Loop Trail we left barely a track to help us navigate back.
We began the short ascent to Monroe's summit along similar hard, frozen snow, but soon got into drifts which had blown over the shoulder of the hill. A section of this looked pretty sketchy so we opted to side-hill up to where we'd meet the trail again. Here we got into some deep drifts and I had to boost both dogs to get them out and up, but the distance was very short to get over the ridge and back to the wind-scoured trail. From the first level flat area we could not see the high-point of the summit less than a hundred yards away and I became acutely aware of how easily one could go the wrong way in the fog.
They Spotted Hikers on the Crawford Path
This was a tag and get back down type of trip and that's what we did. In my haste I didn't think to check my camera settings before shooting summit shots, so they were all overexposed in the white surroundings and not worth posting, you'll just have to take my word we were there! Back down at the hut visibility was somewhat better and the wind which seemed much stronger on Monroe's summit was again just a gentle breeze. We finished up what we had to eat, the dogs ate like they may never eat again, and we made our way back down towards tree-line. It occurred to me that I was warm. My hands were warm, my feet were warm, I was warm. Unusual for me in January!
We soon found ourselves back down below tree-line and there were some views to our north again. Things went well and when we got to the spur path that leads down to the gorge we made the short side trip down to have a look at the frozen waterfalls. Jude had switched to crampons for the descent from the hut and things went well except one kept coming loose and we would have to stop and fix it. The clumping issues were gone, but that may have been due to the fact that the trail was now pretty well packed from the traffic, some of which was in snowshoes.
Snow Laden Trees
Now back below the Gem Pool we trudged along the seemingly flat terrain back towards Marshfield Station. We were home free, we thought. Stepping down off an ice bulge Jude lost a crampon again. She stooped to pick it up, then standing back up one foot stuck while the other one slid and down she went. Never a good thing with a crampon in your hand. Some skin ripped and some blood flowed, but fortunately it was not a deep puncture. Nonetheless it was a nasty cut and we had to patch it up and apply pressure to stem the bleeding. Of course a million things race through your mind when something like this happens. Probably first is, "Why did this have to happen?" but then the voice of reason says, "Well, it could have been a lot worse!" and "Thank God it didn't happen at 5000' in sub-zero temps!"
On the Way Back Down
We certainly would rather that it had not happened at all, but were somewhat relieved that it was not a much worse incident. Anxious now to get out of the woods we made quick time back to the car where we again cleaned the wound and bandaged it up. It did not appear to be bad enough for stitches. At this writing it is healing well. Scary lesson learned, though. Our favorite traction devices are our snowshoes and I couldn't help but think that the injury might have been avoided if we had been in snowshoes, but this day they seemed like overkill and not necessary. We may be sticking to them for the most part in the near future, if it ever snows! 8)
Full set of pics HERE: