Mt. Moosilauke & South Peak
Glencliff Trail - South Peak Spur - Carriage Road - Glencliff Trail
Distance: 7.61 mi.
Elevation Gain: 3,242 ft. (overall) 3,442 ft. (total)
Time: 2:59 (South Peak) 3:42 (Summit) 5:57 (Total)
I know I'm a bit late with this trip report, but the early birth of your first child changes your schedule and plans quickly.
Knowing I had the birth of our first child coming up soon, I wanted to get in one last hike before the event came. I decided that I could work a half day then do the hour drive to Moosilauke and hike up and back hopefully before sunset. That worked out and at about 1:20 pm I had my feet on the trail.
Leaving the fields at the start, the trail hit the first brook crossing which was easy with plenty of rocks to the left to walk across. The early section of trail was mostly dry with just a few muddy patches here and there. The trail starts out pretty easy with a few short bursts of steeper or rockier trail.
Brook at the start
At approximately 2,900 feet, there was snow in the trail. It didn't come in patches, it just started and stayed there. Very quickly the path was getting icy, so I put on my Microspikes. Just a few hundred feet after doing so, the trail became a solid sheet of ice flow that covered everything. This went on for about 300 feet and the spikes were certainly handy.
Start of the ice
From here on out, the monorail and trail were very stable. Cool temps the last few days certainly helped, but the trail showed little sign of postholes or major damage. The climb was pretty steady at a good grade. Eventually though, it got pretty steep and my pace slowed down. Just after the steepest section, you pass the outlook along the trail to your right. Things then level out before you soon come to the intersection with the Carriage Road and South Peak Spur.
I headed out to the South Peak first. I didn't hit this peak the first time I came this route since at that time I wasn't peak bagging and wasn't even sure I was hiking the four thousand footers. The trail was less solid than what it had been on so far, but still stable enough to hold me. Just before coming up out of the trees I made sure to put on dry layers and add a couple as well. It was below freezing up here and quite windy. The summit of South Peak was pretty nice with good views up to Moosilauke and some rime ice on the rocks and trees.
Moosilauke from South Peak
Rime on South Peak
The hike back to the Carriage Road was quick. Once on the Carriage Road, the snow was still very solid and provided easy walking. A moose had been up the trail somewhat recently and done some postholing. Luckily he didn't mess up the trail that bad. His holes did show that the snow was still probably 3+ ft deep still. Nearing tree line, the snow depth would sometimes drop to almost nothing and become ice in the trail. With the spikes still on, it was easy navigating. Once I got out of the trees, I got a reminder of how windy it was today. I had to lean to my left some to keep from being knocked over. Once at the summit, I ducked behind some rocks to take off my pack and get a quick break.
Nearing the summit
With the wind blowing so hard, I didn't plan on spending much time at the summit. Plus I wanted to be back to my car before dark. To start I got out my Kestral and measured the wind to be averaging 39 mph with gusts up to 52 mph. With a temp in the mid-twenties, this made for a wind chill in the single digits. It was also the first time all winter (even though it's spring) I needed to put on my goggles. In my previous two trips here, I never had a view to the north. While today's view wasn't fully clear, it was still the best I had seen, so I took some photos in that direction before getting all the others in.
Limited view north
View of South Peak
These ice feathers were about 8 inches long
An open windy summit
After getting blown around and almost knocked over a number of times, it was time to head back down the mountain. I was using my left trekking pole to help brace against the wind, but every time I tried to put my right down, it seemed to blow in front of me and not where I wanted it before I could get it on the ground. As soon as I got behind some trees though, it was like the wind stopped. It was kind of an odd feeling to be honest.
From my past pictures, this cairn is at least 6 feet tall. To the left is bare ground, and to the right is at least 4-5 feet of snow
Knowing what the trail was like ahead, the hike down went pretty quick and easy. Slowly taking layers back off as I got out of the wind and warmed back up with a faster pace. I left my spikes on until the same location where I put them on. I was glad I left the extra weight of snowshoes in the car. The lower sections of trail seemed a little slicker on the way down as I found a bit more mud and almost fell a couple times as my feet slide down the trail in front of me. By the time I was back to the car, the sun was setting and I hadn't seen a single person. Given the day and time, I wasn't surprised at that, but it's the second time on this trail and I have never seen anyone on it.
The top of the ice bulge
I was glad to get this hike in as the weather made it fun and interesting. I've now hiked in 40 mph winds instead of just stood in them as a tourist on Mt. Washington. It also turned out to be a good thing I did this hike this much before our daughter was born. She was due 2 weeks and one day from this hike and I wasn't going to hike within 2 weeks of the due date. As it ended up, she came 11 days early and a week after this hike we were already bringing her home.
Miles had to find a good spot for his summit photo so that he wouldn't blow away. An 8 inch tall monkey doesn't weigh much after all
For all the pictures from the hike, just go HERE