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Snowshoeing in January at 50 below (wind-chill, that is)
Hiking up the Long Trail to the Chin (Summit) of Mt Mansfield
Vermont's highest peak
[Large Page - 36 sec @ 28k - be patient]

January 25, 2004 
3 hiking buddies and I did what is generally a routinely challenging winter hike to the top of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak at a modest 4393 feet. This usually difficult route was rendered much more challenging by the combination of extreme cold and strong wind. The temperature at the start was about -20 F, and the short trek to the trailhead at 9:00 AM was not improved by the sharp breeze on the Mountain Road. We started up the well-packed trail without snowshoes, but added crampons once the trail got steep. The snow was thin enough everywhere that we never really needed snowshoes; it was more efficient to put up with the occasional post-holing. Soon the morning sun was breaking through the thin cloud layer, and we actually felt comfortable under our multiple layers and face masks (and with chemical hand warmers). As usual in winter, it was scarcely worth the bother to try to stay on the trail going across the north-to-south traverse that ends up at the ski trail, so we just went leftwards and up until we rejoined the Long Trail. We arrived at Taft a little after Noon, in beautiful, blazing sunshine under a perfect blue sky. 


Ed L. stopping for lunch at Taft Lodge.  Summit is out of sight at upper right, about 200 ft higher than visible ridge line.  More photos below.

     It was a cozy -5 F inside the lodge as we stopped to have a quick lunch and pile on the layers for the climb. John's and Jay's water had frozen on the way up, but both my water bottle in its insulated carrier and my thermos of tea were still useful.

     John and Jay took turns breaking trail in the 12" - 18" powder up to the base of the chin. There was enough packed snow cover to make climbing on ice or rock unnecessary, so the way up and down was relatively safe and uneventful. As we reached the top, the full force of the prevailing Northwest wind hit us. I estimate it was 30-50 mph, gusting as high as 70. At the summit it was -13 Farenheit, with a 50 mph wind gusting to an estimated 65 or 70. From my experience with accurately measured wind speeds on New Hampshire's Mt Washington, I know that if I have to momentarily stop walking and crouch for a second to keep from being blown off balance, it is about 70 mph. Paul measured the temperature at -13 F. This yields a windchill value of -50 F. The view was great, but we didn't stay long. Despite goggles and face mask, I felt the few exposed inches on my face starting to freeze. Sorry - no photos at the summit. The conditions were not really suitable for removing mittens.

     We still had enough sun on the descent to make the day seem warm and cozy; Paul's pack thermometer actually read +10 F in a sunny area! We stopped briefly outside Taft for a snack and clothing adjustment, and again bushwacking the traverse, found the Long Trail and reached the trailhead by a little after 3:00. For this group of experienced and well-equipped hikers, the day had been perfect in every respect.
Story by Ed Loewenton
Photos by Jay Monohan

Taken from the broad gulley between the Chin and Adams Apple. Elmore Mt is visible East Northeast of Mansfield, about 20 miles away.
Turnertoys is located on the lower northeast side of Elmore, at the edge of Morrisville.

Half-way up the Chin to the summit. It is hard to do justice in a photo to how steep this really is. View is toward the East. 
Ed, John, Jay, Paul at Taft Lodge

Larger image
(33 sec @ 28k)

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