Have you ever experienced true cold in your life? Were you so cold that moving your fingers was virtually impossible? Take your mittens off for 5 minutes in -18 degrees (Fahrenheit) with a -35 degree wind chill. You will learn quickly what true cold feels like.
I woke the day after Christmas at 4:45am excited. Normally you tell me that I have to wake up at that time nowadays and I must drag myself out of bed. Not today, today I would peakbag my first 4000 footer since July and a 52 with a View hike with Anton’s best friend Sharon. Sharon was previously featured on the Baldface Loop post. Anton had to work so Sharon and I would have a girls day. Most women go to a local winery and get their nails done, but not Sharon and I. Our perfect idea of a girl’s day is going for a winter hike in the Presidential Range.
Sharon and I met at a park and ride off of 93 and made the rest of the trip to the trail head together. We actually started on time at 9:30am, amazing! The trail was wooded and beautiful. Despite the rest of New England being completely without snow, the White Mountains as usual, have tons. It started out like the average 4000 footer, easy then gradually more and more difficult as the hike went on.
We absolutely crushed the first 1.5 miles in an hour, even taking a brief side trip to appreciate the view off of Bulge Cliff for a few minutes! I couldn’t believe it when we reached a fork in the trail signifying that there was only one more mile to the summit.
From there it only got steeper. I had to stop once and a while to catch my breath. That’s not a bad thing, stopping reminded me to drink water. I no longer carry my hydration reservoir in the winter as a result of it freezing up. Now I only take a water bottle with hot water in it. It doesn’t start cooling until around noon usually so I have water all day. I also brought a backpacking stove and pot. This way I could cook hot food to keep my body warm. The calories are essential on days like this, as is burning them. The reason I kept my pace was to keep my body warm. Normally I’m more turtle like than this going up a steep trail.
Towards the summit we saw my favorite bird, the grey jay. They’re so cute, puffy, and friendly. Seriously, these little guys generally fly right into my hands. They make me feel like Snow White whenever I am holding them.
It was cold, I’m not going to lie, but the summit was a level of cold I have yet to experience. The wind hollowed and I shivered under my layers as my sweat cooled. I took off my mittens to snap some pictures on my cell phone. Within a minute my hands felt brittle. It felt amazing to be back on a 4000 footer, but Sharon and I didn’t want to linger, we went in search of the trail which connected Jackson to Webster. It was no where to be found. My theory is that no one crossed the ridge since the last storm, no signs were present either, nothing even resembled another trail. It was a little disappointing, I looked forward the the iconic view from Webster Cliff, but it’s not worth getting lost.
On the way down Sharon and I stopped for lunch in a clearing just off trail where it was flat. Cooking proved the be more difficult than expected. It took only a couple minutes to set up my pot, but by the time I was ready to light the stove my hands were frozen to the point where I couldn’t light the lighter. Sharon had to help. The water came to a slow boil after several minutes and I ate half cooked food. I already have a thermos on order so I can have hot food on the mountain. That was absurd. If it’s above 20 degrees cooking is totally fine, but it doesn’t work in that kind of cold.
Sharon and I were frozen solid so we picked up our pace on the way down to the point where I was sweating again, thankfully. Sweating in this weather is a good thing. We finished in record time at 2pm and I was actually home by 4:30…amazing!
A few words of advice… Please don’t try this without the right preparation. You’re risking frostbite, hypothermia, and potential death. I know myself, I get cold very easily so keeping my heart rate up and hot (ish) food was essential. If this is your first time hiking in negative temps please proceed with caution and know your limits.