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 Mt. Ellen 25MAR07 
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Leg Burner
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 Mt. Ellen 25MAR07
I know this is Hike-NH and Mt. Ellen is in Vermont but I'm not on any of the other forums. I wanted to post this someplace because there seems to be an extreme lack of information regarding Vermont trails. I see people on the trails in Vermont (in the summer anyway) they must all have a secret website or something.

So I spent the week surfing around looking for trail descriptions, trip reports, anything to help me plan on what to expect climbing Mt Ellen and Abraham. It seems like both of these mountains are most often climbed via the ski trails that go up the Eastern slopes of both mountains. The ski trails just seemed to short and easy for me, almost like cheating, I wanted to do them from a real trail.

I decided on taking the Jerusalem Trail from the West to the Long Trail. Hike the Long Trail South over Ellen to Abraham and then loop back the same way. On the map this was 15.8 miles which I knew was a little on the longer side but I figured it was doable if I got an early start.

So I woke up at 4:30am (ugghh) made my lunch (PB+J), ate breakfast (oatmeal), made one last look around for my ice axe. which I couldn't find, grabbed my pack and hit the road by 5am. The drive up Route 3 to 93 is so familiar I can do it in my sleep (and I think I probably did). Then turned West on 89, set the cruise, turned up the tunes, and kept an eye out for deer. I spooked at least three of them on the way. As I was cruising down the road listening for the radar detector to go off I remembered where my ice axe was, the trailhead of the Bucklin trail from climbing Killington two weeks ago. Darn! Oh well, I got it from SteepandCheap.com and I am sure they will post it up again.

I got off 89 at the Waterbury exit, took Route 2 to 100 to 17. Route 17
looks pretty twisty on the map as it winds through Appalation gap but Whoa! When I saw the signs "Travel not recommended for buses or large trucks" I knew things would be a little hairy. I started feeling like I was in the C.W. Mcall song "Hair pin turns and switchback city." The down hill side wasn't much better, only with judicious use of the brakes was I able to keep them from overheating. Scary, definitely would not want to drive this road with any sort of precipitation falling.

I followed 17 until I came to Jerusalem Road which for some reason I had suspected would be paved but it wasn't. But the dirt road was frozen so as long as I stayed out of the ruts I didn't have a problem. After a few false turns down peoples long driveways I finally found the street sign for Dwire Road.

I knew the trailhead was supposed to be a half mile down the road at the top of a small hill. So I started scanning for trailhead signs but I saw a Subaru parked on the side of the road at the top of a hill. I was surprised to see anyone else there and figured that must be where the trailhead was. I stopped looking for the sign and pulled over, got my gear on and looked around. No trailhead signs but snow shoe footprints going off into the woods. Hmmm, that must be the trail so I took off. Only to find the footprints dead end about 50 yards in. Not sure what to do I turned around and walked back to the road.

Evidently there were people asleep inside the Subaru, which I hadn't realized and by now they were awake. They told me the trailhead was a hundred yards or so down the hill. I asked them if they were heading up this morning and they said no they came down last night after getting lost and only making it three quarters of the way up. Lost?!? That didn't sound good. He said it was dark so they just came back down. I could tell he was tired and wanted to go pack to sleep so I thanked him and headed off to the trailhead.

The trail was still frozen from the night before and well packed. The trail headed up at a nice steady incline. The woods soon opened up into a nice forest of hardwoods. About two tenths of a mile I found a nagalene bottle which I assumed was from one of the guys in the Subaru. I placed it on the side of trail and figured I would pick it up on the way back if it was still there.

A little over a mile into the woods I noticed that the trail had become less packed, as if a whole punch of people had just stopped and turned around with only maybe three or four sets of footprints continuing on. The temperature was rising and the trail was becoming less frozen. My snowshoes started sinking about an inch or so. The woods changed from Hardwood to Birch with a few pine.

The woods were beautiful. clear blue ski, warm temperatures and absolute dead quite. No car or highway sounds, no burbling brook, no birds, not even the wind in the trees. Just the crunch crunch crunch of my snowshoes.

As I hiked along blindly following the footsteps in front of me they suddenly diverged into three different directions. I stopped and looked down each path and tried to figure out which way to go. I looked for one of the blue blazes but could see none. I turned around and saw a blaze behind me so I knew I was still on the trail but there were no blazes in front of me. I decided to take the trail most traveled (sorry Robert Frost) but did not find another blaze. I soon turned around and took one of the other sets of foot prints and eventually found another blaze and another three sets of tracks. I followed one set until I either found the blaze or turned around to try a different path. This continued for about three quarters of a mile or so. Very slow going. Definitely not enough blazes.

Eventually the footprints stopped and so did the blazes. This must be where the guys in the Subaru said the hell with it and turned around. I could just imagine being out there in the woods, cold, dark, looking for stupid blue blazes. I would have gave up as well. But it was daytime I figured and I had made it this far so I kept going. I started walking in semi circles from the last blaze looking for the next one or looking for some other sign that I was on the trail. I knew I was near the top of the ridge. Every time I thought about giving up my search for the trail and just bushwacking to the ridgeline I found another blaze.

Eventually I made it up to the Long Trail. Yeah! I checked the time and realized I had lost a lot of it bushwacking around looking for the trail. I figured I could still make it to Abraham and back before dark but I would have to hurry. No problem I thought, The Long Trail is the premier trail in Vermont and was a wide smooth and fast trail highway! Bzzzzt, wrong.

After about twenty feet I lost the trail. No footprints, no blazes, no nothing. I pushed on looking for blazes. I knew the trail went right along the top of the ridge and the ridge was pretty narrow so I just kept going. Now and then I would see a familiar white blaze so I knew I was on the right track. I abandoned my tactic of semi circle tracks from the last blaze to the next one for three reasons, the woods on top of the ridge where quite a bit thicker and mostly pine, a lot more snow with tall drifts, and a lot fewer blazes. I just stayed on the top of the ridge and looked for the path of least resistance.

This was faster than looking for blazes on the Jerusalem Trail but still slower than I had envision the Long Trail super highway to be. It was basically slow bushwacking. The snow was fairly hard though so the going was somewhat easier. The large drifts and numerous blowdowns presented the biggest obstacles. That and the occasional stick in the eye or stuck through my hand. I stopped more than once to regain my composure and remind myself that getting injured, alone, would not be a good idea.

At some point I started seeing some yellow surveyors tape and realized that it was the trail. Yeah! The surveyors tape was tied about every 20 feet. Very very easy to follow. Knowing where the trail was made things much easier and faster. Not fast enough though. It was getting close to Noon by now. I knew if the Long Trail on the other side of Ellen was in the same shape that there was no way I was going to make it to Abraham and back before dark. And I had expended to much energy bushwacking that I didn't think I would have enough left to make the whole trip anyway. Oh well, I wasn't going home without at least one mountain so Ellen would have to do.

As I got closer to the ski trails I could hear the noise from the lifts and people shouting. Soon I found ski and snowboarding tracks on the trail. And then boom, I broke through the woods and was standing on the ski slopes. I took a breather and then turned right and headed up the trail. I kept to the right and just plodded along. The sun was bright, the ski was blue. No wind. The slope was steep but I just kept to the edge and plodded along. Now and then someone would yell at me "Snowshoes! Wow!" as they skied on down the trail.

I made it to the chair lift and figure that was it. There wasn't any sign or anything but there didn't seem to be any higher land. I thought I should look around for where the Long Trail goes off into the woods. Previous reports indicated that many people had a hard time finding the trail from the ski slopes and I could see why. I found a very small sign that said trail. I hiked in a few feet just to see if it was blazed at all and realized that I was still going up! After about 50 feet or so I found the summit sign. Damn glad I decided to look for the trail! Phew! I almost missed the top! Number 51 of 67! Woo Hoo!

I headed back out to the ski trail. There was a bench there presumably for people to put on their snowboards when they came off the lift. So I sat down on it, took off my pack and pulled out my lunch. I sat there and watched as people got off the lift and skied and snowboarded down the hill. It felt kinda weird knowing that all those people rode to the top when they SHOULD have walked up. Lazy! HA! A lot of people stopped and chatted with me "Did you walk up here?", "Yeah from back behind the that ridge.", "Wow, you must be tired." Blank stare. "Nope, not at all."

The weather was still gorgeous. No wind, even on the top. I thought again about Abraham and pulled out the map. Then I looked West and saw the storm rolling in. The weather report was calling for rain for the area. Depending on which website you looked at it was either going to start sometime between 6pm or 11pm. So I gave up on Abraham, it would have to wait for another day.

I geared up, and hiked back down the trails. I few of the trip reports I had read about Ellen and had mentioned getting a hard time form the ski patrol. I walked right by their little shack they didn't say anything at all to me.

Luckily having come up the same way I knew where the trail exited the ski slope. If I had just followed the Long Trail North and was looking for the trail it would have been very difficult to find as there was no trail sign or other indication of which break in the trees was the trail. For anyone else, look for the tall dead tree.

Heading back was pretty easy as I just had my foot prints to follow. The snow had soften up considerably in the warm sun. I was sinking up to three inches and even postholing with my snowshoes in others. The snow was balling on the bottom of my shoes but it wasn't a huge problem. I could see in some places where I had missed the trail but in other places I still could not find where the trail was supposed to be. Jerusalem Trail was wicked easy going down. It took me over two and half hours to get to the ridgeline but I was back at the trail head in under an hour. Downhill in the winter rocks!

The dirt road was another story. The temperature had gotten well above freezing during the day turning the frozen dirt road into a huge mud pit. Dwire road wasn't to bad but Jerusalem was a another story. I tried hard to stay out of the ruts but they just kept sucking me in. I was very worried about getting stuck and was rather surprised that my car made it through. If I had four wheel drive it would have been fine.

The rain storm finally caught up to me about 4PM as I was heading home on 89. But it wasn't rain, it was snow. So all the websites were wrong. Good thing I didn't risk trying to do Abraham on the same trip.

I still have the Nagalene bottle I found if anyone thinks it is theirs.

I will post pics here
http://www.cristhomas.com/climb
by Monday.

- C. Thomas


Sun Mar 25, 2007 12:45 pm
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Hey CT,

Nice TR...and I wouldn't worry about it being VT as I think we're all hiking anywhere we can...or looks good....so word of mouth is the best advertising!

off to check out the pics now.

Thanks!
Bill

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Mon Mar 26, 2007 11:27 am
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 Re: Mt. Ellen 25MAR07
cthomas wrote:
So I woke up at 4:30am (ugghh) made my lunch (PB+J), ate breakfast (oatmeal), made one last look around for my ice axe. which I couldn't find, grabbed my pack and hit the road by 5am.

It drives me crazy when I cant remember where my gear is. I seem to misplace it more and more these days. :D

Sounds like you had a good time anyways

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Mon Mar 26, 2007 5:53 pm
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 Re: Mt. Ellen 25MAR07
ScenicNH wrote:
It drives me crazy when I cant remember where my gear is. I seem to misplace it more and more these days. :D

Sounds like you had a good time anyways


I can tell you where your gear is that you left on the Matterhorn....you left your ice axe right near the last push to the summit from the Zmutt ridge route. The crampons got left at the summit after you took them off to do a vitory polka dance. Oh and the big expensive cameras....ummm, I have not seen them. Don't have a clue WHERE they are....certainly they are not in my pack! :twisted:

B.


Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:19 pm
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 Re: Mt. Ellen 25MAR07
New Hampshire wrote:
I can tell you where your gear is that you left on the Matterhorn....you left your ice axe right near the last push to the summit from the Zmutt ridge route. The crampons got left at the summit after you took them off to do a vitory polka dance. Oh and the big expensive cameras....ummm, I have not seen them. Don't have a clue WHERE they are....certainly they are not in my pack! :twisted:

B.


I'm watching you........... :lol: :lol:

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Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:50 pm
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Excellent t.r. Cris! Was most happy to read it and know you are hiking anywhere. Thank you and please return often!
:)

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Mon Apr 02, 2007 10:13 am
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