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 Easiest winter 4,000 footer? 
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Sovereign Woodsman
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 Easiest winter 4,000 footer?
I want to gain more winter hiking experience, and if I ever hike a 4k in winter/the snow, I'd like to start with an easier one and work my way up. What would you consider the easiest 4,000 footer to hike in winter/the snow? I would also appreciate a few more 4ks that are easier to hike in winter and the other three seasons and can be done without having to camp overnight.

And by the way, these are the 4ks that I've already hiked, so that you don't name one that I've already done.

Mount Washington
Mount Jefferson
Mount Monroe
Cannon Mountain
Mount Osceola
East Mount Osceola

Thank you for any information!

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Tue Dec 06, 2011 7:22 pm
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The usual answer to this question is Pierce.

Tecumseh is another good cut-your-teeth peak. The ski area provides additional safety, and it is almost always broken out.

Of course it depends on conditions. Other relatively easy peaks include Waumbek and Hale via the FWT - neither is short, but neither is anything resembling steep and you are 99% likely to not need traction other than snowshoes (once there is good cover.)

Tim

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Tue Dec 06, 2011 7:44 pm
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I'm also planning to get started with winter hiking this year so I'm interested in hearing people's thoughts, too. From my research so far it seems like most hikes will be a little longer (due to road closures), but also easier on the legs since the trails are "flattened" by the snow. In addition to any 4000 footers I'd be interested in learning about other nice "beginning" winter hikes.

Kris


Tue Dec 06, 2011 8:24 pm
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krpayer wrote:
From my research so far it seems like most hikes will be a little longer (due to road closures),


"Most"? No. Some, yes. But really road closures are only an issue for probably 1/4 of the 4K's. The Bonds, Carrigan, Twins/Galehead, Garfield and Jefferson are the only ones that become longer. Yes road closures also affect the Osceola's and Ike, but they have alternate route options that keep them in the typical summer length range.

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but also easier on the legs since the trails are "flattened" by the snow.


Don't believe it one bit! Yes the trails (assuming deep enough snowpack) sort of "level" themselves out, but you now run into the whole gamut of footing issues like postholes, slick snow you slip around in, mash potato snow, snow that sticks to your shoes like cement, snow that is not deep enough to posthole in but is like walking on beach sand, and all of this before you even take into consideration trail breaking (and if you have to break trail in a foot or two of snow you are going to work twice....or more!...as hard as a normal hike.) Believe me, I am not one to try and make hiking out to be anything more than walking up hill (as one of my friends puts it "you learned the basic skills of hiking at age 3" :lol: ), but there is nothing "easier" about winter hiking.

Brian


Tue Dec 06, 2011 9:09 pm
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New Hampshire wrote:
krpayer wrote:
but also easier on the legs since the trails are "flattened" by the snow.


Don't believe it one bit! Yes the trails (assuming deep enough snowpack) sort of "level" themselves out, but you now run into the whole gamut of footing issues like postholes, slick snow you slip around in, mash potato snow, snow that sticks to your shoes like cement, snow that is not deep enough to posthole in but is like walking on beach sand, and all of this before you even take into consideration trail breaking (and if you have to break trail in a foot or two of snow you are going to work twice....or more!...as hard as a normal hike.) Believe me, I am not one to try and make hiking out to be anything more than walking up hill (as one of my friends puts it "you learned the basic skills of hiking at age 3" :lol: ), but there is nothing "easier" about winter hiking.

Brian


Oh, don't let Brian's stick-in-the-mud (what exactly does that mean anyway?!) attitude deter you. Winter hiking is cool, for many reasons. I believe the trails are "easier" despite the chance of conditions Mr. Stick mentioned above. But, no bugs. And, it's way easier to regulate clothing. In the summer, I mean c'mon, face it. You can only take so much off. :wink: You aren't tripping over roots, stepping over rocks, sloshing through mud. And, no bugs. There are fewer people out too, and those you do meet tend to be less tourist-y types who don't understand trail etiquette, but that's a whole other argument. One of the biggest perks is the lack of bugs (and bees and other nasty stinging insects).

I would give a strong 2nd to Pierce. Kinsmans are nice too, if you can make it (got turned back twice from the back side, NOT the F-in' Jimmy Trail). We did Whiteface and Passaconaway in winter too, and those were very manageable. Tom and Field were also quite manageable. Willey was ok, but on that one stretch from Field over to Willey we encountered pretty much all of Mr. Stick's aforementioned pitfalls.

I say go for it. Be safe. Know your limits. Know when to turn back. Might I suggest a few shorter winter hikes to acclimate? Coppermine Trail up to Bridalveil Falls is a nice one. Also Basin-Cascades up to LL hut. And there's Cardigan and Kearsarge. Oh. How about Jennings?

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Tue Dec 06, 2011 9:28 pm
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Mr. Stick in the mud here. :D Personally Fall is my favorite season. Then the mid-ish Spring season (pre bug, but when things are starting to green up.) Summer comes next. Then winter. Sorry, but winter hiking is the bottom of bottoms (but of course I don't let that stop me from getting out.) And of course I don't want to deter anyone from doing it either. Same reason....any day out, crappy or not, is still better than a day at work (well, most times :wink: ). But hands down there is nothing easy about winter hiking. I have done trips in summer that I reflect back and wonder "god, was that really worth it?", but hands down the majority of those "god was that really worth it?" moments have come from winter hikes. Breaking trail through 2 feet of snow to Mt. Willey, just me and Joe, exhausted to the point even Joe was close to keeling over (and bless his soul he didn't even NEED Willey for winter at that time), countless trips up E. Osceola and Osceola (including like 3 times I did not even need to do it, but did it for friends), -20 degree temps on a Twins-Galehead attempt, a truly miserable Twins/Galehead loop, epic slog up Flume from Osseo (were we busted BobC's trail breaking cherry!), trips ending with headlamp time measured in hours....I mean I can go on like this. If I am going to be honest, winter 4K bagging has probably been the cause for more "why am I doing this f**king list" moments which has lead to my on again, off again love-hate for these lists. I will grant you, if we are talking about doing winter hiking at one's own leisure, knocking off "fun" stuff (the Welch-Dickey's or Hedgehogs type stuff) and the "occasional" 4K bag, then winter hiking ain't so bad. But if you are really going to pursue the winter 4K list (as is the subject of this thread) I just want people to realize there is nothing at all easy about it. 25 miles across Zealand and the Bonds (though I will admit this one was one of the better trips I have ever done) is no simple matter. This is a tough single day traverse in summer, but in winter it is a deep investment of your time and energy. I am not saying only certain people can do it....let's face it, when I did it I was not the most in shape person at 270 pounds, so if I can do it anyone in "reasonable" shape can.....but rather I am only trying to be up front and honest that this is a difficult thing to undertake. I am now 45 pounds (and still dropping) lighter than I was then, so perhaps being more fit might change my view of things. But I have to say probably not. As I said, I will still hike in winter because I refuse to let anything like snow stop me from enjoying the mountains. But if I had my way snow would be for being picturesque in my front yard, not in the mountains making life miserable when I have to walk through it. :lol:

Mr. Stick, over and out. 8)

Brian


Tue Dec 06, 2011 10:10 pm
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My first was Tom, not the most glamorous but it served it's purpose to build confidence. Waumbek was #2.

Tim's advice of Tecumseh is a good one too-if I were to do it again that's what I'd do as at least there are some nice views along the route and at the summit.

I cut my teeth in the winter by doing sections of the AT in NH south of the Whites, between Moosilauke and Hanover. I spent the whole winter at it so was able to get comfortable with snowshoes and all the additional gear that's required.

I know the winter 4K list seems daunting but it's really not. Road closures only effect 7 peaks-S. Twin, N. Twin, Carrigain, Garfield, Zealand, Hale & Galehead. Apart from those, there are still some pretty long hikes (Owls Head, Isolation and the Bonds come to mind) but I did most of my winter hikes in the late 80's/early 90's without doing more than 11 miles, most were less than 10 miles. There are lots of peaks you can bag in winter without doing huge miles-Tecumseh, Jackson, Cannon, Waumbek, Tom, even some Presi peaks can be reached without big miles (now that the Cog road is open during winter months). Knock off some short hikes and the comfort level will follow.

Other non-4k hikes I would recommend are: the Rattlesnakes near Squam Lake; Speckled Mt near Evans Notch; Stinson Mt in Rumney.

I echo Brian's comments regarding the "ease" of snowshoeing. It's more of a plodding mentality. What you'll find over time, though, is although it feels like you're just barely making progress on the ascent, the descent is can be much faster and much less effort.

One other thing to consider is route finding. After a good snow, the trail can disappear as the treadway gets buried, trees get loaded with snow and the landscape all looks the same. Also, as the winter progresses and the snow depth increases, the trail rises up into the trees and limbs that used to be way above your head are not in your face.

I hope you catch the bug as it opens up a whole new world few get to see!


Tue Dec 06, 2011 10:23 pm
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MikeL wrote:
I echo Brian's comments regarding the "ease" of snowshoeing. It's more of a plodding mentality. What you'll find over time, though, is although it feels like you're just barely making progress on the ascent, the descent is can be much faster and much less effort.


Heh heh, which brings me to perhaps the BEST part of winter hiking.....a sled you can pack in on your backpack. :D I have gotten 1/4 mile long runs on a swiss bob on the lower parts of Glencliff trail. And for a truly hair raising, but swift descent, Kinsman Ridge trail from Cannon to the tram lot will get your adrenalin flowing (as will coming off E. Osceola!)

Brian


Tue Dec 06, 2011 10:39 pm
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Winter hiking is probably my favorite season for a bunch of reasons. No crowds, fresh pristine snow, the clarity of the dry air gives amazing views and it always seems to be more of an adventure than summer hikes for some reason. That and bombing down a trail of deep powder in snowshoes or glissading the steep parts is a blast! I want to get one of those little seat/saucers this year. Those look like a lot of fun too.

That said I'd say Waubek is the easiest in the winter. Pierce however is right up there and provides a much bigger bang for the buck. That was my first winter one. We carried up everything but the kitchen sink and never even needed traction, let alone the slepping bags, tents and other stuff we carried just to be "safe". Live and learn but better safe than sorry when starting out I guess.


Tue Dec 06, 2011 10:42 pm
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This is all great advice. I think I may have used a bad choice of words :oops: I didn't really mean to imply that I thought it would be easier in general (quite the opposite actually), rather what Kathy mentioned: no roots, rocks, mud, bugs, etc. In any case, Sticks can't deter me! I'd much rather have a better idea of what I'm getting into, so this input is very helpful. I certainly expect it to be quite challenging.

The main reason I want to get into winter hiking is what Brian mentioned: because I want to continue to enjoy the mountains year round. I've had a blast the last few months getting back into hiking after several years off and I don't want it to stop. I don't mind the extra effort at all.

I am definitely planning to acclimate and learn how to walk in snowshoes on some flatter, easier trails before moving onto smaller mountains and eventually a few 4ks. I'm not going to directly tackle the winter list quite yet, though I'm sure it'll come eventually. I've been considering several that have been mentioned and I'm glad to see that I'm at least thinking in the right frame of mind. This forum has been extremely helpful in my trip planning and research so thanks to everyone for taking the time to write down your input. :)

Kris


Wed Dec 07, 2011 12:10 am
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krpayer wrote:
In any case, Sticks can't deter me! I'd much rather have a better idea of what I'm getting into, so this input is very helpful. I certainly expect it to be quite challenging.


And that is a good sign! Like I said, it isn't that I want to deter anyone from taking up winter hiking. But with everyone giving nothing but positives I figure someone has to be honest and add a little balance. I can just picture someone shivering in -10 temps in 3 feet of deep powder and through chattering teeth saying "those a**holes on Hike-NH said this was supposed to be fun!" :lol: And don't get me wrong, you are indeed going to have those "WOW" moments. Plus if you have a heavy snow year you actually start to get views from peaks (and spots along trails) where you would not normally. The Carriage road to Moosilauke, where it runs along the ridge after the junction with Glencliff, is a good example. Normally it runs through high scrub for a while before you break treeline. In winter this becomes virtually a viewed ridge hike. :D

Brian


Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:16 am
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MikeL wrote:
I know the winter 4K list seems daunting but it's really not. Road closures only effect 7 peaks-S. Twin, N. Twin, Carrigain, Garfield, Zealand, Hale & Galehead.


Strictly this is true, but most people do 3 Bonds + Zealand since it's only ~5 miles further than Zealand alone (23 vs 18 with Zealand Road closed.)

Also, according to my records, my average speed in winter was the same as summer, so breaking trail some percent of the time is offset by the trail being broken and much faster the rest of the time. Particularly for down hill - much less likely to turn an ankle or worry about what your foot will land on. Plus you can butt slide :D

Tim

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Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:39 am
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New Hampshire wrote:
Heh heh, which brings me to perhaps the BEST part of winter hiking.....a sled you can pack in on your backpack. :D I have gotten 1/4 mile long runs on a swiss bob on the lower parts of Glencliff trail. And for a truly hair raising, but swift descent, Kinsman Ridge trail from Cannon to the tram lot will get your adrenalin flowing (as will coming off E. Osceola!)

Brian


Liberty Springs Trail -- best sled run in the Whites. We got down that mountain in fifteen minutes. :D

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Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:00 am
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OK, another question out of ignorance coming. But how do you sled down a mountain trail? I mean, with the distance, pitch, and all you must get some incredible speed. How do you negotiate trees, cliffs, etc? When you talk about a broken trail, it can't be broken-in to the point of a bobsled track, could it?

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Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:18 am
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Well most of what you might call easy winter 4K's have been mentioned. But something you may want to ask first is, "What additional gear do I need if I'm serious about winter hiking?" And since I'm the guy who carries way too much, don't ask me. 8) But to answer another one of your questions, because of the huge variants in conditions there is no one peak that is necessarily easier in winter. And I'll have to agree with others and say start small. There are some great sub-4K paeks that make great winter hikes. Mt Pemigewasset comes to mind, Potash, Hedgehog and such. I think we've found out that you are young so I'm assuming you'll be accompanied by a parent?

But for me, even though it can be very strenuous (TwinGale Yikes!), winter is my favorite season. I feel it's the most beautiful. And above treeline, which I do not recommend for a beginner, is simply surreal. And since my medium is photos, here you go. :D

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Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:46 am
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