Our Moosilauke Adventure

I’ve been looking for a way to do more with my GPS data, but most of the software for this stuff isn’t exactly impressive. Today I came across a post on StraightChuter.com that used Trimble Outdoors. It seemed like the closest to what I was looking for. So here is my latest ski tour trip report, by way of Trimble.

This past Saturday was our first ski tour of the year. Crappy weather (IE, lack of snow) combined with not being near mountains has made it easy to not follow through on anything this year. So late Friday night we decided we had to go, even if there was no snow, we had to drive to the base of a mountain with the intent to ski. Just to break the pattern.

working the ascent

The downside of this was our packing and planning was accomplished during commercials in NBC’s Olympics coverage. This meant I had too many down jackets (at least they’re light), nothing to cover my face, and not really paid much attention to the route.

We planned to hit Mount Moosilauke in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The 5.3 mile climb of 2,720 feet seemed like a nice grade, and an easy downhill run. So how did it become a 7.7 mile climb with an extra 500 feet? One wrong turn.

Now, I knew I was making a wrong turn when it happened – or at least strongly suspected it. But I wasn’t too concerned, because there were plenty of ski tracks around, and the signs said “to summit”, so how wrong could it be?

Rather than taking our intended route from [Ridge Lodge] direct to the [summit] and back down, we made a wrong turn (because the other direction had no tracks), following all the other skiers. At a [river crossing] we checked the map and verified the mistake, but figured “hey, lots of others have gone this way and our guidebook is 11 years old – this might be the better bet” so we continued on. At the [Al Merrill branch], we realized that all the tracks we had been following were headed for the Al Merrill Loop. The loop (which I haven’t been on) is supposed to be a nice tour, with easy skiing that goes from the [Al Merrill branch] back to the [Ridge Lodge]. But while we didn’t want to push ourselves too hard, we also didn’t want to cut our skiing in half. So we decided to continue on to the [summit], breaking trail through a foot or more of snow, between the [Al Merrill branch] and the [Beaver Brook trail merge]. The trail-breaking was fun, but it slowed us down. And the additional milage and climbing were not part of our original schedule. We didn’t hit the [summit] until almost 17:00. Which meant we had about an hour until it was too dark to see anything.

Greg @ the summit

Before we got to the summit, we passed a hiker who said the conditions weren’t too bad, “you can see cairn to cairn”. Yeah, it was a bit overcast, but cairn to cairn? I would have guessed the visibility was better than that. It wasn’t. It was slightly worse, even. Soon after we passed treeline, Diana got knocked over by the wind – apparently at ~30 MPH, but gusty. Thankfully we were more visible to each other than the rime-covered cairns were to us. I’d have to lead ahead a bit before I could see the next cairn. I kept Diana about one cairn back so I had a retreat point in case I didn’t spot the next one. Of course, once actually getting to the [summit], we had to stop for pictures. No amount of wind-blown snow building up on our clothes is going to stop that part of the trip. Leaving the summit for the Gorge Brook trail was more of the same, and we were excited when we hit the trees and the trail was right there in front of us. Now we just had to get down.

Here’s another bit of the poor planning. My memory of the guide book said that the ski trail was about 15 feet wide – great for making turns and getting down comfortably. But no, that was for the Moosilauke Carriage Road trail, the trail we decided not to take because snowmobiles are allowed on it for most of the length, and we didn’t want to deal with that. The Gorge Brook trail was narrow. A quote from the guidebook that I must have skimmed over the first time: “You turn where the trail turns, relishing surprises around each bend.” Yeah, I’d say that’s an accurate description – wish I had read it beforehand.

Even without having read it, had we followed our original plan we would have been aware of it, since we would have been climbing our eventual descent. But we made it down in one piece, and without splashing into the brook at any of the many opportunities. Well, most of the way down. Before we finished the run, it had gotten too dark to really ski safely. So we took off our skis and booted down the last section.

amazing scenery

When we got to main junction of half a dozen trails at the bottom, we needed the headlamp to read the signs. Unfortunately, none of the signs mentioned the [Ridge Lodge]. We deduced the direction of the lodge (or so we hoped), by checking its direction on the map against the direction of the various trails that were labeled. When we saw the sign labeled “PARKING →” we were encouraged, but it wasn’t until we met with the scene of our original wrong turn that we really felt relieved. Of course, we still had almost two miles to go, but we were certain of what that distance held.

We stopped to skin up again for the final push. For me, this is where the exhaustion set in. If I kept up a rhythm, I was ok. It was stopping to grab a snack, or to keep from getting too far ahead of Diana that my legs felt like they would give out. But the end was in sight – just had to keep pushing until the car was in view.

Back at the car, we were pretty excited. There were some harrowing bits, but we came through it and did a decent job with our hardest tour ever, despite my complete planning failure. And got just enough “this could be bad” hints to make sure I don’t slack off on it again.

I had made hot chocolate in the morning, and it waited for us in the car, still hot 12+ hours after I made it. We didn’t even stop for our traditional Tilt’n Diner dinner on the way home, because we were already late for the Olympics. We made it in time to see Lindsey Vonn take home bronze in the Super-G though, so the day wasn’t a total waste.

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