I am new to this winter mountain hike business. I was in marathon recovery mode, when a mountain running friend of mine, Antonio Tovar (aka Tovarus_rex), asked if I would like to try it, I was game. He thought that while I’m in New England, I might like to incorporate a wee 4,800 foot mountain hike into my training. He gave me some top quality gear to use and some sound advice as to what to bring. The local weather has been nothing short of unbelievable for this time of year, hitting 23C just two days prior to our excursion. I imagined that with the weather being so mild, I could get by with shorts, a long sleeve top with a base layer, a hat and gloves. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
On the morning of the 14th of November, Tovar and I, along with Tovar’s trusty mountain running companion, Kal El, the Australian Shepherd, hit the road. It was an early start at 6:30am but it was a 3-hour trek up north to the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
The mountain we were going to ascend is one of the 48 x 4,000 foot peaks of the White Mountains called Mount Moosilauke. When we left Massachusetts it was 2C with little wind, so it was starting out seasonal enough, as that is more normal for November. The further north we travelled, however, the windier it got. The temperature wasn’t rising with the sun, as it kept steady the further north we went. This was going to remain relatively cold for our excursion.
Upon arrival to our destination we started to get our gear ready and we met a gentleman who had just descended. He showed us a video he took while at the peak, and it looked and sounded nothing like it did down at the bottom. It was at that moment that I knew this winter mountain hike required me to put on more layers. I added full length leggings and put on a fifth layer to my tops. I added a buff under my hat and, as I only had a pair of running gloves, I added a proper pair of wind and water resistant gloves over these. Even down at the base, a freezing cold wind was blowing so I knew I needed to be prepared for the altitude.
As far as the running goes, the ascending trail was a difficult one to run as the grade made the “steps” quite difficult to run, however, where we could run, we did. Otherwise, it was going to be a hike up. While in the trees, we were sheltered from the worst of the wind. The forest was thick with birch and other species which made the climb incredibly scenic. This was particularly the case when we a small clearing opened up and we could see the stunning surroundings in which we found ourselves.
The closer we got to the 4,800 foot peak, the shorter the trees grew until we were near as tall as the oldest tree on the horizon. After 2 hours climbing we could see the peak in front of us and we could hear the wind absolutely howling. We made the push to the top and it was only then that we felt the full force of the 45+ mile per hour winds shredding the mountains peak. The outside temperature was somewhere around -15C but the wind chill was surely pushing that much lower.
We only spent about 5 minutes at the top, taking a few photographs and videos. The temperature and the icy wind didn’t allow for gloves to be off much more that 45 seconds at a time, as we both valued keeping our fingers for at least a few more years. We got some amazing photos and videos before beginning our decent. We did take a quick stop to take on board some solid food and some water for both us and Kal, who was absolutely in his element, loving the great outdoors as he does.
As we got a mile or two from the bottom we found the terrain once again suitable for running. My legs were jelly at this point which made the running difficult, but it felt amazing to stride out those miles and stretch the legs.
This was an amazing experience and one that I can only describe as exhilarating. It’s the closest to power of nature I’ve felt in years. The wind was close to knocking me off my feet on a number of occasions while making the 300m push to the top. But the feeling when finally, nearly 4 hours after beginning, back down to the bottom was unforgettable. My body was spent, but I’d love to do that again. The winter mountain hike adds a new beneficial element to my training and I’ll be looking for something like that every winter going forward.