Lost on Mt. Mansfield? Share the Story!

Have you been Lost on Mt. Mansfield? David has!Snowbound on the Hump? Ice-Climbing in the Notch? Overnight in a Snow Cave? We’re still looking for stories about winter hiking adventures. If you’d like to see your winter experiences in print, contact Maeve Kim at maevulus@surfglobal.net — Meanwhile, read about David’s experience on Mt. Mansfield, and below that, read about a snowboarder who was waaay off track!

Lost on Mansfield! By David Hathaway
A few years ago, at about 1 PM on an overcast afternoon in late December, I set out to climb through Nebraska Notch from Stevensville. There was a little snow on the ground, but not too much, so I didn’t bother with snowshoes. I didn’t bring a map or compass. I’d lived in Underhill for over 15 years, had done all the hiking trails on Mansfield in most kinds of weather, and was convinced I couldn’t get lost!

For some reason, when I passed the Underhill Ski trail turn-off, I decided to follow it instead of staying on the Nebraska Notch Trail. I’d never taken the turn-off before, but I convinced myself that even though I didn’t know where the trail went, I couldn’t get lost. After all, I was turning into the triangle formed by the Nebraska Notch Trail, Butler Lodge Trail and Long Trail. I’d know if I crossed any of those familiar and well-marked trails.

After I’d hiked for a while, I was surprised that I hadn’t yet crossed one of the trails. But since what I thought was the south tail of the Mansfield ridge was still to my right, and I didn’t think I’d crossed any of my triangle of trails, I thought I knew where I was. Eventually I ran into a signed cross-country ski trail, at which point I made my big mistake.

Even without a map and compass, I “knew” where I was, and it was getting close to dark. I followed a trail down from this junction that I thought would get me back to Stevensville faster, rather than retracing my steps. I assumed I’d come out on the old logging road that continues up from where Butler Lodge and Frost Trails start.

The farther down I went, the more ski trails I saw. At first I was amazed that I had been unaware of this network of trails right in my own backyard, but I eventually became convinced that something was wrong. But I was so convinced of where I was that it wasn’t until I saw the headlights of cars going down Route 108 that I realized I’d actually hiked over the ridge to Stowe. I’d crossed the Long Trail without realizing it. The slope I’d been keeping to my right, thinking it was Mansfield, was actually Mt. Dewey, which I’d hiked around without knowing it.

By this time, it was almost totally dark. I found a general store and called my wife, who drove the 50 miles around the mountain to come get me, though she wasn’t too happy about doing so.

I made a lot of mistakes that day, including:
— following a trail I didn’t know without a map or compass
— assuming I’d be able to see a trail crossing when it was snowing, overcast and getting dark
— hiking out via a “shortcut” instead of retracing my steps when I didn’t know for sure where I was
— not bringing a headlamp
I was lucky to have made it out without having to spend a night lost in the woods.

Not Lost on Mansfield! By Robynn Albert
In March 2008, I hiked up Mansfield via Sunset Ridge, led by Peter Cottrell. It was a cloudy day but not too cold. About twelve of us were on this outing, with all levels of hiking expertise and a wide range of ages. Not too long after we started up, our surroundings became almost eerie because of fog. Then, when we were just on the ridge, the wind whipped up. Of course, the snow was blowing like crazy. It was wild, in a fun way for me! I love adventures, especially the unexpected ones.
We approached the summit, guided by CB with his GPS device and RL with his compass. It took a few minutes to determine whether we were truly on the summit or not. The visibility was not more than 20 feet. Suddenly, a snowboarder appeared out of nowhere. He’d become separated from his group. A couple of us tried to steer him back on track and heading for the ski trails. But about 20 minutes after we left the summit, we ran into him again. He was way off course. That wasn’t really a surprise because the visibility was so limited. It was scary, thinking about him. I really expected to pick up the paper the next day and see that a snowboarder was missing. Thankfully, this did not happen.

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