Ten of us met at 8:30 at the Underhill Center park & ride and took three cars up to the winter parking area on the state park road. We snagged two real parking spots, but the third joined the cars beginning to line the side of the road. It was overcast but not really snowing as we started up around 8:50, mostly without snowshoes.
We reached the ranger station around 9:20 and the Sunset Ridge trailhead around 9:50. As we proceeded along the CCC road the trail became less packed, and by the time we reached bottom of the Maple Ridge trail we’d all put on our snowshoes. We reached the Frost Trail junction a little before 11 and tried to leave some signs in the snow for Kim Farone, who had said she might try to hike up from Stevensville and join us (she’d arrived home from Florida at 3 AM, so the 8:30 meeting time was a little early for her), but we didn’t really expect her.
We continued up past the Rock Garden and were taking a brief break when we heard Kim’s voice calling up from below. She’d gotten a little lost on Frost Trail and was about to following someone she’d met over Rock Garden and back down Butler Lodge when she spotted us. After a bit of calling back and forth and our promise to wait for her and to give her a ride back to her car after the hike, she hiked up to joined us. The snow drifts had completely changed the terrain, and we’d already gotten slightly lost in one spot. The rock face on Maple Ridge was reduced to about a 5 or 6 foot drop. We never even saw the “step across” spot on the trail, as it was probably completely filled with snow. When we reached the last rock face you climb down before reaching the Wampahoofus trail, there was only about a 5 foot drop, obscuring all the landmarks we were used to. So we went a little too far left and thrashed around a bit before getting back on the trail as it climbed the Forehead.
Leaving the Forehead around 12:30 the snow again obscured the trail and we drifted left, eventually finding the Teardrop ski trail and following it back to the Long Trail and the service road. We were going to have lunch in front of the visitor’s center, but the snow drift there was roof level. Fortunately there was little wind, so we plopped down in the snow for lunch around 1:10. The trail was much easier to follow along the ridge, with the occasional wind-exposed blaze or string used to keep people off Fragile vegetation in summer. The clouds lifted and the sun began to come out as we approached the summit, which we reached the summit around 2:30 where a skier took a group photo, then headed down Sunset Ridge, reaching the CCC road around 3:40 and the cars around 4:20.
Participants: Robynn Albert, Jill George, Nick Krembs, Andrew Kilibarda, Andy Julow, Corinn Julow, Chris Luczynski, Taylor Dobbs, Wes Volk, Kim Farone, David Hathaway (leader). Photos: David & Taylor.