Ah, spring in the White Mountains. Still loads of snow, but also tons of rain, mud, and rocks!
A friend and I went to attempt to summit Chocorua. Knowing that conditions can be all over the map, and not always safe, we knew summiting Chocorua was not a guarantee, but we figured we get a hike in, regardless.
Recently there was a LOT of rain and warmer temperatures, so despite hip high snow on much of the mountain, it was melting and flooding. We selected Chocorua assuming any water crossings would (hopefully) be do-able. The worst one right at the start, has a bypass path.
Starting on the bypass path, we needed snowshoes right away. Take those on and off a few times for water crossing. Have you ever put on snow shoes? It isn’t a quick situation. Plus, you’re doing it in the woods, standing on a very narrow “monorail” (more on that in a minute), on one foot.
Later we switched to microspikes. Also taking those on and off over and over again for water crossings and other rocky spots.
The trail alternated conditions frequently.
First, the monorail. This is when the trail gets packed down throughout the winter by snowshoes. In good winter conditions, this means, you can walk the trail wearing microspikes or sometimes even bare boots. But when temperatures warm up (or if people don’t wear snowshoes when they should), the monorail starts to wear away. It gets narrow. You have to watch every step and make sure you place your foot perfectly on the balance beam of packed snow, or you step off and sink up to your hip in soft snow. (See my Cabot attempt hike post).
Other points on the trail were JUST monorail, surrounded by water. Normally, this would just be trail, but thanks to the flooding, rain, and snow melt, the trail was monorail with a moat.
Lastly, there were points of just river. Where the trail would normally be, the water had taken the path of least resistance and became river.
Oh, then there were water crossings! These were easier than on Cabot, since they were much shallower, many were just like crossing a regular brook, rock hopping, log crossings, etc. Some had “snow bridges”. Where snow and ice build up over the water, the water flows underneath, and in cold temps throughout winter, you’re good. But warmer temps in spring can mean collapsing snow bridges!
Luckily, these were mostly on the trail, and the water was only a couple of inches deep. But it was a strange feeling to be standing on an iceberg of snow/ice and feel the CRACK as you drop down two inches.
Watching your every footstep, falling off the side of the monorail, and water crossings took their toll. We got about two miles in, very slow going, and turned around. Chocorua will be there another day.
The good parts! The weather was supposed to start out rainy and cloudy. There were a couple of brief sprinkles, but hardly noticeable, and the sun came out several times. It was 50-60, and just wonderful hiking weather. And thanks to the warmer temps, I could return to my water bladder instead of water bottles. This is SUCH a huge deal for me. It’s so much easier to drink and walk with the water bladder. I also hiked “bareboot” in my winter boots for the first time. They’ve always had snowshoes or microspikes on, but there were several stretches (water and rocks!) where we just wore our boots. They are comfortable and REALLY waterproof. I stepped in up to the ankle a couple of times and not a drop of water got inside.
The stats: 4.38 miles (summit RT would have been 7.6), 996 feet ascended, 6 hours, 15 minutes (including a nice lunch break).