Adventures in our Backyard: A winter ascent of Mt. Monadnock
They say, “do what makes you feel alive”…
Mount Monadnock sees about 125,000 hikers each year. It’s said to be the most hiked mountain in North America, quite the claim to fame for a peak that’s just over 3,000ft. I was six years old the first time I climbed to the top – 20 years ago. I’ve hiked it countless times since then, but up until a month ago, I had never ascended in the winter. It wasn’t a particularly ‘nice’ day – the sky was overcast, and rain was predicted later in the afternoon.
The fog was starting to roll in as I broke the tree line. I could still spot East Hill Farm from this vantage point.
My plan was to head up in the morning and get as far as I could with the gear I had, the goal being the summit. As I cleared the treeline, the wind started to pick up and the light rain began to fall. It was then that I noticed a key difference between hiking in nice weather and hiking when the elements pose a challenge – you have no choice but to live 100% in the moment. You’re focused on where to place your foot so you don’t slip and where to grab so you can pull yourself up. Is it too icy there? Do I need my spikes? Should I add layers now before conditions get worse? There isn’t room in your head to worry about anything else, you’re totally present.
Check out the high winds at the summit!
I’ve climbed Monadnock on sunny days so clear you can see the Boston skyline, in the evening for sunset, at night for moonrise, but during my winter ascent, for the first time ever, I didn’t see a single other person. No one on the way up, no one on the way down, and no one during the 20 minutes I spent at the top. Couple that isolation with the 40mph winds, dense fog, and rain, and it didn’t feel like I was on the mountain in my backyard anymore.
The winds carried my backpack rain cover away!
I’ve never felt more alive during any other hike, anywhere. Who knew adventure could still be found in such a familiar place?