After several last-minute changes of plan, an intrepid group of Hamilton Outing Club members spent the first week of spring break backpacking and winter camping in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
The plan for the trip originally involved heading south in pursuit of sunshine and warmer weather but as the break drew closer, the forecast deteriorated. With several of inches of wet, slushy snow and shiver-inducing temperatures called for in the Smoky Mountains as far south as North Carolina, trip leader Samuel Bernstein ’17 made the call to head elsewhere. “If we were going to have to deal with snow, we might as well enjoy a proper winter trip,” he reasoned, and took the group to his home state of New Hampshire.
The first day of the trip gave the group a taste of the extremes of winter weather in the Northeast. Under brilliant blue skies and spectacular sunshine, the group braved near-zero temperatures and howling winds to summit Mt. Cardigan, a bald peak with expansive views of the lakes and hills of central New Hampshire.
The next morning in warmer temperatures the group packed all the equipment and food needed to spend several nights in the woods. Once everything had found a place in a backpack, the group headed up into the mountains moving towards a campsite for the night. On their way, the group dropped their packs for a side hike up Middle Sugarloaf Mountain.
After a short, but strenuous scramble along a trail that often felt like it went straight up the side of the mountain, the group emerged from the trees onto expansive granite slabs with breathtaking views of the Presidentials—the highest mountain range in New Hampshire. For many this moment was a highlight, “I could have spent hours there just soaking in the sun and staring at the mountains” reminisced Sarah Stigberg ’20. After descending, the group made their way further into the National Forest before setting up camp for the night.
Fully aware that Winter Storm Stella was bearing down on them, the group awoke early the next morning and hiked up to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Zealand Falls Hut. After arriving in the late morning they relaxed, played cards, chatted, cooked dinner, and spent the night enjoying the luxury of four walls and a roof as the winter winds whipped snow around outside.
Morning found more than a foot of fresh, dry, powdery snow covering the trails and clinging to the trees. After a hearty breakfast, the group loaded up their packs, strapped on snowshoes, and got to work “breaking trail,” establishing a path through the deep snow for almost 7 miles back out to the trailhead.
Despite freezing temperatures, one of the largest snowstorms of the season, and day-of shifts in the plan a good time was had by all. The combination of sunshine, spectacular views, and all-around good company made for a trip that will not soon be forgotten.