Above Treeline in Winter

A cairn covered in rime ice on Mt. Moosilauke, New Hampshire

What’s not to love about being above treeline in winter in the White Mountains?  Well… I suppose quite a bit, but here are some of the good things about it.

Getting there – that first step out of the trees just feels good.  And hey, the waist-deep powder is gone!A group of hikers leaves the treeline in deep snow, Mt. Bondcliff, New Hampshire


The clear air – that dense, cold air doesn’t have much room to hold water.  Seeing every detail for miles and miles is great, unless you’re cold and happen to make out the tiny speck that is your car.Hikers in the winter on Franconia Ridge, New Hampshire


Rime ice – especially in the sun against a blue sky.  This is my favorite thing to look at in the mountains.  Ever taken a really long, close look at rime ice?  It’s beautiful in different ways than fallen snow or blue ice.  My preferred method for getting a sunburn on my eyeballs.A close up view of rime ice on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire


Actually using your gear – Hey! I need the extra layers I always carry!  The expensive ones that are overkill for 99% of what I do.  Sweet!  See?  I was right to buy it!A hiker in high altitude clothing on Aconcagua, Argentina


Cold wind – as long as you’re prepared for it.  Otherwise it blows (terrible).  When its not pulling the life out of you, it’s pushing the life into you.  Have you ever been bored in a strong wind?  I haven’t.

{I have no photo of the wind}


The sound of crampons on ice or firm snow – this ranks right up there with some of my other favorite sounds, like a climbing rack jangling, a halyard banging on a mast, or a dog barking a Christmas carol.Crampons on mountaineering boots


The lack of schmucks – the vast majority of people up in the mountains are great. But we’ve all run into some schmucks here and there.  It hasn’t happened to me in winter yet.  Insert witty “that means you’re the schmuck” variation here.  But seriously, the people you see here usually know what’s up.  And the people you don’t see at all definitely know what’s up… wait…Franconia Ridge in winter with no people, New Hampshire


Not being above treeline anymore – moderation, folks.  By the time you step back into the trees – it’s usually exactly where you want to be.  A good way to appreciate the colors green and brown.  Or a couch.A hiker happy to be back under the cover of trees, New Hampshire


But it can’t all be good.  Some days are tough.  If you hike for miles and miles for nothing you couldn’t see by staring at a piece of paper, try what always works for me.  Lie to yourself.

It’s interesting to know what it’s like to be inside a pingpong ball, or a glass of milk.

I only came out here today to get some exercise.

It probably wasn’t a good view anyway.A hiker on a cliff in clouds, Mt. Bondcliff, New Hampshire





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