Nov 28, 2010 at 6:39 pm #1266013
I'm thinking about going for a one or two night trip around here during christmas time. My question is regarding shelters, Butler Lodge and Taft Lodge are both fee/caretaker types in the summer, but what about the winter? I would assume no caretaker, but are they open for use?
ThanksNov 28, 2010 at 8:24 pm #1668848
You're right – there are no caretakers working on the LT during the winter months. And, yes, they're open for use all winter long. There are signs requesting that you take off snowshoes and/or crampons before entering the shelters.Nov 29, 2010 at 7:11 am #1668986
would you be able to comment on the conditions up there around christmas time? Like snow, ice, daytime temperatures, crowds?
glad there are a few members in the north east!Nov 29, 2010 at 8:56 am #1669014
No problem. I have a great view of Mt Mansfield from the window in my office. It's always a bit of a tease.
Here's some weather data for you. First, these are some historical numbers from the Stowe Resort on Mansfield. The temps and snow depths should be helpful for you. The second link is NOAA's brand new Mountain Point Forecast for several of the summits in VT and NY. This will give you a good summit forecast right before you hit the trail.
In terms of ice and snow, you should expect plenty of both. There's been snow on the ridge since late October this year. In addition to snowshoes, you may want to look into some sort of microspikes or crampons. It's hard to tell if you'll need them or not, but if you're planning to cross the ridge, it's not a bad idea.
Crowds – I wouldn't expect "crowds" at the shelters. I mean there are hardly crowds staying at the shelters on Mansfield in June. You may get the occasional group of back country travelers, skiers, or what have you, but I can't imagine there will be crowds.
If anything, you'll need to remember two things. First, the trails in VT are harder to get to during the winter. You need a car that can get you to the trail head. Some of the roads are gated and closed during the winter, like the Notch Road. So, you have to park and walk in a ways. Not a big problem, but worth knowing about for time and miles.
Also, as I'm sure you well know, white outs can occur in seconds, without warning. In other words, make sure you have a map and compass with you and some goggles. These things are a must have if you're traveling over the ridge.
I'm hoping to go up Mansfield in the next week or two. If I have any updates on conditions, I'll send them to you. I agree, it's good to have a couple east coast ULers here on BPL.Nov 29, 2010 at 10:03 am #1669039
Thats a ton of great information. those two links are great, here's one for you, its the current snow depth for most of the north east. Not incredibly useful, but cool to look at, and if you're planning a trip based on snow could be something to look at. It seems to just be the lower elevation snow depths, so no summit information.
I have a pair of microspikes, and they are coming. Same with the goggles. I guess crowds was the wrong word, but you still answered my question.
I'm sure I'll have more to ask you once I get my route down and finalize my gear, keep an eye out for a pm.Nov 29, 2010 at 10:49 am #1669057
Nice link to the snow depth map. When I was bookmarking that link to my Backpacking>Weather folder I found this other NOAA link that gives you better historical data for Mt Mansfield. It gives you record and average high and low temps for the entire year. I wish it gave wind speeds, but not everybody loves weather data like avid backpackers. Still, very helpful for planning trips to Mansfield at any time of the year.
I'll keep an eye out for a PM at some point. I'm sure all this discussion and data will help people planning winter trips in VT in the future too.Nov 29, 2010 at 11:18 am #1669069
You can watch this site in case someone posts trail conditions or just to get a general idea of what's going on around here:
I was on Sunset Ridge 2-ish weeks ago and used microspikes part of the way up and I was wishing for shorts and a t-shirt. It was that warm. Had the whole mountain to myself though! The week before that I hiked up to Sterling Pond — the trail had ice, snow, and water but I didn't need to use traction.
I walked through Smuggler's Notch and back on Thanksgiving. The road was bare and the ski trails are grassy at both resorts. Pitiful!
Think cold thoughts.Nov 30, 2010 at 8:15 am #1669328
Thanks for the new links Tommy and Val. I just made a bookmark folder of weather related sites in order to find all of these again.
Also, what sort of footwear are you guys using up there, or planning to use as the temperature drops? I'll be on snowshoes and carrying microspikes, but I'm trying to figure out my shoe options. I don't have any waterproof footwear. It seems my three options are adding a waterproof sock as my waterproof layer, finally replacing my blown out boots, or 40 below overboots.
waterproof socks would be the cheapest, but they seem to be a toss up with regards to actual waterproofness, fit, and comfort, and I'd rather not get a pair of boots, so I'm leaning towards the light energy TR overboots. They seem very versatile and I've heard great reviews about them. But is that overdoing it?
Also, a few other question for you guys. On the map I have of Mansfield, there are a few types of trail. Long Trail, Hiking/walking trail, walking route by road, and two types of nordic ski trail, a lighter and darker one. I understand the first three, but the nordic ski trail, and two types? I'm guessing the darker is larger/more heavily used, and the lighter less used, would it be a bad idea to use both types of these in my snowshoeing route? are they explicitly for nordic skiing, and are they hard to find/unmarked?
much appreciated!Nov 30, 2010 at 11:39 am #1669374
Footwear – Maybe I'm being an ol' traditional backpacker here, but I wear waterproof boots during the winter. I wish I had plastic mountaineering style boots. Our local outfitter has some great 30% off deals right now. If I hadn't already spent a bigillion dollars on gear this year, I'd be grabbing a pair of these boots. Those Forty Below Light Energy Overboot TR look pretty rad too
For the last few years, I've been using Sorel-style boots. They claim to be rated to -40 degrees. They've worked pretty well once I treated them with waterproofing agent. Whatever you decide to do, I would think you need some sort of waterproof footwear and gaiters. That is NOT overdoing it at all. You will be facing snow, ice, and possibly water under the snow. You need to be able to keep your feet dry and warm on this type of mountain.
Also, if you're doing an overnight, you need to make sure your footwear stays dry and warm. This means you have to bag it and keep it in your sleeping bag with you. If you have plastic boots, you can just take out the liners, otherwise you may have to fit the whole thing.
Finally, I don't know what map you have, but I know there are a mix of trails on Mansfield. You might be seeing the Auto road that's open during the summer or the CCC road. Personally, I wouldn't plan a route that involves these roads (although the LT goes on the CCC road for a few hundred feet). There should be enough hiking trails for you to use, but it's worth knowing there are emergency options too.Dec 2, 2010 at 6:11 pm #1670275
I think to overboots should keep me covered for all of that. I imagine they aren't step-in-a-stream waterproof however. And yes, planning to do an overnight, and have some space in my bag reserved for footwear.
I was wondering what your opinions were of off-trail travel in the area. I have a good map and compass, and good skills using them. My thought process was, "some of these trails look very small, little use, i'd be very easy to get off it accidentally, maybe I should stick to some that look more trafficked"…."wait, whats so wrong with being off the trail if you don't realize it? must not be a huge benefit to being on the trail"
For instance, trying to go to Dewey Mountain either off the LT or some of the smaller cross country skiing trails. I would guess snow would make the trail and off-trail areas similar difficulties, above tree-line navigation should be pretty straight forward unless there is a white out. And If I bring a full sized tarp and don't try to stay in the shelters…I'll really be free!Dec 2, 2010 at 7:59 pm #1670323
I go up to Butler regularly, including in the winter. Were you thinking of parking at stevensville rd on the underhill side? Or were you looking at the stowe side (I know side that much less well, but I have parked on the road to ski). The maps that show the ski trails are usually marked as the ski and snowshoe maps, and just to make things more fun, the names of some of the trails have changed over time. In any case, there are a ton of different trail options in those areas, all are going to get quite a bit of use.
Taylor is newer and fancy and nice, with I would bet a nicer view; Butler is smaller and more rustic. Taylor is lower and not really near a summit. Either would be fine for an unheated cabin overnight, in which, it can obviously get very, very cold.
The skiers hit the ski trails pretty regularly, but you can snowshoe on them, just don't posthole the uptrack. Nebraska notch is skied and snowshoed all the time. The Butler lodge hiking trail is also likely to be packed down most all the time up to the lodge and is easy as pie. Depending on recent snow, you may use microspikes all the way; sometimes near the top there is a lot less traffic and lot more snow and shoes come in handy. Hard to predict Dec, but there will likely be snow, several feet deep.
Once you get off the main trunk trails going up though (butler on shoes, underhill/overland on skis), all bets are off. I have had a difficult time finding the long trail in sections along that ridge, and have broken trail from Butler to Taft, which you would think would be popular. Route finding on the ridges can be difficult and the going can be very challenging, drifts, spruce traps, ice, etc. I have thought about bushwacking Mt Clark, but never Dewey. I would guess it has been done, it could be difficult and alone, maybe far too much work.
Even the long trail north of Butler to the summit can be impossible to find and impassable; it may be open in Dec still, but I have given up thinking I can break that trail myself when I have tried it. Most/all traffic out of butler seem to take Wampahoofus to Maple Ridge instead, that gets steep and dicey in parts and I haven't actually been all the way up in mid winter, but I am sure is doable and a great, gorgeous hike with moderate exposure.
Some of the ski trails on the map are never used and essentially lost and you would be breaking trail the whole way.
Enjoy your trip to VT.
edited to correct that I was looking at Taylor lodge, not Taft. Taylor is in Nebraska Notch; Taft is under the summit of the Chin.Dec 7, 2010 at 2:17 pm #1671881
Michael, thanks for the response, I've been a bit busy but now that I've had some time I've read through it.
I have mainly been looking at the Stowe side, So I think that would be where I would start and end from. I agree that the maps are a bit confusing, but its good to know the trails get pretty frequent use.
Sounds like both are nice cabins, I stayed in Taft a few years ago in the summer and it was very pleasant, except the many many people stuffed into it.
Great trail advice. I've marked the Wampahoofus on my map, even though I can't pronounce it. I had been thinking that many of the smaller trails wouldn't be used, and was thinking that I would be breaking trail. What sort of daily milage do you think would be possible breaking trail for an athletic 17 year old? If I were going to do this during the summer I would be planning around 20 miles per day, so I was thinking 8 miles for winter. How does that sound?Dec 13, 2010 at 8:40 pm #1674062
Your mention of bushwacking Dewey got me looking at Nebraska Notch, so I was referring to Taylor lodge there, not Taft (corrected above). I haven't been to Taft in a long time. My guess is that the LT up to it will get a lot of use, even in winter, and there may be people staying there many weekends for summit attempts. I haven't done them in winter, but I would think about avoiding profanity and hell brook in winter, particularly if alone; the LT is going to be less steep.
The "problem" with the Stowe side is that it is covered in ski resorts. So you could access Taylor easily from the Nebraska Valley road, and probably get to Butler from there. For Taft, the LT is the obvious choice. There is no direct way to Butler from Stowe, other then using ski trails that will require a permit from either the Mt Mansfield or Trapp xcountry ski areas (via Bruce or Burt trails). The overland trail gets heavily skied in both directions over the ridge, but not sure about snow shoeing that (as an etiquette question mostly),
If you were going to shuttle cars, you could probably do the whole section staying in both Taylor (or Butler) and Taft and hiking the summit ridge in 2 days. I can't promise you will find the LT between Taylor and Butler though and if no one has gone through there and the snow is deep enough, it may be difficult. If you had a GPS I could send you the track. Butler to Taft is most likely going to be broken trail and easy route finding; obviously there is exposure on the extended ridge in the winter.
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