Sunday, March 10, 2013

The End of Vermont? - Killington Peak

How do you follow up a perfect day in the mountains?  With another perfect day in the mountains, of course.  The weather in Vermont on Sunday was pretty much a repeat of Saturday - warm late season temps and beautiful blue winter skies.  We couldn't have asked for a more perfect way to finish what we started in January with a hike up Killington Peak to finish our VT 4K's.  After finishing the NH48 last fall we knew we wanted to start exploring more of Maine and Vermont.  We'd only done a small number of hikes in each and figured that this summer we'd start working on the NE67.  Little did we know that things would work our for  us to get 8 of them this winter.  Awesome!

Saturday night the clocks changed, so between being tired from the hike on Saturday and the one less hour of sleep we weren't too early getting going.  The benefit was that it was still cold in the morning, which saved us from the sticky snow until later in the day.  We got to the Bucklin trailhead around 9 and headed out.  The road in was well plowed and there was lots of room in the parking lot (for at least 10-12 cars).  I was expecting something slightly different for a location called Brewer's Corner than just a parking lot in the middle of a dirt road four miles from anywhere.  Now we know...

The first mile and a half or so of the Bucklin trail are very flat and went quickly.  There is a fairly significant reroute in the middle of it that is presumably from damage from Irene along the water.  It's certainly never difficult to follow as you can generally see about three blazes ahead at any point (perhaps a bit of overkill).  The trail was extremely well broken out, but we wore snowshoes all day.  Everyone else that we met were either bare booting or wearing microspikes, and the trail showed it by the time we headed out in the afternoon.

The new CX-5 at the trailhead

Last minute adjustments

Information overload

Miles of easy walking
There are a few water crossings along the lower section and all are easy to hop over from bank to bank.  There is one narrow 'bridge' that's just one snowshoe wide that makes for a fun balancing act. :)

Second bridge.  Note the blaze to remind you that you really want to go across here :-/

Starting the spring melt?

Nat and I after the narrow bridge crossing.  One snowshoe wide...

This hike does gain about 2500' of elevation, so the flat walking had to stop at some point.  Once we got on the uphill we just kicked in the televators (which Kim was very happy to have today) and thought about what a great run it would be for butt sledding on the way down.  The trail levels out a bit as it crosses the LT/AT junction before heading up the steep approach to the summit.

Finally gaining some elevation.  Looking forward to the slide back down!

Crossing the LT/AT

Back to white blazin'

Another beautiful day up high

We met a bunch of folks at the Cooper shelter just past the junction.  I think they were all just up there doing some back country skiing.  There's actually a trail that heads down here from the top of the ski area at the summit.  Somehow I forgot to get a photo of the shelter itself - I guess I was distracted by the signs.

Cooper Shelter warning

So many signs...

Leaving the shelter it was a bit of a challenge to find the trail to the summit.  There were ski tracks everywhere and we wandered around for a while before finding the blazes again.  Next time we'll know - it's just straight ahead past the shelter.  We finally got back on track and headed up the final really steep pitch to the top.  I'd read a trip report from this year that said they had turned back a hundred yards from the top because they couldn't make forward progress.  I can see how that could happen if the snow was soft.  As it was, there was just enough bite to get the snowshoe crampons in.  As usual, all I could think about as we were going up here was how the heck we were going to get down...

A little break before the really steep section

Nat and I on the beginning of the steep spur to the summit

Wall of white

Nat digging in on the summit spur

Nat and I almost to the top.  This is REALLY steep!

Kim approaching the summit

Nat's almost there

It was gorgeous on the summit!  There was a little more haze than the previous day, but we could still see 100 miles away.  While we were on the summit I wandered around looking for a potential alternate way to descend that was less steep than the way up.  We thought about the back country ski trail, but were worried about how far out of the way it might be.  There was an "ambassador" from Killington that we met on the summit and asked about options.  He didn't really have any suggestions and ultimately we decided that we would just suck it up and head back the same way.  <sigh>

Kim on the final approach

Had fun watching the rime blow off the tower

Another day of incredible views

I think I was looking for an alternate route down

Nat and I on Killington for NE67 #58.  VT = done!

Kim on Killington for W67 #62

Our little friends celebrate another successful summit day

Mark, Kim and Nat (and Mr Giraffe) on Killington

By the time Kim and I walked over to the top of the lip from the summit Nat had already slid down the first pitch.  She described it to us as "not too bad, but somewhat out of control".  OK, no other options here.  I dug in the heel of my snowshoes, back of my pack, elbows and poles and started the slide.  I went right past Nat and didn't stop till I was on the first flatter section before the shelter.  It was actually more controlled than I expected and was also quite fun.  Kim reminded me that this was the same thing that I'd done to myself on the way up (and down) Profanity on Mt Mansfield.  I promised that I wouldn't ever psych myself out like that again.  (Yeah, right...)

Once we were back at the shelter we got out our butt sleds and prepared for the fun ride down!  Unfortunately, the trail had seemed a lot steeper on the way up and the snow had gotten a lot stickier.  There were a few really good sections, but for the most part it was faster to just walk than sled.

The dangers of butt sledding (and putting your snowshoes in the pack).
Kim was completely stuck between the trees here until Nat dragged her out

The fun of butt sledding!!!

The rest of the walk out was quick.  We were back at the car by 2 and reluctantly headed for home.  There were still a couple of VT treats ahead though.  First was driving down Rt 100 and 103 through the beautiful winter countryside.  The other was stopping at Smokin' Bowls for a Cheech and Chong chili.  This has definitely become our favorite Vermont detour on the way home!

And so we've gotten another state knocked off the list - us for our NE67 and Kim for her W67.  Does that mean that this is the end of Vermont?  Not by a long shot!!  We can't wait to get back to some of these peaks in other seasons and explore lots more of this beautiful state!  There's definitely more to New England hiking than just the Whites.

The interactive GPS track is HERE


  1. Nice pictures of a pretty day- lucky you.

  2. I'm pretty sure this isn't the end of Vermont for you! LOL! You'll be back, for sure. What a spectacular finish, though, with such a gorgeous day. Congrats!