Mt. Pierce: Another Beautiful Winter Day in the Presidentials
Updated: Jan 8, 2020
One thing that I’ve come to realize in the past few weeks is how different every hike in the Whites feels for me. From the weather conditions to the company I’m with, each time I summit a 4,000 footer my experiences are vastly different. I’ve now summited Mt. Pierce four times, making it my most frequented peak. This was my first true winter summit and one of my favorites, although almost half of the 48 I would consider one of my favorites.
My first time at the summit of Mt. Pierce was a blur. I was nineteen miles into the longest hike I’ve done to date, the one-day Presidential traverse. I was exhausted, hurting, and battling a nasty summer cold. If I’m being completely honest, I don’t really remember what the summit looked like or how I felt because I was just trying to gut it out to the end of the hike. The second time was with Lucy in an unexpected April blizzard. The visibility was so low I couldn’t even see her on the end of her leash. I believe we summited, but it was hard to tell with the conditions being so difficult. The third time was the fourth of July with Lucy and my good friends Donald and Julia. I remember this hike very fondly because Donald and Julia have lived very far away for the past few years and I rarely get an opportunity to see them. The weather was perfect, and I loved how hiking brought us all together.
This trip up Mt. Pierce was another great experience, and my first in official winter. I was accompanied by a new hiking buddy, Monika, who I met through the JP Hikers group. When I pulled up to the parking lot at Crawford connector and started to gear up, I had the frustrating realization that I had forgot my microspikes. I knew the trail would be hard packed from the many reports I had seen in the past few days. When Monika pulled into the parking lot, I was a tad embarrassed to tell her I had forgotten one of my vital pieces of equipment, especially since I stress the importance of preparation to the JP hikers group. I planned to run over to the Highland Center to grab another set, but luckily Monika let me borrow her extra set.
When we hit the trail, Lucy and I were both excited for another beautiful winter hike before the new year. I had hiked Mt. Isolation the day before, so my legs were burning a bit to start, but once my muscles warmed up I felt much better. The first thirty minutes of any hike are always a slog with me struggling to catch my breath, but once we got into the groove it was an easy climb. The trail was beautifully packed with microspikes being sufficient for the whole hike. There were many other hikers out on the overcast Sunday morning, but the clouds were due to give way after a few hours, so I was hoping for the expansive summit views I know Mt. Pierce had to offer.
As we hiked up Lucy and I appreciated the beautiful forest around us. The branches were covered with a hard crust of shimmering ice. After the warm weather and rains the fluffy white snow had given way to a crusty layer of hard packed granular snow. It wasn’t quite icy, but more of a stiff hard pack crunching under our feet. We were followed by a pack of gray jays for a bit chirping in the trees next to us hoping for a snack. As we reached the alpine zone the balmy 25 degree weather started to drop accompanied by blowing winds.
We stopped for a minute to prepare ourselves for the short above treeline ascent to the summit cairn. After snapping a few pictures, we scampered our way up to the summit and back through the chilly gusts of wind. The summit was completely socked in with clouds, but visibility was still pretty good. The lack of views wasn’t too disappointing either because we had some nice views earlier in the day.
The descent was just as nice as the hike up, but with more people flooding the trails. Just as we reached the parking lot the sun came out showering light down on us at the car. Although it was a little infuriating that the weather was so nice after our hike, it was still a great day in the mountains! This was Lucy’s second winter 4k and my ninth so I’m proud of us for checking another one off the list!
Mt. Pierce (4,310 ft) via Crawford Path [6.16 mi, 2570 ft, 3:35].
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