Since the snow fairy still hadn’t visited most of New Hampshire, I decided to squeeze one more hike in because it will definitely blizzard soon (right…RIGHT?!?). I picked Mount Major in Alton, NH, which is right down the road from Ellacoya State Park. Although Mount Major is not located in a State Park, it is part of Mount Major State Forest, one of the many properties administered by the Department of Resources and Economic Development and managed by the NH Division of Forests and Lands. It’s a smaller mountain (1786 ft) but has great views from the top and is conveniently located in central New Hampshire. My friends from school and I came from the far corners of New England to conquer this tiny beast.
The most important part about hiking in the winter (or doing anything outside in the winter) is dressing for the elements. Although we weren’t battling massive snow drifts, it was still pretty cold on our hike, especially on the summit.
The best way to beat the weather is to prepare. During the course of our hike, I went from pretty cold to sweating within five minutes. A mile or so later, I was clammy, and then at the summit, I was pretty sure I was getting frostbite. Weather is fickle in New Hampshire, and half the time your body is not going to know what the heck to do about it.
The number one rule to dressing for winter activities is layering, layering, layering. Always start out with a warm, non-cotton, moisture-wicking base layer. I’m a big fan of Under Armour, which I use for running, hiking, and as a general base layer, even if I’m just walking to class. Next, throw on another lighter moisture-wicking shirt. Even if it’s freezing outside, you’re going to sweat. Feeling wet while you’re outside in the cold is not fun.
For your hands, feet, neck, and head, warmth is key. Smartwool socks are awesome, but any thick, warm sock will do. Chances are, you’ll ditch your hat and scarf while hiking, but you’ll be glad you brought them on the windy summit. As for gloves, they are absolutely essential. My hands usually run cold anyways, and for me, a chilly hike without gloves can be torturous.
Depending on the weather, you may want to wear snow pants and a winter jacket. It was hovering around 32 degrees at Mount Major the day we hiked, so I opted to just bring my jacket. I didn’t wear it on the hike up, but was grateful I had it on the blustery summit. Waterproof hiking boots are also a must.
After a failed plan to meet up at an Alton flower shop that didn’t end up existing, the gang finally reunited and started the haul up. Emily had on the coolest pair of spandex I had ever seen.
We headed up the Boulder Loop Trail, blazed with orange markers. The uphill trail was pretty gradual, and we enjoyed passing by bubbling brooks and giant boulders.
It even started snowing!
We huddled for warmth in the foundations of an old hiking shelter.
To stay warm, we did some exercises that Kendall and Luke learned in their Winter Hiking classes at UNH. We ended up looking pretty ridiculous in the process.
Have you gone on any cold-weather hikes this winter?
Find more tips on how to prepare for your next hike at http://www.hikesafe.com/