While late fall this year has had it’s ups and downs in terms of winter weather, this past weekend had a definite winter feel to it! My son and I headed out to climb Big Slide on Sunday morning (12/18/11) with the thermometer reading just above O (F) in Brant Lake. We packed plenty of fleece layers for insulation, knowing it would be at least 10 degrees colder in the peaks. There had been a light snowfall, so the ground had a nice white coating, covering roots, as well as ice on the trail. The weather service missed the mark – pleasantly so – with their partly cloudy forecast. The day ended up being as brilliantly clear as it gets with barely a breeze blowing – even on the top of the mountain.
We weren’t the only ones climbing on Sunday, but there were only a couple of other groups out on the trail over The Brothers to Big Slide. While we had crampons along, we were able to make it OK over the icy sections. We noted some others did wear extra traction cleats – most likely a big help on some of the steeper sections!
Daytime temps were quite brisk in the shade, but the sun – even as low as it stayed in the sky – aded a nice warmth when we were out in the open. While some clouds in the sky adds some interest to a photo, the clarity of the air allowed for sharp rendition of both near and far mountains. The Great Range (Lower / Upper Wolfjaws, Armstrong, Gothics, Saddleback, and Basin) is right across the valley, but the further away Dix, Colden, Algonquin, and even the Green Mountains of Vermont were just as clear as the closer peaks. Both Mount Mansfield and Camels Hump were capped with white on the Vermont’s rolling horizon. The panoramic summit view of Giant, the Great Range, Marcy, Colden, and Algonquin is simply fabulous.
We took our time at the views on the way up and on the summit, taking photos and enjoying each view, before heading down the trail to Johns Brook Lodge and back out to the Garden parking lot. I carried two lenses along with my D300S – an 18-200, and an 11-16, to give me lots of flexibilty on different angles and compositions. I also shot a few panoramic sequences that still need to be stitched together.
The sun was getting low as we started our descent. Debris, ice, and bridge washouts from Irene made the trail to JBL interesting. Twilight faded into night and the stars flickered among the treetops as we hiked out. Since we both enjoy walking at night we waited as long as we could before turning on our headlamps. After I slipped a couple of times on ice that I thought was dirt, we decided a bit of light would make the last mile or so both easier and safer. After we put our gear in the car, we hung out in the parking lot a few minutes gazing at the stars and Milky Way with the sky so absolutely clear you felt you could reach out and touch them….