The plan was to hike up to the summit of Mt.Moosilauke, continue to Mt.Blue and Mt.Jim spend a night and then continue the loop back to the parking lot.
I have winter camped before and I consider myself a 4 season outdoorsman but I have never tinkered with winter hammocking. So it peaked my interest and armed with BB1.7, Winter Yeti and a winter sleeping bag I thought I would give it a go.
My pack was about 35 pounds + water. I need to lighten it up a bit. It will be my gradual project.
My winter backpack is about 4lbs. I pack the foam pad right inside the bag. It looks big but the foam pad takes up majority of the space.
In the backpack:
For the sleeping and emergency clothing:
Ridgerest foam mat
Granite Gear Northern Light Tarp + 2 Beakers
TNF -20 Sleeping Bag
Big Agnes Copper Spur Footprint that I planned to stretch on the ground under the hammock
Small CCF Foam piece to sit or stand on.
Stephenson Vapor Barrier socks, pants, shirt
Patagonia Wool longjohns and longsleeve top
Merrell thin down jacket (soon to be replaced by Jacks R Better down sleeves)
Dachstein Wool Socks
Nalgene Bottle - water
Thermos - hot tea
For the food:
Bottle of denatured alcohol
Solo Woodburning Stove (Bushbuddy knockoff)
Trangia Alcohol Stove
Titanium Fork and Spoon
HawksWhittles - 2 meals
Instant oatmeal - 2 small pouches
Trader Joes Condensed Milk
Starbucks Via Instant Coffee
Two tea bags
CRKT Minimalist Knife
Nalgene Bottle - Pee Bottle
Titanium Shepherd Hooks
Bunch of lines for tarp management
Other miscelaneous(small toilet paper,towelettes etc)
For the extras:
It takes almost 3 hours to the trailhead by car from my house in Maine. I started a bit late. I think around 10 am or so. I was surprised by decent amount of snow cover right at the trailhead. In the past 3 weekends of hiking I encountered snow but usually halfway up the mountain.
The trail I wanted to take was Gorge Brook trail.
It is a very pleasant hike up this mountain. The trail meanders between medium up and steeps but it never hits you like some 'traditional' New England straightuppers. Very soon I hit steady snow on trail, about 6 inches or so. Everything was 'christmas white', the skies were blue. It was glorious.
After I cleared the tree line I saw sunlit snow summit of Moosilauke. I donned on my second layer, hooded jacket, hat, headscarf, ski googles and summited with joy. There are trails to the summit from 4 different directions. I think I saw about 20 people in various groups on the summit.
I continued past the summit to the other side of the mountain via Beaver Brook trail.
The other side had wonderfully plastered trees with snow. I took a few breaks to sip on hot tea but continued pretty much without a break until about 4PM.
My campsite was cramped. I ran out of sunlight soon after I pitched my hammock and tarp. My first headscratcher - how will I attach the tarp guy lines in deeper snow, with small pine trees in the way everywhere? I couldn't really attach them to the small pine trees with a couple exceptions, the sheppard hooks disappeared in the snow quickly and I feared losing them.
Nevertheless, the tarp was more or less pitched although with fewer guy lines than optimal. Hammock was set up with the underquilt and sleeping bag. My chest pack clipped nicely right to the ridge line.
My intention was to test the new Solo Woodburning stove but that idea was abandoned as I was running out of daylight and everything was under snow cover. I utilized my alcohol stove instead.
This was also my first time with an alcohol stove. In the past I was pretty much a pocket rocket stove user. The canister stove performance in the winter is lousy, hence I switched over to the alcohol stove.
It's a beauty. Quiet and gets the job done. I dropped the Trangia into the Solo stove for a windbreaker. Soon the water was boiling, I poured it onto my African Stew for dinner and also made my self a Starbucks Via Decaf into my Kuksa cup. Then I boiled another batch of water for my Nalgene Bottle to be used as a hot water bottle for the night.
By 5:30PM everything was pretty much pitch dark. I did some minor acrobatics on the small foam piece by undressing all of my layers, putting on my VB shirt, pants and socks. Then Dachstein Wool socks, wool underwear and wool top.
6:00PM I was in the hammock eating my dinner and listening (kind of) to my small radio. The signal was faint. It was ok.
After dinner I prepared to stay in the hammock for the night. I was comfortable a little too hot on the top but there were a couple spots on the bottom that did not feel warm. I knew that those could mean misery during the cold night. So I was shuffling the underquilt and tried to work it but for a while it was futile. I began to worry that I might have to go to ground.
I persevered, and at some point it appeared that I found the sweet spot by having warmth for the entire underside. One factor that worked really well was placing my hot water bottle under my upper thigh - essentially lifting the coldest spot off the sides of the hammock.
I tried reading my kindle but soon after I fell asleep. I had some bizarre dreams, one of which was a pretty vivid dream telling me that my hammock sagged all the way to the snow. I woke up, checked and I was still about 30 inches clear off the snow.
At 1 AM I woke up and could not fall asleep again. I read my kindle for about 30 minutes and then fell asleep again. During my reading a light icy rain fell onto the tarp but the shower was brief. I utilized my pee bottle successfully and fell back asleep.
I think the temperatures got a little warmer for the remainder of the night. A couple of tosses and turns but basically I just slept really well until about 7AM.
I woke up to condensation on the inside of the tarp. The tarp was pitched really close to the hammock and it sagged a little bit overnight.
I got out of the hammock, performed reverse acrobatics to get back into my hiking layers and packed my tarp and the beakers. Soon after it started to rain - but the shower again was very brief. I got lucky.
My site in the morning after packing everything:
I cooked hot tea and hot coffee and skipped the breakfast. Then I packed my hammock and the rest of my stuff and headed back onto the trail. After a few hours I was back at the parking lot.
Things I would change:
I will be buying the Jacks R Better Mt.Washington 3 on sale to hopefully gain more coverage for my underside.
The thin down jacket was too much. I will replace it with the down sleeves and utilize it with my down vest.
I will bring additional bottle of alcohol for cooking. I ran out just in time and it was barely enough.
I will skip bringing the radio. The reception was not optimal for enjoyment.
I will definitely use the footprint under the hammock next time. I ran out of time to do so on this trip and it could have been better.
I will probably bring different tent stakes. The variance of site choices makes me a bit nervous about my confidence to set up the tarp well.
I wonder whether I could find a wider foam mattress than the Ridgerest.