We received a wonderful gift a day early on Christmas Eve - a beautiful cold, clear, windless winter day to climb 4,083-foot Camel's Hump in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Up to six inches of snow fell the day before, coating the trails, trees, and rocks with soft powdery snow. Simply beautiful to be outside on such a day.
This was our first climb of Camel's Hump in any season. We chose a 5.8-mile loop, much preferring that to an out and back on the same trail. We were prepared for ice, strapping on microspikes to the bottom of our boots soon after we started. At 7:45 am we were the first to arrive at the well-maintained and freshly plowed and sanded parking lot. Temperature 5 degrees. As we prepared to start our hike another car arrived with Lulu, a Kodi-like canine, and her human companion. They were going a different way so we never saw them again, nor anyone else all morning until we started our descent at 12:30 from the top of Camel's Hump.
All morning we shared the woods with just the animals: snowshoe hare, grouse, and weasel tracks; the sweet tweets of kinglets and chickadees; a flock of cedar waxwings eating mountain ash berries. The morning sun caught the tops of the trees overhead just as we started north on the Long Trail.
Our route took us in a counterclockwise direction via the Connector Trail to the Forest City Trail to the Long Trail, then back on the Burrows Trail. The trail guide said this route takes about 4 hours in summer. We took 6 hours. The trail was new to us and the fresh snow covered ice underfoot and obscured the best foot and hand holds.
Just as we started north on the Long Trail toward the summit of Camel's Hump, we passed a sign that warned about the trail ahead. It said the trail can be difficult to follow in winter. We encountered several challenging spots: ice covered rocks that we had to scale, a narrow canyon slot to get across with Kodi, a high ledge that we climbed up and over, a narrow ledge that we inched around while hugging the rock face, and the final ascent above treeline. Yet, it was a beautiful route with spectacular views and offered challenges that we studied and overcame and pressed on to the top, exhilarated by the hike and the views.
The views to the south and east as we climbed the Long Trail were especially spectacular.
The first 1.3 miles of our hike (the Connector Trail and the Forest City Trail) took us 1 hour and 20 minutes to hike. The next 1.9 miles to the summit took 3 hours, because of trail conditions. The slow pace was worth ever step as the blue sky, white winter wonderland, crisp air, and lack of wind made for an amazing day of hiking. The final 0.2 miles to the summit held a final few challenges for us before we finally reached the top.
And then we reached the top.
The 360 degree view from the bare (camel's hump) summit was awesome and such a day. We looked north to Mt. Mansfield, the tallest mountain in Vermont.
We looked east to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, The High Presidentials and the Franconia Ridge clear in the crisp air.
We looked south along the Long Trail to Mt. Ellen in the distance, while the view west across Lake Champlain to the Adirondacks was the only view obscured by clouds.
We took in the final views near and far as we began our descent. As we descended we finally started meeting people coming up the Burrows Trail - a much easier, but far less interesting route.
All day ice crystals floated in the air, glittering before our eyes. What a gift this day was. To all a Merry Christmas.