New England’s seasons have a beautiful and predictable cadence; a rhythm that tends to define the everyday New Englander’s life. While many are celebrating the arrival of spring and all of its ‘sure signs’, the Mountains are paying no mind. Despite the steam billowing from the sugar shacks and the blooming crocuses, the mountains are doing as they do, and living by a different tempo; one that is quite slow in the winter, and much more allegro moderato during the other three seasons. On the whole, mountain-weather throughout the entirety of the year could be best described as a piacere.
Within the White mountains, at the brink of more spring-like conditions, is a doorway into a harsh and unforgiving environment; a threshold that few will ever cross. For those who are audacious enough to try, hazards and challenges surely await. This place is known as the Alpine Zone. It exists in places like the Presidential Range, and it is where winter will continue to hold on with its tightest and most enduring grip. That is, until it is good and done.
Unlike last week’s “April Fool’s storm”, which blanketed the whole state, the prolonged winter conditions within the Alpine Zone is not Mother Nature’s idea of tomfoolery; it’s just the way it is.
On Sunday, I took a trip away from the calm of the valley up to the peak of Mount Pierce to once again fuse art with winter adventure, perhaps for the final time this season. I intended to spend a few hours on the summit to experience the colorful embrace that the heavens offer to the mountains as the sun goes down in the winter months. Along the way I got a reminder of the incredible conditions above timberline.
The wind seemed to be on pace to compare to last weekend’s dicey weather, reaching speeds of about 40 mph. As I sat perched within the shelter of just a few tiny trees at the top of the mountain, I was ironically reminded of an ocean. I watched as piles of dry snow were blown across the exposed rocks and ice-covered cairns, like tiny frozen waves shattering against a barren shoreline. My jacket made sounds like a beach-house flag flapping upon itself incessantly. Every now and then the wind would take a brief and silent rest, giving me reprieve from the blowing snow and biting cold. I observed the Mountain Range for a few hours in these conditions, watching the shadows of Mounts Eisenhower, Franklin and Monroe move slowly and eventually disappear in the diffuse light of the sunset. The result was a conclusion that was as awe-inspiring as ever. The sunset itself was intense and vibrant, and for just a few moments some of that color spilled across the western slopes of the Presidential Range. The excursion was well worth the climb, the endurance of the summit conditions, and the subsequent headlamp-hike back down into the Crawford Notch.
Until we meet again, thank you ever so kindly for reading. We’ll see you again soon!