Moriah has been on my mind for a few weeks as a peak to climb early in winter. It’s 3 hours away from where I live and I’d like to get the furthest one’s, sooner rather than later. New Year’s Day was approaching and having the day off and racing to the end of winter means that I am going to hike. So, there was no celebration for me. Only gathering of gear and food for New Year ’s Day. I was in bed by 10pm and gladly skipped the ball drop. At 4:30am after a few snoozes, I was up and on my way. New lined winter pants and a warm/light mid-layer to try out, Isis and I made our way to Gorham and Bangor St. to hit the Carter Moriah trail. My decision to switch to this side was simple, the trail was easier for dogs. The drive up did not faze me until Franconia Notch when the snow was slick on the road and I road behind a plow for a while so that I could take advantage of the fresh clearing and the salt. I noticed a handful of cars at each trailhead as we passed. There seemed to be a lot of people out even though temps were set to be below zero. Isis and I arrived at the trail head a little before 8:30 and we were on our way shortly after.
I started in my crampons to test the pack of the snow. I quickly switched to snow shoes. The first incline seemed easier and yet still jarring to start a climb. Having done this in March and October, this was my first winter ascent and now I had Isis too. The snow clung to the trees lightly and there was minimal wind at the base. Isis had a great time grabbing at sticks and chasing leaves on the trail. I was conscious of the new hiking gear and how warm I was. The new lined pants plus my long underwear was enough to keep me warm and the new mid-layer was more comfortable than the fleece I wore for the Osceola’s. I was moving quickly and Isis was doing well in the cold. The trail was well broken out and I gave kudos to the crew that did it. Isis and I then began hitting the snow covered ledges on our way to the summit. She was a pro at hiking up these and I was having difficulty with my snowshoes. The bindings were not holding my boots and I needed to stop and keep tightening them. I’ve always struggled with these as my arms lack strength to pull the straps over my boots tight. It took time for me to get them right today and Isis was getting colder each time I stopped. We kept going though and I laughed at myself for having to keep stopping.
We broke out of the trees for an open ledge before Mt. Surprise and Isis was immediately spooked by the high winds and the cold. We kept moving after snapping one picture of the view. Ducking back into the trees Isis calmed down and also warmed up just slightly. We ran into Bob who was hiking back down from an early morning summit and he informed us of the temps and the wind up top. I tucked the info away as we kept moving. Going through the ups and downs of the trail, I continued to struggle with my bindings and was overcome by another hiker who’s name I never got. He was fairly well iced over from the top of his head and into his lashes and beard. We again did not talk long, just enough to say hello and Happy New Year. Isis and I had not had a lot to eat and drink at this point and I wanted to keep moving. I did notice her starting to lift her paws up when we stopped for more than a minute. It was very cold and I could only imagine what the summit would be like. The trail continued to be nicely broken out and that made it a little easier. Being plagued by binding issues, I continued up the steeps and was getting frustrated. A couple caught up to me at one point and I was about in tears as Isis was pulling me back down towards them and all I wanted to do was get up that ledge. I looked at them and explained how frustrated my gear was being and the gentleman agreed and said that his was as well. I instantly felt better hearing that and as they moved on, I fixed it again and got up the ledge. Sometimes all you need to know is that someone else feels the same way and it makes things easier.
Isis and I would leap frog with this couple until we reached a blow down and they lagged behind. As we continued on, Isis continued to lift her paws from the snow if we stopped. I gave her something to eat at one point while I drained about half of my Gatorade from not having anything to drink so far. We were getting closer to the summit and caught up with the frosty hiker as he was coming back down. Only a few more ups and downs at this point and that meant we’d be on our way back down. Not that I was looking forward to it. Just that it was cold and we’d be getting warmer. Winter is such a different ball game when you hike. Isis continued on and needed a little coaching to keep going she was not in pain and she was not stressed. It was just cold. We arrived at the turn for the summit and Isis took off like a shot. I had never experienced her summit fever before and this was a new pace. We popped out to the clouds swirling around us at 12:30pm and I quickly took a summit panorama while Isis ran around the summit completely. I was preparing to take a summit selfie when Isis had reached the point where we had popped out of the trees and she kept going down. My poor girl had enough and wanted to get out of the wind. She kept going at a really breakneck pace too past the summit sign and back into warmer temps. I finally slowed her down so I could catch my breath.
The wind was quieting and the snow was beautiful all around us and I thought to myself that this is what white sounds like. I had finally heard the sound of white and I smiled. This would forever be associated with winter to me and I loved the way the trees were covered in snow that looked like soap bubbles to me. The blue sky looked even more blue against the white of winter. The couple I had run into earlier was still coming up and I managed to scoop up Isis and get a trail picture rather than a summit picture. I gave them the information about the summit and told them to be safe and not stay too long (even though we all had the required gear). Isis and I kept moving through the ups that were now downs and that of course meant that I was going down on my ass. Sometimes it was on purpose and sometimes, Isis would just get moving and pull me down. I grabbed a video of us since I had talked about what fun it was. I laughed all the way down the steep sections because sliding made it easier. My All Trails App for my phone must have thought we got caught in an avalanche because we were moving so fast and so often. Today was a fun hike for the both of us and a good test for us to go at a winter hike solo and in the deep cold. While I would not recommend taking a dog out in seriously negative temps, Isis did well. I just think it’s going to be nothing below -10 for her from now on and thank goodness she has the Presi’s done already and can stay home.
New Year’s Day 2014 was more than I could have hoped for and probably the best way to kick off a new year full of hope and promise for myself. As 2013 was coming to a close, I had begun making changes in my life, some obvious and some not so obvious to people. While this journey through the mountains continues, I am looking forward to shaping a softer and simpler 2014 for myself, filling my life with only those people and things that mean the most to me. Life is too short for too much clutter and too much stress (which I had been experiencing in 2013). I want a more positive world where I can enjoy my hikes rather than having to worry about life below 4K. Mount Moriah taught me about the sound of white and it’s the most beautiful sound in winter.
(The Sound of White is borrowed from the Missy Higgins song of the same name)