Moriah via Stony Brook & Carter-Moriah | 1/28/23
I feel as though I rarely write a trail report out of order, but today I choose to start with brief conditions and three lessons we learned today should you only read this first paragraph.
Carry at least one role of tape per member of your party.
Kind people on the trail make a good day great.
Being prepared to stay the night makes 2 hours of darkness way more comforting.
CONDITIONS SUMMARY: The trail is not packed. Approximately nine people traveled on Saturday. I guess that it needs at least another handful of groups in snowshoes to make it micro spike appropriate. Bring snowshoes, tape, and light traction.
Julia and I left campus at 5 AM and made way for Gorham to pick up Stony Brook Trail to gain tracing miles for me and 22/48 for Julia. We had a mixed precipitation drive, almost completely in darkness, and got suited up at the trailhead with usual winter hiking gear (linked below). I started in my base layers, shell pants, shell jacket, thin gloves, and an insulated headband. Additionally, after a brief look at the trail, it seemed as though only one track of snowshoes had been up since the most recent snowfall, so we wore snowshoes out of the parking lot.
Crossing the bridge in snowshoes was awkward as we tried to fit the large feet down on such little steps, but as we moved through the forest, the movement became easier. I had never been so thankful for snowshoes! Within the first mile or so, we ran into a pair, and not long after, we ran into a problem. Between both of Julia's snowshoes, she is supposed to have 10 straps. 8 of them, however, snapped right off. For the continuation, I proceeded behind filling in any holes she made with my snow shoes. It wasn’t ideal, but it was enough to gain the ridge and reevaluate from there.
Aside from the complications, the trail was just lovely. The first two miles followed peaceful woods, gaining only a couple hundred (500-600) feet until a deeper puddle of a stream crossing, which is marked on Gaia with a little spout icon, and we started to gain. As we got higher up, nothing felt too technical and the elevation gain soon granted views to the Carter-Moriah ridges out to the left.
Once we got to the Carter-Moriah ridge, it became clear almost instantly that the drifts were to make things even harder on no snowshoes. Even before we got there, the post holes on the ridge were troubling. We moved slowly as Julia tried to figure out a way to minimize impact and soon, we found another group of two. In the most polite way possible, they inquired about the lack of snowshoes, for which we explained the breakage.
By reading the recent reports, it was BubblesTheHiker and a friend, so hello from the medical tape snowshoe crew! But more than that, they also expressed sympathy for how hard it would be going down, which I realized was to be a disaster. Being approached by people that left us feeling encouraged rather than bad about it, inspired us to attempt rehabilitation. Julia and I are both Wilderness First Responders who came equipped to treat injury, but we’d rather not use that on a messed up kneecap from a post-hole-momentum disaster. So, we used our resources.
The franken-snowshoes were no substitute for working snowshoes, but they fixed the impact problem and made her more stable. It took two full roles of medical tape to make them, and miraculously they lasted the rest of their need on the hike.
Shortly after the fix, we ran into a couple wearing spikes who thanked us for leading the way on snowshoes, which was ironic given the taping we just did. Nonetheless, we ended up summiting at about 3 PM, which was my turnaround time. We’d been slowed a lot given the technical issues, but it was a blessing to have been able to see evening light over the Baldface, Carter, and Northern Presidential ranges.
Intending to get back to the junction at 4:30, we exceeded expectations and traveled back in a good third of the time it took us to get out due to the snowshoe innovation. After a quick snack and headlamp locating, we moved swiftly down the steeper sections of Stony Brook, continuing to smooth out the trail, and put headlamps on the right as we got past the steepest aspect.
Once we got to the flats, it was pretty smooth going and I was surprised to find how pleasant hiking in the dark was in the winter. During the summer, I loathe hiking in the dark. But, with a combination of fresh batteries, reflective snow, a great partner, and an intelligent German Shepard, I didn’t mind the darkness.
We crossed the bridge cheering, and I yet again reminded Julia how metal she was for braving a fake snowshoe for the majority of the hike. Shortly after, Ryan swung by the trailhead to bring us takeout, which was much appreciated.
All in all, today was so unexpected but well worth it. Had the snowshoe situation gone as planned, we would’ve beat dark by many hours. But, hiking is all about adapting to adverse conditions for fun, isn’t it?