Mount Mansfield & Rodger's Ledge | Halloweekend 2022!
Despite committing to a series of post-bedtime events on Halloweekend, I had still planned on hiking Saturday and Sunday because I knew I’d regret letting a sunny October weekend go to waste. So, finding out a way to have the best of both worlds, Ryan and I adjusted our plans a bit to make it all happen.
After making my “annual” raffle win at Saint Michael’s Friday Knight Dry and coming home with a brand-new coffee machine, I got to bed about midnight and was releived to set a 7:30 alarm rather than the 5 am alarm I was going to need for the original plan on Mount Madison. After a sunny wakeup, I looked out my window towards Camel’s Hump & Mansfield and got even more excited for the day. Despite learning how to ski on Mansfield and having Stowe in my life since I was 7, I had yet to claim a reputable summit.
I met up with Ryan, Thor, and Taylor at the Underhill State Park Trailhead to embark on Ryan’s more unique approach to Vermont’s highest peak. Thor and Taylor, who are new to Vermont, were amused that it was the highest peak given that they used to live at a higher elevation back in Tahoe. We started up the well-graded and raked CCC Road until we diverged right from the sign-in. We continued on a similar level pathway until we intersected the Teardrop ski trail and made a left turn up sudden slabs.
Before breaking the tree line, the slabs were wet despite no recent rain, but not too difficult. Some of the rocks even had steps carved into them for the ease of heavy-pack carriers. Once we broke the tree line, the rock was drier and significantly easier to ascend… at first. At about three thousand feet, we came up on some pretty steep slabs to climb, the first of which there is a good walk around to the left after the first climb. Shortly after, we came up on a small “chasm” that could be completed by a straddle move. But, this was not the case for someone like me who is scared of heights. It was for good reason that Ryan didn’t tell me this was a feature until we’d already started, because it took me a second and two hands to get over something that really wasn't that complicated.
After the hop-over move, we had a few more slabby sections to ascend until the forehead which put us right onto the Long Trail. This section was well maintained over three-plank-wide bog bridges that brought us up to where we diverged to the nose.
At long last, as we came up on the highest point of the face, I had finally hiked Mansfield in honest ascent. Despite standing atop various parts of the face four separate times, as well as the Taft and Butler Lodges, I had actually done in full for once, making for 69/100.
Taking a brief hiking intermission to get glammed up for a party, we took off our trail shoes for the next few hours until Sunday morning when we acknowledged it was probably a bad idea to hike in the Northern Presidentials on such little sleep. So, finishing what we started earlier in the month, we went up to York Pond Road to see what was up with Mill Brook Trail.
Getting (another) embarrassingly late Sunday start, we got to the Mill Brook Trail around noon and went the first 1.2 miles silently as we swooshed through the leaves along the flat and wide path. At 1.3, the trail narrows a bit and starts to follow a side hill for the next mile. Interestingly, neither of us noticed the side hill until we were coming down and it became a bit arduous. Conveniently, the side hill broke when we started to see more blue skies through the trees and we only had a little bit more until Kilkenny. Here, the two of us ran into another couple on this stretch, who were just as pleased they’d taken advantage of such a nice day as we were.
Once we got up to Kilkenny, we had another 0.6 to Roger’s and gained about 500 more feet. Despite the leaves, the footing was excellent and the trail was maintained with stone steps in necessary places. The nearby campsite felt a perfect blend of private and accessible as the three platforms were good distances apart, yet cell service was still right within reach for travelers with worried loved ones at home.
Once we got up to the bend in Kilkenny Ridge that put us on top of the ledge, we took the beaten path on the left out to an outlook and were pleased but not as infatuated as we thought we'd be. Right as we were about to leave, Ryan walked out towards another path and we were stunned to see swooping views of every range we’d worked this year and a gorgeous set of ledges that may or may not get some first ascents put on them by Ryan & company soon.
It had taken us about 2 hours to get up at a leisurely conversation pace and just as long to get down- those leaves were unforgiving on security, and after my Cold River wipe out, I was not going to be taking any chances with fast steps on leaves.
When we got to the parking lot, we said bye to the kind Fish Hatchery guys and stopped at Crystal Falls (roadside) on the way out. Perfect way to close out the month!
Mansfield via Maple & Sunset Ridges- 8.32 miles | 2,927 gain | 0 frogs
Roger’s Ledge via Mill Brook & Kilkenny Ridge- 8.45 miles | 1,569 gain | 0 frogs