Round Top Shelter: Part Two
Many months ago, I sat down for a meeting to coordinate the 2023 Mountain Leader Course for the Adventure Sports Center at Saint Mike’s. The course is super cool, and in addition to being a stepping stone towards becoming an instructor, it also stands to increase backcountry competency and risk management for interested students! This year, we are introducing more fieldwork than what has occurred in years past, so my co-coordinator and I put together an instructor trip to familiarize skills like tarping, tenting, cooking, filtration, and bear bagging. While I am usually one to bag as many miles as possible, we opted for a familiar and close-by trip- the Round Top Shelter in Johnson, Vermont!
As the first week of early-return training began, the forecast quickly got worse. And in summer 2023 in Vermont fashion, we were going to be contending with endless rain on our Friday-Saturday overnight. Right off the bat, we delayed our start time to the afternoon due to the rains ALLEGEDLY being the heaviest in the morning… they were heaviest while we were out there… Besides the point!
Just like when I did it last spring, we dropped the end car off at Plot Road in Johnson and then drove about 15 minutes to the Route 15 crossing of the Long Trail, parking room for about 8 nicely parked vehicles. The first strides of the LT north were very grown in but were covering a very defined footpath. As we skirted beside the woods line, a handful of dead-end spur paths diverged but note that the correct right turn is signed.
We moved up and down alongside a handful of mossy boulders as we approached the crossing of the Lamoille, which had been rerouted after the devastating flood levels in Johnson back in July. The reroute was taped in orange and I found this much easier and drier than the original crossing.
After the river, we crossed the suspension bridge, then Hog Back Road, and soon began our ascent of Prospect Rock. Just as I remembered, this stretch contains the bulk of the elevation gain, with the section just parallel to the cliff face being the most strenuous. Despite the elevation being a mere ____ feet, the trail split to the top of Prospect Rock was feeling nearly within the clouds- vision was rough, the air was thick, and breathing difficult! Despite the short 3.5 miles, we did gain a good 1400 feet, a lot of which happens right there.
We opted to not take the Long Trail route that goes up and over the rock because we weren’t going to see anything and took the Falcon closure route straight towards Prospect Rock Road, which we followed for a short time until the next sign to proceed north on the Long Trail.
The final section of gain was incredibly foggy, gravely differing from last year’s snowy yet completely sunny travels to the summit of Roundtop. Though not a major peak at just 1,730 feet, Roundtop has a massive cairn and a nice sign that says the distances to Massachusetts and Canada. From here, we were all downhill to the shelter- which was just as stunning as I remembered.
On-site, we explored the spacious three-walled shelter, clean privy, tenting & bear bagging areas, as well as the new water pump 0.1 miles below the shelter. Thankfully, the rain only grew unbearable once we were beneath the shelter. Had we not gotten there when we did, we would not have been as happy as we were inside.
For the rest of the evening, we puttered about, did some skills practice, made dinner, and got wrapped up for bed relatively early. Despite the three walls, I will say that I woke up not breathing so easily- a common shelter experience for me. The wake-up, of course, was also an early one. In a busy college student fashion, we were sincerely trying to get Swapnil back to campus for a 9:30 practice which was no easy task given we still had to drive an hour and a half after the 1 mile hike out. But, by the grace of summer squash spirit, we made it out of camp by 7 a.m., van #1 at 7:30, and were back to campus by 9!
The Round Top car spot is a super simple yet fulfilling overnight that still gives beginners something to climb. This quiet corner of Vermont is a forever favorite of mine for its low crowds and incredible maple candies from Butternut Farms.