Jay Peak to ski area boundary to Montgomery
26 Oct 2005
.7+ miles, 270+ cumulative miles
This morning I did my daily ritual of food, drink, wet clothes, and packing up. There was a snowy walk ahead, but the wind did not seem to be as strong or constant. At least it didn't sound like the building was under assault like last night. I had high hopes until I opened the door. When I did, I stared dumbstruck at the snow. How was I going to go anywhere through this? All traces of my passage last night were obliterated by the thigh-high snow. I knew it was big trouble, but it could only get better further down the mountain so I started.
There were two things I noticed right off. First my duct taped liner glove was dry but also useless against the cold. My fingers were freezing. Second the snow was a huge problem. I hadn't even left the tram station before I was hip deep. Each step was a mission requiring me to loosen my leg in the snow, pull it free, swing it wide to the side counterbalancing with my upper body, and plunging it into the snow ahead of me. Of course the cuffs of my pants were frozen and pulled up allowing snow to pack itself in my boot around my ankles. I was glad the snow wasn't overly wet since I was coated in it from the waist down.
After some tens of feet I reached the wooden fence behind the station. I hopped up on the fence and scooted along for as far as I could. Sadly the fence was not in great shape so I had to soon return to wading. Leaving the summit station and descending a ski run I encountered wind packed snow that was just hard enough to support me if I walked slow and careful. What a relief. At the next run the LT entered the woods and the snow was worse. I was halted by one particularily tall drift. I couldn't seem to push through it. I considered going prone and trying to swim/crawl over it but didn't think I could. Eventually I excavated my way through and reached the trees. With so much snow there were few clues as to where the trail went. It took every bit of experience, woodcraft, and divination I could muster to proceed at less than a snail's pace.
When the trail left the trees and tagged the corner of another ski trail I checked my watch. It wasn't good. The guidebook states that the junction is .7 miles from the tram station. Point seven miles or 3,696 feet. The trip took an hour and a half and it was downhill. Snow was packed in my boots and sticking to my pants and gloves. I was a sorry sight.
I spent some time looking at my map and thinking of my 1 Mac n Cheese dinner and remaining stuffing crumb leftovers. Deciding to give it a go, I struggled across another waist-high drift and into the dark forest. After a few hundred feet I had lost the trail. This way and that I fought through the snow. I spent a long time looking at the map and evaluating the situation. About 10.4 miles further is the trail's end at the Canadian border. So close. In other circumstances it is an easy half day's walk. Unfortunately I didn't have serious snow travel gear with me because it isn't supposed to be this bad yet. Also I am just about out of food. If this was a mountain climb under similar conditions I would turn around without hesitation, but I had never ended a thruhike before then. I began retracing my steps back up to the ski run which would lead me to civilization and defeat.
That is when I found the trail again and started down it like a lemming. My new found vigor lasted to the ski area boundary. There was the point of no return. I had no doubt I could make it another .8 miles further to the next shelter, but on the other side was a 500 foot ascent up Doll Mountain. The elevation would be about the same as were I was currently standing. I didn't even want to think about trying to ascend through this snow. Going down was exhausting. I faced the very real possibility of being stranded with no food.
I left the trail.
The hike down to Jay Peak ski area took two hours. I had two hours to think about having to quit a thruhike. I guessed I would be coming back next year in the summer to day hike the last bit. Jay Peak was still closed for the season but locals were out snowshoeing, snowboarding, and cross country skiing. I was picked up right outside the parking lot by a pickup truck. I hopped in the snow-filled back for a cold trip down to Vt 242. The truck stopped and out jumped Patty to ask where I was going. She and her husband got up to speed on my travails and they suggested I go to Montgomery. I'm glad I took their advice. This little village is a nice place and I just finished a big Prime Rib dinner for $12.95. Schweeet.
Has Hardcore been defeated by the weather? I don't know yet. I was told about a place that lends snowshoes but that doesn't help my clothing situation any. I'll look for an outfitter tomorrow. The owner of the Snowshoe Lodge and Pub said he'll hook me up with a ride back to the trail. When I struggled down the ski run at Jay I thought I was going home, but now I am not so sure.
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