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Thread: Vermont Weekend - Ascutney, Jay, and Wheeler

  1. #1
    Senior Member Cumulus's Avatar
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    Vermont Weekend - Ascutney, Jay, and Wheeler

    This past weekend I took Friday off and joined some fellow members of the Conn. Section of the Green Mtn. Club for a weekend in a cabin on Wheeler Pond in northern Vermont.

    Friday: Ascutney

    My original idea was to hike East Mountain on Friday, because it's near Wheeler Pond and I need it for the NEFF list. However, in researching it I started wondering if I would be able to even make it to the trailhead in winter, so I played it safe and decided to climb Ascutney instead. It's much farther south, but it's on the way; you practically drive right by it on I91.

    This was not my first time on Ascutney, or even my first time there in January, but it was my first time on Brownsville Trail. There was only a little snow down low, increasing to several inches on top. I was on microspikes on broken out trail the whole time. There were some spots, though, where the trail was solid ice. Crampons would have been better there, but they never lasted long, so I didn't bother putting them on, even though I had them with me.

    Brownsville Trail has a few steep parts, but also some longer gentler climbs, which is where most of the ice was. It goes by what I guess was an old quarry. It's mostly in the woods with a few lookouts. Near the top it joins the Windsor Trail and becomes the Windsor-Brownsville Trail. This goes to the summit. After tagging the summit I went back to the observation tower and climbed it to observe. The sky was cloudless and the air was clear and I could see a lot. Since I'd last been there signs with pictures of the view and peak names have been put up, so you can tell what you're looking at. Thanks to those I could clearly identify Camel's Hump, Mansfield, and Washington, as well as dozens of closer peaks.

    On the way down I slipped once and slid off the trail, ending up supine, head downhill, on solid ice, and wedged against a blowdown. It took a while to right myself. I did and made it down, though. I didn't see another person the whole hike.

    I then drove up to Mares/Hadsel Cabin in the Wheeler Camps on Wheeler Pond. There I met my fellow GMCers, Mandy, Mike, Jim, and Dick. I knew Dick from other trips, but not the others. This cabin is a real nice place. It doesn't have electricity or running water, but it does have a wood stove, and plenty of wood, so we were warm inside.

    Unfortunately, my exhaust system had become partially detached from my car about ten miles from the cabin, so that it was partly lying on the ground. Fortunately, Jim and Mike helped me tie it up so I could drive it home on Monday.

    Saturday: Jay

    On Saturday we all got into Jim's car and went to where the Long Trail crosses 242 a little south of Jay Peak. Or at least that was the plan. We actually couldn't get the car up the final rise to the trailhead, so we parked about a third of a mile shy of it and roadwalked the rest of the way.

    Saturday was much different than Friday. It was not as cold (at least down below) and it was cloudy. Once we got to the actual trail we all put on snowshoes and kept them the rest of the way up. The LT was not broken out, so we took turns breaking trail, but it wasn't very deep.

    When I through hiked the Long Trail in 2009 I had planned to spend a night in Jay Camp, which is at the foot of the mountain. A short trail called Jay Loop connects the LT to the camp at both ends, and I decided then to keep going when I got to the southern end of the loop and take the northern end. However, I never saw the northern end and (to make a long story short) ended up spending the night in the basement of the Jay Tramway. So this time I was curious if I could find the northern end of Jay Loop now. I did; there was a sign there and it was pretty obvious. I'm pretty sure that sign wasn't there in 2009, though.

    When we got where the LT crosses the ski run near the summit I continued on the LT, but the others took the ski run. They weren't aware where the LT actually went; I wouldn't have been either if I hadn't remembered from 2009. The conditions up on top there were pretty harsh; there was a strong wind. This was the first time I felt I really needed my goggles since I first bought them and starting bringing them on exposed winter hikes.

    The summit of Jay Peak is right near the tram for the ski resort. There were lots of skiers and snowboarders there. There was also a restaurant, where we stopped to eat. I had an excellent clam chowder, and I don't think it was just because I'd just climbed a mountain in winter.

    The original plan was to proceed to Big Jay after summiting Jay, but most of us just wanted to go back down (it was getting late) so that's what we did.

    That night I learned how to play acey-deucy (a backgammon variant) and proceeded to get trounced by Mandy.

    Sunday: Wheeler

    On Sunday the others left after breakfast (some having to work that day), but I decided to climb Wheeler Mountain first. Wheeler is a hill really, right near Wheeler Pond. There's a roadwalk first of a little less than a mile which I probably could have driven, but with the state of my car I didn't want to drive it more than absolutely necessary. When I got to the end of the plowed portion of the road it wasn't clear where the trailhead was, but I found it after walking just a little ways down the unplowed road.

    Sunday was like Friday, cold and clear (-11F when we got up that morning). I decided to take the Red Trail up and the White Trail down. I was on snowshoes. There were some skiers who had broken trail down low, but then there was an old track which could be followed with an inch or two of new snow over that.

    The Red Trail turned out to be much more difficult than I was expecting. It's not long, but it's steep and that day a lot of it was icy rock with snow on it. I was on snowshoes, but I really should have switched to microspikes. At one point I was seriously considering turning back and just going up the White Trail. I persevered, though, and eventually got to the White Trail intersection. At that point I noticed I had broken one of my snowshoes; some of the post and screws which I had used to repair it last winter had come out. I was real angry with myself, because I realized if I had switched to spikes earlier, which I should have done anyway, that probably wouldn't have happened. I had one of those moments there where you're glad no one 's around to see you. That passed, though, and I continued on the White Trail (which was broken out) to the ledges, where there's good views of the area, including Mts. Pisgah and Hor. I turned around after the trail starting descending. I never attained a summit; I think you have to bushwhack a little if that's what you want.

    I went back via the White Trail, which was very easy. On the roadwalk back to my car I talked to a couple driving to the trailhead, warning them about the Red Trail. I then had a noisy but otherwise uneventful drive home.

    Thanks for Mandy and Mike for organizing this trip, and for Jim and Dick for helping make it a success.

    Here are the pictures for Ascutney (Friday).
    Here are the pictures for Jay (Saturday).
    Here are the pictures for Wheeler (Sunday).

    --

    Cumulus

    NE111: 115/115 (67/67, 46/46, 2/2); Cat35: 23/39; WNH4K: 29/48; NEFF: 35/50
    LT NB 2009

    "I don't much care where [I get to] --" said Alice, "-- so long as I get somewhere," ...
    "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
    - Lewis Carroll
    Last edited by Cumulus; 02-03-2014 at 09:21 AM. Reason: s/Monday/Sunday

  2. #2
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    thanks for this helpful report and pictures

    Do you have to bring water or is there a source nearby? (I'm thinking the pond was frozen.)

  3. #3
    Senior Member mirabela's Avatar
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    Cool! Wheeler may be a little mountain, but it's a super-awesome hike, not short on the good stuff -- steeps, open rock, big views, etc.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Snowflea's Avatar
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    Agree - Wheeler is awesome! Some good memories of that little peak.

    One autumn day about 15 years ago I brought my mother - not a hiker - up there. She did great on the ledges; I didn't think that much about it at the time. A couple of summers ago my husband and I reclimbed Wheeler, and the whole time he was like "You dragged your MOTHER up this?!" I was very impressed by her making the summit... if a few years after the fact.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Driver8's Avatar
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    Nice pics, Cumulus. Sounds like a great Green Mountain weekend!
    NH4K: 21/48; N.E.4K: 25/67; NEHH: 28/100; NEFF: 14/50; Northeast 4K: 27/115

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  6. #6
    Senior Member Cumulus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Eagan View Post
    Do you have to bring water or is there a source nearby? (I'm thinking the pond was frozen.)
    We brought water, but the cabin is just a few hundred feet from the parking area, so it wasn't any trouble to lug a big container of water there. One of us also brought a Coleman stove for cooking meals.

    --

    Cumulus

    NE111: 115/115 (67/67, 46/46, 2/2); Cat35: 23/39; WNH4K: 29/48; NEFF: 35/50
    LT NB 2009

    "I don't much care where [I get to] --" said Alice, "-- so long as I get somewhere," ...
    "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
    - Lewis Carroll

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