Mount Mansfield, 2/11/17 via Sunset Ridge/ Laura Cowles
Random Group of Hikers, party of 5.
We hiked via Underhill State Park. There were about a dozen parking spots plowed out but people were also parking alongside the road at the end of the plowed area as well with no problems. We hiked up the unplowed part of the road, which was packed out by skiers, thence the Eagle Cut, CCC Road, Sunset Ridge, Long Trail, and down via Laura Cowles. All were moderately packed out but unconsolidated on top. Snowshoes were the right tool for the day. The exposed parts of Sunset Ridge were windblown with lots of ice showing on all exposed rock until the right turn just below the LT, which was characteristically drifted in. We managed the ice with only a little difficulty but would recommend spikes or crampons if descending the same. We had about 0.25 mi visibility on lower Sunset diminishing to nearly zero with almost absolute whiteout on the summit. Passed a few hikers descending who had admitted difficulty in finding their way back down--one group "wandered around for an hour." We could not find the junction sign between Sunset & LT & used GPS to find the summit & in reverse to find Laura Cowles junction. Any cairns were indistinguishably buried on the LT. Would have been extremely difficult to know our position without GPS. Our original intent was to traverse the ridge south to Maple Ridge but abandoned that plan and descended Laura Cowles instead. A few short icy pitches near the top of LC; the rest was a series of perfect, snowy butt-sliding luges and and easy walk out. Passed several unprepared-looking folk on the descent. Snow depth below was around 1.5, about 2.0 with much deeper drifts up high. Firm material underneath with a few inches of fresh powder on top.
Shoeless Paul