View Full Version : Mahoosuc Notch in Winter

11-24-2003, 14:48
Anyone done the notch in winter? I am trying to put a trip together and curious if anyone else out there has any experience with it...my conclusion is that it is probably best done with little to no snow or lots and lots of snow--the latter being preferable (?)

Blue Jay
11-24-2003, 15:27
I did it with lots of snow. The main problem I had was there were places where you really needed snow shoes and other places where snowshoes were a real problem. They were too wide to lay flat between rocks so they tried to break my ankles. If you have snow shoes with the new easy on/off bindings you should have no problems other than stopping to take them off and putting them back on a few times. Of course it depends on the snow, hard packed you won't even need snowshoes.

Make sure you bring crampons or creepers for the Arm. Don't even try it without them, unless you want to slide into a tree at high speed.

11-24-2003, 15:51
Singletrack, be really careful going through there in the winter. My buddy and I did and it was a disaster. We weren't expecting snow, but it did. Crampons would be helpful. Plan on several hours to get through the notch. We were heading south, too late in the day. High winds and snow made life very difficult. The blowing snow will obscure the blazes. In some places, it is not intuitive as to the correct direction. Give yourself plenty of time to get through. There are few if any places to stop unless you have a bivy.

Blue Jay
11-24-2003, 15:55
Singletrack, be really careful going through there in the winter. My buddy and I did and it was a disaster. We weren't expecting snow, but it did. Crampons would be helpful.

Helpful??? You got down the Arm without them???

11-24-2003, 16:44
climbing or descending The Arm in Winter would border on a technical climb from my memory. Maybe I am remembering the steepness as being greater than it is since I was in pretty frayed mental state by the time I got there. Nevertheless, I certainly wouldn't attempt it without crampons and maybe an Alpine type ice axe for just in case. I might have to consider the advisability of doing certain pitches of it off belay, but I'd want to get eyes on it again in the summer before making that assessment.

Blue Jay
11-25-2003, 08:59
Iceman, your memory serves you well. The Arm borders on a technical climb in winter. I used my bear bag rope a few times even with crampons. I was exhasted by the time I got to the shelter on the lake a mile from the top after a very short day.

11-25-2003, 13:11
I'm not sure whether that which you call the arm is different than the notch. Here's what happened. My friend and I went hiking in Dec, mid-month. Same weekend in '99 that two hikers got trapped overnight on Mt. Washington. There was very little accumulated snow, not more than an inch. This was my first winter trip, his third maybe. We were definitely outfitted for winter, winter tent, lots of clothes, second set of gloves, extra hats, great shell gear. We did lack experience.

We set out early south on the AT from the road before Old Speck. It was very windy, no snow expected. We were supposed to each have a headlamp and a back-up flashlight. We had lots of batteries due to reduced power in cold. Mistake one, was that I brought an old cheap headlamp to lend to my friend, I couldn't find my wife's Petzl. Mistake two, we slept in the car that night and my Petzl fell behind the spare tire holder and did not get packed. We headed up to Old Speck, can't remember the mileages. At the side junction to Old Speck, we determined that it was really too windy to bag, so we continued south on the AT. The trail is steep and exposed just south of the junction. The wind, had to be about 40+mph, hit us so hard we were scattered and blown sideways. We scooted down the mountain to get out of the wind. It was very hectic. I thought I would be blown off the mountain.

We managed to get to recover, and made our way south to the shelter, don't remember the name. Had a bone-chilling cold lunch, the wind was still fierce. Considered staying, but hey, we still had several hours of sunlight and we had planned to make the Notch.

Mistake three, as we approached the Notch, we passed a beautiful, flat, sheltered campsite. It was maybe 3:00. We knew the notch was difficult and would take a couple of hours. We needed to be on the other side to keep to schedule though. We decided to keep going.

We entered the notch. The wind picked back up, it started to snow, and then it got dark. We reached for the headlamps. Mine was missing, and it had the spare halogen bulb. My buddy got his out. It wouldn't work, although it was working previously. OK, we switch to spare flashlights. He had the two battery double A mag-light. I had the single battery Mag-light. My spare failed also. So we had one light. We had already been traveling for about 1-1.5 hours before dark. Our estimate was that the notch was about a mile or so. We weren't sure exactly, but we figured there was no difference in going forward or back, so we went forward.

The snow obscured the blazes, and we frequently lost the trail. We spent a good 45 minutes at one point trapped, until we gambled and realized that we had to throw our packs over the boulders (which are really large). We couldn't set up tent because there were no flat spots. No moon, one flashlight, we navigated ten feet at a time. My night vision is very good, so we made progress. We made it out of the notch and reached a side trail, where we promptly set up camp, right next to the trail.

We of course realized that we had to bail. So the next day we did. It had snowed several inches be morning, maybe six total. Had a little frost nip on my hand from digging around for my missing headlamp, and some in my toes. And the notch ate my thermarest while bouldering and one of my buddy's trekking poles.

Other mistakes, insufficient snacks and poor water system. My hydration bladder froze solid. I have since learned many additional tips and tricks to make winter backpacking more successful. I also gained a healthy respect for the wind.

I'm guessing the arm might be the trail section after we bailed, the rise up to the ridgeline? We left on a side trail. I say helpful because we surely could have used some crampons. But yes, definitely bring them, don't skimp out. An ice ax would be smart too. I personally don't think that in the notch, that snowshoes would have helped. Too rocky and tight. But further south I can't say.

Be safe, be careful, it is a very difficult section.

11-25-2003, 16:07
Mahoosic Arm is the climb just north of Mahoosic Notch. It's a 1500 foot climb in about 1.5 miles

On the south side of Mahoosic Notch is Fulling Mill Mountain. It's a 900 foot drop in a mile.