If you had told me at any point in my life before last year that I was going to be summiting mountains in the winter, I would have laughed at you! No way! How could I? I have no knowledge in that area. I am not THAT athletic or skilled in outdoor activities. Ask my sister about my canoeing skills. Yea they DO NOT exist. However, here I am a few days after hiking a mountain in the winter and ready to do it again!
On February 24th at 10:00AM I met 17 other amazing people and one excited pup (thanks to Northwoods Wellness Collective), both old friends and brand new ones at the Rockwood boat landing. We crossed Moosehead Lake, by foot (you know because it is frozen and all with about 3 feet of ice) to hike Mount Kineo. We faced some serious winds, but the 38ºF sun shining day kept us cheerful. We passed many ice fishing holes, fisherman and a few snowmobilers.
Once we reached the mountain, we found shelter among the trees, that was until the ice began to fall from the cliffs. We safely returned to the lake until we came around the side of the mountain that was safe from falling ice. Since many snowmobilers had found their way up the Bridle trail ahead of us, it made for an easy trek. Wearing the same microspikes we wore to cross the icy lake, we climbed gradually, enjoying every moment.
Before reaching the summit, we took in some of the classic Kineo views. At one steep spot, we resorted to sliding down a hill instead of scrambling slowly down. I laughed at remembering what this section of trail is like in the summer months and how now I will always remember throwing my arms up and laughing as I quickly slid down and watched my fellow hikers follow suit with wide smiles across their faces and laughter bouncing off the trees.
Just around the corner from our new favorite sledding spot, we arrived at the summit. Something amazing happened when we got arrived. For the first time ever, (I have hiked this mountain several times now) I flew up the fire tower with NO FEAR! I savored the view, told my fellow hikers the names of surrounding mountains and surprised myself by walking back down the tower without white knuckles! Am I getting over my fear? Holy crap! What an accomplishment! I am so proud of myself!
We headed back down the mountain, with some sliding and lots of great conversation with many new amazing friends! We discussed future adventures, personal stories and so much more!
Having hiked a few times in the winter now, it always surprises me how simple it really is. All you need is some smart clothing, wide-mouth water bottle with some type of insulation and snacks that will not freeze. You need to know when not to stop, as the wind will chill you quickly and that many protein bars freeze like a rock! Camelbaks usually freeze in cold temperatures too. I was frustrated that I couldn’t find a blog or website about a mediocre hiker exploring peaks in the winter. It was all “pros” tackling Mt. Washington in -50 weather with 1,000 miles per hour winds. Okay, yes I am exaggerating but I wanted to find someone just like me. So, here are some of my favorite discoveries of hiking in the winter for all hikers like me!
- Find the RIGHT gear for you and don’t go cheap, but you don’t have to break the bank either. I LOVE Columbia’s omni-heat hiking pants, jackets, and gloves! I always pack an extra pair of gloves and an extra layer for under my jacket. I also only wear Darn Tough wool socks, the tall ones! I wear lightweight warm moisture-wicking clothes and I am always comfortable. I love wearing a Turtle Fur hat and totally tubular bandana to keep the wind off my face. On super cold days, I do throw on a second pair of socks and a pair of leggings under my hiking pants. Also, MICROSPIKES! Always have them in your pack!
- Snacks that won’t freeze like fatty nuts (my fav are raw macadamia nuts!!) jerky or beef sticks like chomp sticks. I love to bring my dairy-free coconut milk hot cocoa in a thermos (sometimes my personal Klean Kanteen thermos and sometimes my bigger Stanley with cups to share). Larabars are yet to freeze on me. I think its the fattiness of the nuts. On a Black Friday hike, I brought Thanksgiving leftovers in a thermos, so you can totally get creative. Just remember, if its really cold, you may not want to stop and eat. Snacks you can eat on the go are the BEST!
- Water in a wide-mouth water bottle with some type of insulation. My friend Erica used wool socks! Great idea!! I found this insulated sleeve that fits my bottle perfectly!
Now that my fear of winter hiking is mostly erased, I am excited to work on finishing the Winter Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit challenge and exploring more of Maine’s winter gems!
Huge shout out to Amelia Qualters Photography for capturing these amazing photos of our adventure and letting us share them! Thank you, Amelia!