What’s too Little Snow to Snowshoe?

I got out on the snow this week (which was fantastic!) and thought with the two-to-three inches of snow on the ground that it was not worth strapping on the snowshoes.  Walking was the only effort required, right!?  Well, I was wrong.

Walking in the lighter snow on the yard and the trails seemed like my boots were all that was necessary.  Moving through it was easy enough, but it was a bit wet and lumpy so it had the texture of clumpy sand at the beach under my feet.  My heel sunk and toes dug in deeper to push off.  It was not exactly an ordinary walk in the park.

Until now, I thought snowshoes were strictly for deeper snow (say six-plus inches, depending on your height and weight).  Snowshoes are meant to give the winter hiker the ability to float higher in the snow.  They prevent post holing in the snow and exerting more energy from high stepping it through the deep white stuff.

Now I think that even a bit of moderate depths, hiked over a longer distance as I have in the last couple of days, it is easier (requiring less effort) to do so in my slabs.  It might look a bit silly, but it is actually pretty efficient.  I sunk less and pushing off was less straining in the calve and ankle.

Anyway, those are just some thoughts for the snowshoers.  Have a Happy New Year and remember you can follow the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook and Twitter.

In Stowe, the Ice Axe is Optional

Home of the von Trapp family: Stowe, Vermont.

It is not always easy trying to satisfy my family’s desire for luxury and my personal needs for a wintry mountain experience during the holidays.  I can’t seem to talk the family into visiting Talkeetna, El Chalten or even Keene Valley any time of year.  They expect a warm bed, decent shopping, fine restaraunts and the option of room service. 

However, even though I’d like an all-out alpine climb, I still look forward to fine dining these days now that I have been living an easy, professional life in Peaklessburg (probably for too long).  Thankfully, there are places to get the feel of both — at least we can with a little compromise of our expectations.

There are two types of mountain towns as I see it: wilderness towns, usually centered around parkland, and mountain resort towns.  Mountain resort towns usually offer skiing in winter and golfing, fly fishing and so forth during the rest of the year.  While wilderness towns, like Talkeetna, are preferable, some resort towns are on the edge of some great wilderness.  Whistler, British Colombia and Girdwood, Alaska are great mountain resort towns on the edge of major parkland.  But for the eastern part of North America, Stowe, Vermont, a mountain resort town, can serve the bill probably better than the rest, even the famous Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid.  Lake Placid has been overrun by conventions and sporting events and makes the town often too crowded to enjoy in peace. 

Stowe has a high degree of sophistication and resides in a valley of pine, maple and birch.  Once a quiet farming town at the base of Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield (4,393 ft./1,339m.), it has grown into a mature ski resort with a pleasant New England town.  You can ski, golf, fly fish and best of all, hike and get a taste of alpine in during the winter.  It’s great day up on Mansfield or Mount Hunger and then enjoy the town’s coffeehouse, Black Cap (formerly the Stowe Coffee House), which now roasts its own beans or then visit the Lounge at Trapp Family Lodge for some hearty cuisine and a Trapp Lager

There are other destinations as well, such as the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, which also offers 20-minute introductions to snowshoeing and conservation efforts, taught by a guide from the Umiak snowshoe and kayak outfitter, on Ben & Jerry’s private land.  It is especially good for people who have never been on snow before; come for the ice cream but learn to appreciate nature. 

Last year the town has been enhanced with a true backcountry outfitter to compliment the numerous ski shops: CC Outdoor Store just South of town on famous Route 100.  While the staff of the ski shops did not know what gaitors were, CC Outdoor’s staff know as well as what gear you need to tackle Camels Hump (4,083 ft./1,245 m.) and its bald summit on a blustery day in January. 

Again, with a little compromise, a decent, winter mountain experience can be had here while your family enjoys the town.   

Thank you again for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post please consider following the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook or on Twitter (@SuburbanMtnr).

A Reminder of Fay Fuller and Mount Rainier

The unstoppable Fay Fuller.

I came across this picture at a lodge I recently passed through.  I always appreciate it when a ski town or some other mountain village acknowledges mountaineering either for its heritage or the spirit of adventure and exploration.  It celebrates Fay Fuller.  The captions say it all…

On top it reads, “Fay Fuller / First woman to summit Mt. Rainier / August 10th, 1890.”  She did so at the age of 20. 

Below the photo it quotes her: “I donned heavy flannels, woolen hose, warm mittens and goggles, blackened my face with charcoal to modify the sun’s glare, drove brads into my shoes, strapped two single blankets containing provisions for three days from the shoulder under the arm to the waist, …grasped my alpenstock and was resolved to climb until exhausted.” 

After the quote it goes on to comment: “She refused any assistance in the climb and spent a steamy night in the summit crater.  She suffered only sunburn in her ascent.”

Fuller was a first in several other ways as well.  She was Tacoma, Washington’s first female journalist, where she wrote extensively about climbing in the region.  She also helped established the Mazamas that helped create Mount Rainier National Park. 

Fuller past away in 1958.  Her legacy has lasted well beyond. 

Thanks again for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, please considering following the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook or through Twitter (@SuburbanMtnr).


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