Mt Mansfield 3-29-04March 29 2004 at 5:29 PM
Response to Mount Mansfield, Vermont (4,393 feet)
I climbed Mt Mansfield on March 29. I wanted to get some miles in, so I decided to do the Sunset Ridge trail from Underhill State Park on the west side. The road into Underhill is not plowed in winter, so I had to park in a small parking area about a mile from where the hike usually begins. The weather was perfect, it got up to about 50 and there was very little wind, even at the summit.
After that first mile to reach the gates, it was another mile to where the trail leaves the CCC road, and .1 mile to where the Laura Cowles trail split off to the right. The snow was in good shape as long as you didn't step off the middle of the trail that had been compressed by hikers and snowshoers. If you did, you postholed to the crotch. After .6 miles there is a short trail that goes to Cantilever Rock, a narrow hunk of cliff about 30 feet long by 2-3 feet wide that has gotten wedged so that it sticks out perpendicular to the cliffs. From there, it is 1.6 miles to the summit. After about 1/2 mile I broke out of the trees, and the rest of the hike was above treeline. There were some snow fields and icy patches, but most of the rock was bare and dry.
I reached the summit at 1:15, 3 3/4 hours after I started. I could see the tip of Mt Marcy across Lake Champlain in New York, Mt Washington in New Hampshire, into Quebec, and a heck of a lot of Vermont. Quite a few people at the top; all but 1 had either taken the gondola up the ski hill or hiked the Long Trail from the east.
After 1/2 hour, I headed back down, at first the same way, then decided to shave .6 miles off by taking the Laura Cowles trail, which pretty much drops straight down the drainage. By this time the snow had softened a lot so that I was postholing even in the trail, and once I stepped off it and went thru up to my armpits. If there hadn't been a 'Thank God' tree handy, I'd probably still be there. I decided it would be quicker and easier to glisade when I could, so I slid down several hundred yards all together, using my walking stick to maintain an illusion of control. The walk back down the park road was slushy, and I reached my truck 6 1/4 hours after I left it. The total distance was about 8.8 miles.