Just found out that I get to attend a conference in Burlington, Vermont in early November. This will be my first trip to the NE US. I assume there will be some snow at higher elevations including Mt. Mansfield. Is it possible to hike to the summit at this time of year without special equipment like snowshoes? I would hate to be that close and not be able to get my first NE highpoint. Any advice would be appreciated.
I first hiked to the top of Mount Mansfield on November 10, 2001. I cam up from the Stowe side via the Long Trail and the Profanity Trail. There had been a fresh snow the night before, but the temperature hovered in the mid-to-low 30s. The snow wasn't very deep (ankle deep above Taft Lodge). I didn't wear any special footwear, just my normal running shoes. If you are not accustomed to hiking in snow, I recommend wearing hiking boots and gaiters and using ski poles to assist you. The round trip hike took me about 2 to 2.5 hours.
On October 13, 2004, I returned to the summit of Mount Mansfield, this time via the Sunset Ridge Trail on the west side of the mountain. There was no snow, but there was some ice on puddles near the summit. The round-trip hike took about 2 hours, with a long stop at Cantilever Rock.
November is a pretty unpredictable time on Mansfield and the Northeast in general. You could have good luck like Steve or you could run into more winter-like conditions.
Also, from what I gather, Steve is a pretty powerful hiker and his roundtrip times for the routes he cited are off the charts. From the east side, the Long Trail/Profanity Trail route is a 4.7 mile roundtrip with 2,800 elevation gain. From the west side, the Sunset Ridge Trail is a 6.6 mile roundtrip with 2,550 elevation gain (the Laura Cowles route is a little shorter at 6 miles with the same vertical). Book times are about 5 hours for the roundtrip on both so it all depends on how quick you are.
Of course, there is also the standard "Highpointers" route, where you drive to the summit station and hike from there. I have no idea whether the summit road would be open in November. Good luck.
The toll road will probably close after Columbus Day, or mid-October; similar to the Mt. Washington Auto Road and summer use at Baxter State Park, Maine. Unusually mild weather can sometimes extend the closings of the roads for a week or so. Depending on the conditions in November, another option might be to ride the gondola up, then take the cliff trail from there to the summit. You can also check www.stowe.com for current snow reports and 5 year averages. Have Fun.
The summit road is a ski trail in the winter time - and the ski area could very well be open by then depending on when in November your trip is.
But like someone said, November is quite unpredictable in the Northeast. That said, even if your trip is as late as thanksgiving, the deepest snow you'll encounter will be man-made, and especially above the ski area the main hazard will be early-season ice.
I took the Cliff Trail down to the gondola and then walked down the ski slopes this summer. I'd take the Long Trail up and down over using the Cliff Trail. There are many places where you have to jump over gaps between car sized rocks. I wouldn't want to do that in snow or ice, it wasn't all that fun on a dry July day.
Prepare for a relentlessly uphill climb to treeline then cold and wind once you get above treeline. I hope you get 100 mile visibility.
... and use skis. It's a fun ride down. There are several nice chutes down from the summit to top of the gondola if there's enough snow.
You will hit some interesting weather in November. Certainly plan on snow and ice, cold temps, and possibly limited visibility. If it turns out that you get clear ground, lots of views, and temps in the 50's, well that's interesting too.
If you're not overly experienced with winter hiking, I'd hope for the best, but expect the worst.
I just hiked up Killington (a further south, slightly lower peak than Mansfield) two days ago and the weather was beautiful, with temperatures on the summit in the low 70s, and from what I hear, this is a rarity for the time of year. Add a month and a half onto that, and who knows what conditions atop Mansfield may be like? (when I climbed Mansfield, the summit was colder and it was the middle of July) Of course, the nice weather may be indicative of a milder winter, who knows...
I guess what I'm saying is...if you want to go for it, do so, just be careful and don't take risks you may regret.
Stowe Resort (Mansfield ski area) reports two feet of snow since Sunday
October 26 2005, 5:38 PM
The Stowe Mountain ski resort received 10-18 inches of snow from yesterday's nor'easter. This follows 4-6 inches of snow received on Sunday. The summit road is now closed for the season.
I may head up there Tuesday for a little hike and ski action and if I do, I'll report further. Knee deep powder is reported at the top of the gondola. Of, course, much of this will consolidate, but the mountain is probably white for the year at this point. The ski resort opens 11/18 although "at your own risk skiing" is now allowed (no chair lifts).