Mount Monadnock, located in Jaffrey NH, has a lot to offer. It is one southern New England’s tallest peaks at 3,165 feet with a bald summit, amazing views; a huge number of routes and it is only 60 miles from Boston. It is no surprise that this is one of the most hiked mountains in the world. A few friends and I headed there for a quick winter ascent.
I love hiking this mountain. Maybe it is because Mount Monadnock is only 1.5 hours from my front door which is a welcome break from the 3-4 hour drives that I must endure to get to the White Mountains. Or maybe it is because Mount Monadnock makes the big mountain experience accessible to beginners and experts alike. I have had the pleasure of hiking Monadnock several times in all seasons but I was especially excited about this hike because of the deep snow-pack.
We met at the Monadnock State Park headquarters, where many trails start, at about 8 am with plenty of snow on the ground, some more on the way, and temps hovering around 20 degrees; perfect conditions for winter hiking. We chose to take the White Dot trail to summit as it is the most direct and also happened to be the most packed down. Snowshoes were helpful but microspikes would have worked to since the trail was so well traveled. This was my first time using my MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes so I was pretty excited to see what they could do.
The thing about Monadnock is that it doesn’t mess around with long approaches or flat terrain; the climb to summit seems to begin almost right after you leave the parking lot. I welcomed the chance to raise my snowshoe’s “Televator” bars and begin the climb. Things happen quick on this mountain and it seemed like we were near the bald summit area in no time. Monadnock’s tree line was created by fire and not by altitude. This means you get the experience of hiking above tree line while staying well below 4000 feet which can be very inspiring for new hikers.
Monadnock’s treeless top invites higher wind and colder temperatures. We added a few layers to deal with the weather change. I found that a fleece vest and my EMS Helix Jacket did the trick as long as I kept moving. This is also where the MSR Lightning Ascents really proved themselves. They gave me perfect traction over icy rock slabs, snow drifts and packed snow as I approached the summit. While approaching the summit it is easy to forget that you are just over 3,000 feet above sea level. Few mountains of this height have endless 360 degree views, or a bald summit. Monadnock also benefits from being geographically dominant of the surrounding landscape.
We reached the summit to find only a handful of other hikers which is surprising for a mountain with this much hiker traffic. I ate a few pop tarts, switched out my snowshoes for crampons and headed back down the same trail I came up. The descent was extremely rapid with plenty of opportunities for sliding down some of the steeper pitches. We were down in time to grab a late lunch in Jaffrey.
Mount Monadnock is a great way to get the above tree line experience without a long hike or a long drive to the White Mountains. It is also a great confidence builder for newer hikers who aspire for more challenging ascents. If you have a few free hours I highly recommend making the trip to Jaffrey to climb this mountain.