July 10, 2010

Mount Mansfield, Vermont

The highest mountain in Vermont is the 4,393 foot Mount Mansfield. It also contains one of only four alpine ecosystems in the state of Vermont, and certainly the largest one. Mount Mansfield is said to resemble a face, so all of the rocky features have names of anatomical parts including the forehead, nose, lips (lower and upper), chin, and Adam's apple.

While in Vermont in the summer of 2005, we decided to hike to the summit and then hike the ridgeline for a spectacular loop hike. The trail started at Smuggler's Notch on VT-108, a narrow rocky canyon on the side of the mountain. You follow the famous "Long Trail" which crosses the state of Vermont from north-to-south.

Emerging from the trees with the alpine meadows above

The trail then climbs for the next 2.0 miles increasing in elevation from 1,600 to 4,000 feet. It is most definitely a steep climb. You can watch the transition in the forest types, from typical northern hardwoods dominated in sugar maple and beech to more boreal yellow birch and finally into sub-alpine red spruce stands and then into krummholted spruce and juniper at treeline.

Upon reaching the 4,000 foot "Adam's Apple", a rocky projection at the northern end of the summit ridge, you emerge from the trees for the first of the spectacular views. You can see the brown Lake of the Clouds, a glacial tarn formed during the Ice Age below you. It is brown because it is stained by the tannins of the surrounding conifers. You can also look north into Canada, including the skyscrapers of Montreal.

The summit known as "The Chin" from the "Adam's Apple"

As you turn south, you climb about 300 feet more to reach "The Chin", which is the summit of Mount Mansfield. From the summit, you can look west across Lake Champlain and into the Adirondacks.

View of the Green Mountains

Here you can krummholtzed spruce and juniper clinging to cracks and crevases sheltered from the extreme cold and winds above the treeline.

You then follow the ridgeline south across this fragile alpine ecosystem, with views across all of the Green Mountains, including the Camel's Hump and Mounts Abraham and Lincoln.

The trail continues until reaching the summit road and towers (in distance on left). From there, the route descends parallelling the access road and following the ski runs and chairlift cut-outs. The trail eventually arrives at the ski lodge at the base of the mountain on VT-108, where you follow the road briefly back to the parking area where you began. All in all, it ends up being a 6.5 mile loop.

The route down from the summit (left) to Smuggler's Notch (right) following the ski runs


Anonymous said...

Great Climb! Really encourage it! Great state as well!

Anonymous said...

Was up there in October of '84 while in College out there! :-)