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Ted’s Winter Tale

Posted: March 6, 2014

Ted Sonneborn kindly wrote a description of some of the winter trips he’s been taking with friends over the past couple of years. We love to hear stories of wilderness adventures that connect us with our days at North Country Camps. If anyone else has stories to share, please feel welcome to be in touch with us at

In March 2012, Barry Needleman and I climbed Noonmark with Neil Van Dyke. We had a great time and wondered why we didn’t spend more time out in the mountains during that time of year. On the descent that day an idea was born: climbing the 46 in winter.


Barry with Seward in the background


We had each climbed a few High Peaks in winter in prior years but those were only sporadic efforts.  In January 2013, we set out to chase our goal, starting the challenge with a hike up Whiteface and Esther.  It was a fun, tough start – the temperature hovered near zero all day.  Since then we’ve climbed more than twenty peaks together through wet snow, packed snow and fresh powder that went up to our waists.  Alumni from both Whippoorwill and Lincoln have joined us on our various adventures, including Neil, Jack Schneider, Will Holland, Chris Freyer, Robin Gucker, Ruth Needleman, Paul Sonneborn, and Paul Ferrari.  We’ve also each climbed solo on a few occasions.


Will and Ted's excellent adventures!


The difference between winter hiking and summer hiking isn’t just the cold, snow and snowshoes, it’s the many extra layers, three hats, four pairs of gloves, frozen water bottles, and frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Best of all, there are no bugs in the winter and there’s no mud, roots or rocks – when the trails are packed you can fly along like walking on a smooth snow sidewalk. Insulated boots with microspikes, crampons, or snowshoes enable you to move forward towards your destination safely and in comfort.


Approaching the summit of Haystack


The summits remain breezy and beautiful, though completely transformed once the snow and ice lay cover on the crown. With temperatures often below zero up top, there’s usually just enough time to take a picture before heading down to the protection of trees for a quick snack. The coveted summer-time slide-climbs are highlighted by the snow, allowing one to dream of the fun to come in warm weather. There are days where a five minute break is too long, for coldness sets in quickly; conversely there are days where the sun warms you and longer breaks are welcomed when graced with slightly warmer temperatures.


Hiking up Haystack


Although people do camp in winter, we’ve chosen to do all our climbing as day trips.  That means in comparison to summer camp trips, we’ve ended up climbing some odd combinations of peaks.  For example, we set out a few weeks ago to climb the Lower Range, but only got as far as Upper and Lower Wolf Jaws because so much deep, fresh snow slowed us down too much to continue that day to Gothics and Armstrong.  So we went back a few weeks later for a Gothics and Armstrong day trip from the Ausable Club.  That’s another major characteristic of winter climbing – the weather and conditions often have a major effect on your plans, and frequently prevent you from doing what you intended to do.  You always have to be smart, and recognize your limitations.  Being careful in the mountains is always important, but especially so in winter.

I plan to follow up this post with trip reports about each of our climbs. We’re also hoping to do a slideshow this summer of photos we’ve taken over the last two winters. So stay tuned, and who knows – maybe next winter some of you can join us on our hikes as we head toward our goal of finishing on Phelps on March 8, 2015.

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