I just got back from that trip in the White Mountains with my high school. In a word, it was awesome.
The trip started out with warm weather, barely a few inches of rotten snow on the ground, and pretty easy going. Nancy, who was my physics teacher in high school as well as something of a hiking mentor, and I led a group of ten girls into the Wild River Wilderness for a nine-day trip with a schedule including Eagle Crag, Carter Dome, and much of the Wild River Valley. It didn’t work out as planned.
Once we were deep into the Wilderness, one student short due to a nasty cut (remember, knives are sharp!), far enough in that we weren’t going anywhere fast, the massive snowfall began. It started on the third night with several inches of snow, temperatures hovering around freezing the whole time. Anyone who’s been in snow at right around the freezing point knows how heavy and wet the snow will get, and that’s what we had.
Through the fourth, fifth, and sixth nights we received about three feet of this cement-like snow. It took all our effort just to keep our tarps from collapsing and burying us. By the time we left our base camp there were snow banks by each shelter that could have been used to build perfectly luxurious snow caves. No Eagle Crag, no Carter Dome. But that’s okay. The girls, none of whom had been backpacking in winter before, were an amazingly resilient crew. I don’t often lead wilderness trips, but I think I tend to get lucky when the groups are chosen. Every group I’ve led has been easy to deal with, great folks, and this group of girls took the gold medal in that regard. That said, I will never understand what goes through the minds of high-school girls. I won’t even try.
We didn’t get any big views on the trip, but what we did get was more than enough pretty scenery. On the last few days the snow clinging to trees was about as majestic as winter can possibly get. Crossing the Wild River on borderline-scary ice also afforded some beautiful surroundings. As we walked out to the bus on the last day (my birthday, coincidentally, but who’s counting), the snow continued to fall lightly. Turned out the rest of the state had several inches of rain, but we were lucky with just three feet of wet snow. I think we lucked out in that regard. Good times!
Now it’s time for last minute things before leaving for the AT and PCT.