Winter hiking groups in New Hampshire have existed since the first settlers arrived. In fact, the very first winter hiking groups were the first settlers who arrived in the mountains of New Hampshire in the 1700s.
The History of Winter Hiking Groups in New Hampshire
During the mid 1700s, settlers made their way over snow crested hills and valleys to establish the first mountain communities of New Hampshire. In 1765, the first settlers of Conway, New Hampshire, David Page, James Osgood, Joshua Heath, Benjamin Dolloff, Daniel Foster, Thomas Merrill, Thomas Chadbourne, and Ebenezer Burbank, each made their way to the location of their choice, pulling food and supplies by sled in the middle of an icy New Hampshire winter. Through these long and torturous winter hikes, the tradition of winter hiking was born.
Winter Hiking Today
The only way to describe the sort of exhilaration and sense of achievement that comes from winter hiking is through example. Two hikers in New Hampshire, Bob Manley and Gordon DuBois, have established an online journal called WinterHiking.org. In this online journal Bob and Gordon chronicle their amazing winter adventures through the majestic wilderness of New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. These two men climbed all 48 4,000 foot peaks in New Hampshire, and they completed them all in winter. Since then, these two men have accomplished reaching the summit of 60 mountains in the wintertime. Reading through the journals of these two men reveals the unique addiction that overtakes those daring souls who have the courage to step forth upon the fresh white snow of the New Hampshire wilderness.
Getting Started Hiking in The Winter
Hiking in the winter presents a whole new set of obstacles and difficulties to overcome. This doesn't mean that winter hiking in New Hampshire is impossible, it only means that it's much different than hiking in the summer. January temperatures at the top of Mt. Washington, in the heart of the White Mountains, reach an average high of 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and a low of -3.7 degree Fahrenheit. The record low was -47 degrees Fahrenheit recorded in 1934. Average wind speed on the mountaintop in January is 46.3 miles per hour, with the highest January wind speed record hitting 173 in 1985. To put this into perspective, the highest sustained wind speed of Hurricane Katrina, the sixth strongest hurricane to hit the United States, was 175 miles per hour.
Because of extreme temperatures and harsh conditions at higher elevations, it's not surprising that exposure is the leading cause of death. This is why appropriate gear can turn a potentially deadly adventure into an exciting and exhilarating one. An adventurer wouldn't dive deep into the ocean without the correct gear, and the same is true for hiking in the wintertime. Bob and Gordon of winterhiking.org outline the necessary clothing and gear in this 2007 article.
Don't Go Solo
After reading experiences from other winter hikers, you may be considering heading out into the wild. However, striking out into the New Hampshire wilderness on your own in the winter is dangerous. The numerous deaths of amateur hikers who struck out over a dangerous crevasse, such as those over Cuther River in Tuckerman's Ravine, should be enough warning for new hikers to stick with groups or guides who know the area well and understand all of the dangers that exist. The following list are winter hiking groups in New Hampshire who would be more than willing to warmly welcome you as a new member.
- The New England Hiking & Adventurer's Group is exactly what the name implies. They are a group of adventurers, organized by local hiker Diane, from Claremond, NH. The group offers intermediate, moderate, and advanced winter hikes over mountains throughout the Northeast.
- The Appalachian Mountain Club is known throughout the United States for the wonderful things they've done to maintain the trails and the huts throughout the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
- The Dartmouth Outing Club is one of the oldest clubs of its kind in the U.S. It allows both members and nonmembers to use their cabins, rent the club's gear, or go on club trips.
- The Randolph Mountain Club, also known as RMC, seeks to promote public use and enjoyment of Randolph Mountain. To do this they develop trails and maintain camps and shelters. Best of all, they also conduct hikes.
- The Tamworth Outing Club is a snow loving club, as evidenced by the great winter picture on their main page.
Exploring Winter Trails in Luxury
One of the best advantages to using an actual paid guide when you are embarking on your first winter hikes is that good guides are very experienced, know the terrain very well, and will provide you with the safest possible hike. Some fantastic paid guides in New Hampshire includes Outdoor ESCAPES, and New England Hiking Holidays.
Final Words on Winter Hiking
Unless you've experienced it yourself, it's very hard to describe to others the feeling of bringing a foamy warm hot chocolate up to your chilled trembling lips, with hands so numb that you can hardly feel the cup through your gloves. The feeling of pure exhilaration and accomplishment, upon reaching the summit, so great that the many hours spent struggling against the cold and the driving wind all becomes worthwhile.