Winter Trekking Through a Snowstorm

Recently, the Northeastern US received a surprise visit from Old Man Winter. Weather forecasters predicted snowfall accumulations of 8-15 inches across Connecticut ahead of the first major winter storm of the season. Just to point out how random New England weather can be, temperatures in some parts of the state reached an incredibly mild 60 F/15 C under clear skies on the 8th, the day before the storm.

I have been waiting since December for enough snow to fall to go snowshoeing, so I decided to head down to Ridgefield, Connecticut, to trek across a section of the Ive’s Trail. The snow began to fall sometime around 04:00 in the morning, and driving there was tedious and slow.

For this trip, I brought my winter kit load-out (for overnights to 3 day trips), which I’ve managed to bring down to a base weight of approximately 18 lbs/8.16 kg. I could squeeze everything into the LK-35 (except the snowshoes), but having an extra 10 litres with the Mantis Dragonfly pack makes life a lot easier. I’m still evolving the winter kit, seeing what works and what doesn’t. Eventually, I’d like to pair a lightweight tent stove with my tipi shelter as a hot-tent setup.

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The plan was to start at the southern end of Bennett’s Pond, and hike as far as I could go through the storm. This would be a challenge due to the weather conditions and steep terrain, and the going would only get tougher as the snow levels grew higher.

The wind was picking up all around Bennett’s Pond, minimizing visibility. In some places, even though I was right next to the shore, I couldn’t quite see the opposite side.

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I continued on until I reached the foot of Pine Mtn, the tallest ridge in southwestern Connecticut at 997 ft (304 m). Checking my map, I had the option to take a side trail straight up the western side of the ridge, but I opted to maintain my course, going the longer way around. At this point, the snow was powdery and close to 8 inches deep, and trying to climb the steep side would take a lot of energy.

Even going the longer way took some determination, but at length, I made it to the top of Pine Mtn. Here’s the view from the bluff facing southwest.

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Not much to see, is there? lol

The wind was roaring across Pine Mtn from the north, scooping up great waves of snow. With temperatures down to 23 F by noon, the wind chill factor reached near 0 F.

As the elevation began to flatten out, I strapped on the snowshoes. The reason why I didn’t put them on earlier is because of the effects of drifting snow across uneven terrain. High wind displaces the snow, moving it from exposed surfaces, and creating pockets of deep accumulation in places that are more sheltered. Some parts of the trail were barely covered, while other areas were much deeper.

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At around 13:00, I found a relatively-sheltered location off-trail near the summit. I put up my tipi to rest and get out of the wind for a bit.

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The shelter can be deployed with 4 or 5 stakes, and the steep angles on all sides make it ideal at shedding snow. However….with only one small vent, condensation will build up inside and freeze. I’d like to add maybe 3 more vents to the top.

By 14:30, I was back on the trail, heading east into Wooster Mtn State Park. At one point I had to negotiate 100 ft climb onto a rocky ledge, which went straight up at a very steep angle. I probably spent 15 minutes struggling to reach the top, sliding in the snow. Thankfully, it was mostly downhill from there.

At around 15:30, the snowfall ceased, but the winds did not. By 16:00, I reached the trail cross-over at Route 7. I decided to leave it at that. I had travelled 6 miles, but the effort felt like I put in 12. Hiking/snowshoeing in conditions like this can be a double-edged sword. Most of the time, you’re alone and the probably the only one out on the trail….and you are therefore also the only one packing down the trail ;). Still, this was a great workout to test my endurance. It was fantastic to see what this area looks like under a cloak of snow :).

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