Ascent of Mount Mansfield on 2006-08-06

Climber: Scott Surgent

Others in Party:Beth Cousland
Date:Sunday, August 6, 2006
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Mansfield
    Elevation:4393 ft / 1338 m

Ascent Trip Report

There are three options to visit Mount Mansfield. The Long Trail (for a full day of hiking), a gondola that lets out just below the peak, or the Stowe Mountain Toll Road. This third option seemed most attractive, as it ends at a small parking area up on the mountain's ridge, but still leaves a 1.5 mile one-way hike to the summit with about 550 feet of gain. We weren't looking for a full day of hiking, but a half-day of casual fun. From Burlington, we followed Interstate-89 toward Waterbury, then north toward Stowe Village, then along another highway to the Stowe Mountain toll gate.

We paid our toll, which was $19.95. Naturally, everyone paid with a $20 bill, meaning the poor guy had to give back a nickel every time along with the brochures. Why not charge an even $20? Over time, that extra 5 cents per vehicle could add up.

From the gate, it's a steep 5 miles and about 2,500 feet of gain to the upper parking area, a consistent 10% grade. The road is paved for the first quarter-mile then graded dirt the rest of the way. Our tiny Chevy Cobalt did fine going up the road, and it took us 30 minutes to get to the top parking area. About half-way up, there's a small non-denominational chapel that apparently has services every day about 2 p.m. We arrived at the parking area at 11 a.m. in beautiful, dry and very comfortable weather. For more information about the toll road, check The Stowe Mountain website for fees and conditions.

After a few minutes of getting ready, we started our hike to Mount Mansfield, an attractive granite summit sheathed in forest and brush. The trail starts near the informational center at the parking area, and enters into a glade of mid-sized trees. A wooden boardwalk is built in one section to cross over a patch of perpetual mud. The route passes through a few of these boardwalk areas and onto rocky balds. Shortly the trail leads to a small knob where the peak is once again in view.

After this knob, the trail becomes a little steeper, and more rocky. Beth was taking it slow and carefully, still in pain and recovering from our big Blue Mountains hike from three days earlier. Her motivation was strong, and she moved forward with great intensity. In some parts, the "suggested" trail came rather close to cliffs and drop-offs. However, there was no danger of falling off, and the views were brilliant. As we got closer, we had to negotiate a narrow walk between rocks and a moderate slope to get to the very top. Soon, we were on top.

Did I mention this is a popular hike? There must have been 40 people milling about the summit, and a steady stream of new arrivals and people heading back down. It took us over an hour to make the top, where a nice local guy shot our photo and told us about the local points of interest. Given our unexpectedly sunny, clear and dry day, we had sharp, well-defined views of distant ranges on all horizons. To the west were the Adirondacks in New York State, while New Hampshire's Mount Washington was the obvious big peak on the east horizon. The guy said that the low mesa-like ridges to the north were in Quebec, Canada. It's neat to meet someone like that who can fill you in on the details when you're the tourist. Despite the high number of people, we thoroughly enjoyed our time on the summit, and didn't feel like we were "missing out" on a true wilderness experience.

The Lamoille County highpoint is a quarter-mile north along the ridge, which I wanted to visit, so I left Beth on the summit (at her request) and went on my way. However, the trail drops very steeply down rock faces. Given my short time window (I promised 30 minutes out and back, and that wasn't going to happen), I bailed and returned to Beth. We then slowly hiked back to the car, our total round trip covering 3 hours. We then slowly drove down that steep road, watching for cars coming up and trying not to ride the brakes the whole way down.

We celebrated with a lunch at Friendly's, then spent the remainder of the day relaxing. Despite the short hike, it had been a relatively eventful and enjoyable day. This was my 45th state highpoint, and Beth's 5th.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:550 ft / 167 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    Trailhead:3843 ft / 1171 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail

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