On Saturday the group hiked up Camel's Hump by the Burrow's Trail, from the west, and on Sunday we hiked up Mount Abraham by the Batelle Trail and the Long Trail. The weather was good on both days, and we had great views from the bare summits.
Most of the participants decided that two days of winter hiking were enough, and on Monday our group had shrunk to five: Judy and myself (the two trip leaders) plus Barb, Roger and John. We were all good friends who often hiked together, so it promised to be a fun trip in spite of the threat of weather moving in later in the day.
There are many trails up Mount Mansfield. We decided to go up the Long Trail (LT) from Smuggler's Notch (on VT 108, east of the mountain). The LT reaches the summit over some ledges that would be "interesting" when icy, so we planned to bypass them by taking the Profanity Trail from Taft Lodge to the ridge. That would give us a round trip of 4.6 miles with 2,800 feet of elevation gain, for a comfortable half day hike.
We had breakfast in the cabin where we were staying and drove up to the end of the plowed section of VT 108, a few hundred feet from the trailhead. We started out around 9 AM, late for a winter hike but justified in this case by the short distance involved.
The lower part of the trail was well broken and unmistakable. Higher up we encountered a maze of ski tracks, as we were in very nice open woods and close to the downhill ski trails. Clearly many skiers had opted to leave the official runs and ski through those open woods. Following the trail turned out to be easier than I had feared, as there were many blazes. So whenever we reached a junction one or more of us would follow each possible branch, until someone shouted "I found a blaze!".
After a couple of miles we reached the Taft Lodge. Here the LT was completely covered by deep unbroken snow, we were clearly not the only ones to have decided to bypass the ledges! There was no clear trail up from the Lodge, but a steep gully went in the right direction (up!). We followed it, kicking steps in the deep and not very consolidated snow. We slipped and cursed, but though our progress was slow the distance was short, and we eventually reached the ridge.
As we approached the ridge we started feeling the wind. It was, as is usually the case, coming from the west, so we had been protected by the mass of the mountain. It was not really bad by above treeline in winter standards, probably around 30 mph, but we still were very glad that we had not taken the Sunset Ridge Trail, which goes up an exposed ridge, on the west side of the mountain, for over a mile! Fortunately the summit was only about 0.2 mile along the ridge, we reached and it hurried back to the protected eastern side of the mountain.
The descent was easy and fun. We glissaded most of the way down to the Lodge, and had no problem following our snowshoe tracks all the way down. We reached our cars around 2 PM, just as the predicted snow was starting to fall. We had a mixture of snow and rain during the long drive back to Boston. None of us complained, we had bagged three peaks over that three day weekend!