Teardrop / Mt. Mansfield 3/24/19

 

Today I finally checked the Teardrop Trail on Mt. Mansfield off my list. It’s been one I’ve wanted to do all winter since learning of it from a co-worker, and reading about it in David Goodman’s excellent book, “Backcountry Skiing Adventures: Vermont and New York.”

This weekend, after a week of spring-like weather, most snow in town had vanished, but we were in for a surprise spring storm Friday night, just in time for the weekend. Accumulation from the storm was ample, with Bolton claiming a 20″ snowfall total. I took off a bit early from work Friday, and head to Bolton as it began, in an attempt for a few laps before a late dinner, but the moment I turned onto the access road, I entered a line of parked cars. Enough people were apparently having trouble getting up the road in the heavy snow, that all traffic was completely stopped, right to the beginning of the road. After waiting 15 minutes or so without anyone moving, I gave up, turned back onto Rt. 2, and head home. Oh well.

After some attempts at lift-served riding on Saturday foiled by wind-holds, the plan for this weekend was to tackle Teardrop on Sunday. Andre, his co-worker, and I carpooled from Essex into Underhill to the end of Mountain Rd. heading towards Underhill State Park. It was a great day to be out, with temperatures in the mid to upper 30s, and very little wind, it felt quite comfortable out.

As we made the trip over, we got a good view of Mt. Mansfield, and could see pretty well where we were headed. Andre pointed out the ridge to the right side of Mt. Mansfield, Maple Ridge. (Opposite the Sunset Ridge on the left side on the mountain.) The Teardrop trail runs along the left side of this ridge. It looked pretty steep. Our GPS track shows a good view of where on the mountain it’s located.

 

From the filled parking area at the end of the plowed portion of Mountain Rd, we continued up the road on the well worn skin track. The three of us had never been here before, but after a quick check in with the GPS were were sure we were on the trail. The trail was pretty flat to start, but then again, we were only one the road at this point. After a ways, still on the road, but before the ranger station, the trail split off to the right. We removed some of our layers, and we started climbing the ascent.

Teardrop is the first right turn (here) off Mountain Rd.

The trail narrowed slightly as we made our way, and after not too long, became quite steep. Further up and it got even steeper still. We hit several tough climbs, and then the trail came to the intersection of the Maple Ridge Trail, and the CCC road.

View back down the trail behind us as we hit the CCC road.
Sign for Maple Ridge Trail.

From the GPS/map, we saw Teardrop took a left onto the CCC road here for a nice and mellow 100 ft section. After 100 ft, it takes a sharp right, and we’re back to continuing our very steep ascent. Were there not a lot of fresh deep snow today, it would have been pretty difficult to climb some sections, with our skins struggling to get grip on heavily packed or icy snow.

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it’s quite steep here.

So far the trail was pretty wide the whole way up, a bit more like a trail at a ski resort than most other back country ski trails I’ve been on. This wasn’t really what I was expecting from reading about it.

Fairly wide trail as we climbed for most of the trip.

Through the trees, we started to get some nice views of both “the nose” above, and Underhill with the lake behind us, as we made our way up closer to the summit. We eventually hit a clearing, our first real clear view in all directions. We were near the top.

From here the trail became extremely narrow, and it became difficult to make our way, having to duck under spruce bows and squeeze through tunnels of branches. It was going to be difficult to get back down this way, especially once we start getting speed. It was still fairly steep. We continued like this narrow section for about a quarter mile, before slowly making our way to the end of the trail. Since it’s so narrow, the trail doesn’t really have a clear ending, it just kind of stops climbing, and you’re at the top of the mountain. We actually had to turn around and head back a few hundred feet to find a good spot that was open enough and steep enough to transition.

Ducking branches and finding the holes in the trees with some speed was difficult and exciting. I fell a few times, a couple times from unexpected branches, and a couple more on purpose to prevent myself from heading into trees. The scary part is there wasn’t really a good way to tell if there were people coming up the trail. Luckily, there were spots every so often where the trail opened up enough to slow/stop and regroup. From there we could look ahead through the next section as much as possible. We didn’t really encounter too many people climbing, but when we did it went well and was uneventful.

Once we got out of the narrow summit section, the trail widened up into a ski trail and everything was wonderful. We didn’t get going too fast, the deep snow made sure of that. The snow was a dense powder that had been moved a bit by other skiers and riders. Definitely a bumpy and tiring ride down, but also a ton of fun. The views were also not terrible.

Yes, that’s a sled track. There was a crazy guy sledding down the trail with a pair of snowshoes. Why not.

Eventually we got to a bit of a flat out, and I had walk a section which was pretty challenging in the deep snow. Another rider headed up mentioned that we could have cut down into the woods before this and skipped the flat spot. Oh well, I’ll have to remember that for next time.

Once we got back down near the bottom, the snow began to get a stickier as the day got warmer. Skiing off the tracks into powder was like hitting a patch of grass. It grabbed pretty hard and slowed you down pretty fast. Luckily I had just waxed my board which helped. Before long we were back to the car.

Total distance for this trip was 5.25 miles, taking 3 hrs 10 mins. We climbed 2604 feet, and my max speed was only 18.8 mph.

 

 

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