Lady of the Wild Woods

Mt. Liberty and Full Circle

Photo by Gregory Efimovich

I’m always super excited about winter, especially in New Hampshire. It usually means ample snow and fun playing with snow shoes, skis, and a variety of winter attire and accessories. I really do love it, even though winters the last couple of years have been kind of a bummer with less snow and less opportunity to have fun with all your gadgets.

Since I was in Utah over Thanksgiving, I’ve hiked eight of the NH 48 4000-footers in winter and took the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) winter mountain leadership class, the first step in training to become a winter hiking excursion leader for them. Winter hiking can be challenging with the layering and equipment and safety precautions, but the hike itself is actually easier, because all the nooks and crannies of the rocks and roots are covered in a thick, usually packed, layer of snow. And there’s just something about the sublime beauty of a wintery landscape.

I didn’t write about those peaks, though I really should have written about Mt. Moosilauke (The Moose). It was a special one to me, and I did it with someone who would become a very close friend and confidant. We forged an incredible friendship on the trail up that mountain this past New Year’s Eve. I’m sure she will show up in future posts, especially if I ever write about the hike of misery up Mount Cardigan, which was supposed to be a relatively easy jaunt. We can’t control the weather, even on a 3000-footer.

But I did want to write about this mountain, Mount Liberty. It was my first 4000-footer back in November of 2020, a star on my map of life, as I began a new trajectory. I’ve now summitted it five times. Because it was my first big peak and shared with someone who became very special to me, I’ve always held it near and dear to my heart.

The next time I made the summit was for Flags on the 48 in September 2021. After a quick celebration of American culture and solidarity in the wake of 9/11, we hopped on the Franconia Ridge Trail from the summit and tagged Flume before hiking back up to Liberty on our way back to the parking lot.

I came full-circle to Mount Liberty in leading my first Buddies Hike with a random group of strangers from Facebook. Hiking Buddies 48 is a large Facebook group of currently over 17,000 people. You can only post hiking events and photos from those events on that group. Hiking solo is dangerous, especially in the winter, and while I understand that there has been healing and empowerment for some folks in doing solo hiking, it doesn’t change the danger factor involved. So what do you do if you don’t have friends or a partner who enjoys hiking, but you want to hike a larger mountain? You join a group like Hiking Buddies 48. There are hikes posted for every weekend all year long and some during the week. Hikes of are different paces and some are 52wav (52 with a view) and not necessarily part of the NH 48. I have made some great connections and good hiking friends from that group, so if you want to expand your network of outdoorsy people, Hiking Buddies is an option.

For me, hiking in the NH 48 after my first climb up Mount Liberty was mostly a partner activity. Sometimes we would go with friends, but those were always my girlfriend’s friends. Sadly, we have parted ways, and I will always cherish our mountain hiking and outdoor-adventure memories together. But I also found myself in a situation where I was now much more experienced, and I wanted to keep hiking and working on my 48, but I no longer had anyone to go with. So I joined the Hiking Buddies group and attended a couple of hikes led by members and made some new connections.

My hiking focus has shifted from just the 48 in all seasons but to do the 48 all in winter, not one winter, but just winter in general. This list and the rules are managed by the AMC and winter means a calendar winter: 12/21-3/21 (or the official start and end to winter each year). So you could hike a mountain in winter conditions, such as my first experience up Mt. Liberty in November of 2020, but it doesn’t count as winter until after 12/21 or the official date that year.

With this new, narrower timeframe to hike the 48, I was keen on bagging as many peaks as I could each weekend I had available this winter. Unfortunately the peaks I needed weren’t being posted in Hiking Buddies or on the AMC led hikes, so I decided to organize my own on Hiking Buddies. My first led hike was Liberty and Flume, so I could do both in winter. Nine of us attended, and I knew only one from a previous Hiking Buddies hike.

I can’t sugarcoat the sadness that I feel in hiking with groups now on my own, even when I lead. There is truly something special about hiking with a partner or a close friend(s). It’s looser and more intimate at the same time. You can stop whenever you want to take pictures or just take in the moment, and your person has your back and cares deeply what happens to you on the trail. Sharing the experience with people you love is priceless. Nothing compares to that on wilderness adventures. But the mountains still call to me, and I must go (Thank you, John Muir), and so I will tread lightly on the trails, accompanying and leading groups, and sharing my love of the wild with others on my own.

One thought on “Mt. Liberty and Full Circle

  1. Jojo Collins

    Wonderful story! I’m thankful I get the opportunity to have you share and lead me on my first, (of what I’m sure will be many), 4000 footers!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner