Ascent of Mount Mansfield on 2011-07-24

Climber: Alan Barber

Date:Sunday, July 24, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Mansfield
    Elevation:4393 ft / 1338 m

Ascent Trip Report

After staying overnight in Stowe at the base of Mount Mansfield we set out to summit Mount Mansfield. Mount Mansfield (located in the Green Mountains) is the highest mountain in Vermont and the high point of Chittenden County. The mountain gets its name because when viewed from the east its summit ridge resembles the profile of a human face, and the names of its prominent features reflect this from the north to the south: the Adams Apple (4,060'), Chin (4,393', highest point), lower lip, upper lip. Nose (4,062') and further south the Forehead (3,940'). The Long Trail travels for about 2.3 miles from the Adams Apple to the Forehead and is almost constantly above tree line.

The web sites indicate that Mount Mansfield is the most frequently visited mountain in Vermont and that nearly 40,000 people walk its upper reaches every year. When we were there, we saw two to three dozen hikers of all types. These ranged from serious backpackers to young children, grandmother types in flip flops (who decided to rest on a rock while there family completed the hike). I can see how this much use could severely affect a fragile ecosystem.

The weather was beautiful when we were there. The exposed ridgeline was a relatively easy, spectacular walk with terrific views in all directions. The few fluffy clouds stayed away except as we approached the summit. But, once off the summit everything cleared up again.

We took the easiest way up the mountain: the Toll Road. The 4.7 mile drive and took about 15 minutes to reach the top. The road opened at 9 am and we were the first car waiting in the parking lot when the barrier was removed. As part of the $26 toll road fee, the lady gave us a CD to listen to on the drive up and a bumper sticker. The CD was not nearly as long as the Mount Washington CD and the narrator was more professional. It gave a brief history of the region and how it had been developed. It also reminded us about the fragile ecosystem on the top. The toll road is a winding road which doubles as a ski run in the winter. Looking at the ski run signs from a car window was an interesting change.

On the way to the top, we passed some hikers, some joggers (with dogs), and several people coming down the road. We reached the parking lot near trail head and started out. The initial part of the trail is through a stunted pine grove. There were wooden planks laid on the trail not to prevent us stepping in puddles of water or mud, but to protect the ecosystem under the wood. The trail alternated between granite rock (sometimes laced with quartz and covered with lichens) and gravel sized rock.

The parking lot was at the below the Nose (4063 feet). As we headed north toward the Upper Lip, we left the pine grove and were treated to magnificent views on both sides of the crest. The crest was fairly wide so we saw one side and then the other as we wove our way along the trail. The trail was frequently marked with white blazes. There were very helpful as the track over rock sometimes because indistinct. Once while coming down, we got off the trail for a few paces but after noticing that the blazes of the new trail were blue, we turned around and rapidly got back on the correct trail.

There was a hiker on the Upper Lip who was a guide probably from the Green Mountain Club. At first we did not understand what this guy with no shoes doing yoga stretches near a rock cairn with his back pack was doing. We saw another hiker guide at the summit and she explained they were up there to provide hiker assistance and to safe guard the ecosystem. She had a two way radio and evidently some first aid and safety gear in case of mishaps.

From the Upper Lip we gained the Lower Lip which was very rocky and hard to negotiate. It required stepping carefully on and around boulders while ascending and descending. This was clearly the hardest part of the hike. Going up was harder than coming back down through this area. Fortunately, it was a fairly small area and once past it we saw the steady rise to the summit. The Summit or “Chin” is the larger, more distant peak to the right which is reached only after climbing and descending the more difficult “Lower Lip” which appears in this photo immediately to the left of the summit.

Once we got past the Lower Lip, the terrain became more gradual. We saw hikers ahead of us who had reached this area from other trails. The trail was more clearly marked at this point and it was encouraging to realize we were just about at our goal. We were able to see everything slightly below the summit on both sides of the ridge. There were great views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains.

At this point some clouds started blowing in at the summit. However, visibility remained good although we were limited in summit views to glimpses through holes in the clouds. On the summit, we took our summit shots (shared camera duties with other hikers already there, many of whom came up other trails) and took our USGS marker shot. After about 15 minutes at the summit we headed back the way we came.

Going down was easier than coming up. At the lower lip which we had to climb back up over and down again. When we came to the trail to the gondola, we met a group who wanted to head down the mountain on the gondola. It took about 1 hour to hike the 1.3 miles and 600 foot elevation gain from the upper parking lot to the summit, but only 45 minutes to return. Once back at the upper parking lot, we headed down the Toll Road and back to the Lodge for showers and check out.
Summary Total Data
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Clear
Clouds covered the summit for a while

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