10/9/2006 at 7:15 pm #7774highpointersclubParticipant[Ed: Imported from Americas Roof ‘Summit Trip Reports’ forum][By: Chris on October 9 2006 at 7:15 PM]I ascended Mansfield for the second time (the first was about six years ago) with a college professor I know. He’d climbed the Chin about a dozen times previous, but always by the Long Trail, as had I. Having heard about the Hell Brook trail–and its legendary difficulty–we decided to give it a shot.
We reached the LT parking lot around 9:15 AM, and snagged one of the last open spots. An uneventful 1-mile road walk N led to the slightly obscure Hell Brook trailhead (hint: if the roadside stream you’ve been paralleling veers uphill to the left, you’re at the right place). The trail immediately and steeply began its ascent.
Looking back, what made this trail so profoundly difficult was not just the difficulty in clambering over the many rock formations along the length of the trail, but the fact that most of the rocks were quite wet, despite the past few days having been nothing but beautiful blue skies. The trail first wound its way under some interesting overhanging rock ledges and climbed over exposed rocky faces, then became more straightforward and involved less scrambling for a time. Unlike my memories of the LT, views were frequent, and almost continuous, off to the SE and to the cluster of summits directly east of us. An aside: Spruce Peak, the nearest, is about 3300′ tall, so it’s a somewhat useful means to gauge your height.
After perhaps 45 minutes of uphill struggle (and frequent rest stops), the professor and I reached the Hell Brook Spur. This leads to the Taft Lodge on the LT, but we found it counterintuitive to our purposes, and continued the last few tenths of a mile to the crest of the ridge. This contained perhaps the most difficult sections of the Hell Brook trail, and more than once we struggled to find a passage up the steep, wet and exposed rock. At last, the trail began to level off, then reached the crest of the ridge at a rather anticlimatic spot: a flat, viewless trail junction in the middle of a pine forest.
From here, we followed the boardwalks left and slightly uphill for a few minutes, and gradually began to notice the trees thinning out. The Adam’s Apple could be made out on the left, and then finally the dramatic rocky outcropping of the Chin came into view. We could easily discern 30 or 40 people clambering up the steep north face. It was somewhat of a shock after encountering perhaps a dozen individuals on the Hell Brook trail. We made for the short spur trail to the summit of the Adams Apple, so I could bag the Lamoille County highpoint, then made our way down to the LT junction, where we ate lunch on some rocky outcrops just off the trail.
From there, it was a short climb to the summit of the Chin. We encountered frequent traffic jams, including a woman climbing the mountain with her small dog. At the last (and most exposed) scramble before the summit, she became quite nervous about her dog’s ability to continue, but he scampered up easily. Though the most difficult section of the LT, the professor and I found it downright easy in comparison to what we had just hiked!
The summit: crowded beyond belief, somewhat breezy, and surprisingly warm for October (high 50s/low 60s). The views were incredible: Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks to the W, Jay Peak and Canada to the N, the Whites to the E, and the crest of the Green Mountains, including Vermont’s other four 4000’ers to the S. Marcy and Washington were both clearly visible, as well as peaks over 60 miles away. Were it not for a haze/smog on the distant horizon, I have no doubt I could’ve seen many of southern Maine’s major summits.
After a brief stay atop Vermont, we proceeded down the ridge, and past the Profanity Trail cutoff. I took a short loop hike on the Subway Trail, which is worth the 10 minutes and few hundred feet of elevation gain it costs! We then decided to take the gondola down to save time (and our knees). The trail down to the gondola station was surprisingly difficult, but we at last reached our destination, and glided quietly down to VT 108 and the base of the mountain. Upon returning to the car, we discovered hundreds of vehicles parked alongside the road–just another reason to start early!
We departed, endured roughly an hour of traffic between the trailhead and Waterbury, and made a brief stop at Ben & Jerry’s. Ice cream never tasted so good…
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