Clouds cleared after the sun was below the mountains, and I was treated to this at dinnertime.
Photo by Ryan Linn
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Winter Solo on Tumbledown

The plan: hike up to Tumbledown Pond and camp for the night by myself. The difficulty: there’s no winter trailhead for Tumbledown, since the Byron Road isn’t plowed in winter. Even more difficult: almost nobody attempts Tumbledown in winter, so there’s no info online about parking or attempting the hike.

Ryan Linn       Trip Report       03/09/2015
Ryan Linn
Trip Report
03/09/2015

Last week seemed like a good time to take an alternative weekend and head to the mountains, so on Thursday morning I took off for the town of Weld, not knowing exactly what I was getting into.

The plan: hike up to Tumbledown Pond and camp for the night by myself. The difficulty: there’s no winter trailhead for Tumbledown, since the Byron Road isn’t plowed in winter. Even more difficult: almost nobody attempts Tumbledown in winter, so there’s no info online about parking or attempting the hike.

After calling Mt Blue State Park, I knew it was possible to reach the trail, although parking was still unknown.

Once I arrived in Weld, I stopped at the General Store and found a trove of information from Jerry, the owner. He and another local there at the time were both on the area’s Search And Rescue team, so they were happy that I stopped in to let them know my plans. If you want to try a winter attempt at Tumbledown like this, I’d highly recommend letting Jerry know your plans, just in case he has any local news about parking, or in case anything goes wrong on your hike.

Parking at the east end of Byron Road might have been possible with a high-clearance vehicle, but I wasn’t going to chance it in my Jetta, so Jerry’s other suggestion was parking on the West Brook Road, where the town snow plows turn around at the end of the last driveway, just after crossing West Brook on a small bridge.

This isn’t a trailhead parking area, just a space where one or two cars could pull off, and it wouldn’t be a good place to park if snow is coming, since it would block the plow truck. I chose a day with a clear forecast, and parked as far into the corner of the turnaround as possible.

A snowy field sits in front of a gray sky and dark mountains.
The Tumbledown-Jackson Ridge from a farm on the north shore of Webb Lake.
Photo by Ryan Linn

From where I parked, I had about three miles of walking along snowmobile trail, first on West Brook Road, and then on Byron Road. This was easy going on icy, packed crust.

I tuned out for most of this section, although near the junction of the two roads is a large gravel pit that has some nice views of the Tumbledown-Jackson ridge and the Walker-Whaleback ridge across the valley.

A snowy field sits in front of a gray sky and dark mountains.

From where I parked, I had about three miles of walking along snowmobile trail, first on West Brook Road, and then on Byron Road. This was easy going on icy, packed crust.

I tuned out for most of this section, although near the junction of the two roads is a large gravel pit that has some nice views of the Tumbledown-Jackson ridge and the Walker-Whaleback ridge across the valley.

The Tumbledown-Jackson Ridge from a farm on the north shore of Webb Lake.
Photo by Ryan Linn

Once at the Brook Trail, it was much slower going. There was a very old set of snowshoe tracks ahead of me, but it was old enough that I had to break my own trail. The snow had melted and refrozen in the past few days, so there was about an inch of crust on top of loose sugary snow, which makes for some painful postholing, even in snowshoes.

A snowshoe in very deep snow.

It wasn’t too bad until about halfway up the Brook Trail, when the trail begins to climb steeply. This last three-quarters of a mile took almost two hours to climb, with every step twisting my ankles and punching through mostly solid ice.

Busting through the snow.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A snowshoe in very deep snow.
Busting through the snow.
Photo by Ryan Linn

It wasn’t too bad until about halfway up the Brook Trail, when the trail begins to climb steeply. This last three-quarters of a mile took almost two hours to climb, with every step twisting my ankles and punching through mostly solid ice.

Finally up top, I found the pond frozen solid as expected, and a stiff wind kept me hunkered down in the trees most of the afternoon. As with my other overnight trips this winter, there was no liquid water anywhere, so I would have to melt snow for drinking and cooking.

I busied myself with building a home for the night, complete with a small kitchen outside my tent, and a wind-break wall.

A line of snowshoe prints down a snowy trail.

I had planned to climb the high point of the ridge, but the wind and cold convinced me to take the more cautious approach and enjoy the views from the pond itself.

All the postholing slowed the hike down considerably. This little bit took almost five minutes to walk.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A line of snowshoe prints down a snowy trail.
All the postholing slowed the hike down considerably. This little bit took almost five minutes to walk.
Photo by Ryan Linn

I had planned to climb the high point of the ridge, but the wind and cold convinced me to take the more cautious approach and enjoy the views from the pond itself.

A view of Tumbledown Pond, frozen and covered with snow.
Finally at Tumbledown Pond, windblasted and frozen.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A snowy view of Tumbledown Mountain and Pond.
The view from my tent, Tumbledown Mountain and Pond.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A view of Tumbledown Pond, frozen and covered with snow.
Finally at Tumbledown Pond, windblasted and frozen.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A snowy view of Tumbledown Mountain and Pond.
The view from my tent, Tumbledown Mountain and Pond.
Photo by Ryan Linn

It was a long night, but the wind finally calmed and the clouds cleared after the sun went down in a spectacular sunset. The near-full moon lit up the night enough that I could read a book without any artificial light, had I remembered my book.

Instead, I holed up in my sleeping bag and stayed warm. It was hard to stay warm, though. The evening’s low temperature was predicted to be around 4 degrees, which shouldn’t have felt as cold as it did.

Sunlight illuminates the valley below a snowy ridge.
Early morning sunlight over the West Brook Valley.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A view of distand mountain ranges from Tumbledown Pond.
Mount Washington, the Mahoosuc Range, and Baldpate in the morning from the outlet of Tumbledown Pond.
Photo by Ryan Linn
Sunlight illuminates the valley below a snowy ridge.
Early morning sunlight over the West Brook Valley.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A view of distand mountain ranges from Tumbledown Pond.
Mount Washington, the Mahoosuc Range, and Baldpate in the morning from the outlet of Tumbledown Pond.
Photo by Ryan Linn

When I got back into town the next morning, I spoke with Jerry and some other locals again, and discovered that the temperature in the valley had been measured between -9 and -20, and that was about 2000 feet lower than where I had been camped.

Maybe taking this trip as a solo wasn’t the smartest decision, but it turned out well and turned out to be a highlight of an already stellar winter.

Footprints travel through a bright, snowy forest.
Yesterday’s tracks still well-defined. The wind must have been non-existent at the bottom of the mountain.
Photo by Ryan Linn
Blue skies and a snowy meadow showcase a distant mountain range.
Clear skies and another view of the ridge from where I parked.
Photo by Ryan Linn
Footprints travel through a bright, snowy forest.
Yesterday’s tracks still well-defined. The wind must have been non-existent at the bottom of the mountain.
Photo by Ryan Linn
Blue skies and a snowy meadow showcase a distant mountain range.
Clear skies and another view of the ridge from where I parked.
Photo by Ryan Linn

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New England Hiker

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About the Author
A man wears a blue shirt, blue backpack, and a tan baseball cap.

Ryan Linn

Ryan is also known as “Guthook”, which is where our apps get their name. Already an avid hiker, he hiked the Appalachian Trail, New England Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail before joining forces with Paul to create the Guthook Guides apps. Ryan handles iOS development for our apps from his office in Maine, and usually runs away to the forests and mountains throughout New England. He also volunteers with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Baxter State Park in Maine is his happy place.