August 6, 2015

The Vermont 4000 Footer Challenge

By Stephon Boatwright In On the Trail, Vermont

I’m going to preface this by admitting I did not rise to my own challenge.  HOWEVER, I’m positive it can be safely done.  Vermont has five peaks over 4,000 feet.  In many places throughout the Northeast it’s possible to summit five or more such mountains in about half a day.  Vermont is a bit different though.  The southern most peak, Killington, is nearly a two hour drive from the northern most, Mansfield.  Not to mention, only two of the peaks can be climbed in tandem, the rest are single accents requiring a lot of hopping in and out of the car.

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The Challenge
You can probably guess where this is going.  Starting at either Mansfield or Killington, you must bag all five peaks in a single day.  I started this journey from Central New York, meaning I did not get to Killington’s trailhead until about 10am.  By the time I came down from my third peak of the day it was just past five.  I’m sure I could have completed the challenge, but had no interest of doing so in the dark.  Starting at around 5am should make this challenge both rewarding and a lot of fun.  Here’s how I did!

Killington

Killington is the second tallest summit in the state, but like all but one summit you will conquer, it’s highly developed by ski resorts and mountain biking trails.  The development ruins the serenity, but it makes for a quick and steep climb.  The best way to climb Killington is to take the most direct route up, following the main ski lift up a leg-busting 1,600 feet in just 1.1 miles.  I do not recommend taking this way down.  The trail is overgrown and difficult to find your footing.  It is a beautiful view for your effort.  Take note of the Long Trail that crosses over the summit.

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Killington has an odd color-letter route system that you can follow back down.  All in all, the trip was about a 3.3 miles and took me about an hour and a half.  Not bad for a high peak.

Abraham and Ellen

You got to hit the road! Take VT 100 and snake your way to Sugarbush ski resort.  It takes a bit over an hour from Killington.

I approached this ascent wrong!  After my success climbing Killington with breakneck speed up the ski lift, I thought Abe and El could be done the same.  Despite being lower than Killington, there is well over 2,400 feet of elevation gain between the two climbs.  I took on a lift lane that was under construction, only to find that after a brutally long ascent, I was only 70% of the way up; I was not pleased.  The rest of the climb was on utility roads and finally back to the Long Trail.

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Abraham offered sensational views of the Green Mountains to the North and the Adirondacks to the West, right across from Lake Champlain.  It was breathtaking, but like all challenges that involve a race against time, I could only linger for a few moments.  Ellen was neither fun, nor beautiful.  The trudge to Ellen felt long and claustrophobic, only to reach a mostly wooded summit with the only clearing being the top of a ski lift not too far off the route.

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I wasn’t too tore up about having to leave.  By the time I made my way to the foot of Abraham I would see the sun starting to move down rapidly.  I knew I could take on Camel’s Hump in good time and have a great view of the sunset, but I would end taking on Mansfield in the dark.  I decided to cut my losses and head to Burlington for a beer.

Camel’s Hump, Mansfield, and Your Turn!

I would love to see someone else tear this challenge up, so here’s my tips:

  • Camp out near Killington or Mansfield the night before and take off at first light; you’ll need every bit of time you can get.
  • Utilize the ski lift lanes for Killington and Mansfield on the ascent.
  • Don’t speed on the road!  There’s really no need if you’re a strong hiker
  • Go South to North so you can get a beer in Burlington 😉

IMG_20150802_193115766I’ll let you know how attempt two goes.
Ramble on! Cheers.

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