I had one 4,000 footer left in Vermont (of only five, but still), so I put Killington Peak on my calendar to hike. I went within a quarter mile of the summit on my AT thru hike but I wasn’t a peak bagger then and anything more than .1 mile off the trail was too far at that point. This time, I planned on the shorter Bucklin Trail to get to the peak, instead of the AT/LT. Corrie isn’t much of a peak bagger, but luckily for me, she didn’t look into the details of the hike too much ahead of time, so she came with me.
The Bucklin Trail starts out fairly flat for a couple of miles. There was some new snow that was slightly slippery but it wasn’t bad enough for spikes at first. We were following the tracks of another group that was half wearing spikes and half bare-booting. It was 17° and calm when we started.
After two miles, the trail turned to the south and started climbing up. We put on our spikes at the bottom in order to get some more traction.
We slowed way down on this steeper part but still made okay time to the AT/LT turn to Cooper Lodge.
We went into the lodge to join the other group for lunch and I made the mistake of leaving my gloves off too long. When I put my liners back on, the sweat on them had frozen, which made my hands even colder. Just as we were getting our packs back on to head out, my hands went numb. They’re fairly sensitive and go from being a little cold to OMG FROZEN in an instant. I’ve dealt with it on many winter hikes before so I started windmilling my arms to get some blood moving and then we rushed out onto the trail.
It was only a quarter mile to the summit from the lodge, but it was steep. The wind had really picked up while we were inside and the snow that had started halfway through our hike was getting heavier and whipping our faces. I knew that as my hands warmed back up, I’d get the screaming barfies, where the warm blood rushes back into your extremities and they hurt like hell and you want to throw up. Sure enough, right as we started up the really steep part and paused to let the group ahead of us come down, I felt terrible. Yes, it’s good my hands are warm again. But it sucks.
Based on a tip from that group, I left my trekking poles since I wouldn’t need them the rest of the way. We crawled up the rocks, which had a thin layer of ice covered by loose, powdery snow. I had to use the trees on the side of the trail to pull myself up since I was barely getting traction with my spikes. Just as the nausea from the screaming barfies subsided, I slammed my knee into a rock and felt nauseous again from that. A couple spots didn’t have trees within reach and I slid back several times before making it over. I couldn’t help asking “Why?” over and over as we kept going. Was it miserable? Yes. Was it dangerous? I don’t think so. Corrie may disagree with me on that but we have different tolerances. I knew we were only a couple hundred feet away and you can stand anything for short amounts of time, so it was worth it to me. Despite the steepness of the terrain, any falls wouldn’t go far. I knew I could do it, despite the wretched experience.
After crawling most of the way up the summit spur trail, we could finally stand and walk for the last fifty feet or so. Our summit photo shows us facing into the wind and not even able to keep our eyes open against the pelting snow. I did have goggles and a face mask in my pack, but it would’ve taken longer to get them out than the time I was above the trees.
We hurried back to the trees, where we were partially sheltered from the wind, and sat and started slowly sliding back down the trail on our butts. There wasn’t enough snow to cover all the rocks for glissading so it was purely scooting, but I was totally calm now that we were on the way down.
We skipped going back in Cooper Lodge for another break in the interest of getting down the mountain where it was warmer as quickly as possible. Back on the lower portion of the trail, it stopped snowing as we made it back to the car.