Friday, February 5, 2010

-Trip Report- Burnt Meadow Mountain- (1/18/10)

About twenty minutes east of North Conway, just off Rte 113 is the little town of Brownfield, Maine.  Above this crossroads looms Burnt Meadow Mountain. Rumor has it that the bald summit is due to a fire that burned not only the top off the mountain but also the town below.

Keith blazing a trail up the ridge

When I think if southwestern Maine, I picture fields, low hills, and the lakes that dominate the landscape all the way to the Atlantic.   So when my friend Keith, from Portland, announced a snowshoeing trip to Burnt Meadow, I was only lukewarm to the idea.  With so much unexplored terrain in the more rugged White and Green Mountains, I didn't feel like this part of Maine had much to offer a backcountry skier.  Boy was I wrong.

The night before our trip we pulled up a trail report describing the route up the mountain.  It described a "crampons mandatory" scramble at the very top of the mountain, as well as open slopes dotted with low bushes and trees.  I started to get genuinely excited about the possibilities.  To add to the excitement, a storm dumped about 8 inches of fresh snow while we were sleeping.  This slowed our morning departure from Portland a little, but had me dreaming of large snowfields of untouched powder.

We followed a spreadsheet of route numbers to finally arrive at our destination around 11am.  When I noted that despite changing route numbers a bunch of times we were still somehow on the Pequawket Trail, Keith wryly observed that every road in that part of Maine is the Pequawket Trail.  I still don't know if he was kidding, or if it is some Native American joke that Mainers now play on outsiders.

The mountain, however, was no joke. It is no higher than 3000 feet, but seemingly goes straight up from the road.  The open glades all around the mountain were visible from a couple miles away, and I could hardly contain my excitement.

The skis I chose were my newest setup.  They're a 190cm pair of  Karhu built army surplus skis I bought on Ebay for $25, fitted with G3 Onyx bindings.  They're taller than Rudy, and thus harder to maneuver through trees, and skinnier.  In retrospect, they probably weren't the best choice for the trip, but they managed just fine.

There was a good sized parking lot at the trailhead, where Keith and I joined friends Amicis and John, and started our trip up the mountain.  Everyone else strapped on snowshoes as I locked into my skis and set off a few minutes behind. 

I quickly discovered, however, that this was not a ski touring mountain.  The steep climb up ledges almost immediately convinced me to strap the skis on my back, don the crampons, and boot pack it up. I let the other guys tamp down the foot of new powder, as I took my time hiking with skis on my back.

The trail starts in the woods, immediately jumps up a rocky pitch, then runs evenly along until climbing up a relatively open crest to another wooded col.  Another trail joins in at  the wooded col, then there is one last, long steep pitch to the top through woods and over rock ledges. The bottom of this last part starts in a glade, and becomes more open closer to the top.  To the right of the trail are open glades, and to the left is a steep drop off to a small ravine.
                                   A look across the wooded col toward the last climb to the summit

Across the ravine is another ridge that joins with the ridge that the trail is on to form a giant horseshoe shaped half bowl.  Open glades, and ski lines stare longingly across the ravine.

                                Here we are Andy... Just follow the ridge to the other side of the ravine

However tempting the glades, my companions were committed to the trails, so I trudged along behind.  It was a quick bacon/cheese/bagel lunch at the top and we turned around and headed back down.  As the others glissaded down, I started my interesting descent.

The first part of the descent was a bit unnerving.  I was on new skis, and in addition, the penalty for a missed turn on the right side was a five second trip to the bottom of the ravine.  Given these factors, I stuck to the glades on the left (climber's right) where I found some surprise drops, low hanging branches, and more importantly, lots of powder.

The level wooded col saw me carrying my skis, but I found more open slopes on the lower open ridge and in the lower glades.  At one point the trees became very narrow and I managed to snap my ski pole in two, about 2/3 of the way to the bottom.   (a feat which I repeated on Jay two weeks later with the help of a snowboarder)

There was alot more to ski on all sides of Burnt Meadow, but I was pretty satisfied with the skiing just around the trail.  I was particularly interested in skiing the open face above the road, as it looked like there was a large snowfield that led into some open glades, all the way down.  In addition, the glades that face you as you reach the summit look enjoyable.

The tour can be completed in about 4 hours, and is a good half-day trip for anyone in the North Conway area.

More pictures:

Burnt Meadow Mountain


  1. Did you realize that Burntmeadow Mountain is private property ???
    The guy that is a friend, & realy cool. You might want to check in w/ him, before you start up... **** snow rules ***

  2. Kudos to them for opening their land up to the public. I noticed that the AMC Maine chapter did some trail work this summer to open up a loop trail up there.