Saturday was my annual winter hike of Mount Monadnock, and it was epic.  I do this every year around this time with a great group of guys.  The core of the group are neighbors but many of us see each other only this once a year, and it is like no time has passed.  The group has its origins with George F. from the Cathedral and a gentleman named Randy who passed away several years ago.  Thirty-nine years ago on New Year’s Eve day they climbed Monadnock, and every year since a group has made this traditional climb.  George has retired from the hike beginning this year but through these two gentleman the rest of us have been brought into the fold.

People think we are crazy for going because it is so cold and the mountain is covered in ice usually, but that is part of the attraction.  Making the summit and then returning safely gives us quite a feeling of accomplishment, and the social part – breakfast beforehand, the climb and the after party – is super fun.  The temperature at the base was about 18 degrees, which I would normally say is very cold.  However, the main challenge on the mountain is not overheating from the exertion, so in addition to our ice axes and crampons we all had many layers that were shed as we ascended, and even then everyone was pretty warm.  It was a beautiful day and we made great time – up and down, with a stop for lunch and periodic brief rests, in under four hours.

At the after party, graciously hosted by Stephen, we celebrated with the traditional toast of Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry and ate cheese and Sophie’s famous keftedes.  No one really likes the Harvey’s, but we toasted the group and George’s retirement, and memorialized Randy, and all presented downed half a finger of Harvey’s.  With much relief we then switched to refreshing beer.  This year George enlightened us to the origins of the toast.  That first trek up the mountain George and Randy came back soaked and Randy’s wife made them go in the basement and sit by the furnace.  The only provisions down there were a bottle of Harvey’s and a block (or ball, depending on the source) of cheese, so they indulged accordingly.  Hence our yearly tradition.

This year we added a few rookies and welcomed them to the fraternity.  There is a big European bent to the group, with members of Norwegian, British, German, Swiss, and Greek (guess who) extraction.  Conversation was all over the place but stories were shared of the Brenner Pass, the White Mountians of Crete, Chamonix and other places.  We also went to a new breakfast place, Joseph’s in Westminster, which was awesome.  Breakfast is a big part of the event – we all catch up, the new guys get a chance to meet everyone and vice versa, chops are busted and we fuel up for the hike.  Here are a few pictures:

This is me at the summit.  Note the beard, which I grew specifically for the trip but am keeping as a “playoff beard” for the Pats.

 

Chris, a new member of the group and the other Greek on the trip, took this cool picture, which looks black and white but is in color and untouched up:

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