So, back to the hike.  There were 14 of us in our group with an age range between 7 and 80.  All made it to the top and, more importantly, to the bottom safely.  The group has its origins in a scout troop back in the day, with the old scout master and several of his former scouts, now adults, making up the nucleus of the group.  Everyone else is a neighbor or someone like me who has received a special invitation to join the fraternity.  We are men of tradition, and several were followed yesterday.  The morning began at the meeting place in Shrewsbury.  From there we went to Nik Rylee’s, a diner in Winchendon, for breakfast.  And this was a breakfast.  They have something called the lumberjack special, which has pretty much every common breakfast food, and a bunch of the guys ordered it.  I stuck with an omelet and home fries.  We lingered a bit there – I think everyone was enjoying the toasty (harf harf harf) atmosphere and a bit hesitant to go back in into the cold, which was between -5 and 5 depending on where in town we were.  Once we got our crampons on and were all kitted up we started hiking, and all thoughts of the cold pretty much disappeared.

And it really was a beautiful day – sunny with no wind.  The parking lot at Monadnock was full, and there was everyone from snowshoers to people jogging -really – up and down the trails.  In years past when it was this cold and windy there were maybe one or two other groups climbing, but lack of wind made this a popular day – there were actually traffic jams on the mountain in a few places.  We spent more time than usual at the summit and took some pictures, then descended a bit until we found a good place to have our lunch.  From there it was a pretty quick but cautious descent – going down is when most injuries happen.  We then repaired to George F’s house, where Sophie had her usual delicious spread for us and we celebrated with the traditional Harvey’s Bristol Cream toast.  We are especially proud of Alexander and young George, who at ages 7 and 9 proved to be true warriors.  Bill, who is a young 80, also conquered the mountain in style.

Many people think were are batty for doing this but it is truly fun and a satisfying accomplishment.  There is also the camaraderie; many of us only see each other this once a year but there is such a special bond  between us that it is like no time has passed.  It is also great exercise and a chance to do winter climbing without worrying about avalanches, pulmonary edemas, and other not-so-fun stuff associated with climbing big mountains.  Can’t wait until next year!

Here is a picture George S. snapped of me on the summit – soon to be my Facebook profile picture: