Finally! The East Coast gets some Mountainbeering love. Our badass friend Rob – an Environmental Educator, a climbing instructor, and a Wilderness First Responder – recounts a recent Mountainbeering experience in New Hampshire’s share of the Appalachians – the frigid White Mountains:
Two-hundred thirty one miles per hour. Most cars can’t travel that fast. It bends the mind to even consider a force, man-made or natural, that contains that much speed and force. But on an April day in 1934, no more than four miles from where I’m sitting now, this was the recorded wind speed on the summit of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. To this day, no higher land wind speed has been recorded by a human. Tonight is a normal winter evening in the Whites; my building at the base of the mountain is shaking with 40+ mph gusts and the Rock Pile (our friendly nickname for Mt. Washington) is getting rocked with winds in excess of 100 mph. Wind chills on top are dropping into the -50 F range.
You see, New England is kindof a crazy place. Stereotyped as the land of Puritanism, bland food and bad drivers, the states east and north of New York have been overshadowed by their grand and expansive cousins in the western U.S. as travel destinations for outdoor enthusiasts. Make no mistake – as someone who grew up in another heavily stereotyped region (the southeast), I can assert that some stereotypes live up to their reputation while the area’s spectacular qualities are mostly overlooked in the process. New England is a feast of wild mountains, several lifetimes worth of wilderness exploration, and most importantly, loads of kick-ass beer and kick-ass craft brewers!
We all know that the motivations for a life in the outdoors are as myriad as the hills or waters that we play in. Some go outside for the fresh air, for the exuberance of movement, the passionate beauty of vistas, all sorts of pain and pleasure and everything in between. However, I’m of the belief that for any given individual, there is a root motivation from which all other motivations stem. For me, the draw of singularly unique experiences causes me to engage in the outdoors, and in all aspects of my life. When I go for a run in the mountains, or climb rock or ice, or paddle a river, I always want to do so in a way or by a route that I’ve never done before. I almost never run the same trail or climb the same route twice. And when I blend craft beer with these experiences, I want that beer to be a complete mystery, a liquid that has never passed over my tongue.
Here in northern New Hampshire, winter is legendary. It turns relatively benign mountains of elevations laughable by western standards into hard-won alpine peaks. But not all days are harsh; some days the goggles and fifth, sixth and seventh layers of clothing can be left at home. A couple weeks ago, I seized one of these days with my buddies Ben and Scott for a spectacular winter ascent of the Kinsman peaks, two mountains listed under New Hampshire’s 48 highest. We met the face of winter in steep, frozen ice walls (our “trail”), frozen alpine ponds, socked-in summits, rock cairns laced with rime ice, and even some special mountain hospitality that this area is well-known for (check out the Appalachian Mountain Club hut system).
We wrapped up our day with a brand-new concoction from Portsmouth, NH’s Smuttynose Brewing Company, spartanly named “Zinneke.” This is a member of their seasonal Big Beer series and is described as a Belgian-style stout aged in bourbon barrels. It was pretty damn crazy and unique. Perfect for a White Mountain winter mountainbeering adventure. We shared the bottle around, enjoying this wild mash-up of beer styles, then fumbled our way from the Lonesome Lake hut back to our cars telling embarrassing stories.
Smuttynose is one in a long list of veteran craft breweries working their magic in New Hampshire, and I hope to keep sharing tales of our wonderful beer coupled with our fiercely beautiful mountains. Keep having unique outdoor experiences, and most importantly, stay thirsty, friends!