Emilie Phillips updated August 5, 2020
Hiking Mount Monadnock with my parents late fall is becoming a tradition. This time Tyson wanted to see Billings Fold — a geological phenomena and potential rock climb. It was cold but not snowy. I expected ice on the trails, so I hunted through the house looking for my micro spikes. It took me five minutes to find them in my pack. Everyone else also brought gaiters. I figured my long underwear would keep my legs warm, so I skipped the gaiters.
According to the AMC guidebook, Billings Fold is visible from the top of the Smith Summit Trail right before the junction with the Dublin Trail. We took the Old Halfway House Trail to the Royce Trail then Monta Rosa trail. This route kept us off the boring road walk, and the overused White Arrow Trail.
On the Monta Rosa trail, just before the first climb, I spotted a withered beech tree with a few stripes of thick bark where it had tried to recover from some terrible damage. A few years ago in the same area, I had taken a picture of a beech tree freshly denuded by a porcupine. At the top of the second climb on Monta Rosa Trail, we found snow.
Isaac burst into song, “Snow, snow, snowy, snow…”
When we reached the open slabs above Monta Rosa, it was clear winter had arrived: white snow on every tree branch; white snow and bare gray rocks on the ground; gray clouds all the way to Boston, snow showers to our west; and the pale sun low under the clouds. The light from the sun, though, was a cheerful yellow. And when Isaac shook the tree branches, the snow showered off into a sparkling haze. Ahead of us, the snow on the Smith Summit trail was untracked.
We lost the trail once, but we pushed through some snow covered blueberries and found it again. I wished I had my gaiters like everyone else. The Smith Summit Trail didn’t have much ice, but the little it had was hidden under the snow. The snow also hid puddles covered by thin ice. The micro spikes helped with slipping, but not with crunching through into a puddle. When we neared the top ridge, we lost the trail again. Instead of trying to find the trail again, Tyson aimed for Billings Fold.
As a non-geologist, the fold is notable, but not super interesting. The cliff face looked like a 5.4 to 5.6 slab if you felt like bringing a rope up.
We hit the summit and said hi to the folks cooking scrambled eggs. We turned our hike into a “Smith” loop by descending the White Cross Trail to Smith Connector and then Cliff Walk. I haven’t hiked the lower parts of cliff walk before. It has a lot of nice view points, many mentioned in the AMC guide. We skipped Hello Rock, named because guests at the Halfway House used to yell hello to new arrivals.
Tyson’s knees and my Dad chose to hike out the old toll road. Isaac wanted to race on the trail. So Mom and I went with him. Isaac commented that not knowing who was ahead made the race more fun. It also leads to complacency. Isaac had slowed to a normal walk. I reminded him that last time we had to run to keep up with Dad. A tenth of a mile from the parking lot, we spotted the road, and Tyson and Grandpa ahead of us. Isaac ran. He just barely beat Tyson to the trailhead.