Yes, you read the date right on this one, it was back in November, well over a month ago. Between the holidays, family, and a half marathon I ran in mid-December, my hiking time has been limited. I have been out, but thought I’d share at least this trip report, since it was already written and just needed a few photos. New post for yesterday’s trip to Isolation coming soon!
“Presi days” are starting to be in short supply, and will be right through spring. For those who don’t hike much in the White Mountains, a “Presi day” is one in which the weather conditions are good enough to go above treeline, especially in the Presidential Range, where there is quite a bit of above treeline travel that can be done. Considering that Mt. Washington claims to have some of the worst weather in the world, a Presi day, especially between Nov. and May is a big deal. With temperatures and wind speeds rivaling conditions in Antarctica, a day with wind less than 25mph, and temperatures in the mid-teens or even twenties above zero Farenheit, isn’t so bad. It is an even bigger deal if your schedule allows for a hike on that day.
All the hiking variables lined up for a Presi day, and I was up at 4:00a on Thursday getting ready to meet the carpool and head up to Appalachia to hike Adams and Madison. We picked up the last hiker in the party on the way up to the mountains and arrived before 7:00a and quickly got on the trail. The temps were in the teens, and the sun was just coming up, making for a sunny, but crisp morning. The first part of the Airline Trail is in the woods, so we didn’t get to enjoy any sunshine or views just yet, but we made good progress and soon we could see through the leafless trees out and we could see that we were making progress upward. While it would have been fun to continue to peek around the trees, our attention had to be focused on our footing, as the trail became more icy as we ascended and eventually we had quite a bit of boilerplate, some cleverly disguised with a thin layer of snow. The ice wasn’t so deep and there enough rocks still showing that we decided against microspikes for the moment. We continued upward through the forest and soon we saw rays of sunlight coming through the mostly spruce forest. Just a little further and we broke out of treeline and were greeted with full sunshine and amazing views into King Ravine.
As we traveled along the spine of Durand Ridge, the views just got better and better. There was enough snow to highlight all the crevices, nooks and crannies of the ravine, causing them to stand out in stark relief. We finally got high enough and then started the attack on our first objective of the day, Adams. There still was not enough ice for microspikes, so we didn’t bother with them and enjoyed not having to wear them. Up and up some more and we crested Adams, complete with a rime-encrusted sign. It was here that we’d see the only other people we’d see all day – two people in red, hiking up Mt. Madison. We never actually encountered the other hikers, but we thought they had a great day for an above treeline adventure, like us. It was breezy, but not terribly windy, so we enjoyed the views, took a few pictures and decided on a plan to descend.
Our plan to descend was to go down the other side of Adams to Thunderstorm Junction, and then around Adams on Gulfside toward Madison, our second objective for the day. This way of descending is a little easier as far as the elevation and footing. The Gulfside trail is well built and almost sidewalk-like in places and we all agreed it was smart move, even though it added a few tenths to our total for the day.
We arrived at Madison Spring Hut, and had some lunch before ascending Madison. We left our packs at the hut, and scurried up to our last summit for the day. Still no microspikes, so we quickly ascended and descended. A quick check of the sky, and we noticed it was thickening up, a sure sign of the changes that were to come in the weather. We picked up our packs and headed down the Valley Way. We didn’t get very far before we decided that microspikes would be an excellent idea. There was more ice on Valley Way than on Airline. We kept the spikes for quite a way until about a mile from the trail head. Down we went, trying to beat the coming darkness, but eventually, we had to give up and break out the headlamps. In another 20 minutes, we were at the trailhead, happy to have completed another adventure safely.
Special thanks to Schorman, LadyDi and John Gutowski for such a great day in the Northern Presis.