Winter Hike: Madison

SUMMARY

After bailing on Madison in December because I forgot my headlamp, I returned in January 2017 to bag it for my New Hampshire Winter 48 list.

Map of winter hike of Mountain Madison

Map of hike

Read after the jump for a summary, photos and stats.

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2014 Presi Traverse

Date hiked: 30 June 2014

One of this year’s big hikes for me was a one day attempt at the Presidential Traverse, a hike across the Presidential Range in the White Mountains National Forest. The hike typically consists of summiting all of the peaks that are named after presidents, though there are other variations which include the other peaks along the range.

A friend from work and my brother joined me on this hike. We decided to tackle the traverse from north to south to get the big and strenuous mountains out of the way and to just do the classic version of the traverse: Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Clay, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower and Pierce. We arrived at Appalachia parking lot at 5:00am as the sun was rising.

Starting off early

Starting off early

We chose to summit Madison via Airline Trail rather than the more typical Valley Way as I had hiked it just two weeks before when I climbed Mount Madison with my son. Airline did not seem more difficult than Valley Way, though it was definitely more exposed. Where Valley Way climbed gradually into its steep elevation gain and became more difficult near the top of its trail, Airline got the elevation out of the way earlier and once it climbed out of the trees and onto the ridge it leveled off some.

Airline Trail just above treeline

Airline Trail just above treeline

I was also excited to take Valley Way as I heard that from the Knife Edge, a section of narrow trail on the ridge, you could see one of the best examples of the difference between a glaciated valley and a valley carved by running water. The ravine had steeper walls and a bowl shape at the bottom and the valley was v-shaped with more gradual slopes.

Glaciated Valley vs. Stream Valley

Glaciated Valley vs. Stream Valley

After enjoying the spectacular views at the top of Airline we stopped at Madison Spring Hut where my brother rested while we climbed Madison. Even though I had recently climbed it, I still enjoyed the rocky climb up to Madison’s peak. As apposed to two weeks ago, the weather was clear and the view of Adams, Washington, the Wildcats and Carters was magnificent.

View from Madison

View from Madison

After climbing down Madison we headed up Adams. I’ve always enjoyed climbing Adams, though it and Jefferson always seem to burn me out. The talus of Adams was spectacular but I could already feel my energy waning.

Mount Adams panorama

Mount Adams panorama

We continued on past Thunderstorm Junction and the bizarre terrain between Adams and Jefferson. We stopped for a break at Edmands Col so that a large group of hikers could get far enough ahead of us that we wouldn’t have to pass them on the steep climb to Jefferson’s peak.

Edmands Col

Edmands Col

Like Adams and Madison, Jefferson was a strenuous hike up rocky terrain. Jefferson was always my least favorite of those behemoths due to its many false peaks when climbing it from the north. We took a short break on the summit and then pushed on ahead of the large group that had climbed up before us.

Looking ahead from Mount Jefferson

Looking ahead from Mount Jefferson

At Sphinx Col we stopped and were greeted by a United States Forest Service volunteer wielding a large GPS unit. He said they were collecting data on hikers and asked us where we had started hiking and where we were going. We asked him how high the climb to Clay was and he said about 700 feet, roughly the same as the climb down from Jefferson.

The night prior to the hike we had agreed that we would bypass Clay as we had all done it before and it was not an official 4000 Footer. Halfway around Clay we started discussing the pros and cons of bypassing Washington as well. It was already past noon and we hadn’t hit our halfway mark and none of us were thrilled to make the push to the summit and be greeted with buses and crowds. My only reluctance was that I was depending on the cafeteria on the summit to provide my big meal for the day. All I had left for the day were two Clif bars and two small packets of peanut butter. But, since the others would be able to get food at Lakes of the Cloud, they could spare me their Clif bars if needed.

Looking back from near Mount Clay

Looking back from near Mount Clay

Once we got around Clay and started the hike toward Washington we took Westside Trail under the cog railway and around Washington. Westside Trail was enjoyable as I had never hiked it before. We had good views down into Ammonoosuc Ravine and had a different perspective of Lakes of the Cloud. I started to bonk on the descent to Lake of the Clouds and the southern Presidentials, but one of my packets of peanut butter got me to the huts. Along the way we passed another US Forest Service volunteer counting people hiking between Washington and Lakes of the Cloud.

We took a short break at Lakes of the Cloud. I ate my other peanut butter packet and a Clif bar and refilled my water. We had hit the crowds again, it had been quiet since we bypassed Clay and now people were milling about everywhere. There were boy scouts running through the alpine grasses and a tired man with his son and dog trying to convince the hut croo to let him stay in the Dungeon, the hut’s basement. He didn’t think they could hike back down before dark and there were afternoon thunderstorms in the forecast. There was also a young family with several kids, the dad was hiking with one of the kids in a Cadillac-sized carrier on his back. Rugged.

We picked up as the tired father and son got permission to stay in the Dungeon and pushed toward Monroe. Monroe, Eisenhower and Pierce were new mountains for my brother. When we attempted the Presi Traverse in 2012 we got trapped in a thunderstorm. When it had a cleared a bit we bypassed Monroe and took Edmands Path to Pierce road.

I enjoyed the climb up to Monroe, the headwall on the north side is a fun little scramble and the view looking back toward Washington is amazing.

Lakes of the Cloud and Mount Washington from Mount Monroe

Lakes of the Cloud and Mount Washington from Mount Monroe

We descended Monroe and enjoyed the long flat hike between Monroe and Eisenhower. We passed the Mount Franklin spur path and continued on toward Eisenhower, not wanting to add any unneeded climbs. Clouds were starting to roll in pretty heavily once we got to Eisenhower, but we were below their altitude at that point. On top of Eisenhower the clouds formed a perfect crown just above its summit.

Mount Eisenhower summit

Mount Eisenhower summit

After Eisenhower we made the trek to Pierce, popping in and out of the treeline. This was usually an enjoyable section of the trail, but I was so worn out at this point that each time we went above the trees it felt like we were no closer to Pierce. We finally hit the junction with Webster Cliff Trail and dropped our packs. The hike up to Pierce was easy and short. We stopped for a few minutes, my brother and I drank celebratory beers we had carried the whole way but the black flies kept us from resting for long.

The hike down Crawford Path was like most descents after a big hike: long and arduous. We hit the parking lot at Pierce Road at 8:30pm, about fifteen and a half hours after we started. We had bypassed Washington, but all agreed that it was a successful hike. At the time I had said I was done with the Presidentials for a while, especially the northern peaks. But now I want to attempt the hike again, including Washington. I guess it will have to wait until next year as the days are getting short.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
—Edmund Hillary

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Stats:
Highest Elevation: 5799′
Elevation Gain: 7750′
Distance: 18.6 miles
Book Time: 13:30
Actual Time: 15:30
Temperature: 60°
Weather: partly sunny

References:
A glacier carves a U-shaped valley.” nature.nps.gov. National Park Service, et al. Web. 15 August 2014.
Great Hikes: A Presidential Traverse.” sectionhiker.com. Fells Press LLC. Web. 14 August 2014.

Hike: Mount Madison

Hiked: 15 June 2014

So far, my favorite peaks in the White Mountains are Carrigain, Bondcliff and Madison. When my son chose Madison to be his first 4000 Footer I was excited, even though I’d be doing a traverse of the Presidentials two weeks later. Saturday evening we drove to White Birches Camping Park, and RV park (which I typically and vocally rebel against), but the tent sites in the back of the camping park were actually secluded and quite nice.

We woke at 4:30am in order to get to Appalachia parking lot by 5:30am. Not knowing how my son would perform on his first serious hike I wanted to leave 5 hours for each ascent and descent and an hour for breaks and still be back to Portland to catch the early evening boat. We arrived to find plenty of space at the parking lot and headed up Valley Way toward Madison Spring Hut.

I explained to my son that this was his hike, if at any point he wanted to turn around we would and to remember that at any point the hike was only half over, to save enough energy to get back down. With that I asked him to take the lead so that he could set the pace, which he did the entire hike.

Valley Way was a nice trail, it weaved between conifers and following the brook for a while. Later on it grew rocky and steep. I recognized a few places that I remembered from doing a Presidential Traverse attempt two years previous. The spot where my brother and I stopped to drink some of the Heady Topper he brought because it was too heavy. The boulder-strewn climb just below Valley Way Tentsite that we stumbled over in the dark, hoping that the spur trail to the tentsite would soon appear.

Valley Way

Valley Way

We met just a few people coming down from the peak. They were noticeably wet and mentioned how windy it was. This was disheartening as I was hoping that the clouds would burn away by the time we attempted the summit.

We arrived at the Madison Spring Hut and went inside to rest for half an hour and hope that the weather would break. I stepped into the hut in my t-shirt to quizzical looks and questions about the weather down Valley Way. I let those huddling around waiting for clearer weather know that it was not too bad, and even quite warm a half a mile down the trail. My son was excited to see the hut, but was expecting something like the rest areas that you see on the side of highways, with vending machines and all.

After a couple of Clif Bars we decided that the weather wasn’t likely to break before our legs started to cool down and possibly cramp up (well, more of my concern, not the sprite youngin’s). We added a few layers and headed out into the clouds surrounding the hut.

As soon as we got above the krummholz and onto the bouldery cone of Madison the wind picked up. My son started dashing between cairns while I relished the severe weather. I imagined the contrast between the hot and sunny valley below and cold and windy dampness of the giant’s shoulder. Only those who truly loved the mountains would be undeterred by such weather. And my son was enjoying himself.

I also stopped to take some photos of the Diaspensia and Alpine Azaleas which were in bloom.

Dispensia

Diapensia and alpine azaleas

We climbed up to the summit, greeting a few people as we went. These were people so in love with mountains that the weather could not turn them around. People that refused to huddle within a hut, staring out the window wishing for better weather. We snapped out our pics, stared into the clouds and then decided to head back down to the hut for some PB&Js.

Madison summit

Madison summit

On the way back down to the Madison Spring Hut the sun tried its hardest to pierce through the clouds. There were brief moments where we could see some grayish-blue contrasted by fast moving white.

Sun trying to come out

Sun trying to come out

As we approached the hut there were brief, intermittent patches of clear-ish sky where we could get a glimpse of Mount Quincy Adams.

Madison Spring Hut

Madison Spring Hut

We had our sandwiches and headed back down the Valley Way trail. We briefly considered climbing Mount Adams but decided that even though we had the time do so, chances were we would only see more clouds. My son had climbed Mount Madison so vigorously that we were two hours ahead of my worst-case schedule.

On the way down Valley Way I enthusiastically greeted someone named Carl and his wife. I only knew his name because everyone else greeted him by name and I followed suit, then let him know we didn’t know each other. The Rosenthals turned out to be pretty legendary AMC members and lovers of the White Mountains. I later talked to the group who greeted them and found out a bit of their history, including that his wife, Jadwiga, is one of the few people who have “red-lined” the White Mountains, or hiked every trail listed in the AMC White Mountains Guide. I was in awe and decided I would have a new goal once completing the New England 4000 Footers.

At Lower Bruin Trail we left Valley Way and made our way down to Brookside Trail. We did not see any other people for the rest of the hike and started to see a bit more of the local fauna.

A toad

A toad

Brookside Trail was a nice hike with a narrower trail and some interesting terrain and views of cascades. We stopped at one of the last brook crossings to eat some more sandwiches and my son took a nasty spill on the slippery rocks. He shook it off and was able to hike out despite a bruised knee. We got the the parking lot far earlier than I expected and were able to make an earlier boat back to the island.

I was utterly impressed by my son’s first 4000 Footer hike. He lead the entire way, was not stifled by the cloudy and cold summit and kept up a pace that even challenged me at times. Most importantly, we got to spend an evening and day together and he enjoyed himself.

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.
—Alfred Wainwright

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Stats:
Elevation: 5367′
Elevation Gain: 4100′
Distance: 8.4 miles
Book Time: 6:15
Actual Time: 7:00
Temperature: 48°
Wind: NW 35-50 mph
Weather: cloudy

References:
Appalachian Mountain Club Nature Notes.” outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 18 June 2014.
Dedicated Hikers Red-Line the Entire White Mountains Guide.” outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 18 June 2014.
Madison Spring Hut at Mt. Adams, NH.” outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 16 June 2014.
“White Birches Camping Park.” whitebirchescampingpark.com. Friend Communications, Inc. Web. 16 June 2014.