Mt Madison, Take 2

Hikes, NH48, TripReport , , , ,

The sun was shining, or, at least will be.  I finally got a day of nice weather.  After hitting snooze a couple times, I got up and packed the car and headed north.  As usual, I grabbed a coffee for the ride and hit the open road.  The typical drive, 293 to 93 to 3 to 115 to 2.  The route numbers aren’t needed any longer as I’ve done this a few times before.
I made it to the Appalachia trail head just after 0800 and on trail by 0830.  Following the previous weeks thwarted attempt, I chose a mild trail up and back.  I don’t particularly enjoy out and back trips but I wanted to ensure I made it, and possibly enough to grab Mt Adams if time and energy allows.  The pasta bowl of trails in this area offer many options, but I chose Valley Way trail up to the Madison Springs hut.
I hit the trail quick and cruised by the junctions and falls just through the trees. I was making good time but with the temps hovering near 32 I was sweating up a bit and decided to slow down to keep a bit dryer. The trail was in great shape. There was some frost and speckled ice here and there, but not much. It increased with elevation and there were eventually a couple stretches of ice. I opted to navigate slowly or go around them instead of strapping on the Hillsounds.
After reaching near 3300-3500 feet the winds were really zipping through the treetops. The temps were cold and I actually considering turning back. After debating for a moment, I glanced at the clear blue sky and realized I wouldn’t get too many clear days like this. I layered up, something I’ve continue to work on getting right. Instead of my down EMS puffy, I opted for a second sweater and an outer shell. This worked well the week before and turned out well again this trip. Once I reached the quarter mile sign to the hut, I put on my OR mitts and readied to break out of the trees.
I am constantly fighting to keep my fingers and toes warm, even on 40-50 degree days. I’ve loosened up my feet with thinner socks. Instead of a thicker mountaineering sock, I now use a thin Injini toe sock and a medium weight EMS hiker. This seems to allow my toes to move better and have proven warmer so far. Though still not perfect, I’m still searching for that product or method to warm toes _after_ they are in the boot. It seems there are layering options for everything but feet. I want to be able to warm or protect my toes without having to take my boots off and use a heat pack. I’m more than pleased with my OR Mt Baker mitts with liners which have performed well for my hands.
I reach the hut which is boarded up and serene, standing strong the winds. Glances up to the right is the summit of John Quincy Adams. It blocks the view to the bigger Mt Adams summit. I didn’t waste time at the hut yet, as I wanted push up to get the summit before Mother Nature changed her mind. I turned up Osgood Trail, which is the Appalachian Trail. Once I poked above the scrub onto the rocks the full force of the wind made its presence known. It reached under my hat and nearly pulled it from my head. I stopped to dig out my second hat, a ski hat with ties. I put it over and cinched it under my chin. It may not have looked the best, but I’m not here to impress anyone but myself.
The stretch of Osgood up this side of Madison wasn’t too bad. It is larger boulders marred from ice in the harsh winters. The trail was easy to follow with tall cairns lining the way. The clear weather also allowed for easy navigation. I continued up and over the ridge to the southeast side. It was sheltered just enough to get a break from the winds. I suspect they were sustaining 30-40MPH and gusting above. Once on this side, I took the opportunity for photos and take a drink. I could see the ridge above leading to the summit. It wasn’t far, but with the wind and the footing, I took it slow.
Once again up on top of the ridge to the summit, there were a couple of tricky steps which required care as the wind tossed me around. I fell to the ground couple times when the wind pushed me off balance. The views at the top seemed endless. I would have stayed up there for lunch but the wind brought cold air and it was quickly becoming uncomfortable. After many pics, I started my way down. Once back off the ridge sheltered from the wind a bit, I rested again before continuing down. Again the footing is not bad but the wind kept it interesting.
I made it back to the hut where a couple other guys had just come from Mt Adams. They were enjoying lunch debating to summit Mt Madison. After a brief chat, they headed up Madison and I sat for lunch. It didn’t take long for me to get some company for lunch. A small red squirrel approached me, fearless, much the same as the gray jays. I might have dropped some granola on the ground and he was more than pleased to grab it and chow down.
I considered heading up Mt Adams on such a fine day, but figured my toes were not going to cooperate as they were still chilled from heading up Madison. Decided to save my present nemesis, Mt Adams, for another trip. I’d like to roll that trip into one that I can visit some of the RMC shelters as I’ve not yet seen them.
I wrapped up lunch and took a few more photos as one can never take enough photos while up there on a good day. I started my way back down the way I came up, Valley Way trail. I felt good starting down and was moving rather quickly. I felt sure of my steps and didn’t feel my usual ‘jelly legs’ during the descent. I was bounding step to step all the while chatting in my head how great I was. I started giving myself names…”Sure-footed one”, “The Great Descender”, I settled on simply “The Descender”. Now that I had my super hero name, I was thinking of how some folks complain about the descent while I actually like descending more than the ascent. It wasn’t long before all this greatness stopped short. I reached the first stretch of ice, bouncing from tiny rock islands peaking through the ice. Grabbing trees on the way by.
In an instant I was reminded that I was nothing special, less than normal. One foot slipped and I got caught with my weight on my heel. One foot went out but my other foot saved me, but, that one quickly went zoom. I had somehow grabbed hold of a branch of maybe 1/4 inch thick. As I started to fall forward I grasped it for the life of me, my feet out behind me. My left hand nowhere to be found. As my right hand held the branch and that branch held strong, I swung like a pendulum down to the ground. With much luck, my face bounced off the side of the trail into some duff next to a small tree trunk.
I stopped for a moment, and slowly propped myself up on a rock seat. I assessed myself to see what hurt and why. I had banged both knees, one on the ice, one on a rock, that knee now bleeding. I wiped my face several times expecting to see blood, but none, not even a scratch, thanks to landing in some duff. My neck was sore, I think I bent it suddenly on impact. I cannot believe I was not hurt more. I slowly got up, brushed myself off. I started my descent, ashamed, humbled.
I made my way down by the Valley Way tent site. I went on the spur trail to check out the sites. They were set up nicely cut into the hill. There was an outhouse and a couple fire pits. The trees looked descent possibly for hammock sites. The sites deeper in were covered in animal tracks. There was enough melt to make identification impossible, but enough to note.
The rest of the descent went well and primarily uneventful. I made it back to the lot and there were a few more cars there. Not as many as I expected, though. I changed up and hit the road. I caught a few photos along the road. As I was driving, I turned around to get a nice backdrop to an equestrian home. A bit further I caught the snow capped peak in my rear view, worthy of a snap.
Aside from my slip, the whole day was very nice. The clear skies and mostly easy trail were welcomed.

That first glimpse of Cannon gets me every time
That first glimpse of Cannon gets me every time
Madison Springs Hut is closed, but the skies are bright and the trails mostly clear.
Madison Springs Hut is closed, but the skies are bright and the trails mostly clear.
Pretty scary sign.  All precautions are taken.  My pack weight proves it.
Pretty scary sign. All precautions are taken. My pack weight proves it.
Decision time, right to Airline Trail, left to Valley Way.  It's left this time.  Will do Airline again, but will bring someone along for moral support
Decision time, right to Airline Trail, left to Valley Way. It’s left this time. Will do Airline again, but will bring someone along for moral support
A few early trail junctions and then starts to climb
A few early trail junctions and then starts to climb
The foliage has successfully settled to the forest floor
The foliage has successfully settled to the forest floor
A dip in the trail through a stream.  Trail crews did I nice job marking up the slab to help with traction
A dip in the trail through a stream. Trail crews did I nice job marking up the slab to help with traction
2.4 miles in, the junctions ever present.  The trail is in decent condition
2.4 miles in, the junctions ever present. The trail is in decent condition
The tent site is about 100 yards in.  I stopped in on the way down
The tent site is about 100 yards in. I stopped in on the way down
A bit of snow sticks around where the trail is protected from the sun and elevations keep it cool
A bit of snow sticks around where the trail is protected from the sun and elevations keep it cool
A final warning before breaking out of the trees
A final warning before breaking out of the trees
A peek at the false summit of Mt Madison
A peek at the false summit of Mt Madison
Madison Springs Hut nestled in the col between Mt Madison and the Mt Adams family (*snap snap*)
Madison Springs Hut nestled in the col between Mt Madison and the Mt Adams family (*snap snap*)
The sky is clear.  The only weather event to be concerned with is the winds, guessed sustaining 30-40 mph
The sky is clear. The only weather event to be concerned with is the winds, guessed sustaining 30-40 mph
A peek up at John Quincy Adams summit.  One of 5 summits around Mt Adams
A peek up at John Quincy Adams summit. One of 5 summits around Mt Adams
The hut is closed for the winter.  I bypass rather quickly, will stop back a bit later.  I've work to do
The hut is closed for the winter. I bypass rather quickly, will stop back a bit later. I’ve work to do
Can you spot the cairns showing the way?  They were tall and well built.  If the trail crew ever needed work, I'm sure a masonry company would hire them
Can you spot the cairns showing the way? They were tall and well built. If the trail crew ever needed work, I’m sure a masonry company would hire them
Catching some great views nearing the summit.  Looking at the Carter-Moriah Range.  The center cut in the range is Carter Notch.  Left (north) of the notch are the Carters, Mt Hight and Mt Moriah.  Right (south) of the notch are the Wildcats.  You can see they've started blowing snow on the trails.
Catching some great views nearing the summit. Looking at the Carter-Moriah Range. The center cut in the range is Carter Notch. Left (north) of the notch are the Carters, Mt Hight and Mt Moriah. Right (south) of the notch are the Wildcats. You can see they’ve started blowing snow on the trails.
Approaching the summit ridge.  Amazingly tall and robust cairns.  They stood strong in the winds, unlike me.
Approaching the summit ridge. Amazingly tall and robust cairns. They stood strong in the winds, unlike me.
The official summit is around here somewhere.  I looked down Watson Path, looked a bit steep and gnarly.
The official summit is around here somewhere. I looked down Watson Path, looked a bit steep and gnarly.
Howker Ridge Trail looks like it might be a nice summer route.
Howker Ridge Trail looks like it might be a nice summer route.
Mt Washington standing tall over my right shoulder and Mt Adams over my left.  The shiny stripes on Mt W is the snow covered auto road.
Mt Washington standing tall over my right shoulder and Mt Adams over my left. The shiny stripes on Mt W is the snow covered auto road.
Facing north west (I believe) back over Route 2.  Views of the Pliny Range including Mt Starr King and Mt Waumbek
Facing north west (I believe) back over Route 2. Views of the Pliny Range including Mt Starr King and Mt Waumbek
A rare shot of Mt Washington without a cloud nearby
A rare shot of Mt Washington without a cloud nearby
Mt W, Mt Adams in view showing the vast Great Gulf between them.  In the foreground, the plateau on the right is a frozen Star Lake
Mt W, Mt Adams in view showing the vast Great Gulf between them. In the foreground, the plateau on the right is a frozen Star Lake
The bright sun was only able to bring the temps up to 30-32F.  Still a welcomed hiking companion
The bright sun was only able to bring the temps up to 30-32F. Still a welcomed hiking companion
The tiny Madison Spring Hut tucked in the col.  The near ridge is the Airline Trail atop the Durand Ridge.  The far ridge is the Nowell Ridge.  Between the two ridges lay King Ravine
The tiny Madison Spring Hut tucked in the col. The near ridge is the Airline Trail atop the Durand Ridge. The far ridge is the Nowell Ridge. Between the two ridges lay King Ravine
Glancing up the pile of rocks from the side of the hut
Glancing up the pile of rocks from the side of the hut
Gazing out toward the Pliny Range
Gazing out toward the Pliny Range
Another long range view toward the Pliny range
Another long range view toward the Pliny range
My lunch date.  He wasn't shy and grateful for the granola I dropped(oops).
My lunch date. He wasn’t shy and grateful for the granola I dropped(oops).
A loose gate under the hut.  Suppose if the snow/ice buildup was mild, one could find emergency shelter under here.
A loose gate under the hut. Suppose if the snow/ice buildup was mild, one could find emergency shelter under here.
Near the benches at the hut, a granite compass rose
Near the benches at the hut, a granite compass rose
Starting to retreat down Valley Way.  Another shot of that Pliny Range
Starting to retreat down Valley Way. Another shot of that Pliny Range
Ok, maybe one more toward Pliny Range, since I'm facing that way
Ok, maybe one more toward Pliny Range, since I’m facing that way
3.8 miles to the parking lot.  Not a bad way to end the hike.
3.8 miles to the parking lot. Not a bad way to end the hike.
I believe this is looking north toward the town of Berlin
I believe this is looking north toward the town of Berlin
Some notes on how to avoid bear troubles at the Valley Way tentsite
Some notes on how to avoid bear troubles at the Valley Way tentsite
The basic rules and warnings of the tentsite
The basic rules and warnings of the tentsite
Outhouse at the tentsite
Outhouse at the tentsite
Some trail maintainers left their tools behind.
Some trail maintainers left their tools behind.
Approaching the lot, but first must go under the high power lines and cross the rail bed
Approaching the lot, but first must go under the high power lines and cross the rail bed
The lot has a few more cars in it now
The lot has a few more cars in it now
This equestrian home has some great views
This equestrian home has some great views
I bid farewell to the mountains, From Route 2
I bid farewell to the mountains, From Route 2

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