A successful failure – Mt Madison

Hikes, NH48, TripReport , , ,

Joel had an opportunity to head to the mountains so I did what I could to go along. Thank you to my kids and parents for tolerating my obsession. I made teh necessary arrangements and began the planning process.
We had no real objective except to get to the mountains. We invited a couple other folks and one was able to make it. One of the plans was to head up Mt Adams and visit the RMC huts along the way. One other was to head out to Owlshead, possibly using the Black Pond and Brutus bushwhacks. The three of us settled on Owlshead. On Friday, Jake informed us he wasn’t feeling well enough to make the trip. Owlshead is a long trip and best to be feeling well so it was a good decision for him to abort. Joel and I couldn’t nail down where we would go since we figured to save Owlshead for when Jake could make it too. We met up and would make the decision on the ride up north. After all the ideas we pushed around in previous days, we decided on a completely different route. We agreed on Mt Madison via the Daniel Webster-Scout Trail and down Osgood Trail to Great Gulf Link. We were aware of the weather being cloudy with light precipitation and winds in the 30mph range. We his the log in the Dolly Copp Campground just after 0900 and on trail about 0920.
There is construction occurring on the Daniel Webster-Scout Trail which requires a detour. We started going through the campground and were redirected by a construction worker(working on a Saturday on a park project?). We double backed a bit and followed detour signs along the cross country ski trail. A minor hiccup to our start, but we made it to the trail in short time.
The trail starts mildly and went quick. Some care was needed as there was heavy leaf coverage over the trail and rocks were slick and hidden. About 1.5 miles in the elevation gains at a quicker rate. I had to stop and rest a bit as I think I was pushing a quicker pace, likely to excited to be hiking. We adjusted layers as not to overheat. There is lots of decaying birches on this side of the hill and a few obstructions in the trail. The terrain varies a bit as we begin getting higher and trees change from birches to evergreens. The temps held just above freezing, but we could hear the wind in the trees above us. The clouds were low but we caught a few short views toward Gorham and Route 16.
We reached the alpine zone sign just before noon. The cloud ceiling varied and we caught views toward Howker Ridge. Shortly after we poked out of the scrub and onto the large talus rock. The trail is a bit steep but we didn’t realize this as much going up as we did coming down. The trail requires care to follow and catch the cairns along the way. It steers across the face a bit before turning up toward junction. We came across 3 gentleman making their retreat down. They had an attempt at a Presidential Traverse but aborted due to the inclement weather. They were on the look out for 3 others in their group, but we hadn’t seen them.
We carefully made our way to the junction of Daniel Webster-Scout Trail, Osgood Trail, and Parapet Trail. The winds were whipping, felt much higher than 30mph(later heard some sources suggest gusts up to 75mph). It took effort to keep your balance and each step required care. We hid behind a large cairn as best we could and bundled up. We were about .5 mile and 500 feet elevation below the summit. We decided to make the attempt to summit and pushed on into the wind.
Joel led up the next push, I followed, both slowly and methodically. I stopped a moment to asses and felt my toes starting to chill. The rest of me was doing well, which is odd for me. My hands were very happy in my Outdoor Research Mt Baker Mitts. I hesitated thinking about if we should push on. It was slow going. I progressed a bit more and saw Joel halt for a bit looking back. I think we both shared the same thought at the same time. We agreed to abort at this point(at just about 5000ft, summit at 5336ft)) after only about 50-75 yards more. We returned to the junction and confirmed we had approximately another hour to summit and return, even though it seemed just a short distance. The winds were much higher and the pelting freezing snow were much for this trip. After playing a bit in the awesome power of the winds, we chose to go down the the same way we ascended. Chose this as the conditions were known and suspected the Osgood would be exposed a bit longer to the winds and snow.
The descent down the upper section was slow going. The snow was only a frozen dusting on the rocks, which made it enough to slip but not really enough for spikes. After what seemed like hours, we made it back into the scrub and found some small shelter. We sat down, rested, and ate some lunch. After some grub, we made our way down, sometimes quick, sometimes slower depending on the trail. Hiking out, it seemed to linger on as we kept thinking we were approaching detour signs near the end. We finally reached the detour and onto the easy grade of the cross country ski trail. We made it back to the lot just before 16:30 after a great climb. We didn’t make the summit but tackling that terrain and weather, I’m pleased at what we did accomplish.

Two other cars at the Dolly Copp lot.
Two other cars at the Dolly Copp lot.
The reroute map at the campground.
The reroute map at the campground.
Follow these signs the trail
Follow these signs the trail
What's left of the rust folliage
What’s left of the rust folliage
A bit of way on the route to the XC ski trail
A bit of way on the route to the XC ski trail
Marching while thinking how exhausting XC skiing appears to be
Marching while thinking how exhausting XC skiing appears to be
It's a calm trail, maybe half mile, but seems longer
It’s a calm trail, maybe half mile, but seems longer
That trail section closed as of September 26th.  No indication of how long it will remain closed.
That trail section closed as of September 26th. No indication of how long it will remain closed.
The closed section
The closed section
The leaf covered rocks along the Daniel Webster-Scout trail
The leaf covered rocks along the Daniel Webster-Scout trail
The woodpeckers have been busy
The woodpeckers have been busy
Trail starts to steepen and the terrain changes
Trail starts to steepen and the terrain changes
Climbing around a brief split in the rocks
Climbing around a brief split in the rocks
A peek through the trees toward Rt16
A peek through the trees toward Rt16
Making our way under...
Making our way under…
...over...
…over…
...and around the trees
…and around the trees
Continuing up the rocky and rooty section below alpine zone
Continuing up the rocky and rooty section below alpine zone
Cruising along, sneaking a selfie, still smiles.
Cruising along, sneaking a selfie, still smiles.
A brief lookout toward Howker Ridge and Gorham
A brief lookout toward Howker Ridge and Gorham
The thick cloud wall in the distance.  Luckily that is going the other way
The thick cloud wall in the distance. Luckily that is going the other way
Joel taking in the sights.
Joel taking in the sights.
Joel assures me this sign says we've reached the alpine zone.  Stay off delicate vegetation
Joel assures me this sign says we’ve reached the alpine zone. Stay off delicate vegetation
An out of place boulder of marble
An out of place boulder of marble
This is Howker Ridge to the north of Mt Madison
This is Howker Ridge to the north of Mt Madison
The obligatory 'STOP' warning sign as we gain elevation and pop out of the scrub
The obligatory ‘STOP’ warning sign as we gain elevation and pop out of the scrub
It gets quite steep.  You can see Joel trying to follow the blue painted markers
It gets quite steep. You can see Joel trying to follow the blue painted markers
Still smiling, must be a good day.  It starts snowing and the wind has picked up a bit
Still smiling, must be a good day. It starts snowing and the wind has picked up a bit
The wind is curling over the ridge and swirling down onto us.  We navigate slowly to find the cairn lined trail
The wind is curling over the ridge and swirling down onto us. We navigate slowly to find the cairn lined trail
A few stretches with some snow, but mostly a dusting remains on the rocks from the winds
A few stretches with some snow, but mostly a dusting remains on the rocks from the winds
We reach the junction of Daniel Webster Scout Trail and Osgood Trail.  Decision time, to press on or no.
We reach the junction of Daniel Webster Scout Trail and Osgood Trail. Decision time, to press on or no.
We take a break and button up behind the large cairn, readying for the last push
We take a break and button up behind the large cairn, readying for the last push
A quick selfie in the high winds.  My hood wouldn't stay on and kept catching the wind choking me
A quick selfie in the high winds. My hood wouldn’t stay on and kept catching the wind choking me
Playing in the wind for a few after we decided to abort our ascent up the summit cone.  We made it up to about 5000' before turning back
Playing in the wind for a few after we decided to abort our ascent up the summit cone. We made it up to about 5000′ before turning back
Slow descent over the slick talus field.  The wind kept pushing you off balance
Slow descent over the slick talus field. The wind kept pushing you off balance
Mountain messaging.  Someone left a cryptic note on the ground held in place with a stick
Mountain messaging. Someone left a cryptic note on the ground held in place with a stick
Joel showing us all how to do the Stanky Leg
Joel showing us all how to do the Stanky Leg
I think he was tired of me stopping to snap shots of fungus.  Looked like moths gathered on a dead tree
I think he was tired of me stopping to snap shots of fungus. Looked like moths gathered on a dead tree
Back to the detour. Easy stroll back to the lot
Back to the detour. Easy stroll back to the lot
Returning to the lot at the end of our adventure
Returning to the lot at the end of our adventure

Still at 44 of 48

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