June 30, 2012

Madison and Adams

After the last minute change of plans on last week's hike, Katy and I were itching to reload and conquer Madison and Adams in short order. Mount Moosilauke was a great hike, but it felt like just a teaser compared to some of the other hikes we have left on our 4000 footer quest. Brian really enjoyed the trip up Moosilauke as well, and with his schedule clear for the summer months, he was up for coming with us again this week. With the weather forecast for today looking perfect, we made plans that were identical to last week's: Meet at the Park-And-Ride in Nashua at 6AM, and continue on together to hike Mount Madison and Mount Adams. We met as scheduled where Brian parked in the same parking spot as last week, we stopped at the same Dunkin Donuts, and we filled up our gas tank at the same gas station. It was deja vu, with just a lower chance of death by lightning. We made it to the overflowing Appalachia trailhead before 8:30AM with the skies clear, the temperature warm and rising, and the Presidential peaks looming above.

We began our ascent up the Air Line Trail with the goal of reaching Mount Adams' summit first. This trail was in good shape, but right from the start was relentless in it's steep grades. There's no free lunch when going up Mount Adams - every route requires at least 4500 feet of elevation gain to reach the top. We powered through this first section, though, and made it to the Alpine Zone in good time. The Air Line Trail is a fantastic route to take on clear days as there is a prolonged section above treeline with unbelievable views. Today was one of those days, with just a few fair weather clouds floating by and visibility for miles. We continued on up the "mini knife's edge" and soon could see the Madison Hut nearby to our left. The last mile or so of the final ascent up Adams' summit cone was probably the most difficult with the trail sporting large, jagged boulders that required careful footing and scrambling. In addition, the winds were whipping all day long above treeline, with the prediction of 35-50 mph winds appearing to be just about right. With care and concentration we tackled the boulders and eventually reached the top at about 11:30AM. The views from Adams are pretty cool, with Mount Washington dominating the southern landscape. We stopped for some pictures and some lunch before heading back down.

In order to get over to the summit of Madison, we had to backtrack for about a half mile before heading over to the Madison Hut. We stopped for another break to fuel up and just generally enjoy the day. It was nice to be sheltered from the wind for a bit before heading back out to tackle Madison. Just 0.4 miles from the hut, the summit of Mount Madison is about 400 feet shorter in elevation than Mount Adams, and is an easier ascent. The boulders were smaller and less jagged, the trail was smoother, and we navigated our way to the top without too much difficulty. Again we spent a fair amount of time at the peak, soaking in the views and the sun. A few snacks and ninja jumps later, we were backtracking our way back to the hut to begin our route back to the car.

We took Valley Way down from the Madison Hut, a generally smooth, sheltered, and well maintained trail. It was at this point that knees started to ache and joints started to stiffen, but we remained in good spirits through the "death march zone". I'm not sure I could say the same about the three croo members that we passed hauling supplies up to the Madison Hut, though. One guy and two girls, each with large wooden frames on their backs carrying probably about 50 lbs worth of gear passed us as we were going down. Thanks to them, hikers filling the hut tonight will be enjoying a complete turkey dinner! In any case, we arrived back at the car just after 4:00PM with a magnificent day on the Presidentials behind us. That's now 39 out of 48!

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