Friday, January 5, 2024
HomeHikingClimbing Mt Adams and Mt Madison in December and January

Climbing Mt Adams and Mt Madison in December and January

Mt Jefferson seen from Mt Adams

Mt Adams (5774′) and Mt Madison (5367′) are the second highest and fifth highest 4 thousand footers within the White Mountains. They’re normally hiked collectively on the identical day as a result of they’re adjoining on the northernmost finish of the Presidential Vary.

Climbing Adams and Madison is a troublesome day in any climate, however it may be downright brutal in winter situations when it’s a must to carry additional clothes, traction aids, snowshoes, meals, and scorching ingesting water up each peaks, the latter to forestall it from freezing throughout the day. Face safety is commonly required to forestall frostbite, and visibility will be poor resulting from low clouds, freezing fog, or blowing snow, making it troublesome to comply with the paths resulting in the summits There are completely different routes one can take to climb each peaks, however basically, you’re taking a look at a 10-mile day with near 5000′ of elevation acquire.

Mt Madison in December
Mt Madison in December

I climbed each Adams and Madison final December (’23) and this January (’24) precisely one month aside. In December, I used to be accompanied by my associates Lynn and Barbara, and by my buddy Tom in January. All of them are very skilled winter hikers and folks I belief to hike with above treeline in winter. Like me, they’re additionally engaged on the White Mountain 4000 Footer Grid, which requires climbing all 48 White Mountain 4 thousand footers in every calendar month of the 12 months (normally over a number of years.) It takes quite a lot of perseverance and willpower to finish this peak-bagging checklist though it’s very rewarding as a result of you may grow to be associates with so many great individuals.

The climate on each of those journeys was wintery however very completely different. In December, we encountered deep snow above-treeline which required carrying snowshoes to climb each peaks. Nevertheless, that snow was washed away in January by a serious rainstorm, inflicting main flooding within the surrounding ravines and valleys, leaving only a dusting of snow and ice on the paths. Whereas counterintuitive, January’s path situations had been tougher than December’s, particularly on the boulder-strewn summit cones of each peaks, for the reason that voids between the rocks which can be usually crammed with snow had been now naked, whereas the rocks themselves had been lined in ice.

We’d stripped down to our baselayers for the climb up to treeline.
We’d stripped right down to our baselayers for the climb as much as treeline.

The December Climb

Barbara, Lynn, and I climbed Adams and Madison on December 2, which is technically nonetheless autumn not winter, regardless of the winter situations we encountered. We met at 8:00 am on the Appalachia Trailhead on RT 2 outdoors of Randolph, NH, and hiked as much as the AMC’s Madison Hut, which is positioned simply above treeeline, in 4 hours. The Madison Hut is closed in winter however supplies a great place to shelter out of the wind, have a snack, drink some water, regulate your clothes, and regroup for the subsequent part of the hike.

We’d hiked as much as the hut by means of a number of inches of moist, however packable snow, carrying path crampons for traction, however switched to snowshoes from that time on, as a result of there was 1-2 ft of powder above treeline and we would have liked the additional flotation. From the hut, we headed as much as Adams within the Guldside Path so as to strategy the summit from the north aspect, the place the gradient is extra gradual.

While closed, the Madison Hut sill provides a good windbreak and rally point.
Whereas closed, the Madison Hut sill supplies a great windbreak and rally level.

Whereas it’d been clear on the hut, the clouds closed in overhead as we climbed the Gulfside path. We’d agreed beforehand to hike as much as Thunderstorm Junction and comply with Lowes Path to the summit, however we had bother following the Gulfside as a result of poor visibility. I used to be nearly to succeed in for my compass when three hikers appeared on our left, descending Adams. They turned out to be associates (it’s a small world above treeline) and so they’d damaged out a path to the summit that we might simply make out within the fog.

It had began snowing closely at this level, however we began up the trail they’d made, following their packed prints. Sadly, Barbara had hit the wall at this level and was bonking and actually slowing us down. I’ve been there and I’m very sympathetic. However I wasn’t going to depart her and climb the remaining 200′ of elevation to the summit with out her. I understand how heartbreaking it could have been for her to climb all this manner with out summitting. So I inspired her to proceed, nevertheless slowly, all of the whereas questioning if the snow would obscure the broken-out snowshoe tracks forward of us or if they’d be lined by snow after we tried to descend. Lynn, within the meantime, was climbing steadily and I needed to rein her in in order that we might all maintain one another in sight.

Barbara’s Orange Hat made her easier to see in the fog.
Barbara’s Orange Hat made her simpler to see within the fog.

All of us summited, touched the summit signal, after which bolted instantly again down the best way we’d come. I might barely make out our snowshoe observe, however I knew the place I used to be, I had two forms of navigation aides (compass, GPS App) so I wasn’t frightened about getting off the height again right down to the Gulfside Path, or the hut.

Gravity is my buddy and we had been quickly again on the hut the place we drank water, ate some meals, and agreed to climb Madison. I all the time prefer to get Adams first on these hikes as a result of it’s the one you don’t need to go away behind in the event you determine to bail partway by means of the journey. Madison is a a lot simpler peak to climb and it’s one I’d really feel completely snug soloing if want be, in contrast to Adams.

Lynn at the summit of Mt Madison
Lynn on the summit of Mt Madison

We had been all drained, however the ultimate ascent up Madison was easy, partly as a result of the cairns on the Osgood Path are a lot simpler to comply with. There’s no path on these summits to talk of, only a line of cairns to comply with as you rock hop up on snowshoes to the summit. That was clouded over too, however we’d made it. From then we simply needed to hike again down the the trailhead following the slushy Valley Approach Trailhead in the dead of night again to the trailhead.

The January Climb

Tom and I climbed Adams and Madison a month afterward January 2 in drastically completely different situations. This time we had a sunny day, temperatures within the low 20’s, however a brisk wind. The forecast had referred to as for wind speeds of 25-30 mph with gusts as excessive as 40 mph, however it was on the excessive finish of that vary and pushed us round after we tried to stroll above treeline. We additionally needed to placed on face safety to forestall frostbite.

Tom at the treeline warning sign just below Madison hut.
Tom on the treeline warning signal slightly below Madison hut.

We began at 8:00 and hiked up the Valley Approach Path which was naked earth decrease down, icy at its midpoint, with packed snow slightly below treeline. We placed on Path Crampons round 2000′ and saved them on the remainder of the day. Circumstances above treeline had been such that snowshoes weren’t required on this hike, due to the huge rainstorm and thaw that had occurred all through the Whites, per week prior. Mountaineering snowshoes weigh 4-5 kilos per pair, so I used to be wanting to climb Adams and Madison in situations the place I didn’t have to hold all of them day.

We bought to the hut after 3 hours of climbing and had a snack earlier than continuing up the Gulfside Path to the north aspect of Adams. Tom needed to hike up Lowes Path from Thunderstorm Junction as an alternative of following the Airline Path as a result of he was involved it’d be too bony. The ascent to the summit of Adams alongside Lowes path is shorter and requires much less climbing so I used to be recreation. However, following the Gulfside Path was a bit difficult as a result of there have been quite a lot of hidden voids amongst the rocks that make up the path. Tom’s glacier lessons had been additionally fogging up, so he let me lead and adopted shut behind.

Tom, a short distance from the summit of Mt Adams
Tom, a brief distance from the summit of Mt Adams

Following Lowes Path to the summit was okay, however in hindsight, the Airline Path would have been higher. Lowes required quite a lot of icy boulder hopping and there have been many voids between the rocks to keep away from. Nonetheless we submitted after which beat feat, following the Airline Path down. It was certainly packed out properly and a a lot sooner descent. we vectored over to the Gulfside Path once more on the best way down Adams, a standard shortcut, and descended to the hut to regroup.

After some foods and drinks, we slowly climbed to the Madison summit which is only some hundred ft above the hut. The wind on the high was very pushy, even worse than on Adams, however we touched the summit cairn and instantly headed down. From the hut we hiked again right down to the trailhead, in simply 2 hours, making it again down earlier than sundown.

The giant cairn at Thunderstorm Junction is a major trail junction along the Gulfside Trail.
The large cairn at Thunderstorm Junction is a serious path junction alongside the Gulfside Path.

Wrap Up

These two hikes had been a serious milestone for me as a result of they had been the eleventh and twelfth calendar months that I’ve climbed Adams and Madison for The Grid, which suggests I’m accomplished with them. That may be a massive reduction as a result of “gridding out” Adams is arguably the toughest peak to hike in every calendar month of the 12 months. I nonetheless have just a few difficult hikes to finish this month, however they’re all simpler and barely much less weather-dependent than Adams.

Mt Adams is a beast to climb in winter.
Mt Adams is a beast to climb in winter.

I need to thank my associates for coming with me on these hikes. Whereas it’s true they “wanted” them as effectively for his or her Grids, good mountaineering companions a tough to search out, and I’m blessed to have them as my companions.


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