Friday, February 15, 2013

W48-in-1: Mt. Madison, Mt. Adams, & Mt. Jefferson - 2/10/13

It is amazing how quickly the weather can change, as just days before last weekend, and all of sudden three systems come together to form Blizzard Nemo.  Little did it care that I was planning a major weekend with a possible Presidential Traverse followed by a Wildcats to Moriah Traverse.  Then its Saturday afternoon, I'm still in MA shoveling out from 2 feet of snow! That left me with only Sunday for hiking.  My plan, well, maybe I could still do a Presi today? Obviously I was sort of doubtful, but I headed to Appalachia anyways, and I arrived around 4:30am.

When I pulled up, I was more crushed to find that it wasn't plowed at all.  What was I going to go? Hurry the hell up and start shoveling, of course! The snow was nice and light.  First, I shoveled two long arched paths, with one of them nicely snug just inside the boulders the outline the lot.  At the end of the arch, I pushed straight far enough to make a parallel spot along the boulders that outline the lot.  Then, I knocked the down the snow in between the arches I made, and for a bout a half hour used my shovel like a snow plow through the light snow until I had a nicely paved driveway right into my personal parking space.  It wasn't that bad, but I spent the extra time making sure that I shoveled all the space I needed to pull in and be able open the doors on the first time.  I never thought I would ever find myself shoveling out Appalachia - but that's twice now this winter I've had to do some shovelin'.
Shoveling a spot into the Appalachia parking lot
Appalachia Trail head 
Immediately as I got going up the Valley Way Trail, and especially after needing to shovel my way in, a Presi Traverse just wasn't happening.  Right away, I knew this was going to be shortened, so I shifted my focus to enjoying whatever I could, knowing it was still going to be a glorious day to get back to those Presi views.  The untouched snow ahead of me, at first by headlamp, was incredible.  I know I thought of turning back a couple of times, thinking what the heck was I doing.  It was amazing when I stopped for a second, and looked around me to see nothing else disturbed.  I looked down, and the snow covered everything up to my kneecaps.  Because it was such powder, it wrapped my legs and covered my snowshoes every time I stopped. 
Valley Way Trail in winter 
My fresh tracks in a foot of powder - brutal but so awesome
It was a beautiful morning as the sun came up.  It took me approximately five hours to reach the summit of Mt. Madison, at which point it was bright and sunny as came up to the summit.  The views from Madison to the east stretched forever, and the rest of the Northern Presi's loomed over nicely.

Unique drifts at the summit of Madison, just for me 
Mt. Washington & Mt. Adams from Madison
View east from Mt. Madison
Mt. Adams was impressive, as usual.  Although it was bright and sunny, it was freezing, requiring full coverage of the skin.  It was definitely cold for this hike, because my GoPro batteries had frozen dead before I could use them, so there was no footage taken on this hike.  The insulated hose on my new hydration bladder was also frozen, so I practically carried 2L of water for nothing.  Nothing was easy for me this day.
Approaching the summit of Mt. Adams 
Mt. Washington, Mt. Clay, & Mt. Jefferson from Mt. Adams 
Mt. Adams - 2nd Highest Peak in New England
As I got ready to leave from behind a rock on Adams, I checked the time and had a decision to make.  It was about 1:30pm.  Because I hurt my knee one time attempting a Presi in 2010, I didn't bag Jefferson, so getting Jefferson this time would be for my 3rd round, and getting it today would make getting the rest of the Presi's this winter much easier.  I would head to Jefferson, and then back to my car and call it day.

I kept my snowshoes on from start to finish on this hike. There was a ton of exposed rock, so I probably beat the heck out of my snow shoes on this one. In between Adams and Jefferson though, there were times where I sank in nearly up to my waist - even with my snowshoes on, so I felt most comfortable leaving them on.  I fell numerous times throughout the rest of the hike because of the varying ground conditions. 
Large cairn just below the summit 
Mt. Jefferson, 3rd Round 
Mt. Washington from Mt. Jefferson 
The Carter-Wildcat Range (which I still need to traverse this season)
I made sure to stay a few moments longer this time on Jefferson, since it wasn't as cold as last February, and it wasn't at 4am in the morning on a moonlight Presi.  The views were amazing.  The way back was slow too.  I was starting to get tired more quickly now, after what I had endured so far.  In both directions, this snowfield you see below was one particular area I had to exercise extreme caution.  It was pretty hard snow, and sort of dicey to maneuver in snow shoes, but it went well (and thankfully wasn't one of the locations where I fell).  After I had gotten back over towards Adams, I strayed left a little bit making use of areas with more snow cover to walk at better pace.  I took in a nice close-up view of King Ravine.
Snowfield near Mt. Jefferson; Gulfside Trail in winter 
King Ravine, Mt. Adams
At the end of the day, I arrived back at the car with a slither of light remaining - perfect.  I felt pretty good after finishing this one.  It was awesome to get back up to the big peaks again, and I liked that I was able to focus on just the three peaks.  The epic trail breaking along with the ground conditions really threw a good challenge my way (along with epic soreness for the next few days!)

Hike Stats
Trails: Valley Way Trail, Osgood Trail, Gulfside Trail, Airline Trail, Jefferson Loop
Distance: 15.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 6,400 ft.
Actual Book Time: 12:20

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