Sunday, July 9, 2017

Mt. Madison & Mt. Adams - #42, #43 & #1

Lots of numbers to consider on this trip.  This was a 2-day trip with our having reached the summit of Mt. Madison on the first day.  Madison was #42 of the 48-4,000' summits in NH that we've accomplished thus far.  That night we stayed at the Madison Spring Hut, our first ever hut stay (#1).  The following morning we hiked to Mt. Adams, the second highest summit in the Whites for #43.  

Hike Stats & Info
Distance:  Day 1: 4.9 miles -- Day 2: 5.2 miles
Elevation Gain:  Day 1: 4,117' -- Day 2:  1,075' (then 4,550' of descent)
Total Duration:  Day 1: 3.5 hrs to hut + 1.5 hrs hut-->summit-->hut -- Day 2: 6 hrs.
Trails Used:  Valley Way, Osgood, Gulfside, Airline
Difficulty:  Challenging
Water Availability:  Sporadic minor flows along Valley Way that may not be dependable, plenty of potable water at hut, Airline very dry with a few water crossings within a mile or so from the trailhead.
Directions to Trailhead:  From the intersection of Rte 2 & 16 in Gorham, NH, follow Rte 2 West for 6.7 miles.  Trailhead parking lot (and much needed roadside parking) are on the left.  Easy to find.

About this hike:  Many accomplish these two peaks in a single day but that would amount to nearly 5,200' of elevation gain over a distance of just over 10 miles if using the same route we chose.  My old knees and hips would find that difficult so a hut stay was the answer for us.  Staying at the Madison Sprint Hut made this an extremely doable hike.  For the last year or more we sweated about doing these two summits but the hut made it much easier.

This was our first ever hut stay and I found that the AMC does a great job.  The Madison Spring Hut was reconstructed in 2011 and I'm told the bunk rooms here are much more comfortable than some of the older huts.  

One thing I had not planned for was just how cold it would be at night.  Outside temps fell to the lower 40's and there's no heat in the hut, in particular the bunk rooms.  Even before hitting the sack it would have been nice to have long pajamas or some other form of pants as it was rather cold.  I had nothing but shorts with me.  Once in bed however the three wool blankets provided with the bunk kept me comfortable.  

Speaking of pants, I probably made a rookie mistake by not carrying either pants to hike in or rain pants.  We lucked out on the weather but with Mt. Adams being the second highest peak in the Whites, I should have carried some sort of leg cover (zip-offs, rain pants or long johns).

There are many horror stories out there about sleeping in hut bunk rooms, particularly with those who snore loudly.  My wife is a light sleeper so she was worried about being kept awake by those snoring or moving about.  She did some research and bought us each a Sleepphone headband ($39.95).  Purchase some looping white noise, hookup your iPod, go to sleep.  These are wonderful!  Yes, you can accomplish the same thing with ear buds but I find that they are not comfortable and I need to deal with the cables all night.  With the Sleepphones I wrapped the cable around the headband several times and I also clipped my iPod directly to the headband.  It was perfect.  Bluetooth models are also available for more denaros.

Food is plentiful at mealtimes at the hut with breakfast (7:00 am) and dinner (6:00 pm) served family style.  Not only was it plentiful, it was rather tasty extremely tasty!  They try to accommodate food allergies but, my wife being a Celiac, struggled with all the family style dishes passing her by and having to miss several of the courses.  And, when they made a special plate for her they erred and put something in it that made her ill (though not extremely so).  We think it may have been their use of a non-gluten free soy sauce.  Other than that our hut stay was a great experience and we will do it again.

As to the hike itself, I think the photos below will speak for themselves:

 Having just started, we seem so happy and energetic.  

 As we near the end of the Valley Way Trail and are approaching the junction near the hut, we were treated to several nice views of Mt. Madison.  In this photo I find the clouds outlining the profile of the summit somewhat unique.

 Black pine cones abound as we reach the edge of the treeline.  Why are they black I ask?

 Our first views of the Madison Sprint Hut, our home for tonight.

 Simply a pretty shot of the valley below. I love the shadows caused by the clouds.

 Here you can see Mount Washington and the auto road (thin lite line).  The annual auto race to the summit was being held today and we could hear the cars shifting and rev'ing as they wound their way up the mountain.  Travis Pastrana set the record (again) at 5 minutes, 45 seconds!  If you want a thrill, watch this YouTube video of his run. 

 Clearly happy to have reached our summit #42 of 48.

 This photo is from the following morning as we head towards Mt. Adams.

 The tiny prick punched marker representing the summit of Mt. Adams.  A similar marker exists at Mt. Madison.

 Now happy to have reached #43.

 Yes, you can text from the summit of the second highest peak in NH.

 Mt. Madison is "this big."

 This is the pace slowing minefield of rocks one must traverse to reach both summits.  The young'ns zoom right up this stuff but we need to pick and choose every step as well as trekking pole placement.  We are really slow on this terrain.

 Approaching the cone of Mt. Adams.

 As we climb towards Adams we look back at the hut and Mt. Madison.

 King Ravine sits on the RH side of this image and the spine on the left is the route the Airline Trail takes for our descent.  I am afraid of heights (go figure) so there were parts of this trail that were giving me the willies.

 This is one of those sections that I was less than comfortable with; the narrow dirt path with severe drops on the right.  For most this is a cake walk but I literally stopped, took a few deep breaths and crossed it as fast as I could.  Again, most would be perfectly fine here.

This is the sign marking the turn to go down the King Ravine Trail.  Not a trail for me. 

Just an interesting shot as we leave the area above treeline and reenter the woods.