Peaks: Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Adams, Mt. Madison
Trails: Caps Ridge Trail, Jefferson Loop, Gulfside, Israel Ridge Path, Airline, Osgood Trail, Howker Ridge Trail
Mileage/time: 10.4 miles, 4600 feet of gain, book time of 7:33, actual time of 11:10
The turning tail and retreating of last week, turned into another completion and set of check marks today. Mike and I had discussed how we would attack the Northern Presidentials, and initially, a loop was planned. Then the realization set in, that with two cars we didn't need to do a loop, and Jefferson Notch Road was still open. Challenge accepted. We were going to start at Randolph East as it was, so we just switched it around and started from Caps Ridge instead. I had a Plan B in case Howker Ridge was deemed unfit for descent, and I'll admit, it was a ridiculous/self-indulgent redlining extravaganza, but another time.
Our meet time was set for 6am, and Mike and I are finding out that meet times don't mean anything. I pulled into Randolph East at about 5:15, and just as I got my boots on, Mike pulled in, having gone down the road a piece before turning around and finding the lot (which isn't marked). We both suited up, and hopped in Mike's truck to head up to Jefferson Notch. The gate was still open, so up we went. The road is still in halfway decent shape, though there was a dusting of snow above about 2300 feet, making the driving interesting enough that Mike put on his 4WD. I made the comment that this would be interesting in the afternoon, in my front wheel drive car!
So, it came to pass, that at 6:15, we started up Caps Ridge Trail. This was a trail I've long had on my list of trails to come back and conquer, since I turned back on it in October of 2010, under heavy winds and hail. Good thing I started redlining! We started up through the woods, here dominated by thick evergreens, coated in a gossamer thin layer of snow. Every time we'd look around, there would be thousands of pinpoint reflections off of the snow crystals, and in the silence of the early morning, it was pretty magical. Soon we reached the view ledge, and got a glimpse of what we had to climb, a view I'd been witness to before.
|The southern Presidential ridge|
|Nearing the bottom of the first Cap|
|Castle Ridge to the right|
After clearing the Caps, it was a stiff, but beautiful, climb to the summit. I was surprised that there had been barely any wind up to this point, especially since we were so exposed to the prevailing westerly flow. No sooner did I think that, the wind picked up, not especially strong, but enough to be noticed. We then crested the summit, and took in the views.
|Adams from Jefferson|
|Washington and Clay from Jefferson|
|West view towards Mt. Dartmouth and Mt. Deception|
|Mike negotiating the Jefferson snowfield|
|The trail-less Jefferson Ravine|
|Looking up towards Adams V near Edmands Col|
Some food, and further layering later, we started up towards Adams. We soon ran into a group of five, were these the folks who had camped out last night? We never did find out, as they passed without stopping, the lead guy saying "hey boys" to us on the way by. They all looked to be having a good time. The climb to Adams passed uneventfully, with more feathery, rime covered rocks and things to catch my interest. The summit of Adams presented the strongest winds we'd experienced all day, with Mt. Washington recording gusts to 60 MPH from about 10:30am onward, and we were on Adams at about 11:15.
|Madison from Adams|
From Adams, our descent became rickety. We both realized early on, after putting on our microspikes, that they were dulled to the point of being nearly useless. This made the descent off the cone of Adams tricky, not to mention the rocks we had to negotiate. We made our way cautiously down to Madison Hut, and took a break in the sun on the east side of the hut, out of the wind. I'll always know where I was at 12:12pm on 12/12/12, at 4800 feet in the Madison/Adams col, hard to forget a setting like that.
Coming down from Adams, I made mentioned to Mike about my backup plan for descent, and how I wasn't sure about Howker Ridge. He left it up to me to decide, he was fine with either. After our break, we layered back up, and tackled Madison. About halfway up, I decided to give Howker Ridge a go, as I didn't feel like descending this portion of Osgood Trail with the ice and snow sitting the way it was. Decisions, decisions. Then we hit Madison, and the views continued to be fantastic.
|Mt. Hight, Carter Dome, Carter Notch, and Wildcat A from Madison|
|The Mahoosuc Range from Madison|
Needless to say, our descent was treacherous at best, and we didn't end up taking off our microspikes until about 3/4 of a mile from the car. We also came out in the dark, such is life this time of year.
|Looking down Howker Ridge|
|Deceptive trail in a col between a couple of the "Howks"|
|Looking back towards Madison|
After retrieving Mike's truck from Jefferson Notch (my car handled the road like a champ), we went looking for food. Cabin Fever was closed for some reason, so we went looking further towards Conway, and ended up at a pizza joint across from Attitash (I can't remember the name), where we gorged ourselves on pizza. A great way to spend the twelfth day of the twelfth month, of the twelfth year.