Mounts Adams and Madison
5799 feet and 5366 feet
- Date: July 2-4, 2011
- Trail: Mt. Adams: Valley Way to Gulfside Trail to Thunderstorm Junction to Lowe's Path to summit. Mt. Madison: From Madison Spring Hut, Osgood Trail to summit.
- Total hiking time: Day 1: 7 hours, Day 2: 4.5, Day 3: 6 hours
- Weather: Day 1: Bright sun and moderate temps. Day 2: Cool and overcast, heavy storm midday with rain and sleet. Day 3: Clear and bright.
"Even as the celebratory summit picture was taken, two probing cloud hands reached over Mt. Washington and hurled the dense storm clouds over the summit and towards us. We ratcheted up the urgency significantly and began a hasty descent! "
Read more about Randy's thoughts on this trip here.
On Saturday, Juy 2nd at 7:00 AM, the eight members of our party met at the trailhead in bright sun and moderately warm temps. We packed up quickly and had a brief talk before hitting the trail. Trail leaders laid out plans for minimizing the pack-off stops that force Randy to reorient upon starting up again (a fatiguing effort). Finally, we divvied up tasks for the trip ahead, including tracking trails, maps and waypoints; tracking time for reminders like water for everyone (including Quinn), food, etc; human guides, Quinn handlers, trail finders (point) and sweepers (back).
We set off up the trail by about 7:15am. We traveled quickly over the first couple of miles, enjoying very good forest-floor terrain with minimal rocks and a steady but reasonable incline. By around 2 miles the incline began to increase and the terrain changed to tumbled, uneven rock. Randy switched to a human guide (Rob) and continued while another party member saw to Quinn.
The trail continued to be challenging in both terrain and incline up to Madison Spring Hut. We arrived at the hut at 12:30pm, a little more than 5 hours after starting out. Over a brief lunch we discussed whether to summit Madison that day, or to attempt Adams instead. We decided on the conservative choice (Madison) because we were unsure we could make the Adams summit and back before hut dinner, and because we wanted to get a sense of the Adams terrain by hiking the similar terrain of Madison.
We decided to summit Madison with minimal packs - most of the party brought only water, snacks and a jacket, while two party members shouldered fuller packs with emergency gear and other provisions. Randy traveled with a human guide (Kyle) and we summitted significantly faster than expected, in only 30 minutes. The terrain was very challenging: a boulderfield of jagged rocks with only cairns to suggest a route. We enjoyed some rest at the top, and then descended, again with Randy being led by Kyle. The descent took us 45 minutes.
Over dinner we considered our plan for the next day. The weather looked bleak later in the day. We decided to leave as quickly as possible after breakfast, and agreed that everyone would prepare completely (pack, refill water, etc.) the night before so we could finish breakfast and leave immediately thereafter.
The next morning this preparation paid off, as we were able to depart extremely efficiently. The weather was cool and overcast with a light wind. After a few minutes on the trail, it became clear that the terrain would remain very difficult and rocky, so Randy switched from Quinn to a human guide (John) who led him to Thunderstorm Junction. The trail began with a relatively steep ascent, then leveled out both in incline and footing; in fact the stones of the path are laid so evenly in the second half of Galehead between Madison and Thunderstorm that it seems almost like a sidewalk. We made the trip from Madison to Thunderstorm in 1 hour 20 minutes.
At Thunderstorm we took a very brief rest, then continued to the summit of Adams. Randy continued with a human guide (Kara) up the cone of Adams. The terrain to the summit was similar to Madison - very challenging, with plenty of slots and deep voids between jagged, slanted and irregular rock. Spontaneously, we discovered that by having one person (Ben) immediately in front of the human guide to pick out the best path (and point out hazards), the work went immensely more quickly and smoothly. We reached the summit using this method in 35 minutes.
Upon reaching the summit of Adams we observed a heavy storm cloudline approaching very quickly over Washington and Jefferson summits. We paused very briefly and then began down as quickly as possible (Kyle as human lead). After only a few minutes the wind kicked up, it began to rain, and then to sleet. We paused on the cone to don rain gear and pack covers, and descended amid heavy rain and sleet. The rock became very slippery. The descent to Thunderstorm took 55 minutes. We continued directly down to the hut in storm conditions; the footing was treacherous. The trip from Thunderstorm to the hut took 1 hour 25 minutes. Despite the hazardous conditions, both the ascent and descent times were faster than we'd expected.
The storm continued for the rest of the day and evening, but had blown itself out by morning. Monday dawned clear and bright. We took some extra time to dry out wet gear and clothes in the sunshine, and were able to leave by around 9:30 AM. Randy made the descent from the hut with a human guide (first Kara, then Ben) for about 3/4 of the trail; when it changed back to forest floor Quinn took up guide duties again. We returned to the trail head under sunny, hot skies in just over 6 hours.
There were no accidents or injuries of any kind. We were extremely pleased with our achievements on the trip!
Pre-hike page:Mounts Adams and Madison Pre-hike Information
Blog posts about the hike:"Adams Family Union" by Randy
Blog posts from before the hike:"Expecting the best, but preparing for the worst" by Randy
"Learning to Lead" by Kara