View Full Version : Trip Report: White Mountain Fever (Adams and Madison)

03-04-2010, 03:17 PM
White Mountains Fever by Roy Kranz

Unexplained illness, infected tick bites, sprained ankles, concussions, hallucinations, and broken bones. These are things that my buddies have suffered from while on outdoor adventures with me. A couple of years ago at Glacier National Park, a friend cut the tip of his finger off while trying to open a can of bear mace. Most recently, during a winter climbing trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I found myself sitting outside a hospital while my main winter adventure amigo, Brian Rise, received nine stitches to close a bloody head wound. It's a miracle that I'm able to get anyone to go with me anymore. In fact, whenever I leave for one of these trips my wife orders me to "play nice." Granted, I've never been the direct cause of any of these aliments, but perhaps I'm just bad luck.

Prior to leaving, I thought driving through the night would be the most dangerous part of the adventure. The last time I attempted that, my wife fell asleep driving 70 m.p.h. and we rolled our Bronco II from one side of the highway to the other. Did I mention how exciting it is to travel with me?

Before the motel room T.V. stand attacked Brian's head on day three, we were climbing one of the tallest mountains in the East, in the middle of winter. On day one, we attempted Mt. Adams. At 5799 feet, it is the second tallest in the White Mountains. After ascending thousands of feet, we reached the tree line and a large yellow sign which warned: "The area ahead has the worst weather in America. Many have died there from exposure even in summer. Turn back now if the weather is bad." Conditions were intense. The wind chill dipped to -25 degrees. The wind blew at a steadily 35 m.p.h. with gusts between 55 and 85 m.p.h. Visibility was limited due to fog and heavy snow. We donned face masks and goggles so no skin was exposed. Brian couldn't wait to get into the wind. He has an odd affection for bad weather. As he puts it, "Bad weather makes for good stories." As we climbed up the Knife Edge toward the summit, the wind knocked Brian to the ground multiple times. Even when we stood inches apart, we had to yell to communicate. Less than half a mile from the summit we came to our senses and turned around. We never saw another soul the entire 10 1/2 hour day.

On day two, we again turned our sights on Mt. Adams. This time we took Lowe's Path, a trail blazed in the 1800's by a local businessman. Although the forecast called for worse conditions than the day before, the winds were not as brutal and we were determined to summit. The trail shot straight up the mountain at an incredibly steep angle. The crampons we wore (metal spikes that strap on to your boots) bit into the steep hills and made our 4,500 feet of elevation gain less treacherous. After approximately 7 1/2 hours of slogging upward, there was nowhere higher to climb. We howled with excitement as we stood on the summit. Then the mountain gods shined on us. For the first time during the entire day, the clouds cleared and we could see for miles in all directions. It was glorious!

After Brian's head injury, we scrapped our planned attack on the tallest and most dangerous peak of them all, Mt. Washington. That prize would have to wait. On the last day, I climbed alone to the summit of the 5th highest peak in the White Mountains, Mt. Madison. Conditions were perfect. The sun was shining. Visibility was excellent. The winds were light and I was above the clouds. I even made a cell phone call to my wife from the summit.

The White Mountains ended up being much more impressive than I expected. Reaching the summits is a challenge without the dangers of serious altitude or glacier travel. It didn't take long before I caught White Mountain fever. I quickly made up my mind to climb all 48 of the White Mountains that rise above 4,000 feet. On the drive home, Brian and I were already scheming and planning the details of next year's New Hampshire trip. We plan to come back and conquer Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, and however many more we can squeeze in. Two down, forty-six to go. Man, I'm living a dream!

To watch a video of the above mentioned climbs, log on to my website at www.roykranz.com.

Snow Miser
03-07-2010, 07:41 PM
Great TR and excellent video! Looked like an awesome trip. Thanks for sharing.

03-09-2010, 06:36 PM
Nice essay about a great hike. On my way to the video...thanks for sharing here!