First off .. thank you again Brad for a ride north and a truck to drive and great advice on hikes and to Bill for a place to stay.
Photos for this trip (its a public link):
Photos and comments
I had watched the weather and saw a day developing that looked like it had all the pieces I wanted: lots of sun, low(ish) wind, and reasonable temperatures. I had grand plans of hiking Madison and then knocking off Adams as well to make up for my Gray Knob trip (I skipped it then due to lack of good/safe winter gear).
My day began with a 4am wakeup and a target departure of 4:30. Why is it I always leave 10 minutes after my target regardless of my target?? ;-)
The trailhead had a wonderful 8' snow wall (pic has Brad's truck to show scale). I was the second car in the lot and feeling very good about arriving on time (6:30). I started out as a bare boot with my new Nuptse's. There is no way Al can knock my boots now. ;-) The summits are mine! Sorry.
The Valley Way trail was very well packed out for the first 2-3 miles despite all the snow that had fallen in the preceding days. I found myself following a set of small snowshoe tracks, but was otherwise alone in the woods. After a few gentle slopes, the trail begins a long steady climb and I decided to break out the snowshoes. Mostly, I was looking forward to the feel of the heel risers easing the angle of incline on my calves. I also started to notice some impressive post holes along the sides of the trail (some 2-3' deep - must be fun getting out of those).
About 2 miles in, my left heel riser snapped with a pop. I took a picture just so I could show Atlas. My story is that the cold was so severe and my legs so powerful that the poor wimpy steel could not compete. It has absolutely nothing to do with how much I weigh. Really. I did briefly ponder if this was enough of an equipment issue to stop my attempt and decided it was merely a comfort thing and not a safety item. I hiked on with one heel riser - no reason my right leg should suffer as a result of my left's incompetence, right?
With about a mile left, the trail becomes steep, the snow becomes deep, the trees become small, and for no reason at all, the wind picks up and the temperature drops. It feels like the mountain is trying to make sure I understand who is in charge. It was also at this point that I was passed by one of those annoying hikers - you know the type: strong, not winded, friendly, moving faster uphill then you do on the flats, and at least 20 years your senior - yeah, he was 50 or 60-something. Punk.
I popped out above treeline to a deep snow drift wonderland. I have no idea where the trail is, so I just follow the quickly disappearing super-hiker tracks and soon find myself at Madison Hut (9:45). Why on earth these things are not left open as self-serve during the winter is beyond me, so I did the next best thing and hid in a back corner to decide what to do next.
Super-hiker arrived after hiking out to look at Star Lake (yeah, I was that far behind him - what of it?). He introduced himself and turned out to be a super nice guy. Chris Karr. He lives in Montpelier, Vermont, and like me had decided today was too nice to miss. On a side note, he doesn't do computers .. so I'll have to snail mail some of the photos I took to him and I couldn't quite talk him into joining a forum or the MWO. But, I tried. ;-)
We both agreed that doing the summit would be a little scary, but if we teamed up, it would be much safer. A LONG .4 mile later, we stood on the summit of Madison with clear skies, and a bitter cold wind. I took pictures of everything and Chris was kind enough to snap two of me. It was now that I discovered he's practically blind as he aimed the camera and then decided to pull out the coke bottle glasses (blind and 20 years older and still kicks my butt - ugh). The summit cone was very icy but the rocks were dry and we cautiously "rock hopped" our way up and back.
We returned to our hiding spot behind Madison and enjoyed a hot lunch and talked. I mentioned I planned on sliding on my butt for a large portion of the descent and he clearly thought I was nuts. He said I should go ahead as he likes to descend slowly and we said our goodbyes. I didn't see him again despite several stops to change layers and one long one to make water (didn't bring enough).
All in all, it was a very nice day. I finished it off with a drive to visit an old HS buddy and his family in Vermont and spent a couple of days enjoying their company. My last picture was Mt Washington from the Hotel driveway on my way back along 302.
I hope you like the pics (its a facebook public link - they have been having some photo issues so it may be unavailable on occasion until they fix whatever the problem is).
Until my next adventure above tree line...