King Ravine Undercast
Mount Adams 5799' and Mount Madison 5366'
9.9 Miles 5050' Elevation gain
Tim L, Matt D, Earl & Sue, Mike C, Kim S, Hui Yeng C, Mark, Val, Ali, Mark, Nat Judy and Emma, Dave, Chuck and Mark
"If I make a mark in time
I can't say the mark is mine
I'm only the underline
of the word"
I was always told as I was growing up, "You never know what you can do until you set your mind to it." These words have rung true for me over the last week. When I set out to try some winter hiking what seems an age ago now, I never had the thought of completing the winter 48. In February, on my birthday, I made it over what in my mind was a huge hurdle by checking the Bonds and Zealand off my list. That is when I fully realized that completing the list was within my reach. Over the next few weeks I watched the weather closely and waited. I have to admit I was waiting for the perfect day to tackle what was left on my list, the Northern Presidentials. Having spent several weeks on the summit of Mount Washington volunteering for the MW Obsevatory in the dead of winter had made me a little gun shy. I was all too familiar with what the winter could bring on these high summits, and I had no intentions of risking it all for a list. I also knew that on the right day my wife and dog could join me in relative safety, if not for all the peaks, then at least for some.
Undercast From Durand Ridge
Last Monday the chance finally came and we were able to make it to Mounts Washington and Jefferson to bring me within two of finishing. It was a wonderful, beautiful, warm day above tree-line, and I thank those who joined us for their patience with my slow pace as I was not feeling very well that day. The following Saturday had an excellent forecast and we decided to make an attempt at my last two, Mounts Adams and Madison. Saturday morning we met in the Appalachia parking lot with some good friends who were going to join us. Tim L had come to cheer me on as I had done for him on Mount Jefferson earlier in the week as he finished his single season winter 48. Also present was new acquaintance Matt D. Two more who joined us were our friends Mark and Nat Truman. Having them all along made me feel great.
We set out from Appalachia in mud. Soon it became patchy ice as we ascended along the Airline Trail. Patchy ice soon became an ice sidewalk. We were engulfed in fog which hung heavy and made it difficult to breathe. It was ridiculously warm. Then some disappointing things happened. Emma slipped as she skidded across the ice and re-injured an old, nagging injury on her right, hind leg. The trail ahead of us was one long ice bulge. Judy decided that she would have to turn back with Emma, and it was painfully obvious it was the right thing to do. She had been to Washington and Jefferson with us and did well with no lasting effects, there was no need to push her on this hike, or on any hike for that matter.
Across King Ravine From Durand Ridge
I was in a quandary, should I turn back with them and try another day? Of course the answer was a resounding "NO! We'll be fine, just go!" The Trumans were so incredibly kind as to turn around and hike down with them, much to my relief. I am greatly indebted for this. I was saddened that none of them could now join me at the summits, but relieved as well that they were together and would be safe. Matt, Tim and I donned the crampons and continued up the ice bulge that was a at least a quarter mile long. Later I learned from others that the Valley Way had no such issues and I felt bad I had not chosen that way. Judy and I had hoped to use snowshoes and televators which we could have done on Valley Way, but we had both also agreed that neither of us wanted to ascend that way, that Airline would be preferable. So, there were mixed feelings about what had transpired.
Diapensia Mats on Durand Ridge
After ascending the ice bulge and forging through the thinning forest for awhile we could see we had risen above the fog and we now caught some filtered views through the trees of the Weeks, Plinys and Mahoosucs distant peaks rising above the undercast fog. We soon stepped out of the scrub onto the first rocky outcrop on Durand Ridge and had a look around. The scene was incredible, with a near complete undercast to our north and west, and the snow-filled headwall of King Ravine rising up from the rocky floor below us. I was saddened that those who had started out with us did not get this enthralling experience. A quick look up the ridge told me there was still much work to do. The sun was feeling very hot now that we were out of the shade of the trees.