#25 Mt. Madison
January 16, 2010
So I had been checking weather.com all week for the forecast on Mt. Washington. Turns out I should have checked the high peaks forecast at mountwashington.org instead like dad did. More on that later. So the forecast was looking good and dad and I both wanted to hike up Mt. Madison. I really wanted to use my crampons and get a good winter climb in. Temperatures were looking good and so was the wind (so I thought). We left Waterville at our usual 7am start. We parked at Appalachia just like we had 6monthes earlier when we did Adams. This time our trail of choice was Valley Way.
At the trailhead there was a group of guys preparing to head out, we said our hellos and went long. Valley Way is a nice trail. It is well traveled so it is packed down. Once again I took snowshoes and didn’t need them. I have to keep telling myself the extra weight is good exercise. The beginning of Valley Way is a gentle uphill. You don’t get any really steep sections in the first mile and a half. Even then it isn’t bad until about a half mile to the hut. Dad and I wore our Yaktrax on the way up. We were surprised that the group of guys didn’t pass us. With about a mile to go we encountered another group of guys. This group was coming down. They had hoped to do a Presidential Traverse but the weather was too much and turned them around. So I am thinking, great, this can’t be good. A little farther along we encountered two more guys. They had wanted to do Madison but turned back because it was “socked in.” Even more lovely news. Although, they did say they had talked to a group of 4 that had been successful. Along we continued and soon we met the group of 4. We chatted awhile and they said they could see cairn to cairn so they made it. Alright, some positive news, kinda. We were in the clouds at that point and I hate not having any views. Plus you could hear the wind getting louder. I was starting to doubt weather.com’s forecast of 30mph winds.
Finally we made it to the Madison Spring hut. Here we encountered two guys that had just come off Adams and said it was wicked up there and no views. We were pretty much still in the clouds. Not wanting to give up we found the side of the hut that was most protected and put our crampons on. Suddenly Madison came out of the clouds. It was time for us to head up while there was some sun. We dropped our bags around the corner, under the hut and headed up the summit cone. Now at this point I was well aware that the winds were much stronger then 30mph. I found myself at times running up the slope. I wasn’t doing this because I was excited, I was doing it because there was a serious tailwind pushing me. The higher we went the winder it got. I started having difficulty with balance. The rocks became my friends as they offered balance and a little wind block. Soon I felt like I was in a cartoon, leaning full tilt forward, not going anywhere and not falling. Then a slight let down in the wind and I moved on. Then I got blown to the side, up and at it again. Finally I could see the summit. There she was. There also was a 15foot section that had no rocks protecting it and near hurricane strength winds blowing. I sat down and waved dad on. I was afraid to go. I didn’t want to be blown off.
As I sat there talking to myself I realized I couldn’t come this far and not go on. I was less then 100ft from the summit. There was a slight let up again and this time I ran not because of the wind pushing me forward but for fear of it pushing me over. I ran up and dad pointed to a spot for me to sit. There was a tiny bit of protection here. He had to fix his crampon and I tried to take pictures and not lose the camera. Once he fixed the crampon it was time to get off and back to the hut. Off we went. I took off because I wanted out of the wind. I then noticed I was struggling to breath. Here I am walking into 60+mph winds at 5300feet elevation. I turned me head a bit so I could get more air in and out. Luckily this trick worked. As we headed down I saw a group coming up. It was the guys from the parking area. They too had dropped their sacks and were making their way up. I stopped and chatted for a minute and waited for dad. Then I kept going. I was very happy when I saw trees again. See as we were coming off the mountain the clouds were rolling back in. While we were up there we were above them but could see Mt. Washington engulfed in them. Dad came down a little bit after me, turns out his crampon fell off and he went down using one, which caused some falling. We got back down to the hut where I was more then happy to dig into some food. We chatted with some guys taking a lunch break and took a rest. After a little while we gathered our supplies and headed down. The way down was uneventful, but I was very happy to get to the car and our post hike chocolate milk.
Thoughts: AHHHH. That was crazy! I crawled, got blown over, had a hard time breathing but pushed on. My fear of getting blown off was a bit much. I had the ice ax if need be for self arrest and there was no great cliff. I did have to talk myself on but I think that is what sets us apart from those who turn around. I knew to wait for a little let up to move from protection to protection. I had the proper clothing. Some people think I am crazy for what I do but the rush I got being up there is something they will never experience. Oh yeah, I think that is about my limit with the wind. Any higher speeds would be a bit much.