Madison – 2/20/2016

A winter hiker approaches the summit of Mt. Madison, New Hampshire

After a failed attempt on Madison exactly a month before, it was time to head back.

Wind speeds would be about the same as the last time, 50 – 70 mph gusting to 85, but they wouldn’t be such a biting cold today, putting the wind chill somewhere between 5 and -5.

Also like the last time, we’d take Valley Way – and now we wouldn’t be breaking trail.  It wouldn’t have mattered much down low anyway, as there wasn’t much snow at all.  The trail was a solid sheet of ice from the start, with 1.5″ of fresh light snow from the night before.

Valley Way went quickly, and as we approached treeline, we even started to see patches of blue sky to the east.  North and west were low, dark clouds, though.  We did most of the trail in light traction, but switched over to crampons about a mile from the hut so we wouldn’t have to expose our fingers to the unbroken wind higher up.

High up on Valley Way, we were able to see Madison’s cone as the clouds cleared out just as we were looking for it.

Mt. Madison in winter from Valley Way, New Hampshire
Madison from Valley Way

We stopped in the last of the trees to layer up – I wore thin long johns, my usual soft-shell hiking pants, a Patagonia mid weight Capilene, my Patagonia Nano Air and my EMS Cloudburst, and was perfectly comfortable temperature-wise the entire time above treeline.


A winter hiker on Mt. Madison, New Hampshire
Rich on the way up Madison, with Adams behind

We had great visibility all the way from Madison Spring Hut (closed) and back – it was nice, lucky timing.

You know I love those rime covered rocks against a blue sky.

Summit cone of Mt. Madison in winter, New Hampshire
Getting there

At the top, the wind was really blowing.  We were pinned down on hands and knees for about a minute at one point just before the summit.  We stashed our poles as we knew we’d be low to the ground from here.

At the summit, we were able to find decent shelter on the east side.  We stayed here for about 20 minutes and stepped into and out of the wind for fun.  Of course we never managed to record the strongest gusts, but we got some pretty good ones.

It was nice to be able to just chill on the summit of a Northern Presi peak in the winter.

A winter hiker on the summit of Mt. Madison, New Hampshire
Rich hanging out just below the summit

Just as we were leaving, we got a quick look over at the Carters and Wildcats.  This is a great angle to see Carter Notch – it really showed why the Carters and Wildcats are 2 separate ranges, and how steep and deep that notch is.

Carter range and Wildcat Mountain from Mt. Madison, New Hampshire
Carter Dome, Carter Notch and Wildcat from Madison

The descent was not bad – the wind was in our faces but again, it wasn’t a dangerous cold wind for the amount of time we were exposed to it.  I didn’t even throw my goggles on.

Once in a while Adams would pop out of the cloud – I’d be over there the next day.  If I summited, it would complete my 2nd round of the 48 4000 footers in New Hampshire and knock my list of the Winter 48 down to 4.

She was looking pretty mean, but not uninviting.

Valley Way was quick, but we were slower than usual.  Rich hadn’t been hiking since our last try on Madison, and my left knee wasn’t feeling great.

It had rained down low during the day – the snow was GONE within a mile or so of Appalachia.  Literally gone.  I know things change fast up here, but this was weird.

It was another great day in the mountains, and a much more pleasant (and safe) experience with Madison than last time.

Madison remains one of my favorites.

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