Showing the best of winter Whites to new pals
PeaksMount Madison (5,367 ft)
TrailsValley Way, Gulfside Trail
Total Distance9.48 miles, 4,442ft elevation gain
TimeStart: 9:11am, 6:15 Round Trip
WeatherCold, windy, and overcast, but sheltered below trees.
Trail ConditionsBroken trail but still very loose snow
GearShowshoes in the trees, sharp! microspikes in the Alpine
Partners in CrimeCody, Blaine, Will, and Rye
It’s always fun bringing friends up to mountains we love. This time, we drove up with our pal, Will and his roommate, Blaine to hike a pretty ambitious peak: Mount Madison, the 5th tallest in New Hampshire. Will had done some winter hiking and camping in the Whites before, but Blaine was new to it. We made good time hiking up a recently broken out Valley Way through the woods, but after a couple of miles, Will started struggling with his crampon-less snowshoes. Just before the going got really steep and fluffy around 4 miles in, Will decided to turn back while Cody, Blaine, Rye and I pushed onward.
Though we couldn’t “see” anything from above treeline, the frosted rocks provided beautiful — if not extreme — scenery. We ditched our snowshoes at Madison Spring Hut and regretted it as we post-holed through a short section of blown over snow in the small patch of shrubby stuff before the really exposed rock. Compared with the last time we did this hike just over a month ago (here), there was far less snow leading up to the summit. We picked our path following the cairns on very icy sections between exposed lightly frosted rock as we were battered by the wind.
It made me happy to see Blaine’s reaction to being up in the Alpine zone. As an Idahoan, we talked about the lack of true wilderness in the East versus out West where he’s from. Even though we were so “close” to civilization that day, we were the only people up on top of a very extreme feeling peak with no signs of life aside from the hut just barely visible down below.
We made haste back down to the hut to escape the harsh conditions, then carefully showshoe-skied down the loose and very deep snow on the steep trail, occasionally loosing control and falling softly into it all. From there it was an easy tromp through the forest following Will’s showshoe impressions until we finally met up with him close to the trailhead. He had ventured off trail to see the falls, so it was lucky timing we found each other.
We headed to Schilling in Littleton, NH to enjoy some delicious pizza and beers and make plans to come back again real soon.
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