Monday, March 12, 2012

A Weekend Blitzkrieg of the Presidentials - 3-10-12 to 3-12-12

Saturday 3-10-2012
Peaks: Jefferson, Washington, Monroe
Miles: ~13.7mi (estimated due to trail re-locations of Jewell plus the higher up the road start)
Elevation: ~5550ft

The plan was a Washington->Pierce traverse. I drove north from MA, leaving around 3:45 AM and driving through near-whiteout conditions in central NH. I was worried about the plan for the day, but the skies were clear and sunny from Lincoln on north. Kelly and Pete picked me up at the Highland Center and we went to the lower Cog lot where they were starting on their final winter 48 hike. Got going at 7:40. They went up Jewell to Jefferson, then to Washington and Monroe for the finish. I also planned to go up Jewell and possibly scramble up to Clay before heading South, but the skies were pretty clear and the winds were non-existent at treeline, so I decided now was a good time to tag Jefferson. In fact, things were so nice above treeline we joked about putting on t-shirts. Despite it only being about +5F (sun was nice and warm!)

The skies clouded up and the winds picked up by the time we got to Jefferson (low-30s mph, not a huge deal, but it was cold too so ~-20F wind chills), visibility was 100-200 yards at best. It lifted a bit (not great, but enough) for the rest of the day thankfully, after leaving Jefferson. Otherwise I might have bailed back down Jewell and walked back to my car. The climb to Washington was slow (and my hands were slow and painful to warm, I didn't go to warmer gloves fast enough...). I just wasn't feeling it at this point, might have had something to do with the really early morning and the tough drive up.

We ran into Sue and Earl (from Views From The Top) doing a Wash/Jeff hike near the Clay/Washington Col. After hitting Washington and eventually Monroe, I called it a day, which I knew was likely after heading for Jefferson (I had held out hope for making good time and doing a Jeff-Pierce traverse!). No regrets, I considered Jefferson to be one of the hardest peaks to get, though I do plan a revisit on a better weather day. Back at the car at 5:25, so total ET of 9hr 45 min, not bad imo.

Thus I ended up not needing the car spot. Thanks anyways Kelly and Pete, it was an honor to be present for your finish and I was glad to be able to take the pictures on Monroe as no one else was around! Great to meet you two. Sorry I was such a slug after hitting Jefferson, hope I didn't slow you guys down too much.


Sunday 3-11-2012
Peaks: Pierce, Eisenhower
Miles: 9.6mi
Elevation: 3200ft

The night before, I decided I would do the Osceolas on the way back to MA. But I woke feeling poor (sore, beaten, tired, etc) and decided I didn't want a steep climb. With forecasts for winds in the 60mph range on George but nice clear skies all day, I decided to take a crack at the peaks I skipped the day before: Pierce and Eisenhower. I figured I would turn around if it was too windy on Pierce, as it is protected most of the way to the summit. I was staying at the Highland Center so I didn't even have to move my car from where I left it the morning before! The climb went decently after I got moving for a while, this is not an uncommon thing for me the second hike day, and I had been counting on it. Started at 9, hit the summit of Pierce at 11:25. I was greeted with bluebird skies and noticeable but not crazy winds, I figure in the high-20s range. Good enough to go for Eisenhower for sure.

Kelly the day before had mentioned a horror story of spruce traps and a hard-to-follow trail between the peaks, but with the lack of snow and warm temps (it was near 35F and sunny) this was not a problem. I had worn microspikes all the way to this point, they were great on the hard-pack before Pierce, but things were soft between the peaks and I got some balling under the spikes. Now I know what that feels/looks like, not pleasant at all. There was also some minor drifting in here, but alternated with bare rock so I stuck with the spikes. I had brought my Hillsound Pros instead of the full crampons (which were overkill the day before due to thin snow/ice coverage) for the ledges up Eisenhower on the loop trail, but there was only a few small spots of ice and I stuck with the spikes. Not problems. The summit was nearly bare of any snow.

The massive carin on the summit of Eisenhower.

Here the winds were higher but still tolerable long enough for some pictures. I figured low-30s which agreed with a couple guys with wind gages. I reversed direction and headed down as I needed a rest. Also, I had seen in the morning that the MWOBS was calling for diminished winds and more sun the next day. I was thinking about staying for one more night. The descent was uneventful, though I ditched the microspikes at the Webster Cliff junction and bare-booted down. The snow-balling was making the 'spikes useless anyway. I met a bunch of people on this day near both summits, and more coming up to Pierce as I descended. All were in 'spikes or Hillsounds (the spike version). A couple people did put full crampons on at the Eisenhower Loop for that ascent, but only because they didn't have other traction (bare-booted up). Spikes were sufficient for the ledges. I got to have both summits to myself until after I left them (~10-15 min at each). Despite stopping to talk to several groups of people for several minutes each, I was back to the road in under 6 hours total time (just before 3PM). Awesome considering how I felt when I had gotten up in the morning!


Monday 3-12-2012
Peaks: Madison, Adams
Miles: 10.5mi
Elevation: 5050ft

On Sunday when I got back to the Highland Lodge I requested the NOAA graphs at the front desk. The MWOBS was calling for 40-50mph winds early, decreasing to 15-30 (or something like that) but I wanted to know WHEN the decrease would occur. It turned out that NOAA agreed on the wind values with the OBS and had the winds dropping under 30 around noon. With the forecasts all also calling for ample sun and temps near 40, it was an easy decision to stay another night, as I had the flexibility at work. I had already planned on taking one more vacation day this calendar winter (either a Friday or a Monday; I was planning on St. Patty's weekend though since Monday was supposed to be very windy all day) and had been told at work that it could be last minute if it was for a great weather day. This qualified for sure!

I headed out to Appalachia and hit the trail at 7:55. The plan was up and down Valley Way, teeing at Madison Hut to Adams first via Gulfside and Airline, then Madison via Osgood (of course). I planned on a 4-hour climb to the hut knowing how long my weekend had been already, but I was shocked to reach the hut at 11! I saw one person about half-way (~10 AM) up who was coming down, he had already hit Madison and Adams, starting at 5AM and getting the sunrise on Madison. Must have been a nice one! I also was leap-frogging with 3 guys from 0.9 miles in all the way to the hut. They were carrying full packs and were planning a full traverse, with an overnight at either Spinx Col or near Lakes depending on how the day went. Hope it went well guys! They dropped packs at the hut and went for Madison while I started for Adams.

I remembered the climb to Adams being rocky and fairly steep in spots and wasn't disappointed. With the warm temps and sun the last couple days, there was little snow left in the snow fields even. I had put on Hillsound Pro's at the hut (microspikes were balling up for the second half of the climb to the hut) and kept them on until back at the road; they worked awesome! There were spots where snow shoes would have worked better, but there was too much rock on the summit cone to keep them on. Eventually I summitted, after picking my way up somewhat along the Airline Trail. It was 12:10. I had the summit to myself with terrific views everywhere.

Washington, Clay, and the Great Gulf from Mount Adams

I was greeted with moderate winds, maybe low-20s at worst. Nothing at all to worry about with the bright sun and warm temps (nearing 40F!). After a bunch of pictures and a few minutes of just enjoying the views I headed down. I would have stayed a while but I had a 3+-hour drive home at the end of the day, and another 5000-foot peak yet to go. I picked my way down and met a solo hiker about halfway back to the Gulfside who had come up the Airline from Appalachia. I would see him again when I was half-way down Madison. Interestingly he was only wearing instep crampons. There was considerable ice between the rocks on the summit cone for which I was glad to have the Hillsound Pros (full crampons would have definitely been overkill though and there was a lot of rock-hopping involved). Microspikes likely would have been okay though. He was unconcerned though, and was doing fine when I saw him later, so to each his own I suppose.

Back at the hut I dropped my pack near the shed (pump house?) and after a snack break scooted up to the summit. There I ran into one more solo hiker on his way down, he had reached the hut just before my return, he was off to Adams (I later saw that he finished his Single-Season Winter 48 for this winter on Adams this day! Congratulations!!!). Once again I had a summit to myself. There was no snow at all on the upper 100 feet of the summit (except in a few spots) and so I had to rock-hop a lot in the Hillsounds...glad I didn't bring the full crampons! Microspikes would have been fine for this peak, and indeed the guy I had run into coming down (plus the 3 from the morning) all summitted using 'spikes. Great views despite the horizon haze and again I spent a little while enjoying the views and snapping pictures. After a little I headed down. 4 more people at the hut having just come up Valley Way. I headed down. Near the bottom of Valley Way I decided to take the Fallsway loops and got some nice peeks of the thawing cascades (pictures came out meh though). Back at the car at 3:40 and drove home.


Weekend Recap

Like nearly everyone else, I had been looking for a Presi Day before winter's end (calendar winter that is, regular winter seems to have abandoned ship, at least for now). Unlike seemingly everyone else, I was just looking to get one in before winter's end to have one under my belt, versus wanting one to finish a winter list. I didn't have to have one to finish the list as I'm not finishing this year. I was hoping for one though just for the experience. I ended up with 3 consecutive tolerable days (well, 1 marginally tolerable, 1 tolerable off the higher summits, and 1 awesome day), with Saturday being the worst day (cold and limited views after the morning though the views on Monroe were interesting) and Monday easily being the best. Sunday was great too though. Honestly, all 3 days were great in their own ways, I don't regret any of them. I didn't expect to have all of the Presis done this year, but I now sit at 23/48 winter peaks and all of the Presis now done. That said, I plan re-visits to all of them, especially Washington and Jefferson.

What an amazing weekend!

That said, 33.8 miles and 13,800 feet of gain in 3 days...I'm sore and tired!

I'm considering calling it a season and not hiking this weekend. What a way to finish! Still, I think I might head to the Carters this weekend anyway. Depends on what trails sound guess is mush...

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