Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jefferson - Adams - Madison Traverse - April 27, 2013

This hike was the final for my often-time hiking pal HossInNH's New Hampshire 4000-Footer list. How he managed to leave 3 such awesome peaks (4 actually, #45 was Carrigain) for last is beyond me, but an epic traverse of these 3 rugged peaks was on the agenda for this day. With a fairly warm day, mostly sunny skies, and winds barely topping 20 mph (top gust on Mount Washington this day was 24mph!), it was perfect weather for this hike. His cousin, nearing the end of her 4000-footer list too (3 or 4 to go now), came along on this traverse with her hiking hound, Maggie May (aka Maggie Mayhem).

Meeting in the morning at a mostly-empty Appalachia parking lot (where most of the trails to Madison and Adams from the North start), we left a car and headed over to the Cog Railroad parking lot, just up the road from the Jewell Trailhead (still gated and closed for winter - during winter, you can park at the lower Cog Railroad parking lot and take a spur trail from the cog station to either the Jewell or Ammonusuc Ravine Trails).

Old Peppersass
Crossing the tracks after passing Peppersass, we began up the spur route to the Jewell Trail which meats that trail roughly 1 mile up from its trailhead, cutting off a good 1/2 mile or so of the trail. Soon after hitting the Jewell Trail, we encountered a monorail of snow (in the spring, the center of the trails where the snow had been compressed all winter by foot traffic melts slower than the sides of the trail, and so you are left with a narrow "rail" of snow/ice), and switched to microspikes, which worked great right up to treeline. Maggie Mayhem was demonstrating where her nickname comes from by constantly picking up sticks (more like logs a few times...) and running up ahead of us from behind with said sticks, almost knocking us over a few times. What a crazy dog!

Mount Monroe from the Jewell Trail

Pano from treeline on the Jewell Trail, looking West

Southern Presidentials from treeline on the Jewell Trail
After reaching treeline on the Jewell Trail, we retired the microspikes as there was little snow or ice left lingering above treeline, and it was largely avoidable. In fact, we did not put the spikes back on until we were leaving Madison Hut later in the day.

Climbing up to the Gulfside, the Jewell Trail heads Southward near the end, paralleling the Gulfside Trail so we rockhopped a short distance (stay off all of the vegetation when doing this!), cutting off the last 1/10 mile of the Jewell Trail. Swinging along the side of Mount Clay, we headed down into Sphinx Col, enjoying the wonderful day to this point.

Jefferson from the Gulfside on the side of Clay

The upper stretched of the Auto Road up Mount Washington past Nelson Crag

Mount Eisenhower peeking out behind Sphinx Col

The Great Gulf

The Carters and Moriah (L) from Sphinx Col

Carters behind a long shoulder of Mount Washington
Slowly climbing out of Sphinx Col, we eventually reached Monticello Lawn, a grassy flatland a few tenths of a mile below the summit of Jefferson. This is a very cool area, unique in the Northern Presidentials. From here the Gulfside (and with it the Appalahcian Trail) swings away, roughly maintaining elevation, while the Jefferson Loop ascends up to the summit, and meets the Gulfside on the other side of the summit cone.

Monticello Lawn and the summit of Jefferson

Gulfside Trail carins swinging around the summit cone of Jefferson

Climbing up from Monticello Lawn, with Mount Washington looming behind
Reaching Jefferson, we tagged up, got the customary summit shots, and returned to the large carin just below the summit for a lunch break. With practically no wind, this was the calmest I've ever experienced on this summit of Jefferson (once in each of the 4 seasons now). Lingering was awesome.

Washington and the Southern Presidentials from Jefferson

The Kilkennys - Starr King, Waumbek, and the Weeks in front, Cabot, The Bulge, and The Horn behind

The impressive bulk of Mount Adams from Mount Jefferson

Just below the summit of Mount Jefferson - break time!

Washington and the Southern Presidentials

Bretton Woods Ski Resort, snow-capped Franconia Ridge behind

Towards Jefferson, NH

Slightly zoomed view of Mount Moosilaukee (L) and Franconia Ridge behind Bretton Woods Ski Resort
While we would have loved to have sat in the sun longer, we had a long ways to go yet and it was after 1, so we tore ourselves away on continued North. The descent into Edmands Col is steep, and the North side of Jefferson had a fair amount of snow on it. This was not surprising as this area tends to hold snow for a long time. In fact, my first trip in the Northern Presidentials in late June 12 years ago had a snowfield alongside the trail in this area. Today, the upper snowfield was fully covering everything below it, and so once determining that it was safe to do so, we butt-slid down this upper snowfield.

Leaving Jefferson

Butt-sledding down Jefferson's upper snowfield

Adams looming from the bottom of the upper Jefferson snowfield

In Edmands Col
The lower snowfield above Edmands Col required some care to traverse, but with soft snow, we were able to make our way across a no-fall zone without a problem. Now began the seemingly longest part of the day: the long climb to Mount Adams. At this point all the rock-hopping was wearing us out, so the climb was slow. We did take a break during the ascent near the rocky peak of Adams 5, which Hoss and I scrambled over too as, well, it was there (and only about 50 feet away and a dozen feet above us at that). Shortly after leaving here, we encountered the largest snowfield of the day, on a shoulder of Mount Adams. The snow must have been really deep here this winter for this South-facing shoulder to still have complete snow coverage! After leaving this snowfield near Thunderstorm Junction, it was back to tricky rock-hopping to the summit of Mount Adams, #47 for HossInNH.

Jefferson snowfields from partway up to Adams - note the butt-sledding on the upper field! (There was a nice shoulder at the bottom, no danger of sliding off)

Castle Ridge heading up Jefferson - Mount Martha/Cherry Mountain behind

These guys were headed up to Mount Sam Adams - then realized we were on the trail so headed down

Faster way down - sledding!

Lenticular Clouds forming in the afternoon

Adams still seems too far away! - from Adams's snowfield

Summit of Mount Adams

Left to right: Moriah, Carters, Wildcats

Looking down/ahead to Mount Madison
Rock-hopping down the Airline Trail back to the Gulfside was tough as always, but we made good time to Madison Hut, where we took a short break, dropped our packs, and grabbed what we wanted for the summit.

Durand Ridge - Airline Trail climbs this

As close as I felt like getting to the top of King Ravine

Kilkennys to the North

Durand Ridge

The sharp peak of Madison from the Gulfside Trail near the Airline Trail

Maggie Mayhem poses at Madison Hut

Madison Hut still closed for now
Scrambling up Madison without a pack is much easier than with a pack, and we got to the top without much trouble. Letting HossInNH go ahead to tag the summit first, we then had a small celebration up top, where Hoss cracked a celebratory Guinness.

Woo-hoo, #48!!!

Cheers! Congrats dude!

Washington from Madison

Kilkenny Ridge from Madison

Wildcat Ski Area

Carters, and the ridge the Osgood Trail follow to Madison's summit

Madison Gulf

Moriah and Shelburne Moriah

Moriahs and North/Middle/South Carter

The whole Carter Range

Returning to the hut, we opted to descend via Valley Way Trail (versus Airline as originally planned) for an easier descent. We put on the microspikes almost immediately after leaving the hut, and had to tiptoe carefully on a narrow monorail with a several foot drop to one side in the upper reaches of the Valley Way Trail, until the sidehill section ended. Here it was monorail gradually thinning to mixed snow and ice, and finally we retired the traction around 2500ft and soon after that it was dry trail to the trailhead. We reached the car just before dark, around 8PM. Arriving back at the Cog lot to get my car, the car's headlights lit up a fox exploring a woodpile alongside the road. He hung around long enough for Hoss to get a couple pictures from his phone, then took off, and we all parted ways.

What an awesome day for sure! Light winds, sunny skies, just a perfect day above treeline. A great day for HossInNH to complete his (first ;) ) round of the New Hampshire 4000-Footers, and he did them all in less than one calendar year! Huge congrats again to him! On to the next list, we all know you aren't done!

Trails: Jewell Trail, Gulfside Trail, Jefferson Loop, Israel Ridge Path, Airline, Osgood Trail, Valley Way
Peaks: Jefferson (5716', NH4K), Adams 5 (5274', TW72), Adams (5799', NH4K), Madison (5366', NH4K)
Mileage: 13.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 5500ft
Book Time: 9hr 25min (actual ~11hr 35min)


  1. Congrats - a spectacular traverse and a fantastic 48 finish for HossinNH!


  2. Thanks for the descriptions and the beautiful pictures!