Day Hike to Mount Madison, White Mountains, New Hampshire

By AlpineZone News |
Mar 18 2001 - 11:42 AM

Sunday, March 18, 2001

Trails: Valley Way, Osgood
Participants: Carole, Tim Scott, Mike P., Paul N., Garry G., Gary T.

View images from this Hike!


Trail conditions were Deep snow that was well packed in the lower elevations. As we got higher on Valley Way, the packed down trail got narrower & if you strayed from the middle at all you could end up post-holing right to your butt, At the bottom, the trail markers were about waist high with them gradually becoming buried in the snow. Trail signs were at snow level.. Above the campsites, the trail normally takes a hard right turn just below treeline to avoid the brook bed. Due to the deep snow, currently the trail goes straight & up the gully that the brook occupies. Trail was packed down enough that we did not need snowshoes but due to recent SAR rescues, we brought them just in case.

Due to the various hiking speeds of the group, Carole, Gary & I started hiking at 7:30 and about 90 minutes later, Paul & Garry caught us in one of the lower switchbacks. Just about 45 minutes later Tim & Bear joined us. The day before Tim got a last minute invite from family to join them for a St. Patrick’s Day get together at Harvard Cabin in Huntington Ravine. After carrying 50 pounds & pulling a sled, he went up Mt. Washington on Saturday, a day that had cobalt blue skies & a wind that gusted to about 10 miles an hour.

Sunday the wind & visibility was not going to be as kind on Mt. Madison. We stopped on Valley Way where the trail entered the gully the brook follows just below treeline to put crampons on and extra clothes. The gully had a decent breeze coming down it but not too bad. Once we reached Madison Hut though the wind picked up some more, I’d estimate about 20-25 MPH with some higher gust coming through the col between Madison & Adams. We got to the lee side of the hut & through on some more clothes & bigger gloves. Gary & I had added fleece at the gully & at the hut I had a feeling it was going to be worse higher yet & my wind-bloc fleece was not going to enough. With shell, warmer gloves a balaclava I bought the day before (I left mine at home) with my hat I ventured up behind the rest of the group.

The wind did increase to an estimate 35-45 MPH, (Paul had a handheld anemometer and get a 47 MPH reading from the ridge crest but wind was definitely gusty.), and a couple of times I began to think that heading up was not a great idea. As you approach the summit the trail left the side of the hill facing the col & for a couple of minutes we were out of the wind. Once we got to the top of a small snowfield below the ridge & within 30 yards of the summit the wind really picked up. Wind gust were estimated at 45- 50 MPH. (At the time we thought even higher but Mt. Washington recorded a 61 MPH for the day which was during the time we were up on Madison.) We had to really concentrate on making each step & bracing ourselves for the next gust. Unlike November when we were last on Madison, no lengthy summit meeting took place, the first part of our group took a couple of pictures & then descended to the snowfield while Gary & I just touched the sign at the summit & went back. Near the turn off the ridge crest I slipped & fell. No damage to me but I broke the tip off my trekking pole & lost my hat which went sailing quickly out of sight. I had thought about just using the thin polyester balaclava I had & my hat but now I was glad I had bought a more substantial balaclava the day before.

We huddled back at the hut for a couple of minutes & then decided to grab lunch down in the brook gully. On the way down we did some post-holing but it never got to the point where you would rather have put snowshoes on. Carole actually brought a small plastic slide & slid down a couple of sections of Valley Way. We got back down to Appalachia at about 4:15. For everyone in the group this was their first Northern Presidential done in Winter. (Except for Tim if you counted Mt. Washington the day before. According to Tim it was the best day he ever had on Mt. Washington, he even took a short nap. He’s been up Washington five or six times)
Submitted by Mike Paggioli
Colchester, CT
Wed, 21 Mar 2001