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Ascent of Mount Madison on 2015-07-19

Climber: Robert Larkin

Date:Sunday, July 19, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Madison
    Location:USA-New Hampshire
    Elevation:5366 ft / 1635 m

Ascent Trip Report

So, the hike today turned out to be far more difficult than we were anticipating, mainly because the weather turned VERY nasty, VERY quickly. We had summited Mount Adams when we felt a couple of drops of rain - no biggie, right? WRONG. Next thing you know, before we could even react - we were completely drenched, being buffeted by 60 mile an hour winds and being pelted by hail. We had heard that storms were going to move in in the afternoon but this was at 10:30 in the morning. We turned back towards the shelter of the AMC hut near the base of Madison. While we were able to maintain core temperature by hiking, our arms and hands quickly became quite cold. The temperature had dropped a fair amount and if we had been unable to find shelter, we were concerned that hypothermia could become an issue. Also, especially during the initial onslaught, visibility was an issue - maybe - "maybe" 50 feet, so we were looking for Cairns in the mini storm raging through that area of the mountain. They tell you to get below treeline but we were even further from the treenline than we were from the AMC Hut. Thankfully, the shelter was only a mile back (half an hour over rough terrain in a soaking rain). We took shelter and waited out the quick moving storm but another batch of rain soon followed. After deciding that moving forward at this point would not be a wise decision, with more rain (and thunder and lightning expected in the afternoon) to return to Sara's car rather than attempt to push on and bag Jefferson. Good call. While it managed to stay rather mild on the trail we were hiking back on, the peaks of the mountains we had planned to hike were still shrouded in dark clouds. We chose to not go over Mount Madison again (a difficult hike to say the least) so we chose an alternate root that had us going for a half mile along a very rocky, very wet, very slippery section of rocks. In hindsight, we should have just gone over Madison but it was too late - we had to forge on. After traversing the ridge, we started down the long, steep slopes of Pine Link Trail. We had already ascended easily 5000 feet in elevation if not more (probably more) and we were now descending via the same extremely steep trail that had brought us to Madison. It was difficult enough going up that trail. Descending, after a heavy rain, was draining (to say the least). The descent is extremely steep (4000 feet in 4 miles) and with all the water, very slippery. We had to watch every step, slipping several times along the way and using our tree friends to save us from potential harm. The entire round trip of nearly 11 miles took us the better part of 9 hours of hiking time (yes, it was that treacherous). We did finally manage to reach the parking spot where we had left Sara's car and could finally relax. I think this may have been the most difficult (and most dangerous) hike Sara has ever undertaken with me. For me, I placed it number 4 as far as difficulty (with a winter hike up Spellman trail at Mt. Monadnock being number 1, the Winter hike of Mount Kinsman being number 2 and the Mount Willey, Field and Tom peaks trifecta being number 3 (it should have been easier but I allowed myself to not nourish correctly and suffered from Hypoglycemia on that ascent). Needless to say, we were both exhausted and banged up my right leg some - with a decent scrape from the rocks across my lower leg as well as several minor lacerations around my right knee. Also, a small but painful bruise on the outside of my right thigh. For Sara's part, I think she probably walked away with a bruised ass and maybe a couple of other small abrasions. Needless to say, I can't wait to take another crack at it.
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