Adams has eluded me for 26 years since I walked by it. It would elude me yet again today, but no matter. We arrived at Appalachia around 8:00 to a full lot. We would see a ton of people today. We made our way up a hard packed Valley Way, with two groups breaking out. At one point, I left the slower group to catch up with the fast group as I just needed to keep going without any stops as my legs were cramping, and I went for a good long while doing this, eventually taking the lead.
Around 4000 feet, I took an extended break to rest my legs, and see how far behind the others were. I was considering bailing, and was wondering how BobC was doing, thinking about an early ride home. I ran into Boo and Madhatter here, meeting them for the first time. A very pleasant couple who can't help but bring a smile to your face. After about 20 or 25 minutes standing in a nice sunny warm spot, Brian and Gary came up, and we found out Bob had turned around due to recurring leg problems. I feel bad for Bob, he's great to be around, and this problem has been causing him issues lately. Hopefully he bounced back soon.
So, with my afternoon at home gone, and since I was feeling better after getting some food into me, we decided to push on to Madison Hut. Gary wasn't feeling the love today either, but he's tenacious. And so we forged on, leapfrogging several groups heading up. Layering was an issue today, as it was warm below, but the wind started picking up as we got higher. In the sun I was sweating, and just when I thought of ditching the fleece again, a cold chill would creep in. Brian and I slowly made our way up the steep part, with Gary not far behind. What seemed like impossibly far away and high up earlier was slowly coming into near focus.
We could see Mt. Quincy Adams ahead with lots of snow being blown off its summit, and we were pretty sure at that point that Madison Hut would be our goal for the day. Just below the hut we ran into Keith and Julie, who showed us the point where everyone was turning around on Madison. Keith was saying it wasn't all that safe above that point, and wished us luck, but our minds were solidified against any summit attempts today. This was my first time above treeline in winter, and I wasn't going to risk it, especially given my tendancy to safety first. It was clear this was out of most people's (including those far more experienced than me) comfort zone.
Tony and Greg had gone up to try Madison, and while we were waiting, Joe, then Rob, and finally myself decided to go get a Great Gulf view Keith had keyed us in on. The winds were sustained in the 30's or 40's, and I'm sure the gusts were pushing 55 or so. I was having a blast. It was plenty warm (the snow was melting off the hut, at least thanks to the sun), and it was great being in this surreal environment with the wind pushing me around and the snow being blown everywhere. The view over to the Carters was a nice bonus in addition to the north and east views we had experienced already. The rime and snow formations were awesome. We walked back to the hut with the wind in our faces, to find Greg wearing microshoes. One foot in microspikes, the other in one of his new Tubbs. The other got blown into the Great Gulf thanks to the binding coming off. Ouch.
After a quick stop out of the wind for food, it was a quick trip down. We did some butt sliding, and on one section, I couldn't negotiate a small turn and ended up sinking my butt into deep uncolsolidated snow, with my head pointing down a steepish slope and snowshoes on the trail. I was ahead of everyone by a couple of minutes, and was detemined to get out of "here's my stupid moment of the day" before being found. I tried pulling on a branch to pull myself up, but just got sunk deeper. Pushing my hands down was only met with soft deep snow. Argh! I tried rolling over to no avail. Crap! I was thinking, what if I was solo? Well, I would've taken the shoes off and swung my legs downhill, I guess, but it was a little disconcerting. No matter, here came Joe, laughing at my misfortune. "Don't move!" says he. "I CAN'T!!!" says I. Out comes the camera. Gurf. OK, Joe, get me out now. It took some doing with his ski pole and arms to pull me out. Thanks, Joe, seriously.
After that, the brakes came off my legs again. I don't like holding back going downhill, I just find it easier to let loose, resulting in some unbalanced runs down the trail. Unfortunately, my binding gave me problems again, and I finally packed away the shoes, hoping the show wasn't too soft. So off I went, picturing myself basking in the sun at the bottom waiting for everyone, so no problem threre. I got to the Valley Way/Randolph Path junction to suddenly the hard pack went away. Huh? I don't remember any soft snow. Look at the signs, look at the map, back and forth. Yep, this was Valley Way. Back out came the shoes, and after 10 minutes of dealing with this situation I was off again to run back in the hard pack in less than a minute. Argh. Apparently, the path everyone was taking sidestepped this little section.
Of course, the binding came loose again, and I finally ended up carrying them. I got to the lot at 2:40, catching up with Boo and Madhatter for a final goodbye. Unfortunately, basking in the sun wasn't going to happen. The wind, which I hadn't seen a trace of since treeline, was whipping down Route 2. I was about 15 minutes ahead of the next member of our crew and an hour ahead of the last. No big matter, except for some cold hands. Off to Mr. Pizza for some good food and brews. Sadly, I feel asleep between Lincoln and Tilton. I hate doing this when others are driving, as I see it as unfair, but Joe apparently still had Gary to talk to, and didn't seem to mind.
Overall, one of the best hikes I've ever done. Being up there was a great experience. The views were fantastic, the company was great, I really enjoyed seeing the alpine zone in winter and in hefty winds. It's good to get some confirmation that I'm not totally peak-oriented.