June of 1984. A three day Presi hut traverse. Day 2, too tired so we passed by Adams, just wanting to get to the hut. I have Madison as a summit the day after, but the trails listed suggest otherwise. I can't remember. March of 2010, we attempt both, but arrive to high winds at the hut, and people getting turned back constantly on Madison. September that year, we head up to do King Ravine, but I pass on Adams, thinking that's where I will finish my 3000 footer list. I later change that to Wildcat D so my wife can ride the tram up. Sigh. Brian needs these two to finish his winter list and the winds are not cooperating this year. Finally, the opportunity presents itself with 30 mph winds blowing up to 50. I'm not all that comfortable with it, but am assured that won't be too bad. When I see the summits are in the clear, that seals it.
We went up Lowe's Path, spotting a car at Appalachia. We all hate Valley Way by now, and Lowe's is supposed to be the easiest way up Adams. We headed out around 7:15, and were met by ice early on.
On went the spikes. The grades were great, and we were moving at a good pace. I was worried about such a long hike with over 5000 feet of gain, but was feeling decent. The guide promised a steep middle section, which was not horrible steep, but it was covered in ice.
Fortunately, the microspikes were digging in nicely, and with some care, we had no need to dig out the crampons. We came to the shelter, and I was shocked how quickly we made it up. Only about 700 or so of gain and we'd be above treeline. The day started cloudy, but was quickly clearing up. And it was relatively warm. I stayed in just one shirt all of the way up to treeline and was roasting. We took a break once we broke treeline and soaked in the views. There was barely any wind, and no need yet to layer up. Crazy for January.
The views were already spectacular, with only some cloud cover to the north. We moved on, seeing a haul to get up to the subpeak of Adams 4.
Once we got up to Adams 4, we could see some clouds spilling over the ridge, but nothing threatening. It was a gorgeous day to be sure, but there still lay a haul up to Adams.
Despite the worst being over, I was conking out. The views could only spur me on for so long, but I was here to do something, so I just moved as best I could. I'm used to 2000-3000 feet of elevation gain, so I knew this would be a difficult task, but every step forward was another step closer. And then just before Thunderstorm Junction, a mere 270 feet below the summit, I started getting tightness, then pain in a muscle coming up and behind the knee. I ignored it at first, but it got worse to the point of being excruciating and causing me to limp badly. The guys stopped, and I sat, really hoping it wasn't a muscle tear, because now I wasn't even sure I could get down. Turns out it was a leg cramp in a muscle I didn't know existed. We started forward, and it popped up again, now in both legs. Oh this would really suck to be so close, but this passed quickly, only to threaten later and nothing more.
We ran into Larissa and three others on the way up, fulfilling a prophecy that we would run into someone we knew today. And in short order, we were there. Success! 28 years to get this damned peak.
There was a stiff breeze up top, but I was still very comfortable in my fleece. Crazy. The views were awesome. There was now a complete undercast to the west, and clouds were spilling into the Great Gulf.
Clouds were also covering up Madison. I've only been above treeline twice now in winter, and wasn't relishing hiking in the fog. Sure, we had GPS's, and there were generally plenty of cairns, but still, with lots of steep drop-offs all around, I didn't like the idea of getting to close to them. We headed down the Air Line, but quickly headed left of it for an easier slope. There was a hard crust that was slick, but still I managed some butt sliding by keeping one foot vertical for braking. Then we started breaking through the crust. Yay. But we made to the Gulfside Trail without incident.
In the col, we headed into the clouds, but had little trouble following the trail. And then we popped right out and everything in front of us was in the clear. Boo-yeah! It was a pleasant walk down, and I managed to get this nice shot.
At the hut, we took another nice break, and I was happy to hear it was only 500 more feet of up, not the 800 that I thought. A large group was there, part of the Winter Workshop as we found out, and the leader was interesting yelling out instructions and precautions. They left, and we had the place to ourselves, and we set off. This was tough. It was 20 steps, rest, 20 steps, rest, but the elevation ticked off quickly. I could see the summit, and was thrilled, only to hear it was a false summit. Argh. OK, short trip to the real summit, and Brian was done with the winter 48, finally.
Before we could say anything, he smushed that “no big deal, no big deal.” He wanted a low key finish, so that's what we gave him, other than Greg handing over a Mountain Dew. It was now windy, and I was getting pushed around a bit, but now the views north were open, and it still wasn't uncomfortable. So much so that I only wore mitten over my glove liners a couple short times only to take them off because my hands were too hot. As Brian said, “we stole these peaks!” It's been a warm year, with much of the precip. falling as rain.
We headed down and I said to Brian, ya know, I'm more ecstatic than you to get these done. Yup, he agreed. It was a lot of climbing, and I haven't been out as much as usual, so I was quite happy with myself at being able to get this done, especially with the leg cramps. But were weren't done yet. We still had quite a few miles left down the cursed Valley Way. We all HATE this trail, as it is boring as hell and we've seen too much of it. Again, Brian said it best at the beginning. “I've never been so happy to see Valley Way.” Indeed. The trail was hard packed with lots of rocks sticking out, so we took it easy and safe. As we got down further, the ice showed up, which slowed things down a fair bit, and the usual hate for this trail settled right in. The last third of this trail, I was a zombie, and I skipped ahead a bit so I could turn off the legs brakes, which I find easier.
I felt like I was walking on the moon after I took the pack off, and the guys showed up only a couple minutes later. I was dead, but I took a quick shower at the inn, and had a great dinner with the guys, also running into Jason Berard and HappyHiker at Mr. Pizza. A fine end to a fine day.