Salty's Madison Trip Reports


Hiking Dates



Date Climbed: 06/07/2014

Distance: 10.9 miles

Low Elevation: 1246 feet
High Elevation: 5366 feet
Elevation Gain: 4459 feet
Elevation Loss: 4459 feet

Start Location: Dolly Copp Campground
Finish Location: Dolly Copp Campground
Route: Great Gulf Link, Great Gulf Trail, Madison Gulf Trail, Parapet Trail, Star Lake Trail, Osgood Trail, Daniel Webster Scout Trail

Weather: Mostly sunny, summits in the clouds to clearing, breezy, warm
Companions: Dan


First off, thanks to my brother for supplying the pictures. I forgot my camera, and was severely bummed for such a scenic route. Sigh.

We were looking for something similar in gain and distance to Katahdin's Hunt Trail, and we tossed out some options, with Madison Gulf and Daniel Webster Scout Trail coming out as the winner. The Gulf had some scrambling, which I enjoy, and it was supposed to be a gorgeous day. Also, I am getting very keen on exploring more of the rugged east side of the Presis.

We arrived at Dolly Copp and set out on the Great Gulf Link Trail, a pleasant and quick 0.9 stroll to the Great Gulf Trail, overlooking the Peabody River.

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We had occasional views heading up the Great Gulf Trail, and came to the Madison Gulf junction. We found the sign confusing, and ended up at a suspension bridge. Uhhh, wait a minute. We took a wrong turn. Dang it. Back up and finally going the right direction. We'd continue to get views including into the Great Gulf itself, something we'd love to do sometime.

As promised in the guidebook, there were at least a couple stream crossings that were a pain. Not because of water, but trying to find the other side of the trail. Do enough poking about and you'll find it. We came to Sylvan Cascade

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which would then bring us to Mossy Cascade, and then we knew we'd be doing some climbing. I didn't expect it would also lead us to a small patch of ice. Yucky. We were hoping for views of the headwall, but unlike Huntington's, no such luck. This is as good as we got.

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And then it began. This wasn't a gradual, get used to steeps thing. This was here's your first steep part, figure it out, so you can get to the next puzzle. The very first one was Oh God, don't fall here, but after looking about, we only found one way up, and it wasn't too bad to attain. There was an awkward lean back moment around a protruding rock, then there was the bonus of water running down the trail. Sketchy handholds, sketchier foot holds, even sketchier barely attached trees. I was indeed enjoying it! It's hard to capture steepness in photos, but look at the trees in the upper left corner, and the two clumped together next to the trail at center right. It's steep.

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It took a while to get up, but the time seemed to fly by. We popped out at treeline and finally we could see it was going to relent. Huzzah! At the junction, it was time to rest. Next to a patch of snow. Dan liked it, I didn't need any more reminders of winter. Spring flowers were just fine by me.

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We decided to go to the hut to see if they had soup, and so decided to go over Madison instead of across the Parapet. Rumor had it it'd be faster and easier that way. A quick stop at Star Lake,

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and over to the hut to find soup had run out like 20 minutes earlier. They offered to cook some more up, but we didn't want to wait nor have them go through the trouble. They were busy with two huge turkey breasts. We ate, and I had to leave before I saw much more of the turkey, or we'd be staying the night. Madison was a slog. A hot, mostly breezeless slog. Gah. At least I knew about the false summit this time. We topped off, bro took some pictures and we headed off down the Osgood, anticipating the Scout Trail. Wrong junction, onward, bingo! From here we talked about the Osgood or Scout. I figured the Osgood would be easier going and though longer, possibly a faster route. The guide mentioned some ugliness on the Scout Trail, but we finally decided in favor of shorter and getting some redlining in.

It started innocently enough, paralleling below the Osgood, but the footing was horrible, and the side sloping was annoying.

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We came across a family (or two?) coming up with two very young girls, one of which was looking very, very unhappy. Given the time of day and pace, I had to wonder if there was anyway in hell they'd make it up to the hut before dark. I checked back later, and it looked like they hadn't gone far at all. Oof. And then the promised down the fall line came. Steep, rocky, rough, lots of swearing. Unrelenting bitch. Now I know why the kid was unhappy. I guarantee she'd be unhappier coming down this pig. Maybe it was the long day, but descending this and Nelson Crag of the Presidentials ranked as worst trails ever. Yet either one of those would be fine heading up. I need to choose descent trails more wisely!

Finally, FINALLY, the flipping trail stopped being so steep and we could actually walk like humans. The rest was pretty much a blur. But in the end, at least I knew I was ready for Katahdin, and the Madison Gulf Trail is pretty freaking awesome. Guess Six Husbands will have to be next. But which trail to descend....

Date Climbed: 01/01/2012

Distance: 10.4 miles

Low Elevation: 1306 feet
High Elevation: 5799 feet
Elevation Gain: 5128 feet
Elevation Loss: 5199 feet

Start Location: Lowe's Path TH
Finish Location: Appalachia
Route: Lowe's Path to Adams, near Air Line to Gulfside, Osgood to Madison and back to Hut, Valley Way

Weather: 30's, windy on summits, otherwise light breeze, clouds to clear
Companions: NewHampshire, HardcoreIdiot


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.