Submitted By Michael Virdone
The Mountains & Stats
People On The Trip
Nicole and I had hiked these 3 previously as part of our overnight presie traverse where we went south to north, staying at lakes and Madison hut. I wanted to get up into the northern presies and see what it was like to climb up valley way vs use it for descent. The purpose of this trip was 2 fold: 1) to get some views on a nice memorial day weekend while enjoying this great hike, and 2) to do some scouting for a possible future hike.|
We drove from Keene, NH to the trailhead and were hiking by 8. Fortunately valley way is a superhighway and well maintained so we made good, slow, and steady pace up to the hut. The hut wasn't open for the season yet, so we had a quick snack break before climbing Madison. At this time the wind was really whipping and the summits (and everything above 5k') were in the clouds. Although it was warm in the valley it was a little chilly up top so we put on our rain jackets (For me, putting on the rain jacket is a choice between leaving it off and getting soaked in cold (rain) watter, or putting it on and getting soaked in hot (sweat) water, I opted for the hot option).
It was windy, the NWS called for gusts in the 30-40 mph range, and there were a few times where forward progress was halted to let the winds subside a bit (though I realize most of us are terrible judges of wind speed, so maybe I'm exaggerating). Soon enough (around 11) we were at the summit just in time for a brief window in the clouds to open up. We began our descent, and the lower we got, the more the clouds burned off. I was hoping for an undercast, but I was willing to settle for a beautiful day.
Back at the hut we had some lunch and then began our climb of Adams. I had forgotten how rocky and tricky this section of trail is. My (least) favorite part of the climb was how often you would step on huge rocks (3-4' in diameter) and have them shift a few inches. Trails like this are a bit of a bummer, we were so focused on making forward progress (and staying upright) that it was hard to remember to take your eyes off the ground and enjoy the surrounding views. Eventually after much balancing and rock hopping we arrived at the summit. Another quick meal and we were off to Thunderstorm Junction.
Looking from Madison to Adams it is as if you can reach out and touch the other, looking from Adams to Jefferson, its hard to believe Jefferson is in the same state... We made our way across the ridge, rock hopping our way over the various bumps before finally arriving at Edmunds col. Here we took another break and were greeted by a friendly dog. The dog and owner looked familiar but I couldn't be sure if it was the person I thought it was.
The climb up Jefferson was another balancy, bouldery climb (with a neat little snowfield thrown in for good measure) and although it seemed very far away, the climb itself went by rather quickly. Soon we were on the summit again enjoying the views and some grub. Shortly thereafter the dog and person arrived (having taken the scenic route around the peak). I could have swore it was Una Dogger, but the dog's name was different, but I figured I would ask if she posted on the forums. It turns out that it was Una Dogger, but she was hiking with Pemi and not Terra (which is what led to my confusion). We sat on the summit for a while, chatting (and resting my legs) before it was time to descend.
I had spent the whole day in my sportiva raptors and my legs were getting pretty tired so I decided to put my ankle braces on. WOW! I never realized how much support/strength a good pair of ankle braces give me, it was like my body was 20 pounds lighter (as perceived by my ankle muscles). The extra support was very welcome as we had 6+ miles with ~4400' of descent ahead of us. We followed the gulfside trail back to the Edmunds Col before descending on the Randolph path. The good news is that this path took us back to where we needed to go, the bad news is it seemed like it took FOREVER to get there. At the top the trail contoured just above treeline on the north side of the presie ridge, it was a really scenic trail (But, at some point you just want to descend back to the car!).
We made our way down and soon we were in the trees, the reprieve from the sun was welcome, but unfortunately the bugs were happy to be in the trees and out of the wind as well. Black flies were swarming (dive bombing my head, flying into ears, nose, mouth, eyes, etc...) but I only got bitten once. The insect distraction made the descent that much more tedious. One thing that we're not used to (being high peaks hikers) is the number of trail junctions. Every time we would get to a junction, we would get our hopes up that it was "the one" that would bring us back to the car. We probably went through 10 trail junctions on our descent alone. Eventually we were back at the car, getting changed, and driving home. We stopped for dinner and (finally) ate at the roast beef sandwich place in Lincoln (after having it recommended by the locals multiple times). The food was very welcome after a long day of hiking.
Overall it was a great trip, the views were great, the scrambling was fun, the wind kept the bugs away, and now I know that it takes me ~6 hours from Appalachia through the peaks to get to Jefferson.
The Good and The Bad
Never ending rock hopping between Madison and Jefferson