Mt Adams Attempt
Submitted by Pat
Mountain: Mt. Adams (5,774)
Date: April 14, 2007
Time: 6.5 hours
Weather: Cloudy, light snow - 30's below and 20's at the top
Trails: Lowe's Path
Holy Shit Factor: Steep
How steep is it, Nancy?
Nancy Butt Glissading
Pat Sliding into Nancy - you have to watch this one sideways
Pat Sliding into Dejah
Two days after a substantial spring storm dumps close to a foot of snow in the Whites, we decide that our best chance for bagging our 50th peak is to tackle Mt. Adams. Leaving Keene at 5 a.m., the drive up is like many other drives - full of great conversation and its share of comfortable silence. We arrive at Lowe's Store a little after 8 a.m. I go in to see if it is ok to park and the woman who owns the place tells me the fee is $1. One dollar? That works.
We pack up, put Dejah on her leash and walk down Route 2 to the trailhead. With relief we note that someone has already broken trail but also know this is going to be another snowshoe hike. We hit the trail at 8:30 a.m. The skies are grey, although trying to break up, very little wind, and light snow pellets in the air. The path ascends toward the ridge at a moderate pace. Despite the gentle ascent, I warm up very quickly and gloves and soft shell come off. The snow is a little gooey and with every degree of warmth becomes even gooier. Our pace is slow - although I am not in pain, I don't feel my usual sense of fitness as we climb. It is harder and I realize how easy it is to let my mind make my body believe it is fat and out of shape. That kind of thinking isn't going to get me anywhere so I let it go and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Finally we arrive at a point in the trail where it starts climbing for real - it feels like it goes from moderate to steep from one step to the next. The pitch we have to climb doesn't have any tree trunks or roots close to the trail to help pull us up. I take out the poles and we each take one. I hve to point my toes sharply in order to get the crampon of my snowshoe into the snow well enough to get enough purchase to keep moving upward. That little pitch definitely gets the heart pumping and I keep going thinking it is just an anomaly. But no - it isn't an anomaly; it is the rule for the rest of the climb. Steep, steep, steep.
My calves start to scream and cramp so I put up my televators - little metal bars on the back of my snowshoes that raise up and thus raise my heel so that my calves aren't taking the brunt of every steep pitch. My calves immediately feel better - unfortunately, Nancy's snowshoes don't have them and her calves are definitely hurting. After the muscle soreness that I felt after our successful climb up Mt. Madison via the Watson Path, I decide to put those televators up and they make a huge difference.
The snow is deeper and more powdery as we climb. The temperatures start to gradually drift down into the 20's and as we climb higher we can tell we are actually inside a cloud. Everything ahead and to our sides is misted in fog. The snow is augmented by rime frost - it looks amazingly beautiful, like mid-winter, not mid-spring. We arrive at the Randolph Mountain Club cabin, check it out, take some pictures. No one is around although it is obvious the place has been used recently. Onward and upward we go. We arrive at Gray Knob and the tree line at 11:50 a.m. The folks who arebreaking trail veer off toward the Gray Knob Camp and we stay on the Lowe's Path, hoping visibility is not as bad as we fear.
The wind is as light as we experienced in our visits to the Northern Presis, but the clouds make visibility very limited. I can see maybe 100 feet ahead, and we are able to make it to the first cairn, but after that there is no way to see where the trail goes. We try a couple of options but come up empty and reluctantly decide to tackle Adams on another day. Besides, I really want to be able to see something if I am going to slug another 1.5 miles up this rock pile. All I can see now is the landscape covered in rime ice and although stunning is not particularly inviting. As we descend to the trees, we meet the three men who had been breaking trail. Their leader has a GPS and is going to take a reading, knowing that Lowe's Path is basically a straight shot to the summit. I feel disappointed but also know even more firmly and clearly that descending is the smartest thing to do. With a huge Nor'Easter bearing down on New England, I don't want to take any kind of risk of having to stay up here because I got lost or we got separated. Nope, isn't going to happen. We turn around at 12:15 p.m.
So down we go - once in the shelter of the trees, we put on hard shells and our rain pants in preparation for butt glissading our way down the steep sections. Oh my but we had fun. There is one section that is really long and the dips and curves perfectly banked. We hoot and holler all the way down. We meet several folks on the way - two young men going up to possibly stay the night in a sag somewhere up in the rocks - one has a mess of wands to mark the trail so they can find their way out of there. A group of young people from the UVM outing club meet us on the trail, all youth and beautiful smiles, heading up to the cabin for the night. By the time we are off the steep sections, our clothes and packs are soaked and weigh even more than they did when we started out. I feel the weight in my lower back and the hip belt won't stay tight to keep the pack on my hips and the pressure off my shoulders. Blah.
The temperatures moderate and the snow becomes softer and softer as we near the trailhead. My hip flexors are very happy to take off those snowshoes and walk on the road in my boots. I am done. We all are. But we have done another huge climb and make the right decision. We are back at the trailhead by 2:50 p.m. I think I enjoy the ride home as much as any part of our hiking days. Three hours of time with Nancy to debrief about the hike, talk about future hikes (Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in June, Baxter State Park to bag Hamlin and Brother in September, Burlington, VT in October), reminisce about all we have accomplished in less than a year. We still have time to bag that 50th peak before our year is up on May 6 - but it's not about the number we have climbed, it's all about how we have changed.