Woody is a New Yorker and isn’t new to hiking or camping, even in the winter — he is experienced in the Adirondacks — but he is new to winter camping in the Whites, and at such an elevation. Apparently, because of Adirondacks rules, camping above 4000-feet isn’t allowed. This was going to be a great experience for Woody.
Day One: Jefferson Attempt
The original plan was to traverse the Northern Presidentials ascending Jewell, bagging Mt Jefferson (5716′), then camping in Edmand’s Col with the idea of grabbing Mt Adams (5799′) and Mt Madison (5366′) the next day. That said, a lack of snow (winter alpine camping rules require two feet of snow) and high winds above treeline (being a safety concern) suggested another plan for day one. Álvaro felt going up Lowe’s Path then hitting Randolph Path to the Perch Path and “The Perch” (a Randolph Mountain Club shelter located at 4313-feet) would be a sound idea. It really was, barring the final one mile section of Randolph Path where the duo encountered unbroken deep snow which slowed them considerably.
They did make the shelter, nonetheless, but between hearing crazy west winds screaming above their heads and the lack of daylight remaining after the mile long slog and establishing camp and all, they were deterred from going for Jefferson that day as they had originally planned to do.
They wisely decided to stay in camp and enjoy their time staying warm performing various camp chores, boiling water, cooking, etc. Álvaro took over making dinner for the two of them bringing fresh ingredients for some fine Portuguese comfort food. This is why guests-in-the-know request Álvaro. You just can’t get this kind of special treatment anyplace else.
Day Two: Adams & Madison
After dinner and an uneventful night in camp the two awoke early to a brief sunrise and stunning but limited undercast before being swallowed by clouds for the bulk of the day. After a simple in-bag breakfast the two packed their gear and headed above treeline for the remainder of their hike. Things started clear but before long visibility was pretty limited. Moreover there was a fair amount of rime ice creating a lack of contrast making navigation more of a challenge at times. This is especially problematic on Adams with its small cairns (Madison usually isn’t an issue at all). Thankfully Álvaro had been up there many times and was able to guide Woody and himself safely to the top without much difficulty.
After spending some time on Adams in cloudy but extremely calm, comfortable conditions, the pair headed down toward the Madison Spring Hut for a short break before making their final summit push: a half mile to the Madison summit. After tagging that peak and returning to the closed hut, Álvaro and Woody headed down Valley Way Trail to the Appalachia Trailhead and their awaiting carspot. This last part went very quickly since the trail was in great shape and both hikers were still feeling good.
Next time, there will be *guaranteed views (*disclaimer: sorry, we can’t actually do that). For now, well done, gentlemen. Woody, congratulations on getting two of the three. And Álvaro, that was a fine lead with some solid planning and decision making. Good job! For those who don’t realize it, this phase of our trips starts well in advance and we labor over it.