It was just plain dirt down low. I was wearing my plastic boots, the others had a mix of plastic and leather. We had a pretty uneventful time down low, spliting into two groups and regrouping at various rest stops along the way. We took a break at the Log Cabin and all grabbed a bit of food and water. After a bit more hiking we reached the Quay, which is the viewpoint just next to Gray Knob cabin, you can even see Franconia Ridge. Here, Tim and Bear caught up to us, as he is want to do. We wandered over to Gray Knob to check it out, then back to the Quay where we remarked on the lack of snow so far. The group split up into the fast and the slow, but we never were far from each other. There were several patches of snow, some deep, but nothing that even remotely required us to put on our snowshoes.
Once above treeline, travel was unremarkable in a remarkable way. Lots of cruising along the rocks and patches of snow, until we hit Adams IV where we got in a little boot skiing. The weather was quite stunning, giving us views of Madison and Jefferson, as well as our destination. We hit Thunderstorm Junction still going strong and began the push to the summit. Just a few final snowfields (very little for November) and the final rocky climb to the top. There were a few folks there, including the RMC caretaker who said that just 72 hours earlier there was waist-deep snow up here. The warm temps of the past few days had melted it all. We hung out in the lee of the summit, eating our lunch and thanking Farmer Bob for being a good weather charm.
We started down as the day pressed on. We decided to go down the Airline since the weather was so good, but it was surprisingly slow going on the top part. There was a thin layer of ice on some of the rocks that really made it difficult to trust your steps. We regrouped near the hut then started down the fun section of the Airline, the Knife Edge and terrain below that. There were late afternoon views the whole way down, including a nice look across King Ravine at Crag Camp. Since we knew we'd be hiking out in the dark, we elected to cut over to the Valley Way once we were back below treeline. Although the cut-off was tough, it eventually paid off as we could keep our speed up on the Valley Way with headlamps. We got out just around 5:00, a long day for a single mountain, but no one was complaining.
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