This is another in my series of winter hikes where I didn't quite make it to the summit but had a great time. This time it was the Valley Way up to Madison. I was headed up to Sunday River Maine for a ski weekend and figured I'd get in a dayhike on the way there. I stayed at one of the DOC cabins, right across the road from Appalachia and managed to get a pretty early start. There was plenty of snow but the footing was excellent. I didn't need my crampons or snowshoes at all during the trip. While hiking along I took many, many pictures of trees for a future project, a guide to the trees of the Whites. I won't bore you with them here. Along the way, about 3000', I came across some fresh moose prints, probably from that morning, following the trail. Always nice to share the trail with a friend.
One of the goals of this trip was to take some pictures of the Valley Way Campsite. I have walked past the spur trail a dozen times and never once walked down it. When I got there, I heard music coming from a one person tent. This guy had stayed up there for a few nights, and had a Walkman with little speakers to keep him entertained. Cute. The site doesn't look like much in winter, just a clearing, two platforms, a view and an outhouse. Onward and higher, approaching treeline. A group of three guys caught up to me there, they were starting a Traverse and planned to camp at Star Lake, not really legal but pretty common. We hiked together to the hut after wallowing a bit in some deep snow. That was really the only section like that, then we hit treeline and most of the snow disappeared. We stopped just past the hut for lunch, enjoying the cold sunshine and some pretty spectacular views all around.
After eating I headed up Madison and they headed out to Star Lake to set up camp. The climb up was pretty difficult, as the winds were quite strong and there was a thin sheen of ice on all the rocks. Crampons really wouldn't have helped, and I was slipping and sliding quite a bit. Eventually I decided that I didn't really need to climb the last 200' so I stopped and took a bunch of photos instead. Man, Adams looks huge and nasty. The quick descent involved a lot of barely in control sliding, I'm glad I didn't twist or break anything. When I got down to the hut I headed over to Star Lake to check out their camp.
They seemed to be set up pretty well, although the forecast meant it would be an exciting night out. Just past the camp, where the Butress Trail heads down into the Great Gulf, there's an excellent viewpoint. There was an undercast through Pinkham Notch and Mt Washington was just coming out of the clouds. I could have stayed there for quite a while but I had to get down and drive to Maine so I said my goodbyes and headed out.
I couldn't resist taking a few more photos of the hut. I just love the look of Madison Hut in winter, more than any other of the huts, don't know why. As I headed down I ran into two more groups of people doing Traverses that weekend, all headed for the area around the hut or Star Lake. People! Read the rules for backcountry camping! There is no camping with 1/4 mile of the hut, especially not on a frozen body of water. Come spring there will be lots of TP blooms, very appealing. Oh well, enough ranting for one trip report. The trip down, as always, is a bit of a blur. Just one foot in front of the other, trying to remember how far to the next trail junction and finally the railroad tracks that signal the end of the trip. I made it down to the car by 4:00, plenty of time to change, pick up some Gatoraide in Gorham, and be in Maine in time for dinner.
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