Mt Adams Trip - 21/Sept/96

By David Metsky

Map of the trip

After several wet weekends, the good weather forecast was just too good to pass up. I decided to hike something big, and spend some quality time above treeline, so I picked Mt Adams and the King Ravine trail, one of the best trails in the northern Presidentials. On Friday, I made a call to MRL to get a bed for the night and cut down on my Saturday driving and away I went.

After getting up at 6:00, eating breakfast, and taking a few pics of the Old Man of the Mountains, I was at Appalachia by 7:40 and on the trail before 8:00. The route to King ravine is via the Airline, Short Line, Randolph Path, back to the Short Line, which connects to the King Ravine trail at the base of the ravine. Just before there, among all the illegal camp sites, is Mossy Falls which is only about 6' tall but photographs well.

I had only seen three people so far, and was a little worried about going up the King Ravine trail alone, but I figured someone would come along eventually and find me if anything went wrong. Not the most intelligent line of reasoning, but I knew other people would be hiking up there that day. I stopped at the base of ravine and took in the huge glacial bowl. Above and to the west lay Nowell Ridge and the RMC's Crag Camp poking out of the trees. Above and to the east was Durand Ridge , home of the Airline trail. I could make out the Chemin de Dames working its way up. In front, the King Ravine trail climbs steeply up a slide and cuts over onto Durand Ridge. On the far right, the Great Gully trail could be seen climbing the deep gash.

I could hear the wind howling up top as I started climbing for real. I took the Ice Caves loop, scrambling over, under, and through huge boulders, before rejoining the main trail in a few 100 yards. Then, the trail hits the slide and starts gaining serious elevation. About then I heard people at the base of the ravine and saw someone closing in on me rapidly, a faster hiker. I rested, ate an apple and chatted with him a bit before he continued on. I wanted someone above me so I could get a photo that really showed the steepness of the trail. Two more folks came into view below and we hiked in sight of each other until reaching the junction with the Airline.

The rest of the trip is exposed and windy. It was sunny for a while, but the clouds were constantly blowing over from Castle Ravine and the summit of Adams was in and out of the clouds. There were nice views towards Madison, however. Here's a closeup of the summit. The hut was closed due to a bit of construction. I got to the summit around 12:00, put on more clothes, and ate. The views to the east were not too great, and the auto road was out of the clouds most of the time, but the summits of Washington and Jefferson never really came out. There were lots of people up there, usually around a dozen with people coming and going every 5 minutes. Lots of folks were scattered around the summit out of the wind. After about 45 minutes, I headed down towards Thunderstorm Junction.

The trip down was quite solitary, a welcome relief from the crowds up top. John Quincy Adams looked inviting, but I chose to contine past Thunderstorm Junction. The alpine tundra was just gorgeous. Of course, as soon as I was far enough away, the summit of Adams began to clear. I continued to Adams 4, a small bump on Lowes Path, and the sun was so nice that I stopped and soaked it up, all by myself. I had great views back to Adams, of Jefferson summit, over to Castilated Ridge, and across King Ravine and Durand Ridge. As the shadows grew on Jefferson I pressed on to Gray Knob, the RMC winter cabin. I met and talked with Melissa the caretaker for a while and a took a quick peak inside. Then I ran over to the new Crag Camp, just on the edge of King Ravine. After a last drink of water and mouthful of chocolate in the main room it was time to head down. The Spur trail took me Randolph Path, then I chose the Amphibrach for the final journey back to Appalachia.

The whole trip took about nine hours, but I spent lots of time resting and taking photos. There were approximately 30 trail juntions (welcome to the northern Presidentials), 9 different trails, and lots of great views.

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