This morning we awoke at 6am to attempt to foil the weather for our long hike to Adams and the Madison Hut. What I had not realized previously is that Adams is actually among several peaks, the lowest is Adams 4, then Mt. Adams, John Quincy Adams, Samuel Adams, etc. We started our ascent up the normal paths towards our plots, took quick readings and kept going.
I was wearing my long black pants with a zippered poly pro shirt. In my pack I through my raincoat, rain pants and other necessary academic gear.
Up the path didn't go too horribly. I felt ok and was at least comfortable with the steepness. I brought hiking poles that I borrowed form Laura, but I found myself carrying them in hand and not using them for the ascent. I was occasionally breathless as we went up above the plots, but not as embarrassingly so. As we followed the cairns up the trail, all the trees dissappeared. Above me I saw nothing but lichen covered rocks and sky. I peered up at Adams 4, only barely higher than Gray Knob, and gulped.
The ascent, though "challenging" was manageable but as we ascended the views opened up, ad we were able to see additional peaks by the time we got to the summit of Adams 4. From there, we could see the real Adams, Jefferson and Madison. From Adams 4 we went down to Thunderstorm Junction and a tiny bit of rain came in for a few moments.
The downhill was steep only briefly, but then leveled out to a wind-blown grass. I was relieved and energized to put my feet on soil and soft ground if even for a moment. The trail snaked sideways then aimed directly up at Adams itself. The ascent to Adams was over huge rocks, and I was slow, but after stowing the poles I felt more at home on the rocks. The view up was again, nothing but rocks, the view behind was even more beautiful. White mists hid the valley completely, which made the peaks look as if they were islands floating in a white soft sea.
We got to the top of Mt. Adams and paused to take a photo. I felt proud and excited to have had the opportunity to do this (flora aside) to prove to myself that I'm capable of doing things that others can physically. I DID IT. I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN PEAK!!!
From there we descended a steep, sharp downhill and I could feel my hiking boots disintegrating as a whole and splits developed, I prayed that they'd last the trip.
Our steep ascent slowed to a gentle descent as we swung around the side of the mountain, then uphill towards star lake, which from the back of Adams, looked like a small muddy puddle.
As we got closer it got bigger and we began to see bog plants in bloom, so lovely! We could see the Madison hut and star lake opening up. We got to the lake and it was a bog surrounded by grasses whipping in the wind that was coming through the valley. Rain threatened but held off until we were inside the AMC hut Maidson, then downpoured once we were inside (luckily).
We rested and thankfully ate, and weighed the options ahead. Ascend Madison? Return to camp?
The weather's instability lead us to choose to return. We looked over a crazy ravine (The Great Gulf) on the way back, the views were awesome. We watched the clouds just pouring over the mountain tops. I can't even describe how small I felt.
We opted to skirt Adams 4 on our return, so no more uphill for the rest of the way (YAY). The spur trail was fairly hard, and I hurt my knee by twisting or hyper extending it on a rock. I'm not incapable of bending my right knee fully, the pain from behind my knee makes me spring back up in pain whenever I go to kneel or crouch.
We came back via Crag camp, bigger but more filled with people. We stood on the deck and watched butterflies ride the thermals coming off of the slopes. Eventually we headed back to Gray Knob.
I'm going to take some advil in hopes that my knee gets better by tomorrow, where we will be doing a longer, yet not as steep climb...