Mt Adams

August 25-26, 2017.

It is time to put my redlining to an end. The plan is to hike every day until I finish so I can move on to other things. It has been five years since I decided to do all the trails in the White Mountain Guide and six years since I started hiking. With a little over forty miles left I have some of the toughest trails to knock off which was not by design. It will just be a more memorable finish considering what I have left. An overnighter in the Northern Presidential tab as I go for one of the hardest trails, Six Husbands Trail.

Day 1. I arrive at the Auto Road as the plan is to park at the site of the old Halfway House located just above the four mile mark. The Chandler Brook Trail is located just beyond this spot. This is a steep trail that leads down to the Great Gulf and is just under a mile in length. Waiting for the gate to open it looks like it is going to be a great day as I take a picture of Mt Washington. When the Auto Road opens I explain to the attendant that I am going to be spending the night and parking at the Halfway House Site. It doesn't cost any extra which is nice of them and I start the short drive up. All packed up and ready to the hit the trails and a look across the Gulf to Jefferson and the peak is smothered in a cloud. Jefferson Knee is right in front which is my path up out of the Great Gulf.

 

It's a short walk to the trailhead for Chandler Brook Trail. It drops 1350 feet in just nine tenths of a mile. Breaking out onto a talus field very quickly and a perfect view of my whole day is laid before me.

 

Picking my way slowly down the rocks and the natural tendency is to head toward the sound of Chandler Brook to the left. There are no blazes through here and as I reach the end of the rocks I see no path through the scrub. Not a good start! I can see the brook down below me but no sign of a trail. Heading back across the rock pile and I scan around from where I originally came down. Over to the right is the entrance back into the woods.

 

The steep trail leads down to the first crossing of Chandler Brook. The view up the brook reveals quite a few mini waterfalls.

 

Along the trail there are some hidden cascades that are hard to appreciate due to the steep bankings. Maybe on another day I might be tempted to try to find a way down but this is not the goal for this trip. One cascade is fully visible just a few more minutes down the trail.

 

At the second crossing the open drop affords a fine view across the gulf to Adams which I'll descend later in the day.

 

A third crossing and then at the last crossing some confusion as to where the trail is. An old tree is down across the brook and a look across there is no trail. I rock hop across to the other side and see nothing. Back across and then I see the trail hidden behind the fallen log. The trail actually crosses the tributary not Chandler Brook.

 

A few more minutes down the trail and I reach the Great Gulf Trail in a record hour and a half! Looks like it is going to be a slow day today. But Chandler Brook Trail is done only problem is that is my exit route also. A twenty minute trip up the Great Gulf Trail and I am at the beginning of the Six Husbands Trail. Last time I was at this junction was back in August of 2014 when I turned to the left doing the Wamsutta Trail. Turning right onto the trail and immediately a crossing of the West Branch Peabody River. Pretty easy crossing with the low water as I make it to the other side.

 

I did something different this time as I left my Kelty pack at home and fit everything in my daypack including my sleeping bag strapped to the bottom of the bag. I knew I would be going up through some challenging terrain on the Six Husbands Trail and did not want my framed pack. Now I needed to find a spot for the night in order to drop some weight for the day. I would be heading back through this area later today because I am going to continue up the Great Gulf Trail tomorrow. So as I head up the trail I kept an eye to the woods looking for someplace conducive to hang the hammock later. The woods were fairly thin to my right and heading in I found a pretty good spot where I could leave my sleeping gear behind and continue up the trail. The next junction is reached fairly quickly where the Buttress Trail enters in from the right. This is where I would be coming down from at the end of the day. Another ten minutes up the trail and the beginning of the fun as a huge boulder sits along the trail.

 

At an opening a look up to where I need to go. The trail then runs along the base of this sheared off monster.

 

A squeeze through a couple of "caves".

 

Then some normal trail before the section of ladders. The first one is pretty straight forward which leads up to the second one immediately.

 

The third one looks intimidating in regards to getting onto it. I have seen pictures of this one before and wondered how one gets up to it with the slab below. But it wasn't that bad as a good stretch got me on it. The fourth ladder is the one I have heard so much about. The top is supposed to be a bit hairy as there is a drop off just to left left when you reach the top.

 

The actual hard part is that outcropping of rock at the very top of the ladder that if you want to stand up forces you to the left next to the edge. I ended up just crawling on my stomach to clear it then stood up to walk the rest. Up next is the fifth and final ladder which was a non issue.

 

A few minutes later the ledges without ladders is more of a concern. But thankfully they were dry and scrambling up them wasn't too bad. At the top of the scramble a look back and across the Great Gulf are the Carters.

 

Up and over another precarious ledge and I can see across the Great Gulf to where I parked. I started where the bald spot is and came down the right hand band of rocks then down that ravine which is Chandler Brook.

 

A few more open ledges along the way as I pray my shoes grip with each step. They're both a scramble as I use all four limbs to get up.

 

Reaching the alpine zone and the trail lets up as the grade is a lot easier. The unfortunate part is I am in the clouds and the wind is blowing pretty good. Mt Washington recorded winds in the 30's with gusts in the 40's. At least I am partially protected as they are coming in from the west and I am on the eastern side of Jefferson.

 

I make it to the junction with Edmands Col Cutoff and decide not to finish Six Husbands Trail today. It continues on to just below Jefferson and an out and back will take up a lot of time. So a right turn onto the cutoff trail which follows a contour between here and Edmands Col. The trail started out innocently enough for a brief minute but changed dramatically.

 

That is the trails path across that boulder field. There is no quick and easy way across these craggy rocks as each step is taken with care because you never know when one of them is going to shift. I get a brief repose while crossing a very old slide section that has grown in. After that a trip through a scrubby section.

 

Another open rocky area and then I can finally see the junction sign through the mist for the Gulfside Trail. Back on very familiar ground as I turn right to make my way over to Mt Adams. There is no lolly dallying as I push on through this area trying to make up some time. The only picture I took along the way as I have been on this section many times in the past.

 

A turn onto Israel Ridge Path and the mass of Adams is next. The push continues and I made it in an hour from Edmands Col to the summit of Adams. A group is leaving as I get there and they quickly disappear in the fog. For a few minutes I have Adams all to myself while I take a couple of pictures. My next trail is Star Lake Trail as I head off in its direction as the wind is pretty gnarly up here. A couple is coming up as I start the descent and turning down towards Star Lake I get some relief from the wind.

 

A classic Presidential trail as the descent is slow. A couple of steep sections and boulder to boulder stepping makes a tedious trip down. The trail is only a mile in length but the pace makes it seem longer. The good thing is as I get lower in elevation I get below the cloud deck and see the terrain below me. Star Lake is the first landmark I notice.

 

Madison reveals itself for a minute and then disappears again.

 

Dropping lower and a shoulder of Washington can be seen off to my left. A zoom in and I can see where I am parked a long distance away.

 

Finally making it to level ground and I reach the Buttress Trail junction. This is my route back to my camping spot but first I want to stop at the hut to get some soup. It took a solid hour to do this trail and the day is quickly waning away.

 

Bad news as I reach the hut at a quarter after three and there is no soup left over from yesterday. That is the first time that has ever happened. With the cold temps and winds I was so looking forward to a hot bowl of soup. Instead I settle for a couple of Hershey bars that they sell and my own snacks before heading out for the final descent. A good forty-five minute break and I pack up and head back out just after four o'clock. The Buttress Trail crosses across the ridge in the foreground and as I will find out in a little bit across that boulder field...ugh!

 

But first into the scrub and then I reach the aforementioned field of boulders.

 

It is purely a mental game crossing over these boulders all day but it is what it is. The unfortunate part is most of the trails I have left are going to be similar to this so I just have to suck it up. Back into the scrub and the trail goes through this opening. A few minutes later and finally some good terrain where I can pick up the pace. I hear voices and can not figure out where they are coming from. People ahead of me or down in the valley as sounds can travel pretty good in the mountains...or is my imagination getting the better of me.

 

The voices continue as I keep going down and soon enough I find the source of two younger hikers heading down also. I follow them for a bit and then they eventually pull aside and let me pass. The trail steepens but the pathway footing is still good. I reach the boulder field that drops me down to Jefferson Brook. Across the way is Jefferson Knee which I climbed what seems like a long time ago earlier this morning.

 

My target tomorrow is just beyond Jefferson Knee, The Great Gulf headwall. This boulder field is a bit tougher as the rocks are bigger and harder to find a good path through. I pick my way across following the cairns that are strewn along the way and back into the trees. Down the trail to Jefferson Brook where I stop to have a drink and refill my bottle before crossing and Buttress Trail is finished. A quick jaunt down the Six Husbands Trail and my hammock and sleeping bag are exactly where I left them. Thirty minutes to setup and and it is about seven o'clock when I settle in for the night. Ten and a half hours of hiking some of the toughest terrain and I am tired both physically and mentally. As I lay there waiting for sleep to take over I start contemplating my plans for tomorrow.

 

Day 2. The winds never let up during the night as I dozed in and out. My plan was to head up the Great Gulf Trail, up and over the headwall, then across Mt Clay and return back down via the Sphinx Trail. Hearing the winds above me I really did not want to contend with them for two days in a row. It also took me ten and a half hours to hike almost nine miles yesterday and it would probably be about the same time today. Taking into account the miles I had planned, a headwall to climb and then climbing up Chandler Brook to get back to my vehicle I wasn't 100% confident I could make it back to the Auto Road before the gate closed. I didn't like having to adjust my plans as I wanted to finish this week. But the smart thing to do is modify today's hike and then go back home to regroup my agenda for the rest of the week. So rolling out of the hammock around seven and I was all packed up, had a small breakfast and headed back to the river crossing over to the Great Gulf Trail.

 

The Great Gulf Trail Becomes a bit rougher the further up I go. Old blowdowns litter the trail and in a few spots overspill from the river coincides with the trail.

 

Lots of slabby sections of trails above this point. At an opening in the trees a look behind me to where I was late yesterday afternoon, Adams now in the clear.

 

There is an abundance of waterfalls and cascades along the trail. This is becoming one of my favorite trails in the Whites. A pretty gentle run up to Six Husbands Trail then a bit rougher but more scenic after the junction.

 

A fairly easy crossing of the West Branch and then a flooded section of trail where the bog bridge has been moved by a flood.

 

One more crossing and shortly up the trail to the junction with the Sphinx Trail. This is my turn around spot as I had already made my decision earlier this morning. It only took a little over an hour to get here but I just didn't want to take the chance of not making it off the mountain before the Auto Road closes.

 

Backtracking my way back down the Great Gulf Trail and I make it back to Chandler Brook Trail. I wasn't looking forward to the steep climb back up to the road but there was no other way up. On the way up I get a shot of one of the falls I missed on the way down.

 

An hour and forty minute trip up the Chandler Brook Trail and just after noon when I reached the top. I figured it would have taken about another five hours to hike what I wanted to do today and that would have put me pretty close to closing time. So I could live with bailing on my intended hike. Time to go home and reconfigure and regroup what I have left to redline. Tomorrow I return with a new plan!


Final numbers: 12.6 miles, 14 hours 40 minutes.

Redline Miles: 6.9, Total to Date: 1405.6