Mount Adams Winter Ascent - Day 2
Summiting Mount Adams
A White Christmas
Mount Adams, the second tallest peak in the Northeast United States--stands at 5793ft across from Mount Washington northeast of Lincoln, NH and shares much of its notorious weather. Named after John Adams, the second president of the United States, Mount Adams resides in the northern Presidential Range. The range itself is notable because its mountains are all named after the early presidents and other prominent figures during the time. Our route to the peak of Mount Adams led us beside Mount Samuel Adams as well as over the subpeak Abigail Adams.
Something as simple as losing traction on ice and snow-covered mountains can become disastrous when combined with the effects of gravity, so ensuring Shanna's crampons kept her solidly attached to the ground was of paramount importance.
Whether or not we would be reaching our destination was uncertain as morning broke; on Day 1 of the trip up Mount Adams, Shanna's ill-fitting boots we had picked up in North Conway, NH had put her in agony with shin bang as we approached shelter at Grey Knob, and we were unsure that problem could even be fixed. Nevertheless, she was willing to try again. What could be fixed--thanks to the well-stocked field repair kit which I had brought with us--were her dead-on-arrival crampons purchased specifically for this trip. My first order of business after waking was to rig the locking mechanism that held them together with 3mm nylon cord and steel wire. Something as simple as losing traction on ice and snow-covered mountains can become disastrous when combined with the effects of gravity, so ensuring Shanna's crampons kept her solidly attached to the ground was of paramount importance. With the repairs out of the way, we suited up for another long day. Shanna had made some adjustments to the lacing of her mountaineering boots that would keep her from being in excruciating pain, but undermined the ankle support of the boots. It was a tradeoff she was all too eager to accept, but I kept a mental note to watch her footing and make sure she wasn’t risking a fall.
While Day 1 was the more physically difficult day of our ascent, Day 2 would be more of an exercise in patience.
While Day 1 was the more physically difficult day of our ascent, Day 2 would be more of an exercise in patience. The accumulated snow on the mountain was perfect for inflicting misery on those looking to summit. Mount Adams is essentially a giant rock pile, and due to a recent melt and a relatively minor amount of snowfall afterwards, those rocks were obscured with snow but not filled in by it. In those conditions, every footstep had to be well chosen, because if there was not a solid rock beneath it, the snow would collapse until our foot [or shin] found one. Moreover, since the snow had not compacted to cement the rocks in place, there was no guarantee that even the rocks would support us. Hiking to the summit was extremely slow going. However, it wasn't ALL treacherous. There were portions of the hike where the mountain was filled in, and with them came respite from the ever-fearful footfalls. But those blissful stretches where we could open up our stride were few and far between.
The climb to the top, once above the tree line, was a stark contrast to the prior day. Crampons fixed and on our feet, we made our way confidently across the snow-covered landscape and moved up the rocks towards the peak. This would be Shanna's first encounter with the cold and wind of the Northern Presidentials. What started out as a relatively calm day in terms of weather, now had become a bit more typical winter day with sustained winds of 30mph (bringing the wind chill to -20F). Even still, this is relatively mild for an area that is known for "The Worst Weather in the World". We were clothed for it, and once we had reached the top, spent some time reveling in our success and taking some photos at the summit!
While having some fun photos at the top, I had a "small world" moment, when Nate and Andrew showed up at the peak. I had met these guys during my trip to the Whites in winter of 2017 as we joined up with one other for an 18 mile post-holing session up, over, and down Owl’s Head the day before my Mount Washington summit. Nate and Andrew, ultra-light guys in minimal clothing, stood long enough to take our photos before shooting off to head down. What an incredible moment!
Even with our layered clothing, sitting still amidst the winds on the summit of Mount Adams was beginning to take its toll. The cold coerced us down, and we weren’t sure how long the trip would take. We knew it would be easier to go downhill, but we weren’t sure if it would mean more pain for Shanna. Retreating back to Grey Knob was fairly quick—giving us assurance that we had improved in our rock scrambling. I quickly picked up gear we had left at Grey Knob and combined it with some of the items Shanna was carrying to lighten her load during the descent.
Sometimes we make mistakes like these in life, and we just have to accept that our journey will be a little bit longer, a little bit harder, but that eventually--we WILL get there. Knowing that we will get there, regardless of the mistakes along the way—that is what persistence is.
The descent from there was LONG. In fact, it was longer than it had to be. The day before was six hours of hiking uphill, and this one would be eight in total. Through a wrong turn, I added at least thirty minutes to it. Without that thirty minutes, the day would have been seven and a half hours of hiking. It stands to reason then, that I extended the hike. I added not just thirty minutes, but thirty minutes to the END of the hike. The end was a silent and painful march out in the darkness, with sore feet and aching knees. It was a small mistake—following a wrong trail at an intersection—but it was one that could not be easily corrected, only steered. Sometimes we make mistakes like these in life, and we just have to accept that our journey will be a little bit longer, a little bit harder, but that eventually--we WILL get there. Knowing that we will get there, regardless of the mistakes along the way—that is what persistence is.