The plan was hatched on our annual Katahdin trip in 2009, as a group of us were making our way up Pamola Peak. Alex is a ‘big picture’ guy, with a ‘bigger, better, longer, faster’ mentality that made the trip a reality. Alex and I couldn’t resist the fact that the summer solstice in 2010 was only days away from the full moon. We were psyched because that meant even if we had to hike in the dark, we’d have the light of the moon. Plus, the photo ops! And, to make sure the trails weren’t too insanely busy, we scheduled it mid-week. We gave ourselves a 2-day window for weather and got it on the calendar for June 24 or 25. As the date approached, it became clear that the weather was looking better for Friday the 25th. On Thursday, Alex and I drove up and set up camp at Dolly Copp campground off Route 16. The weather was totally unpredictable, and heavy showers were rolling through all day. We could only hope that the weather would clear up for our hike, as predicted.
The group was 6 people: me, Alex, Jen, Doug, James and Rich. We dropped the cars at the Cog Railway (bailout car) and at the Highland Center, our destination. The weather cleared in time for us to have a dinner around a nice campfire as we chatted about the day that lay ahead. The plan was a 4:30 AM wakeup, and it would only take us a 1/2 hour to get ready, right?! We were off to bed, and 4:30 came very quickly. We made coffee, ate bagels, and filled our water bottles and we set out to the trailhead around 5:45. So much for a 5AM start! It always takes longer to get ready than you think. We hit the Daniel Webster trail at 6AM on the nose. And that started the day. It was a pretty mellow ascent below treeline over some rocky, rooty terrain. After about an hour and a half, we broke treeline and began the scramble up to the ridge where we would be for the rest of the day. The views were amazing, without a cloud in the sky. As we approached the ridge, we were rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Washington and the auto road, and of course our first peak of the day, Mount Madison. We took the Gulfside Trail up to Madison, first peak of the day at 8:30. Madison is no joke, and is by far the hardest peak we summited over the course of the day.
We scrambled down to Madison Hut, for 2nd breakfast and a water refill. I had already guzzled my 3 liters! After a sandwich break, we set out for peak 2, Mount Adams. Another tough ascent, but under clear skies and with unencumbered views, there were no complaints. We were moving quickly, but definitely stopping lots to enjoy the views and photo ops, so time was passing quickly. We came off Adams and rejoined the Gulfside Trail. Next up, Jefferson. We had a chance to play in the remains of the snow between Adams and Jefferson. The terrain was tough, lots of ups and downs and jagged rocks, but we could keep a decent pace, while we were moving. Which, we were beginning to realize, we needed to have more moving and less stopping. Time was ticking. Jefferson was a great peak, which allowed for amazing views in every direction. It was pretty cool to look back and see Adams and Madison, which we had passed over already, and it wasn’t even noon!
The plan was lunch at Mt. Washington, but we were not keeping on that schedule. We hit Clay next, and made it to our halfway point at 2PM – Mt. Washington. A long stop here, we were having a major low point. Everyone was hungry, sore, tired – contemplating the fact that it was 2PM and we were just reaching halfway. Jen’s knee was bothering her, so we loaded her up with 800 mg of Advil, and we all enjoyed about 800 calories in ice cream treats. Spirits were up and we set out on Crawford Path with a faster pace for the next stop – Lake of the Clouds, and then Mount Monroe. Fortunately the terrain eased and we were able to maintain a quick pace from Washington on. The skies were still clear, it was breezy, so I was comfortable in a long sleeve shirt for most of the day. At Lake of the Clouds, we had the option to bail out, or keep going. We all agreed to keep going, with the knowledge that we needed to stop less if we were going to get out in the daylight. Hiking after dark above treeline didn’t sound ideal to any of us, so we all picked up the pace. Me, James and Alex hiked out in front, and Crawford Path became a good friend. The terrain evened out significantly and we hit Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower and Pierce pretty painlessly.
By the time we got to Eisenhower (which was a good push up), the terrain was like a super highway. Hard pack trails made for fast hiking. Last peak of the day Pierce, was pretty uneventful, not much in the way of views, considering what we had been seeing all day. We basically ran the last 3 miles to the car, finishing around 7PM. We were all very happy for those warm beers in the cooler at the end of the hike.
We made our way to the Moat after picking up the bailout car and swimming in Ammonoosuc Ravine Falls. Ahhh, very refreshing. And the Moat was AWESOME! Good food and beer. Off to camp for a fire, and then sleep. Alex and I hit the Red Tail Trail on our way home the next day. Legs were barely even sore!
Overall, the hike was pretty perfect – we got the hardest terrain over with early on, and had wide open views to keep us motivated the entire day. We all had a pretty great day, and we’d certainly do that hike again. You can see photos from the hike here:
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