It was a rather frigid night at the Osgood Tent platforms. It started out raining, and then turned to some icy snow. I was sure glad when morning came. I would have gotten up significantly earlier, except that I thought it was still snowing. Eventually I noticed it was clear off to the east, and began to get suspicious. It turns out that the snow was just blowing off the ridge above.
I had my marmelade and butter sandwich for breakfast (This is becoming a staple on my hiking trips), and was ready to go. Darn... I forgot my crampons and wind pants. The wind pants just barely fit over the boots - I'm not sure if there was more angst involved in doing what I did and forcing the cuffs over the boot, or just taking the boot off.
This was actually the fifth time I had thought about climbing Madison. I had tried twice before from King ravine, once driving up Mount Washington and walking north on the ridge, and once just this February on Osgood Ridge. This was the first time I had tried alone.
Finally I was ready to go. It was a fairly uneventful hike up to treeline around 4,300 feet on Osgood Ridge. It was interesting to note that all the logs across the trail that I remembered from February were about a foot higher because there was less snow.
At treeline I stopped to take my crampons off, and wonder if I was actually going to go to Mount Adams. Originally I had been thinking about climbing Madison and Adams, but the strong winds (60-90 mph with higher gusts on Washington), combined with the fresh coating of rime on the rocks, made me think Madison would be a more reasonable goal. It didn't bother me much the views were spectacular even off of Osgood ridge, and the sunlight was especially nice after the cold dark damp night I spent shivering in the tent. Still I had some thoughts of Adams as I made my up the ridge.
Walking up the ridge was strange, because even though I seemed to be in a fairly exposed spot, I was mostly sheltered from the wind. It was pretty neat to watch the clouds over Washington. They were streaming over the summit, and you could actually see the smooth airflow pattern because they were moving so fast.
Occasionally, a gust would swirl down, and forcefully push me back. It was rather impressive.
At the top, the wind was cold and ferocious, but there was a nice sunny sheltered spot on the great gulf side of the summit with stellar views of the clouds in the gulf. It was neat to stand up, clutching a rock, and feel the full force of the wind. Mount Adams looked quite striking with a cap of clouds, and still white from the rime ice.
Clouds rushed over Nowell ridge, while Durand Ridge and Mount Madison were completely in the clear.
Finally, I decided to walk back down. A lot of the rime was melting, and the mountain seemed gentle as I walked, again largely protected from the wind. The clouds were lifting, allowing me to see some of the Great Gulf headwall.
When I made it back to the tent platform, all of the snow and ice from the last night had melted. The trek out was just a walk through the spring woods, with the last of the snow fast becoming overwhelmed with brown.