It was time... Of the 48 Winter peaks, I had Mount Adams left. Today was the day. After watching 3 forecasts, and coming to the conclusion that I might as well grab the brass ring, I set out with a full pack of winter gear. Every traction device I owned and headed for Appalachia. Not really sure what would happen today but I knew one thing... I was not going to give up without a fight. At 7am, Isis and I suited up and headed out. Today's sub zero temps to start earned extra layers for me and Isis. It was going to be slow going today too to watch for sweating. I had one thing on my mind, that summit post on the top of Adams.
The walk up and over on Gulfside was as predicted, windy and drifted. I kept the snowshoes on even with some exposed rock. There was more drifts to contend with than exposed rock anyway. Isis and I navigated some pretty slanted trail and hoped that we could get to our next landmark... Thunderstorm junction. Trying to discern cairns in the glare and the landscape had it's own challenges. Luckily some of Ian's prints were still visible. I pulled up my buff and my balaclava to shield myself. We passed Airline (our exit point) and kept going... More drifts and more searching for cairns... After a turn in the trail we saw... Thunderstorm Junction. Beautiful area with the sun, snow, and clouds all playing together. The wind had died down and there was not another soul in sight. I turned and took a breath... Time to press on to the summit. It was .2 on the Israel Ridge Path and as we climbed we ran into a pack of hikers that had just crested the summit. Everyone in great spirits. Isis and I continued on. The wind would die out and come back at us as we navigated the rocks and ice. Then we hit the spot Ian had told me about... The wind died, I looked up and saw the summit post... I lost it. Sobbing and gasping... My face freezing. I gathered myself and took those last steps... Hit the summit with a giant cry of YEAH WOOOWHOOO! 48! I kissed the summit post and set up for some quick pictures in a crouch for the wind. After this, Isis was not interested in sticking around.
I caught a look at Mount Washington before we headed back and it was beautiful and glorious with the sun playing gone the summit. Heading back down the way we came and not stopping. The winds were kicking up just a little. My water was a slush in my Nalgene... Drank it anyway ( I actually like it). We made our way back to the junction with Airline and ran into a few more hikers keeping good spirits with high fives and congrats for the accomplishment (hell yea, I'm talking about it). Once back at the junction, the wind kicks up tremendously. We continue down which in hindsight, I probably should have just gone back to Valley Way from Gulfside. It was hairy and somewhat nerve wracking for myself... Ice and not enough snow in places t grab with the shoes. But then I'd drop into a drift so I could not do crampons... We kept going and ran into other hikers coming up. Made way for them but tried to keep moving in the strong winds as best we could. Found pockets out of the wind to rest and then we hit tree line... Am I ready to go down? Yes and no... The day went by so fast but I'm cold and ready for coffee. As we hit the last bad weather warning, we also hit very unconsolidated and very much unbroken except for the deep postholes, Airline trail. It was like this through most of the steeps and I did what I could to smooth it out... I'm just one person in snowshoes. Or I butt sledded down which, can be very affective but hard on my ass. I only ran into one other soul below tree line. He and I laughed at my efforts. I may have pouted just a little when I told him I was only one girl in Snowshoes and Isis was not helping much either. The hike down took forever... Oddly like my hike up. And yet, the day went by quickly. Once we hit the lower trail, I decided to leave the shoes on... Didn't feel like carrying the weight. Coming out to the snowmobile trail I met up with a group from the morning... More congrats and Isis got some love. I changed at the car and we were off for coffee and home.
People die up there... Any season, any day. The weather can turn on you without any notice. Avalanche, spruce traps... Sure, I'll finish on Mount Adams! I have the most respect for this peak. There is something so magical about summiting the second highest peak in the Whites. And summiting for my last Winter Peak was an honor 4 years in the making. I believe that we are called to certain mountains and I was this week when the weather played out in my favor... No blizzard for us time for #48. I struggled through the 48 peaks for 4 winter seasons... Chipping away at my own pace and hiking through some great days and some pretty questionable ones too (a snow storm on Franconia Ridge comes to mind). The temps are for the most part cold but I did luck out and get a 40 degree day on Washington one year. This has been the most amazing journey in the cold of Winter and I relish every step I took. I have grown so much since I started this journey and have never felt stronger than I do today... No one can take this from me. It's mine to call on when ever I need it. No one died today... I hiked Mount Adams and No one died today. Sometimes the Mountains let you win.