December 4th was the day to tag Mt. Madison along with its neighbor, Mt. Adams, while I was there. It was a decent day with temperatures in the teens. The forecast called for foggy summits during the morning, with clearing skies as the day went on.
I parked at the Appalachia lot, where I saw two guys gearing up for a day of ice climbing. I followed the Airline Trail up the ridge towards Madison Spring Hut, which was closed for the winter season. I followed the receding clouds until I reached the treeline. The fog had lifted right on schedule, but the ridge was being blown by a combination of snow, ice, and tumbling clouds. I suited up for the cold and made my way above the treeline. The wind picked up, blowing around 35 mph and gusting to 55 mph. I reached the hut and turned left towards Madison. The climb up Madison didn’t take long, but the wind was stiff. The wind was cold at the summit, but the views were fantastic. I sat on the lee side of the peak with relative protection from the wind to enjoy for a few minutes the view I had earned.
The climb wasn’t long and I felt good, so I decided to climb Mt. Adams as well. I had climbed Adams the winter before, but a cold wind in my face had distracted me during my descent. I hooked a crampon on my leg, did a front flip, and tore my pants leg while landing on my pack. I cut my leg, but avoided hitting my head or injuring a limb. I wanted to climb Adams again without the drama.
I walked around the south side of Adams, away from the wind. This was helpful, but I discovered the wind had lifted all the snow from the north side of the mountain and dumped it on my route. Movement became difficult, and I traded microspikes for snowshoes on the steep slope. I passed another hiker who was postholing up to his hips. I circled the peak and finally broke through to the summit where the strong, cold winds pushed me around for a while. I hiked down the north side in the winds, avoiding a fall this time.