Saturday, July 23, 2011

Seeking an Alternate Peak - Mt Adams via King Ravine

Last Saturday we participated in our fourth Seek the Peak.  The fundraising had gone great and we were anticipating a weekend with good friends and much fun.  Our "Kilted Clan" team had raised almost $11,000 for the Obs.  Everything was perfect.  Only problem was we didn't have our hiking plans finalized.  We wanted to do something different from the usual Lion's Head / Tuckerman Ravine loop from past years (and with Tucks closed for repairs that was a given anyway).  OK, I know that Seek the Peak is supposed to be about hiking Mt Washington, but given that we'd been on the summit just a few weeks ago during our Lakes of the Clouds weekend, the fact that there was a record number of STP hikers this year (almost 500) and the closing of the normally most used trail it seemed like a good time to come up with an alternate plan.  When the friends that we'd been planning to hike with suggested Mt Adams and King Ravine we jumped at the idea!

Mt Adams had been on our list of the couple of remaining Presidential summits that we haven't hit yet (along with Jefferson).  I've also wanted to do King Ravine although I had just considered a hike around the Ravine floor and not going up what appeared to be an impossible headwall.  Reading the trail description again though it didn't seem overly crazy.  I'm still dealing with acrophobia and will likely never make it into Huntington Ravine and some of the other equally vertigo inducing locations in the Whites, but King's sounded doable.  And so we had a plan...

We decided to get a head start on the rest of the group to give our several-weeks-since-hiking legs a chance to warm up and we hit the trail at 7:30 - about 1/2 hour ahead of them.  We made good time on the Airline and Shortline and were taking a break at the King Ravine Trail junction when Tim, Val and Mark caught up with us.  The lower sections were nice and the early morning air still had some coolness - particularly when compared to Friday's 100 degree heat.

Nice walking on the Shortline

Mossy Fall

The lower sections of King Ravine immediately start to show their character with continual jumbles of huge boulders.  They vary from the size of a refrigerator to the size of a car with some the size of a small house.  It would surely have been amazing to see the geologic events that produced these over the millennia.

Heading up the lower King Ravine trail

Tim claims one of the monster boulders

Heading across the ravine floor we came to the Subway - a section of particularly large boulders with a path leading over, under and through them.  The group split here and Tim, Val and Nat headed into the maze while Mark and I took the high road on the El (Elevated) bypass around the Subway.

The Subway entrance

Tim, Val and Nat above the Subway

Top of the Subway from the El

 Nat getting ready to squeeze through the exit

Looks like she had fun!

Not far past the subway we reached the entrance to the Ice Caves.  These are more underground bounder caves that have ice in them year round.  It was starting to get hot and descending into the chilly caves was a welcome break from the heat.

Nat heading into the Ice Caves

There really is ice in here!

Views back down the ravine

Soon after the caves we reached the base of the headwall.  Looking up we tried to figure out where on the wall the trail went.  It didn't really seem like it was possible that any of the lines up could really be a trail.  Basically it's a pile of boulders that goes seemingly straight up - 1100' in a half mile.  Although it's incredibly steep it is basically just a continual series of rock scrambles over the boulders all with good footing and handholds.  There was no place on the way up that the vertigo kicked in.  This was just one really fun climb!!

Reaching the base of the headwall

Looking for the path.  Hmmm.

One big pile o' rocks!

Nat checking out the views

Nearing the top the trail cuts through a steep cleft with the overhanging end of Durand Ridge on one side and steep slabs on the other.  Looking up we saw that although we had not hiked Mt Washington today we still had George watching over us.

Huge outcrop on top of Durand Ridge

One steep ledge.  The blazes do *not* go up here!

The profile of George Washington greets us at the top.

The final scramble

Emerging on the Airline Trail we took one last look down into the ravine and marveled at how steep it looks and how much fun it had been.  We then headed off on the Gulfside Trail to Thunderstorm Junction to attack Jefferson from the other side.

Mt Madison and Madison Hut

Looking back down the chute

Down to the ravine floor.

Lunch at Thunderstorm Junction before heading to the summit

Celebrating #25 on the summit of Mt Adams

Mark and Tim enjoying the summit

Nat with Mt Washington behind her along with all our other Seek the Peak friends

Mt Jefferson from Adams.  See you soon...

We headed down the Spur Trail toward Crag Camp getting the increasingly amazing views back into King Ravine and across Adams to Madison.  After a hot climb we had been blessed with cool breezes along the ridge and at the summit.  It was just an incredible day to be above treeline!

Madison and Quincy Adams over King Ravine

Tim enjoying the view from Knight's Castle

Arrow shows trail

Entire headwall route seen from Crag Camp

It was a hot walk down the rest of the way with the cool breezes long gone in the trees.  It was an enjoyable walk in any case and the way down the rest of the Spur Trail, Randolph Path and the Shortline went quickly.  Unfortunately my knee decided to act up the last couple of miles but that did nothing to take away from a fantastic hike.  Ah, the joys of aging knees.  We dashed back to the campground, took a wonderful cool dip in the lake and got down to the Seek the Peak dinner just in time for turkey!  We had a blast for the rest of the evening and were very happy to hear that this had been one of the most successful Seek the Peak events ever, raising over $180,000 for the Obs.  Fantastic!  The "after party" at the campground was great (thanks Kevin and Judy) and it was nice hanging out with even more friends.  All in all a perfect end to a perfect day!

Postscript:  On Sunday we'd planned to hike with the group again but sadly my knee had other ideas.  While they headed off to Cabot we had what turned out to be a great day hiking a few miles of the Moat Mountain trail, having nice lunch at Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery (yum) and then hiking the Lost Pond trail.  The nice easy miles got my knee stretched out and back to normal and we thoroughly enjoyed the bluebird day and the views from some unplanned vantage points.

The Kilted Clan - top Seek the Peak fundraisers!  (Erich should be here too!)

Post Seek the Peak sunset

Mt Washington from North Conway on Sunday

Diana's Bath

Mt Washington over Lost Pond

One more day to go in our long weekend and another mountain seemed to be calling - but that's another story...

LOTS more pictures from Mt Adams, Google Earth route view and route map here:  


  1. Great report and great pics! That loop is pretty tough! The first time I did the King Ravine, I thought I was gonna die, and it started pouring just as we got to the top and we hauled butt down to Madison, only to half to climb back down without tagging a summit!

  2. Mark, perhaps this is one of your best set of photos and best reports yet. I say "perhaps", because all of your photos and reports are top-notch, and so it's difficult to tease out the best of the best!


  3. Thanks for the nice comments.

    Dan and Meena - I agree it was a tough climb but so worth the effort! Definitely would have been no fun in the rain though and a big disappointment to be that close to the summit and miss it. Oh the joys of White Mountain weather.

    John - all I can say is thanks for the kudos. I have so much fun writing these since it's an opportunity for me to relive the hike and I'm so glad that others get enjoyment from them.


  4. Mark,

    Forgive me, I'm reading your posts in backwards order.

    Another wonderful post and though I'm bummed I didn't get to meet you on the summit of MW, I'm glad you bagged Adams! I looks like it was a phenomenal trip.

    I had heard about the ice caves from someone in the past, but must say, I didn't believe it. Thanks for proving it!

    Great pics too - What camera are you using these days? You captured some great blue skies!

    I think I suffer the same thing you do regarding steep, scrambly areas...but love scrambles none the less. Let's make a deal. If you ever decide to trek into Huntington Ravine, let me know and I'll go with you!


  5. Thanks Karl. It was a wonderful hike - you'd love it! The scrambles in King's Ravine were fun and not at all worrisome. Huntington Ravine is another matter altogether. I've looked at so many trip reports and pictures and haven't seen the spots that I'd worry about yet but the descriptions tell me they're there. Maybe someday after the other slides and ravines have been conquered.

    As for the camera I'm still using my Canon SX130 point-and-shoot. Canon has always done a great job with their P&S cameras I think and this is my third one in the line. I do have a couple of secrets though for getting the exposure better than what the camera wants to give. For landscape shots I focus on the horizon or on the sky - whatever is brightest - and then reframe and shoot the landscape. That gets the brighter sections in the sky properly exposed and leaves the foreground dark. I then just push up the foreground lighting in post-processing until the overall exposure looks good. Simple actually. For macros of flowers these cameras tend to overexpose and cause blown highlights on the light flowers. In macro mode I set the exposure to -1EV (or in that neighborhood) and the exposure tends to wind up right with no post-processing. Plenty of trial and error to figure this out...

  6. Great stuff, I'm glad you had such a memorable trip in the high summits. As usual, great trip photos.