Madison Gulf


The Presidential Range, NH

by Alan Cattabriga

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Madison Gulf from the approch
Madison Gulf from the approch

Of the UP! & Ova…….. aka; Holy F*%*!

After leaving a car at the Appalachia parking in Randolph, Tim, Ted, Doug and I are on the Great Gulf Trail in Pinkham Notch by 7am. The plan is to hike into Madison Gulf, climb the route, “Point”, then continuing up to Adams summit and down the other side via the Airline Trail to Appalachia.

Temps are in the upper 30’s but the trail is packed and hard. We decide to leave the snowshoes at the car. ( big mistake ) We figured the only place we would need them would be for the bushwhack from the Madison Gulf Trail to the ice. The approach is packed & the descent would be for sure.

The day is bluebird. The trail nice but all too soon, about halfway in, the sweet trail conditions go south fast. Once on the Madison Gulf Trail it was no longer packed. There were savage spruce traps, very little good footing and to add more to it, we kept losing the trail. The snow is so deep you are up higher in the tree branches, where trails are not trails. Blazes were non-existent.

Our good pace went to a crawl. In some places, literally. Hours slipped by as we lost the trail, again & again. Back-tracking every time to where we knew we were on it and trying again. At last we were in line with the ice and could see it good… we made the straight plunge. 7hrs. had passed since our departure at the Great Gulf trail-head to the base of the routes. Holy crap…

Madison Gulf MapAt the ice wall the sun is warm, the ice is huge and beautiful. My feet are soaked. Sitting on a rock, I wring out the socks and let my boots air out for a bit. Next we have 300’+ of ice, another bushwhack to the Buttress Trail then up the open summit of Adams. The ice is pure fun, the bushwhack above, because of the deep, hard-ish snow, is quite easy.
At the Buttress Trail we split up, I head up awesome snow to Adams and the others for the Star Lake Trail & Madison Hut.

The Airline Trail from Adams summit is in excellent shape, and it’s “knife edge” section bare rock & alpine plants. I lounge here for awhile wondering if I’m ahead of the gang. I decide ( mainly due to soaking wet feet) to book it down.

11hrs. 50mins after leaving, we are all down…. what a day! I’d go back in a heart beat too.


Photos by Alan Cattabriga, & Doug Millen.

(c) 2009