Thursday, March 17, 2011
Hike: Mount Jefferson
5,712' @ 12 Miles
Everyone has their white whales in life and Mount Jefferson has been one of mine. Sure I've hiked it many times over the years but it's the winter ascent that has haunted me since December 2005. It was March of 2006 when I announced and celebrated my completion of the "48" peaks in winter. However, for personal reasons I've never been satisfied with the effort. The main theme of that personal reason is Mount Jefferson. So heading into this winter, with plans to move to Boulder, I made it my one and only serious "MUST DO" goal of the winter to return to Jefferson and stand atop it's rocky exposed peak.
Timing is everything. When you start trying to come up with a plan to hike a peak such as this, you need a free day (rare these days) and the perfect weather window. Last week I told my classmate Pat that, whatever day the window falls on over Spring Break, we're going up. He agreed, excitedly, and as the weather story unfolded throughout the week we figured it out. At first it looked like Wednesday was our day but as a weak disturbance rolled though we switched to Thursday. The valley forecast called for temps in the upper 40's (it was 64 back home) and the higher summits forecast still told a vastly different story. When I woke up the day of our hike and looked at the Mount Washington Obs. higher summits forecast I told Pat we had a D.F.U. situation. "What's that?" he asked so I told him. High's in the uppers 20's with winds in the 35-40mph range with high gusts. Clouds rolling in in the afternoon with winds rising to near Hurricane Force with gusts near 100 and rain over night. "Don't F&@* Up."
We continued to climb ever higher, enjoying the views, playing in the snow, being very careful along the snow slopes to not trigger and avalanche or slip and fall far below. The higher we got the more the wind began to pick up. The sun is up and it's lighting the white peaks up so bright that we had to put on our shades. My sunglasses gave me much needed relief from the blinding snow and I was relieved to no longer have to squint to see. Soon, it was evident that the trail was just going every which way. Cairns were still buried from the deep drifts and it was getting tougher to find our course. Though, up ahead I could see the cairns which marked the Gulf Side Trail. So, we made a b-line across the snowfields to the trail. After linking up, we turned North and stared at our goal of Jefferson.
After our lunch time break, we put our packs back on and touched the top. I raised my hands in celebration. Where the common theme here on my blog is redemption, that's exactly what I got this day atop Mount Jefferson. I'd made it to the top of my white whale and made a personal wrong a right. I was emotional yet it was too cold to cry. I knew my tears would freeze to my cheeks so I opted instead to just start heading home.
As we made our way back into the tree's it was warming up quickly. The rime that graced the branches earlier today were now raining to the forest floor. We were getting soaked from both sweat and drip. The snow was now rotting beneath us and post holing became the prevalent activity. Thankfully we descended quickly, and made it out of the woods without any "major" injuries. It was a fantastic day in the Whites, Above tree-line enjoying my last winter jaunt and most likely.. the last time I'll be above Treeline here in NH.