“You’ve got a headlamp right?” After a certain misadventure a few years ago I learned to always bring a headlamp into the woods. And to check that every ones got a light. However since Josh’s headlamp was sitting on the dashboard on the drive up, I never asked this question, because I thought the answer was obvious until we were on Mt Jefferson.
Josh had drove up from RI so we got a little later start than is needed for this time of year, but we can usually make pretty good time together so we thought we could still bang out the Northern Presis’ before dark. After all Josh has run Boston in under 3 hours and my fastest times in the Whites ever were with him.
We left Pinkham on the TRT around 9:45am and made great time on the ascent. We hit Hermit lake in 64 minutes, and the top at almost exactly 2 ½ hours. Josh started to feel some pain in his knee on the way up but thought it would be ok. The Summit had a crystal clear view when we got there and low winds, and the 18 degree temp felt fine.
We sat and had some pizza at MWO, snapped a few summit shots, and then headed off down the Gulfside Trail. The rocks on the ridge were super hard to walk on with a combination of snow, rime and water ice that wasn’t always visible. By the time we got to sphinx col Josh’s knee was really starting to get sore and tight, it was 2:30 and we were not making very good time at all. I pointed at the Sphinx Trail and said “theres are escape route” and, “ we won’t need to hitchhike back if we take the Madison gulf trail”. We continued on until we hit the Jefferson summit area, where it was already 2:45.
GG and Jefferson
That’s when I asked “you have a headlamp right?” The answer came back: “No, I left it in my car”. I said “Ok then well it looks this is our last summit of the day.” We thought about six husbands, and quickly dismissed it as too dangerous a descent without any traction, or protection. We choose to go back to the Sphinx trail, I did the math in my head and figured out we could take that to the GG trail hit the Madison Gulf trail cross the Auto Road on to Jackson Rd Trail and hit Pinkham right about 6:30, the time when we would be losing the luxury of daylight.
The descent in to great gulf was stinking beautiful stuff. Not a person around, the trail was hard to follow, and the trail which also happens to be the West Branch Brook was super sketchy in lots of places. It took us almost an hour to go the 1.1 miles to the jct of Great Gulf, it was super fun.
It was about 4:15 at this point and we were finally back on trails that we could normally fly on, but Josh’s knee was getting really bad now. And everything else on him was hurting now to from him limping and compensating in other ways. The goal then became the auto rd and Madison Gulf trail jct before dark. I did not want to flirt with staying too late in the woods with the threat of a snow storm moving in. We hit all our following trail junctions on time and ended up at the Auto Road exactly at 6:30 and exactly when, a headlamp would have been essential on the trails.
The Madison Gulf trail crosses the Auto road at the 2 mile mark, and the options from there is walk down the auto road and try to hitch a ride back to Pinkham, or Take the Old Jackson Rd trail 1.6 miles to Pinkham. Josh was hurting so much that I could not talk him into re entering the woods, so we ended up walking on pavement for the rest of our trip. On the Auto Rd I left my lamp off and it was kind of nice just walking down it in the dark, when we got to 16 we walked about another 2 miles before we were picked up by a nice couple. We got back to Pinkham around 9:45. It was a long slow day, and this hike was more mentally tiring for me than it was physically tiring. I knew we were probably the last people left in Great Gulf, and I really didn’t know if his condition was going to become debilitating at any point. Getting back to the Car was a huge relief.
Link to all my photos from the trip:
PS I don’t know why I didnt think of this before, but I have a picture of “My Favorite Trick” from almost every trip, so I’m gonna start signing off my TRs with my favorite trick pic:
My Favorite Trick Great Gulf: