Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Spectacular Hike To Mount Jefferson

Today I would be joining a large group of hikers for a trek to Mount Jefferson. Two of these hikers, Janet and Jill, would be completing their final summit for the winter 48 4,000 footers. We were to meet at the cog railway Marshfield Station and go up the Jewel Trail onto the the Gulfside Trail with a short spur trail to the summit of Mount Jefferson. Half of the faster hikers would be continuing on to Mount Adams and Mount Madison then down to the Appalachia trailhead.

 Hikers are gathering

 ...and we're off!

 Janet and Jill will be finishing their winter 48 4,000 foot summits today 

 Crossing the cog tracks and bushwhacking to the trail to avoid a water crossing

 Looking back at Marshfield Station

 Lakes of the Clouds Hut and Mount Monroe

 Cog tracks to Mount Washington

Taking a break in a warm sunny spot on the Jewel Trail

The forecast called for a beautiful winter day with clear skies, sunshine and seasonably cold temps. There was some question as to the wind conditions on the high summits and whether or not that would be an issue. As I was driving along I could see the wind blowing the snow off the Presidential summits and it sure looked foreboding. When I got to the Appalchia trailhead I picked up two fellow hikers, Mark W and Mark K, who were dropping off their cars for the car spot and planning on doing the northern traverse with the faster group of hikers.

 Layering up at treeline

 Mount Washington

 Checking my vehicle in the parking lot far below

 Janet and Dana on the Jewel Trail

 Above treeline on the Jewel Trail

We arrived at Marshfield Station and the hikers were gathering, not only in our group but many others were here to hike as well. With what is usually cog railway passenger parking today was all hiker parking and the parking lot was filling up. It was a cold morning and I kept looking up to the summits and seeing that wind blowing. The wind was supposed to diminish over the course of the day and I was counting on that.

 Looking for the Jewel Trail

 Franconia Ridge in the distance

 The Gulfside Trail on our way to Mount Jefferson in front of us

A group of 14 of us were ready to start the hike that included, Mark K, Christina, Eric, Brent, Henry, Brian, Melanie, Mark W, Dan, Nancy, Dana, Janet and Jill. The decision was made to cross the bridge by the cog tracks then cross the tracks and bushwhack to the Jewel Trail. This worked out well and we were on our way up. The faster hikers were soon out of sight. We met up in a small clearing on the trail that provided us with some warm sunshine. It was here that the faster group would forge on ahead as they were also doing two more summits. I was NOT in the faster group.

 Gulfside Trail

 We drop our snowshoes here and will pick them up on the way back


We continued up the Jewel Trail. Just before reaching treeline we took a quick break. Upon reaching treeline we stopped to layer up in anticipation of a cold wind blowing without the protection of the trees. I found the wind not to be an issue at all out on the open slope. What I did find to be a problem was staying on the Jewel Trail. I was not the only one with this problem as I was following other hikers' footsteps. So we basically went straight up until reaching the Gulfside Trail. I was thinking how very difficult this would have been if there had been low clouds, fog or blowing snow.

 Rime ice covers the trees

 Stopping for the views

Once on the Gulfside Trail we turned left and continued our hike toward Mount Jefferson. The trail dropped slowly then took a big dip down into the Sphinx Col. We left our snowshoes by a signpost to lighten the load before our final ascent to the Mount Jefferson summit. It was a steady climb and when we reached the spur trail Jill was the first to tag the summit for her winter 48th 4,000 footer. Janet was a few minutes behind but quickly took the summit with Jill for her #48 and there were plenty of photographs taken to capture the accomplishment.

 Jill on Mount Jefferson for her #48  winter summit finish of the 4,000 footers

 Summit pin

 Looking into the Great Gulf and Mount Washington above

There was a bite to the wind so we didn't stay long and we were soon making our descent off of Jefferson. Henry was anxious to get down and asked if I wanted to hike back with him, I did. So we were off and Henry was setting a very good pace on the Gulfside Trail. I watched a medevac helicopter land on Mount Washington and take off again. We reached the Jewel Trail and it was easy to follow it down where this had been a problem on the way up. Other than a few photos it was a non-stop trip back to the trailhead. 

 Enjoying the summit views

 A view toward Vermont

 Northern view

 Janet and Jill finish their winter 48 4,000 footers on Mount Jefferson

 Medevac chopper lands on Mount Washington

The final obstacle would be a water crossing of which both of us broke through the ice and fell into the water on our last hike here a couple of weeks ago. We missed the bushwhack that we all came in on early this morning. It was a steep, icy drop down to the Ammonoosuc River. The ice on the water looked a little sketchy but Henry jumped across and the ice held. We both made it across this time without getting wet.

 Heading down the Jewel Trail to Marshfield Station below

Almost ten hours later and we were back to the Marshfield Station parking lot. The sun was low and fading behind the clouds as we drove off. On the way home I pulled into the Appalachia trailhead where we had spotted two cars. The other half of our hiking group was just coming off the trail. It was good to see them and know that we had all reached our climbing goals today. We all enjoyed fantastic weather, great trail conditions and spectacular views making this a very successful and fun day of hiking!

 Navigating an icy trail

 Henry does a leap of faith across the water crossing

 Back where we started

 Marshfield Station in the waning sunlight

 Bretton Woods ski trails

One last look at Mount Jefferson on the drive home

Congratulations to Janet and Jill on their Winter 48 finish!

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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