King Ravine Trail Hike to Mount Adams - White Mountains, New Hampshire

Scrolling Photographs

July 6, 2015

The King Ravine Trail is considered one of the hardest, and not surprisingly, least traveled trails in the Presidential Range, due in part to climbing 1100 vertical feet in one-half mile at one point. It is unique, however, even before reaching the steep part with its subterranean obstacle course called the Subway, where you must clamber over boulders inside an ice cave, cold even in the heat of summer. Starting at the Appalachia TH on US 2 in Randolph, NH, first follow the Air Line and Short Line Trails to reach the King Ravine Trail, which reconnects with the Air Line Trail (Great Gully Trail) before reaching the summit of Mt. Adams. The initial climb from the TH to Mt. Adams is a daunting 4500 feet in 4.5 miles.

I had planned to do this run/hike/climb up to Adams, then drop down into the Great Gulf Wilderness on the
Six Husbands Trail via Jefferson and climb back up the Madison Gulf Trail after crossing the Peabody River
to the Madison Hut before finishing back at Appalachia.  As it is, my feet and legs had 120 miles and perhaps
60,000 feet of climbing and descending from just previous week.  My dogs were tired, so I cut the effort to
a minimum, climbing Adams for the first time ever, then doing a recon of the Valley Way on my return back to
the car for a total of about nine miles.  Even at that I was overly tired, seriously hoping for rain so I could rest.

The day began at the usual 0500 with 60-degree temps.  Most of the holiday traffic was gone, so things on the
mountain were pretty much back to nominal.  I had been doing a lot of 3000- to 3500-foot climbs in the spring
and summer along with many severe but lesser climbs.  What made the King Ravine Trail so exceptional is
that some of the climbing borders on 70 degrees slopes, requiring four point contact to advance.  It is truly more 
of a climb than a hike or run.

I hiked and shuffled steadily up a pleasant approach trail through green leafy woods, birds chirping early and
the sound of falling waters from a stream off to my right.  Several waterfalls gave me pause for photography.  I
never tire of seeing the beauty of waterfalls.  It is the mountains that give me sanctuary, but it is the waters that
christen me with blessings time after time in a baptismal no man-made holy edifice can offer.  I drink freely
from these waters and enjoy far more than their cooling refreshment.

Once the trail turned to boulders and the ground disappeared, the climbing began in earnest.  It was enjoyable
creatively and safely moving up through the rocks.  As the trail cris-crossed an ever-steepening stream it became
less and less discript as it weaved in and out of the alders around the rocks.  Eventually I lost track of the trail
proper, as I imagined I would weaving my way up through the rocks.  Rather than backtrack on treaherous
terrain I opted to climb straight up the headwall through the waterfalls, which afforded a fairly clear path without
battling the maze of alders on the creek banks.

Making sure I had firm footing, even if in the middle of the stream, I forged forward, using both hands along with my 
feet on my new watercourse.  Up, up, up I climbed, sometimes sliding over to the side of the stream to cling to
thick moss and grass which was easy to grasp and have traction.  The stream increasingly yielded to rocks of
smaller sizes and the alders gave way to sub alpine firs that were stunted by the extremes of weather normally 
hammering this western flank of Mount Adams.  No weather this day, however.  The sky was absolutely blue
without a cloud, temps seemed very warm in direct sun without any wind.  Even on top gusts seemed not to
reach even 5 mph in a place where the winds rule most every day.  Perfect day to be high in the Whites.

Crossing the Gulfside (Appalachian) Trail I walked up a gradual route to the top of Adams already occupied by a
large group of adolescents bagging peaks, backpacking hut to hut.  Their pubescent cacophany had me leaving
soon after arriving to hike down the rocky slope back to the Gulfside Trail which would take me over to the Madison
Hut.  On the way across I came upon Rob Rives doing a Presidential Traverse of 7 peaks with two guys named
Matt, each carrying and drinking one beer at the summit of each Presi peak.  My kind of adventure.  Rob was
delightful as always and I was thrilled that our paths crossed in a place we both love.

From the Madison Hut, I eased back to the car on the Valley Way Trail, a gradual, rocky and wet, but direct route
back to Appalachia TH.  It took me three and a half hours to climb the 4500' and the same to come back down,
so I was finished with my nine miles by noon.  Consider it a day off for deserving feet.  I typed up some notes in
the parking lot before leaving for a shower at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and was entertained meeting a
couple from Montreal - Seb and Vicky - while kicking back.  I love going to the mountains, but it is ALWAYS the
people you meet along the way that I remember most and that make it so richly worth returning.