July 29, 2006
Mt Adams via Short Line, King Ravine and Great Gully Trails
Paul, Art, Dave and I guessed right in choosing the rain date for this trip - a dry, clear day, revealing some of the best views I have had on a hike. Like most ravine hikes, the ascent to the Presidentials ridgeline through King Ravine begins with some distance of shallow ascent, followed by a very steep climb up the headwall. The trail follows the Cold Brook and its westernmost tributary from midway between the first and second junction with Randolph Path almost to the ridgeline (1). Mossy Falls, a small but photogenic waterfall is a few feet from the trail, just past the junction of Short Line and King Ravine trail.(2)
The lower King Ravine trail climbs moderately steeply over large boulders (3). Paul & I climbed a tall boulder (4) just off the trail for a panoramic view of the ravine and headwall, and a preview of the trail to the top (5). Why is it called "Great Gully" trail? Maybe because it ascends the biggest gully. Follow the numbers from the upper end of the Subway (pile of boulders), across the ravine, up the trail. Much of the Great Gully trail follows or actually coincides with Cold Brook.
We detoured through the Subway (6) , a boulder funhouse just before King Ravine Trail turns left to climb the east wall of the ravine, and Great Gully starts. The route is well marked with yellow blazes. It starts as a boulder hop across the tops (7, 8), then snakes through some pretty tight places under the rocks (9). Paul had to work pretty hard to squeeze his 6'4" into one cave, and we all had to remove our packs (10, 11). Paul symbolically reenacted the event later by squeezing toothpaste into a tube.
We emerged to a clear view of the east ravine wall and King Ravine trail (12, 13). Just above the Subway, the King Ravine trail turns left and Great Gully starts, still below treeline.
This is the only trail on which I have actually climbed a waterfall and still been on the proper trail (14, 15) . The trail and the steep upper end of the west tributary is an active waterfall for several hundred vertical feet, then thins out to a steep trickle on small boulders, along which the trail proceeds at a few places.
The White Mountain Guide describes an overhanging rock and boulder, where "...the faint of heart remove their packs and crawl through on their bellies." I'd like to meet the smart aleck who wrote that, and see exactly how someone approaches this without climbing up the inside (awkward, but not a crawl by any means), as we all did. The shape of this spot is almost a perfect analogy of the exposed little rock going up the Mansfield Forehead on Vermont's Long Trail, except the safe near side of the 3-sided pyramidal rock is a challenging climb with only a small diagonal crack for holds; and the risk is pretty much all-or-none. It would really take some thinking through. (16)
The trail continues to the ridgeline as a steep slog along or in the stream, topping out as a series of cairns on the typical rubble of small boulders (17). It seemed harder for me because I was already a bit fatigued.
We stopped for lunch at the Gulfside trail junction, and climbed a short way to the summit of Mt Adams, where we had some spectacular views of the Presidential ridge (18).The larger versions of the panorama are marked to identify features: NC=Nelson Crag; W=Washington summit; GG=Great Gulf and Great Gulf Wilderness; 6H=6 Husbands Trail; C=Mount Clay; J=Mount Jefferson; JR=Jefferson Ravine; GT=Gulfside Trail. The Washington Toll Road is visible at left.
We descended via Air Line, an easy slope with great views almost all the way down. We got a look at the Great Gully, our route up, from another vantage point (19).