Mohamed hadn't done any of the any headwalls in the Whites and I had never hiked Osgood Ridge, so this hike would let each of us cover new ground. This seems to be a theme for me lately, hiking mountains I've already climbed by new or unusual routes, not a bad pastime. We left from Mohamed's place up north, so it only took about an hour to get to the Great Gulf trailhead, and we were hiking by 8:00. It was a long day, so we decided to get out early. Across the suspension bridge, sign in, and we were off. the bottom part of the trail is pretty flat and straight, making it easy to cover a lot of ground quickly. There are a few stream crossings, a few nice views, nothing to worry you much.
There are a couple of Wilderness campsites just before the junction with the Madison Gulf trail, no one was there. They look like fairly nice places to camp, pretty close to the trail but that's part of the bargin. The Mad Gulf trail starts atop a moraine, running along the top for a while before entering the gulf and starting to climb in earnest. Not very far up you run into Mossy Slide, which is a, um, Mossy Slide. After that, you get some serious climbing. Some sections are bare rock that you have to scale by finding hand and footholds, which can be a bit unnerving. Other sections are long stretches of steep rock hopping, scrambling up and up, which is very tiring. It's fairly long, but we were gaining lots of elevation and getting some views of the grey weather above us. We met a couple of groups that were going down, all with full packs. They didn't seem to be having a lot of fun.
As we appoached the top of the headwall we could feel the nasty weather up top and stopped to put on more clothes. Since the clouds were still above us we had views of JQA and Adams, plus a nice look back. Once out of the gulf, you are quickly transported to alpine tundra. The trail goes to the left, past a dry Star Lake, Moon Rock, and towards the hut. We ran into a friend of Mohamed's from the Boston AMC, who was headed slightly off his desired direction, we quickly righted him and sent him on his way. At the hut we relaxed, refilled our water, ate lunch, and suited up for the trip up Madison which looked like it was going to be rough.
It was windy and cold on the climb up to the summit of Madison. We put on all of our gear and started moving quickly, the wind blowing us around. Still, there were views back to Airline, a very dry Star Lake, and eventually back down on the hut. Only the very top was really blustery, we met a pair of folks huddled below the summit eating their lunch. After only a short break, we started down the Osgood Ridge trail. As we dropped lower the wind died down, probably in the wind shadow of the peak. The Osgood Ridge is a series of rocky bumps, the footing is rough but managable. We saw a few folks heading down and one or two going up, but the day was winding down. There were real nice views of Howker Ridge, Washington, Madison, and the Carter/Wildcat Ridge. Below treeline, the trail is rocky and steep, making for a very uncomfortable journey until just before the Osgood Ridge Campsite. From there it's pretty flat out, and we made good time as we were hungry to get out. We stopped in Lincoln for dinner, then went on our way home.
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