September 3: Mount Madison Hut

The thirty of us sleeping on the dining room floor were awakened by the Hut staff at 6:00 am to get up and pack up before the guests arose.  The forecast was for high winds and rain in the late afternoon.  Dancing Bear and I did our work the night before so could leave early in the morning.  We left at 7:00 am and headed for the 1.5 miles to the summit of Washington.  Dove, wolfdog, and Mona had to do morning dishes at the Hut and would be two hours behind us.  The hiking was above the tree line which means that no vegetation can grow– nothing to break the winds.  By the time we hiked up the raw boulders to the summit, the winds were getting extreme.  We took a couple of pictures and then started down the ridgeline toward the Mount Madison Hut– a six mile hike over similar rocks above the tree line.  The rain wasn’t supposed to come in until late afternoon.

Unfortunately the rain hit at 11:00 while we were on the exposed ridgeline.  The winds increased to 90 mph gusts with sustained winds in the 40 mph range.  I have never experienced anything like that weather.  At one point we were both blown off the trail ten feet  and dashed on rocks.  The wind was so loud we could hardly hear each other.  The “trail” was piles of boulders completed exposed to the rain and high winds.  Progress was less than a mile an hour.  Unknown to us at the time, all of the rest of the hikers turned back at Washington.  It felt like a hurricane as we slowly inched across the ridge.  Gusts frequently took us off our feet.  I honestly was a little worried that we could make it through to the Madison Hut.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  

We finally made it to the Hut at 2:30, seven miles in seven and a half hours .  We high fived each other and felt like we had been saved when saw the Hut.  We were shell shocked to say the least.  The biggest surprise of all came when I went up to the desk and asked for work for stay.  They told me that at that “early” hour, there was time for me to hike on.  It was another three miles to a camping area that was still being blown by high winds and rain.  The three miles would also require summiting Mount Madison and descending down treacherous rocks with high winds and rain.  It was ludicrous.  I asked them if I could pay the usual $15 fee to sleep on the floor.  They said that they don’t do that at the Madison Hut.  I gave up and sat down in the dining room and eat some lunch.  There was no way in hell I was going out there again.  

So we hung out and refused to leave for three hours while the storm raged outside.  No one else northbound came after us.  At 5:30 I asked them again for work for stay since no other hikers had made it through the storm.  They said they wouldn’t let us stay but since most of their registered guests didn’t show up they would sell us a bunk spot for $140 each.  With little choice we ponied up the 280 bucks to not die out in the storm and share a bunk room with ten other guys.  Madison Hut is not, as we say, hiker friendly.  They can officially kiss my bruised and battered ass.  Happy trails.   

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