Saturday, November 14, 2009

11-14-09 Madison & Adams; more explorations in the felsenmeer

Mounts Madison, JQ Adams and Adams at sunrise last Saturday morning (11-07-09). I was heading back up the Valley Way again to look at the felsenmeer on the north flank of Adams before it's buried in snow.

JQ Adams is the bump with the steep rock face in the middle of the photo and the summit of Mt. Adams is up behind it. This photo was taken from the highway (Route 2) near the top of what we call Gorham Hill. I used a little bit of telephoto compression to frame the photo. The hike up to the summit of Adams from this side of the range (from Appalachia) is a great workout with almost 4500 feet in gain and a steep incline most of the way.

The morning sun was clearing the ridge as I started up Dead Horse Hill and the first mile of the Valley Way. It was just catching in the top of this 60-foot tall spruce. The photo reminds me a little of Georgia O'keefe's painting "The Lawrence Tree". There are a number of monumental spruce and birch on both sides of Valley Way and close to the trail that are worth seeing in the fall or early spring when there's no foliage obstructing to appreciate what the forests looked like up until the early 1800s, or so.

Early morning sunlight on the bark of a paper birch (B. cordifolia) next to the trail.

Think of the snow on these balsams (Abies balsamea) as sunlight and you can see their strategy for achieving maximum use of available sunlight throughout the year. Their branches slope downwards to release snow and prevent breakage.

The summit of Madison from the top of "1000 yards". It looks a bit Christmassy. I wanted to catch the summits with a light covering of snow because the snow accentuates and highlights all the topographic features.

The summit of Madison again this time from the 'front lawn' of Madison Hut. I left my pack here, at the hut, and scampered up to the summit planning to take my time and explore the areas of felsenmeer on the northwest flank of the the mountain. There was a frigid northwest wind blowing up the mountain and at the summit I turned quickly and I scampered right back down to the hut where I luxuriated in the warm sunlight on the lee side of the hut and put on warm clothing.

The light was extraordinary in this view to the northwest as I came down Madison. I relish these winter colors, the purples and russets spread across the canvas of the Kilkenny Wilderness.

Madison nestled into the mountain at the base of the Mt. Madison summit cone. This photo summarizes the extent of the felsenmeer on Madison and dramatizes the distinct patterns in the way the felsenmeer might have derived from the older rock mantle of the mountain. Madison, is the northern terminus of the "spine" of the Littleton Schist bedrock that comprises most of the bed rock of the Presidential Range.

Mt. Madison from the top of the "slide" on the Gulfside Trail showing the extent of krummholz as it stretches up the northwest flank of the summit cone right up to the felsenmeer. The photo also shows places where the bedrock portrudes and likely places where the felsenmeer was once more securely attached to the mountain in ancient times.

King Ravine from the top of the lip looking down at the U-shaped contour, the clue that this landform was carved by glacial mechanics in the distant past. The extensive area of large boulders you can see on the floor at the downslope end of the ravine has been referred to in several dissertations as a 'rock glacier' (more on that later).

A cairn marking the upper section of the Airline Trail above the Gulfside Trail and leading up to the summit of Mt. Adams in the background. In the background, stretching across and up the north flank of Adams you can see acres and acres of felsenmeer which the Air Line Trail traverses. A lot of the white in the photos isn't snow, it's "rime", or rime ice.

With a combination of strong wind and cold temperatures rime ice form on everything, rocks and plants (and humans if you sit still long enough), above 4500 feet, or so. It's lovely to look at. It 'grows' outward as the wind plasters it to the rocks and then itself and sculpts it into these lovely forms out of the ice crystals that are formed from atmospheric moisture and that are supercooled by the wind.

Before heading Mt. Adams I veered off towards the summit of J.Q. Adams (short for John Quincy Adams) for a glimpse of the Littleton Schist (LS) there. This photo is from just below the summit and shows large blocks of the LS that have broken away from the larger outcroppings that make up the summit.

This is a photo of of the steep east face of J.Q. Adams taken in July showing the extent of the mass wasting that has occurred. The blocks of Littleton Schist that have broken away from the peak vary a great deal in size and some are quite large. This area is a veritable playground often used by Madison Hut croos for practicing the art of 'bouldering'. The extent of the mass wasting here is what you would expect from the combined factors of time, topography. climate and gravity. Noticeably, there's no felsenmeer.

The summit of "J.Q." consists of several outcroppings like this one of exposed bed rock (LS) and around it are large and small blocks that have fractured away from the bed rock. It's difficult to see if there are glacial striations on the outcrops due to advanced weathering of the rock surface but the upper surfaces of the outcrops do not look as though they have been modified by glacial dynamics.

A piece of the schist has fractured off the face of the large outcropping in the photo above.

1 comment:

Ari said...

Oh wow, this very much brings me back to a November 2007 trip up Adams. It's a magical time of year up there.