[White Mountains, New Hampshire]
There is no tired to wipe from my eyes, the anticipation already had taken care of that.
“We leave at 2:30 sharp,” were the first words I heard.
That’s all that really needed to be said. Quiet and focused, we made last minute fear adjustments to our packs and laced up our shoes.
For 3 hours we hiked in single file, using our headlamps to illuminate the trail and feet of whoever was in front of us. After hiking, scrambling, jumping, and climbing - we had reached the tree line.
Here a sign was posted, informing us of the potential dangers that lie ahead in the alpine zone. This mountain range is considered to have the most dangerous conditions in the country - with hypothermia being common even in mid August. This area also boasts a world record, the highest velocity wind speed ever recorded on earth: 231mph.
Fortunately for us, the weather forecast was good, with 60mph sustained winds and a 15° windchill.
We were in luck.
Layers were added - beanies, gloves, puffy jackets - and we took the final few steps out of the protection of tree line and into the elements.
It felt like walking out of a dark tunnel on the surface of the moon. All at once, the sky above opened up with billions of stars, drifting and glowing like distant ships in the vast sea of space. The earth beneath us became more and more rocky, and we stepped from boulder to boulder, doing our best impersonation of the Apollo missions.
The stars seemed to beckon us higher and higher. The wind continued to pick up, raging against our climb as it feuded with the starry night. The horizon to our east has started to show some light, the time was near.
30 minutes later, we had reached the peak of Mt. Madison. Here we tucked behind a rocky outcropping and watched the sun finally make her grand entrance over the horizon. Sunlight began to bathe the surrounding mountains in her warm light. We watched Mt. Washington roar to life to our west.
Packs were shouldered, and we left the protection of the rocks and entered the wind’s freezing embrace once again.
We continued on, with chapped lips and excited eyes.
Mt. Adams loomed ahead.