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Back Country Ski and Hike to Summit of Mt Madison

1/22/14: I skied the Dolly Copp trail early this morning.  Started at -8 degrees and warmed up to -7 at the finish.  I dressed in light layers with heavy mittens and hand warmers.  No long johns as I don't like them.  I was very comfortable and warmed up quickly.


The trail can be described as very good to fair in some isolated spots.  I did take off my skis at one point for a ten foot icy climb up a small embankment, the consequences of falling would have resulted in an ice cold dunking in the river that runs adjacent to that section of the trail so I figured prudence was the better part of heroics in that instance.


It took me two hours, non-stop skiing to travel eight miles round trip.  I skied almost to the trail head of Osgood Trail but had to turn around because of an appointment in North Conway.  My main objective, which was accomplished, was to ensure the trail was skiable for Saturday and I am happy to say that yes it is and we can do the hike as posted.


At this point we won't need snowshoes but I advise folks to have them in their cars in the event we get a large amount of snow Friday evening, chance of precipitation on Saturday is 70%, good for skiing.  We will also need to set a turnaround time as I don't want to come out in the darkness.  There have been far too many incidents up here this winter where search and rescue had to go out and save people.  Six of them alone this past weekend in two separate incidents related to climbing Washington.


The skiing got better the deeper I went into the woods because the trail was not packed down as much.  Slight grade (very slight) going in and faster going out.

I did the hiking portion last Saturday and once we reach the point where we change from skis to hiking boots (Osgood Tent Site) we begin a long climb of approximately 2.5 miles. The trail was not broken out but there was little snow.  So be prepared. 


I am concerned about the weather forecast for Madison on Saturday, this is from NOAA:  "Saturday Snow showers likely. Cloudy and cold, with a high near 10. Strong and damaging winds. Chance of precipitation is 70%" The snow and temps don't concern me but the strong and damaging winds are of a concern.  The hike includes approximately 1.5 miles above tree line.  Will have to play it by ear as to how far we can go.

Dress in layers, if you have more than one pair of gloves bring them (I carry four to five pair).  The gloves will get wet and sweaty and you might want to change them from time to time.  You can use your hiking poles as ski poles.  I advise goggles, something heavier than micro-spikes, Hillsounds and full crampons will suffice.

We will leave the Dolly Copp parking area promptly at eight.  So if you need time to get your pack together arrive early or do it at home the evening before.  Also please “size” your crampons to your boots to ensure proper fitting, especially if you got new boots this year.


If you have any questions let me know. 


I have a love of both BC skiing and hiking and enjoy combing both . I have done Mt Eisenhower several times combing a ski and hike and also the Zealand Trail to the hut and beyond. Really a lot of fun and great adventure. I thought this would be a great outing for qualified hikers and BC skiers.

Everyone will be wait listed and required to answer a series of questions based on your experience and equipment before you are accepted on the ski/hike. I am posting this on several meet up sites to ensure we have a qualified group to summit Mt Madison.

The ski/hike will start from the parking lot in the Dolly Copp Camping area. We will Back Country (BC) ski 3.5 miles from the Dolly Copp parking area and connect with the Great Gulf trail then join the Osgood Trail to complete the initial ski portion of the outing.

The ski trail winds through the campgrounds on very level ground for approximately 0.5 of a mile, once we leave the campground area we will ski for another 1.5 mile on narrow and wooded trails untill we reach the Great Gulf Trail. Following the Great Gulf trial for another 1.5 miles until we reach the junction of the Osgood Trail. This section will be somewhat hillier through the forest.

Once we reach the Osgood Trail we remove and stash our skis, change to hiking boots and continue the 3.3 miles to Madison. There is a lot of exposure on the upper portion so be prepared for possibly higher winds. Don’t expect to hike the 3.3 miles to the summit with XC ski boots, totally won’t work and your feet will be a wreck. You absolutely have to change over to hiking boots.

At a minimum you need to carry your hiking boots, snowshoes and crampons. You can use your hiking poles as ski poles by making the proper adjustments to them.

If the weather is bad we might have to alter the hiking part of the ski/hike. It will be extreme winter conditions and the trail will be difficult to follow. This ski/hike is not for wimps.

The ski trail is not groomed but should be broken out by other skiers and hikers once we reach the Great Gulf junction. I use a 68 (front width) / 59 (middle width) and 64 mm (back width) off track BC ski. (The normal width for a tracked, groomed trail ski is 52/47/50). So the BC ski is wider in all areas. If you don’t have a BC ski with metal edges sized a minimum of 68x59x64 don’t sign up for this outing. You can rent BC skis and boots from EMS in North Conway.

Total mileage for this outing will be 7.0 miles of BC skiing and 6.6 miles of hiking for a total of 13.6 miles. The skiing portion will require some effort, especially if you are not familiar with BC skiing, so don’t underestimate the ski portion.

Plan to meet at Dolly Copp parking area at 7:30 a.m. We have to leave by 8:00 a.m. My philosophy as many of you know is that I don’t wait for late arrivals. Totally not fair to the 99% of people who show up on time.

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  • Kaitrin

    Hi, I just wanted to check and make sure everyone got down alright? Grigory and I continued on for a little while above treeline but then turned back at the 2nd big rock pile as the wind was a little too much for me. It looked as if the rest of you pushed for the summit?

    Thank you Jeff for all your work organizing the hike. I really liked it. I'd like to do it again but with maybe less wind and more snow.

    It was very nice to meet you all and sorry we didn't get to say goodbye.

    Kaitrin & Grigory

    January 25, 2014

    • Beth W

      5 of us made it to the summit. See you both next weekend at winter school.

      1 · January 26, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      SO MUCH WIND! Good to meet you guys, and see you out there!

      1 · January 26, 2014

  • Beth W

    Thank you, Jeff, for putting together this epic ski/hike.

    1 · January 26, 2014

  • Jeffrey

    Yes Beth that is 100% corrrect. Once you make that right on Pinkham "B" you will drive up aprox 1/4 mile and you will see the entrance to the campground on your left. Turn there and go all the way to the dead end and park. See ya tomorrow.

    January 24, 2014

    • Beth W

      Thank you!

      January 24, 2014

  • Beth W

    I want to make sure I understand the exact start location as Google say the Dolly Copp Rd is closed in winter (including the portion off of Rt 16). I assumed I would take a right on Pinkham "B" Rd (what google is calling Dolly Copp Rd and my AMC map says Pinkham "B") if coming from Gorham and then bear left to the Dolly Copp campground. Is that correct? The map link above is north of the Barnes Field Campground on Dolly Copp Rd.

    January 24, 2014

  • Jeffrey

    We will proceed with the trek with safety being the number one priority. If necessary we will turn back. Snow is a good thing, winds are not.

    January 24, 2014

  • Kaitrin

    This is the high summits forecast for tomorrow - Tomorrow:

    In the clouds w/ snow showers early and snow likely in the afternoon. Wind chills rising to 25-35 below.

    Highs: Lower single digits°F

    Wind: SW shifting S 55-75 mph, decreasing to 45-60 mph w/ higher gusts ear And this is what I got a NOAA when moving the arrow to the top of Madison -

    Snow, mainly after 11am. High near 16. Wind chill values as low as -30. Breezy, with a south wind 20 to 25 mph, with gusts as high as 40 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

    January 24, 2014

  • Beth W

    Thanks for the update, Jeffrey.

    January 23, 2014

  • Jeffrey

    I have updated this trip. Please read the trip details above.

    January 22, 2014

  • Jeffrey

    If conditions preclude us from doing the ski portion of this trip I still plan to do this as a hike beginning at the Great Gulf Trail located at the Pinkham B Road just south of the main entrance to the Dolly Copp campground. I plan to take a trip up there in the next few days to check snow conditions and will check conditions again next week. I will post any updates to this site. At this point we have eight people signed up, I have cross posted this to two other sites and there is a co-leader.

    January 14, 2014

  • Beth W

    Hi Jeffrey, Will you still do this hike even if there is no skiing (no snow)? I hope so!

    January 14, 2014

  • Jeffrey

    Just an FYI, I have this cross posted on another meet-up site. Thus far we have four people signed up.

    January 3, 2014

  • Steve B.

    Sorry, hiking Carrigain that day with another group.

    January 2, 2014

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