At L.L.Bean, we are able to create innovative gear and apparel because our developers and employees love spending time outdoors – coming up with, designing and testing new product ideas. This passion for the outdoors is why we started the Employee Outdoor Club. This fun, after-hours committee plans excursions to all parts of New England, whether sea kayaking outside Portland or summer camping in Baxter State Park.
On a cold January day, eight employees gathered in the early-morning light of New Hampshire’s Mount Madison, and by the look of a serious incoming weather system, the trip would test everyone’s physical and mental preparedness. Last year, changing weather conditions forced the team to retreat before completion, so a check in the win column on this attempt would provide an extra sense of accomplishment.
A harsh winter left limited snow in higher elevations, but extremely cold days turned trails below the tree line into slick, ice-covered routes to the top. Crampons, ice axes and trekking poles were required essentials for maintaining balance in tricky locations. Dressing in layers was also important for the conditions. Your body will generate ample heat when sheltered in the trees, but overheating will cause you to get cold real fast once above the exposed tree line. Employees were equipped with a good base layer, a highly breathable fleece and lightweight hat and gloves.
Clear skies quickly came into view on the final scramble past the last growth of spruce trees. Beautiful landscape does come at a price, however – with the distant summit in view, the team stopped to add an insulating layer, balaclavas and goggles to shield them from a strong southerly wind. Conversation ceased as they contended with strong gusts.
A rock formation on Durand Ridge faces boldly northwest. It was visible from this vantage point that the coastal areas were receiving snow, but the Presidential Mountains were blocking the clouds and snow from making their way further north.
To the west, a view of the upper flanks of Mt. Adams and Mt. Jefferson revealed that the terrain was still very rocky, with sparse snow cover, despite such a despicably cold winter. With such technical terrain, views like this, above the tree line, are exhilarating.
After 4.5 hours, the team reached the 5,367-foot summit of Mt. Madison and celebrated the opportunity to take in the breathtaking view of the New England countryside. The joy of the mountains is that no two summit experiences are the same – you can summit the same mountain multiple times in a year, but the weather, visibility and challenges faced along the way are always different, resulting in a sense of triumph on each climb.