Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Attempt at a Presidential Traverse: Days Two and Three; The Perch to Pinkham Notch

June 10-12, 2011

This is a continuation post from my first attempt at a Presidential mountain range traverse. Day one posted here.

Day Two:

Leaving The Perch
This was a long, tiring, sore, wet, cold, windy day. I had slept fairly well at The Perch but was occasionally wakened by some rain and strong winds. I woke up for the day at 5:00am and the winds were whipping at nice steady breeze of 40 mph or so. I rustled out of my tent and immediately put on a wind shell. A few drops of fast moving horizontal rain stung my face as we broke camp had breakfast and got ready for our early morning cardio workout by trekking back up past the treeline to be even more exposed. We hit the trail at 6:30am. Our itinerary for the day was to bag Mts Jefferson and Washington with the possibility of bagging Mt Clay then descend down into Tuckerman Ravine and spend the night at Hermit Lake shelters. I love ups first thing. It gets me going, warms me up and I am well rested so my energy levels are up. Once we reached the intersection of Randolph Path we were totally exposed. As we passed the bad weather warning sign, we both looked at each other and decided that the weather wasn't quite bad enough for us to wait or turn back. The rain still hadn't fully hit...or we hadn't walked into it yet. The winds were steady at about 35-40 mph with some stronger gusts.

Mt Jefferson in the background
I really liked this trail. It has Castle Ravine on one side to the west then further south Jefferson Ravine drops to the east as it approaches Edmands Col. This is the pass between Mts Sam Adams and Jefferson. The winds here picked up some but still was not a hazard.
Jim crossing the snow
The Loop trail
Before we knew it we were on the Loop Tr that leads to Jefferson's summit. This trail was quite challenging with larger boulders steeply stacked on top of each other. At one point the trail had to cross some remnant snow. Luckily it was rock hard so we never post holed. 
Before we knew it we were at the large cairn on Jefferson. This gave us a good view of the rest of the day. Washington was covered in a blanket of clouds and the rains were already drifting our way. After a short break I trekked up to the peak of Mt Jefferson. On June 11, 2011 at 9:13am I had bagged my second 5000 footer. Mt Jefferson. 5716 feet above seal level. At that moment it was the highest that I had ever backpacked in my life. 
On Mt Jefferson
Jim on Mt Jefferson

After descending Jefferson and crossing the mountain pass at Sphinx Col we walked into the clouds. It was the start of the rest of a wet day. Clouds had covered our already passed trek as we approached the Mt Clay loop. 
Mt Jefferson from Mt Clay

We decided not to bag this peak as well and meandered along the west side Mt Clay staying on Gulfside Trail until Mt Washington. The clouds were still high enough to watch the Cog Railroad ascend and descend this majestic mountain. As we got closer to the summit the trail traffic picked up. More day hikers were present even on such a gloomy day. The visibility was down to 20 yards and the wind and rain were strong. My camera was wet and there was no way of drying the lens. We kept on towards Washington trekking the steep edges of The Great Gulf. The trail continues on until it crosses the Cog Railroad. This is where the end of the trip started even though we didn't know it yet. While crossing the tracks my right foot planted and twisted my knee some. It was a light but sharp pain that I payed no attention to. This was my first mistake. I should have wrapped it but it really didn't hurt. At least not then. A lesson that I learned but ignored: Injuries however slight can and will get worse if not taken care of initially. Before too long I ran into a small group of day hikers who asked me if this would trail would lead them to Jewel Trail. It did and I asked them how much further to the summit. They pointed to the observatory and comms tower which I could have hit with a tossed stone. It was literally 30 feet away but so well hidden in the clouds that I didn't see it until they pointed it out. I have made it to the summit. Now, Mt Washington is a big tourist attraction and the peak where the survey marker is had a small line waiting for photo ops. Jim and I sought out the dry and warm pack room at the visitors center.We stayed at the center for an hour and a half drying off some and warming our cores with hot soup and coffee. I managed to get my camera to work again before we stepped out into the cold again and bag this mountain. It's only 15 or so feet up from the visitor center. On June 11, 2011 at 2:37pm I had bagged my first 6000 footer. At 6288 feet above sea level it was and still is the highest that I have ever trekked in my life.
Next on our agenda was to seek shelter at Hermit Lake which lies 2400 feet below Mt Washington. The first steps down Tuckerman Ravine Trail and I felt my knee letting loose. I kept moving favoring my right leg and really relying on my trekking poles. We came to the junction of Lion Head Trail and noticed that Tuckerman Ravine Tr was closed due to hazardous conditions.
We heeded the sign and took Lion Head trail to the shelter. Although its not long as far as distance goes, this trail is still by far the most difficult trail that I have conquered. Maybe it was the knee that made it seem that way but I highly doubt it. 

Jim coming down Lion Head Tr

Lion Head
Tuckerman Ravine and Lion Head
It took us over 3 hours to drop 2400 feet in a 1.8 mile distance. It was raining, our packs, although covered were wet, we were extremely exhausted and cold when we arrived at the shelters. The caregiver was not in due to a rescue in Huntington Ravine. Immediately we got into some drier clothes and sat around in our sleeping bags. My knee was on fire and starting to swell. At 8pm a couple of young skiers had joined us and updated us about the rescue. It seems that the person who was rescued had ventured up Huntington after they were recommended not to go on that trail in this type of weather by the AMC. He was a doctor who happened to break his leg. The rescue took over 15 hours to get him out. It was reported that the man temporarily set his own leg. And I thought my knee hurt. After some dinner and light conversation and relaxation we crashed. It was a little after 9pm.

Day Three:

I slept fairly well waking once to some very strong winds. It was after 5am so I got up for the day. I felt fine, my knee hurt some so I thought if I wrapped it in an Ace bandage it would be fine. I went to go replenish my water when I realized that I had to bail. It hurt too much past the comfort zone but I knew it wasn't completely blown. We broke camp and I hobbled down the lower Tuckerman Ravine trail towards Pinkham Notch. The trip ahead was 1.8 miles of less steep and easier terrain. At a mile and a half down the trail we were fortunate to see some wildlife...a juvenile moose.

He was slowly nibbling away at the vegetation while walking along the trail. Jim and I decided it would be better to divert through the woods and avoid him. Moose have no natural predators and have poor eyesight. Being charged by a 500 pound muscle and hoof mass because we startled him is not how we wanted to end this trip. Once passed we continued down until we reached Crystal Cascade; a beautiful waterfall cut through the dense forest.
Crystal Cascade

After a short break at the cascade we continued on for 0.3 miles to the visitors center at Pinkham Notch. Our journey was over....for the most part. We still had to get to Crawford Notch to get the truck. Luckily a shuttle runs to where we were to meet our ride back home. We still had some time so I relaxed and took off the Ace bandage and my knee started growing. It was filling with fluid but I could tell it wasn't blown. The stressed, pulled and beat up ligaments were sore but I knew I made it down safely without tearing anything. I'm sure that if we continued on to Crawford Notch as initially planned that I really would have damaged my knee permanently. I babied it as we waited but still wandered around so nothing would lock up.The shuttle arrived on time and thankfully there was room for us...they require reservations. It took an hour and fifety minutes to loop around the Whites stopping at the major trailheads. Once we got to the Highland Center we showered, changed into some clean clothes and headed up Rt3 to meet Kathy, her husband Rob and daughter for some post trek beers and dinner. I appreciated the Newcastles but it was unanimously agreed upon that the food and service sucked. Regardless the company was perfect. We caught up on old times and planned a Tuckerman snowshoeing trip for this coming winter. With a 3 hour trip back home ahead of us Jim and I said our goodbyes and thank yous and headed back home to Vermont.

Jim, Kathy, Joe at Kathy's house. Presidentials in background

My Final Thoughts and Future Plans:

Overall I really am in awe still over this trip. It was by far my most extreme adventure. I think I fell in love with the Whites on this weekend. It was very challenging at times but the feeling of being on top of the world made it well worth the brutality it delivered. I have feelings of accomplishment even though I made the decision to bail out. If I never crossed a man made object I probably would have finished this journey. This was my first time hiking in the Whites and I am positive you see me there again in the future. Jim and plan I to finish this out in August by getting dropped off on Mt Washington and day hiking down Crawford Path and bagging Monroe, Eisenhower and Pierce along the way. We also intend on planning a hut to hut Presidential traverse for next July. 

We manged to hike 15.5 miles of the Presidential mountain range and gained over 7000 feet of elevation bagging 3 high peaks over 5000 feet. 


  1. I am so proud of you. What an awesome adventure! I only wish I could of seen the view. I am passing on the hiking up the boulders part of it!LOL I am so happy that the goals that are being set are being accomplished in your hiking adventures. I absolutely love reading them. And of course hearing about them in person....plus seeing all the extra pictures that do not get posted. You did awesome!

  2. Does sound like you guys had quite an adventure, for sure! Good experience - even with the injury!

  3. Awesome blog article and photos/vid! So glad you got to climb the White Mountains!

  4. Wow, great walk with plenty of height involved! I'm envious as we don't have that down here! Good write up :)

  5. Congrats...nice work! thanks for sharing your journey of hiking the Whites with us!

  6. Nice pictures and story :D

    here is my journeys to mountain