Sunday, August 14, 2011

Southern Presidentials: Mt Washington to Crawford Notch

August 12, 2011

Tuckerman Ravine engulfed in clouds
This was a continuation completion of a Presidential mountain range traverse that my friend Jim and I started in June but ended with a bail out. We decide to do this in a day hike by starting out at Mt Washington and hike to Crawford Notch while bagging what peaks we could along the way. Our hiking friends Kathi and Deb joined us. 

We took a shuttle up the Auto Road to the summit of Washington to start our days journey.  The weather at the summit was completely different than in the valley. It was socked in with clouds, visibility was down to 30 yards, the winds were steady at 33 miles per hour, the temperature was 44 degrees with a wind chill of 30. But this was only at the summit. I was almost sure that once we dropped 1000 feet then we would be out of the clouds and be able to get some nice views. That wasn't the case.

Coming off Mt Washington
After an informative shuttle ride to the summit we strapped on our packs, donned our rain and wind shells and started our trek down Crawford Path: The oldest continuously-used mountain trail in America. It was 12:00pm.

As soon as we started, Jim slipped. Nothing major but he pointed out that there were some icy spots that weren't quite visible. It was going to be a slow day. It really didn't take us too long before we reached the junction of Westside trail. It seems we would average about a mile an hour. We continued on southerly as the clouds shifted.

They got thick then thinnd out some only to get thick again. I asked a north bound day hiker when we would be out of the clouds. His response was "the parking lot".  We journeyed on and before we knew it, we were at Lakes of the Clouds hut. This is the only hut that is above 5000 feet.

Lakes of the Clouds
Lakes of the Clouds hut
We took a short break at the hut so we could strip some layers in a dry environment. We had already descended 1200 feet so it was much warmer. The place was packed. We trekked along to our next junction that would lead us to Mt Monroe. This loop trail meanders up a rocky steep cairn to cairn path to a false summit the over to the peak. At 1:16pm we bagged our highest mountain of the day: Mt Monroe 5372 feet above sea level.

Mt Monroe
We didn't stay too long because we still had a long journey ahead of us and within a few minutes we were at 5001 foot, Mt Franklin. Although part of the Presidential range it was named after Benjamin Franklin and with a prominence of 49 feet it is not considered a 5000 footer. We continued on towards our next mountain with no signs of the clouds lifting or dissipating. Even though the temps were warmer the wind was still stiff and the viability was low. Soon we were at the Eisenhower loop trail. I love this loop trail. It is rugged, steep and loaded with switchbacks.

Climbing Mt Eisenhower
At 2:53pm, we got to the 4760 foot top and were greeted by a large cairn and a few others who were day hiking. It was windy and cloudy. This summit is not like the other Presidents. It is round and doesn't have a pointy prominence.

Mt Eisenhower
At 3 hours in and less than half way to go for the day we continued on towards our next mountain. We trekked down Eisenhower Loop trail to the junction of Crawford Path where we took a short break. The clouds were not as thick and it was getting warmer. Once we hiked on we finally got a glimpse of blue sky and the trail kept descending. As a bonus we were still in an alpine zone well above the tree line. Mt Pierce could be seen in the distance.

Mt Pierce

As we descended more, it got much clearer. The views were amazing but the wind was still up there. I looked back and could see our hour past engulfed in clouds. 

Mt Eisenhower. The Crawford Path meanders along this ridge.

 Between Mt's Pierce and Eisenhower

The views were awesome

We finally were out of the clouds and took a short break to get rid of our shells and refuel some before dropping below the tree line. It didn't take us too long and we were at the junction to Mitzpah hut trail. which leads to the summit of Mt Pierce. Jim and Kathi decided to bag it while Deb and I continued descending down Crawford Path and entering the trees. I chose not to bag this peek due to the intimidation of the trail. It scrambled up and I was getting tired and sore. I will bag it next year. Within 15 minutes Jim and Kathi caught up to us. I didn't realize that it was such a short distance to the summit and regret not bagging it.

Kathi and Jim coming down Crawford Path
The rest of the hike was on familiar terrain as we descended down towards Crawford Notch. Classic roots and rocks that we were all too fond of. We made pretty good time stopping at Gibbs Falls along the way.

Gibbs Falls

From the falls it was a 15 minute jaunt to the Mt Clinton parking lot where we parked. After 8.1 miles and 6 hours and 42 minutes later, our day was over.

The end of the day

This trip was awesome. Although we were in the clouds for most of the high stuff we were lucky enough to get some good views. Jim and I both agreed that this hike was much easier than our adventure in June due to the fact we weren't carrying backpacks. My first Presidential Traverse is now complete even though it was done in two trips. Congratulations to Kathi and Deb who got the opportunity to bag their first 5000 footer and trek above the trees. I'm already looking forward to next years hut to hut traverse with Jim. 



  1. Lakes in the Clouds looks so cool, I've never seen anything like that!

  2. I remember this day fondly. Never have I seen such beauty and been so completely exhausted. fabulous day with great friends. I will do it again anytime!!! thanks for the memories!!