So, Zachary, my fiance, and I decided to attempt a single day presidential traverse.
The presidential traverse aka the prezi is a 20+ mile hike across the presidential range in the White Mountains of NH.
Our plan was to drive up after work Friday, alternating sleeping and driving, and begin hiking early Saturday morning. We decided to start hiking with headlamps, figuring that starting in the dark while we were both fresh was better than potentially ending the long hike in the dark. We had picked a weekend in late June because the summer solstice is the longest day of the year, and we wanted the most sunlight we could get to tackle this! We had checked the weather all week, it didn’t look great, but the second half of the day was expected to clear up, so we still went for it, we figured whats a little rain?
After packing Thursday, getting out of work early Friday, picking up Nova and dropping her off at my moms, we drove the 6 hours north to the Crawford Path parking lot, where we met our taxi at 3:30 in the morning.
(We decided to not bring Nova because the White Mountains have completely exposed and rocky terrain, which can tear up dogs paws, and we did not want her to have to hike in those conditions that for over 20 miles.)
The driver was very friendly and was there early (We used Notch Taxi Service at (603) 991-8777)! He drove us to the Valley Way Trail and we started our hike at 4:06 AM. We began the hike at a good pace with our head lamps up on. We felt good despite the fact we only had ~2 hours of sleep each.
As we hiked, Zack saw a cloud and said “that cloud looks ominous”. Not a minute after he said that it started to drizzle and then down pour. We pulled our rain flies over our bags, and put our rain jackets on and continued up. We decided to take the Watson trail, instead of following the Valley Way, because the topographic map looked like they had similar elevation gain, and the Watson trail was about 0.5 miles shorter. We continued to hike, with somewhat consistent breaks for a snack or to adjust my pack, or just to breath.
We got to the ever famous signs that we were entering the alpine terrain and that we were entering one of the most dangerous weather condition locations and to turn back if the weather was bad, but at this point we had only been in rain, and had packed plenty of warm clothing should we be in a bad situation.
Just after passing that sign the wind started to get us. We were totally exposed to the 40-50 mile per hour winds, as you can see, I was getting knocked about pretty well…
The rocks at the top of Madison is covered in moss, making the wet and wind even more difficult to keep your footing in. As we ascended, out visibility diminished, as we continued blindly hoping the next cairn would be the peak! After numerous false peaks we made it, around 7:53 AM 4, hours after we stared.
We immediately started heading towards the AMC run Madison Spring hut. On our way there I lost my footing on a slick rock, and headed face first to where I was walking. Somehow I got my hands out in-front of me and caught my fall, allowing me to slow my head down enough that it just tapped the rock it was headed towards. That was terrifying, and unsettling. I scurried along following Zack towards the Madison hut.
We made it to the hut, headed inside, and sat for a minute to re-group, put on an extra layer, and decided what we wanted to do. I got a cup of hot chocolate and continued to shiver. Zack checked the weather report posted at the hut, the outlook was grim, a continuance of what we just encountered for the rest of the day. As we decided what to do, I mentioned that I almost smashed my face into a rock, and Zack mentioned that if we did continue on this marathon of a day, we would want to do it again in nice weather so we would get to see some view on this long hike!
Disappointingly, we decided to head down. We chose to go down the Valley Way trail and started hiking down around 8:45AM. As we head down, we are frustrated and disappointed as we see specks of sunlight peak through the trees. We have some solace in the fact that we are not the only people who have decided to head down. As we hike down we were bummed we realize we would have to pay another cab fare to get a ride back to the Crawford Path parking lot, where our car was.
We passed a group of like minded individuals, people who had set out to attempt the Prezi and decided perusing that in that weather wasn’t worth the risk. I am often chatty on the trail and love to hear about other peoples experiences so I started chatting. I learned that this group wanted to split a cab ride back to the end of the trail. They informed us they had two cars and they would be happy to drive us back to the Crawford Path (Woot woot!). We all continued to hike down individually (at different paces) and met up towards the bottom.
On the ride over to the Crawford Path parking lot we started chatting, and I started talking about some of our other hiking experiences, and that was when EJ, the driver, suggested I make a blog and call it “And I Still Hike”, because I tend to get into some strange situations, but I always come back to hiking! So that’s how this blog started!
Ps. These pictures are what the view was like once we reached the bottom… Totally different from what it was like up at the top!
HIKE RATING: 4/10 ~ 10 miles and 3,500 ft of elevation gain
Based on this experience, I would recommend only attempting the prezi if you have good weather ahead! I might also be so bold as to suggest a full night sleep the night before! We struggled a lot on this hike, although we learned a lot and really got to test our rain gear it was not our best day on the trail.
TECHNICAL: Attempted 6/24/2017
- 3:30 AM – Taxi pick up at Crawford Path Parking Lot
- 4:06 AM – Begin Hiking up Valley Way Trail
- We turned off to the Watson Trail – We would NOT recommend this on a questionable weather day – it caused us to be exposed in the alpine zone for much longer than if we had stuck to the Valley Way Trail
- 7:53 AM – Summit Mt. Madison
- 8:45 AM – Decide to head back to our starting locations – Via Valley Way Trail
- ~11:45 AM – Reach Parking Lot Soaked and Defeated
FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS & SUGGESTIONS:
- Always Pack Warm Clothes and Rain Gear for the White Mountains
- Bring some money up with you, the hot chocolate at the summit is a big treat if you have just been tossed around by the weather
- Slow and steady is the key in the wind and rocks.
My plan for specific hike posts is to:
- Tell our experience on the hike
- Rate the hike
- Give specific Technical Aspects (Parking Lots, Trails etc.)
- Give any specific recommendations or suggestions based on our experience on the hike
- Let me know what you think of this plan and if there is anything else you would like, or any suggestions you have in the comment section below!