Explore New Hampshire: The Presidential Traverse

Have you ever had a goal so close and so obtainable it quite literally stares you in the face? For years I have dreamed of standing on the summit of Mount Washington and staring out all the wondrous scenery around me. This weekend (July 5th-7th) I ventured across the Presidential Traverse towards my goal.

Full disclosure: My group planned a 3-day traverse, but you can choose to do it in 48 hours or for those much braver than me complete the traverse in a single day.

I have been hiking in the White Mountains since my early 20’s when a longtime friend introduced me to New Hampshire’s 4,000 footers. With 48 peaks in total spread across the State, it’s a monumental undertaking. The Presidential Traverse includes eight such peaks, two of which I have tackled previously. In my opinion, the most import part of any hike in New Hampshire is preparedness. You have to be mentally and physically ready for everything the trail will throw at you. Here’s how the past three days went!

Day One…

of our journey took us up the Valley Way Trail to Madison Spring Hut. We gained over 3,500′ of elevation in just 3.8 miles. It is challenging but the views from the top on a clear day are breathtaking and the sunset on the 5th left pretty pinks and purples across the sky.

Mount Madision sunset

Beautiful colors dancing across the sunset

Day Two…

was the toughest day for me. As we strode confidently out from the hut and up Mount Adams we were consumed by clouds and rain was on the way. In a few hours the weather took a turn for the worse and we scrambled to get to shelter. Safety is the ultimate goal and with slick footing and high winds, I knew my goal would have to wait. Our group was less than 650′ of elevation gain away from the Mt. Washington Summit but it wasn’t meant to be. We hiked the remaining 0.9 miles for the Lake of the Clouds hut and settled in for the night.

Mount Adams in the clouds

The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) huts are great places to stay on overnight hikes. You are provided breakfast each morning at 7:00a and dinner at 6:00p. The hut crew provide educational sessions about the White Mountains and the terrain at every location.

Day Three…

After a filling breakfast of bacon, eggs, oatmeal and flapjacks it was time for the long journey home. Our third and final day took us over four mountains (Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower, and Pierce). We passed an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker whose journey North started back on St. Patrick’s Day. We made it back to pavement just after 3:00p filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment. For me, it was bittersweet. I came oh-so-close to my goal of summiting Mount Washington, but I know I’ll be back. Maybe you’ll join me for my next hike?

Looking back to where we started

From the summit of Mount Pierce looking back at Mount Washington

Remember when hiking in the White Mountains, and especially in the Alpine Zone, about tree line: the terrain is dangerous, the climate can be unforgiving – be safe, hike smart, and get out there and explore!

I recommend a North to South Presidential Traverse for those thinking about attempting it. Going up Madison first takes a lot of the elevation gain out of the way early on. A big thank for to Ragged Mountain Guides and the Big City Mountaineers’ “Summit for Someone” program for making this traverse possible!

So close so, so close Ross Laorenza

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