Presidential Traverse, NH, USA

VERTICAL: +10,040′ / -9,340′
TIME: 10 Hours 27 Minutes

Ok, remember the Maryland Challenge? Well, this was better. Much better. It was incredible. What am I talking about? A full traverse of the Presidential Mountain Range in northern New Hampshire, including all 11 summits – in a day.

I started at the base of Mt. Madison and covered about 23 miles with a total combined vertical of over 10,000 feet. The views? Unparalleled. I gained most of my elevation early on, which made for a tough morning, but I prefer to get the hard work out of the way early. Hiking southbound gave me the best views early in the day when it was clear, saving the lesser peaks for later in the day when the sky was overcast. I never felt a drop of rain.

I was mostly alone on the trail until I hit Mt. Washington. I think I saw 4 people on Madison, Adams (highest summit in the northeast without roadway access), Jefferson, and Clay combined. The hordes flowed pretty regularly beyond Clay as I approached Washington. It’s the highest peak in the northeast, and you can drive to the top. Lame. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool. But hiking for 5 hrs and then summiting the highest peak of the day to find a parking lot full of cars and visitor center full of people – not my deal. Anyways it’s obviously quite popular, especially on a beautiful day this early in the season.

That’s not really the point, though. The point is that now I have an idea of what it’ll be like for 10-14 days in the High Sierra on the PCT, and I’m certain that I can hack it.

I got to do some “warm-up” hikes earlier in the week in order to prepare for the traverse: Cannon Mountain and Mt. Lafayette near Franconia Notch State Park. Neither is terribly impressive, but they both provided valuable experience. I summited Cannon in a total whiteout. Needless to say the weather was less than inviting, but I had a ton of fun on that little jaunt. I got a late start up Lafayette, and ended up picking my way back down from the summit in darkness. And alone. It’s an interesting experience to be above tree line after the last shred of natural light disappears over the horizon. I obviously made it up and down just fine in both cases.