Member Trip report
Presidential Traverse (NH)
Trip Report/Photos from shep5
At the last minute the weather forecast was looking nice for Sunday (it was supposed to be mostly sunny with windy conditions), so Tom (maineskier) and I along with Tom's dog Bailey decided to go ahead and do the Presidential Traverse. In order to do it, we met up at 3PM on Saturday at the Mt. Clinton Road parking lot in Bretton Woods to spot a car. Afterwards, we drove up to Gorham and secured a camp site at Dolly Copp.
On Sunday morning we awoke at 3:45AM and got ready. While we were getting ready, it started to sprinkle for a couple of minutes, but then we could see the stars above. This seemed like a good sign. We then drove down the Pinkham B Road to the Pine Link Trailhead and by 4:20AM we were on our way. For the first 30-40 minutes we needed our headlamps, but then it became light enough to see. At 5:45 we reached the first of several viewpoints. We could see the Carter Mountains as well as a partially obscurred Mt. Madison. In 15 more minutes we came to the trail junction of the Howker Ridge Trail and turned south on this trail. It wasn't long before we popped out of the woods again, but now Madison was clearly becoming enveloped in clouds and we could no longer see its top. As we started to climb above treeline there was one more view looking back along the ridge and then we climbed into the clouds, finally reaching the Osgood Trail (AT) at 7:20. From here it was a fairly short jaunt to the summit of Mt. Madison (5367'), which we reached at 7:30. There were no views, but there were horrendously strong winds (up to 65 mph). We could barely stand! We took a couple of pictures at the summit and quickly moved on. It continued to be very windy almost all the way down to the Madison Hut. We made it by just before 8AM. We took a break for a bit out on the porch and to layer up. By about 8:30 we contined on to Mt. Adams via the Gulfside Trail. At 8:50 we turned onto the Air Line Trail and reached the summit of Mt. Adams (5774') at 9:25. The strong winds persisted and it was still difficult to stand. At the summit we ran into a couple, who had also planned to do the traverse, but had re-considered in light of the conditions. Tom and I talked it over and we decided to continue onto Mt. Jefferson and see how things shaped up (we figured we could bail out at the Jewell Trail, if necessary). The strong winds persisted down Adams to Thunderstorm Junction and across most of the ridgeline except for the segment where we were in the protection of Mount Sam Adams. There were still gusts, which made it difficult to stand. We reached Edmands Col at 10:40 and we began our climb of Mt. Jefferson. This took us about 40 minutes to get to the summit (5712'). Despite the fog and wind, there were quite a few hikers up there, including a woman who had completed her 48 on this peak. Luckily, the winds had subsided a bit and they were not as brutal as they had been on Madison and Adams. We descended to just below the summit and had a snack. After our short break we forged on by descending Jefferson and rejoining the Gulfside Trail at 11:50. As we continued along the range there was a brief moment where the clouds looked like they were going to clear, but in the end it didn't last (we could briefly see the Cog Railway's Base Station). We decided to forego the climb over Mount Clay and followed the Gulfside Trail over to Mount Washington (6288'), which we summited at 1:40PM. When we got to the top, there wasn't too large a line for the summit sign, so we waited a little bit for a picture. Surprisingly, as much as all the hikers we met were complaining about how windy it was on Washington, it was not nearly as strong as it had been early in the morning on the other summits. After taking a summit picture, we headed inside for a break. We stayed out in the alcove, since Bailey wan't permitted inside, but I went inside quickly to see if Mike's group was there (they were hiking Mt. Washington via Boott Spur).
After our break, we headed back out by about 2PM. As we descended via the Crawford Path, the skies slowly began to clear and there were patches of blue above us. As we progressed, the Lake of the Clouds Hut and Mt. Monroe gradually became visible as the cloud ceiling finally started to lift. We reached the hut by 3PM and after re-filling our water we began our ascent of Mt. Monroe. This was relatively short having reached the summit of Mount Monroe (5372') only a half hour later. Finally we could see Jefferson and Clay behind us, but Washington had yet to emerge from the clouds. Still in was nice to finally have some views across the range. We continued along the ridge, but we ended up circumventing Little Monroe and Franklin to try and make up some time. It was 4:30 when we got to the base of Mt. Eisenhower and after a relatively short climb we reached the summit (4780') in only 20 minutes. The summit was devoid of anyone else and there were good views in all directions...even Mt. Washington was finally cloud-free for short periods at this time. We pressed on by descending the peak and rejoining the Crawford Path. The clouds continued to thin and there were now more and more blue sky. By 5:40 PM we arrived at the junction with the Webster Cliff Trail and headed up the short distance for the peak of Mt. Pierce (4310'), which we bagged in less than 10 minutes. We took in the views briefly before heading back to the Crawford Path and starting our final descent. This went pretty quickly and by 7:35PM we were back at our car.
Afterwards, we stopped for a pizza and took this back to camp after retrieving the other car.
Despite the severe windy conditions in the morning and the lack of any views until mid-afternoon, it was another Presidential Traverse, which will not be forgotten anytime soon! This was the first time for Tom and Bailey and it was also their 40th through 46th peaks on their push to finish the 48! Congratulations! Both were real troupers considering that it turned out to be a less than an ideal day! They each have Gale Head and Jackson left.
Total mileage and elevation gain: The Presidential Traverse is roughly 20 miles with 9500 feet in cumulative elevation gain.
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