Trip report

Single-day Presidential Traverse

Hiking/Walk DATE: 06/10/2016 - 06/12/2016

Trip/Event Location: Mount Washington, NH

Trip Leader(s): gsgraham

Max # People: 12

Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money

Difficulty Level: Very Strenuous

Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Clay, Washington, Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower and Pierce.  We will climb them all in one day.

This is a strenuous hike and should take about 12-15 hours to complete

Driving directions to the location and spot to meet at:

If you are not camping out overnight, meet at the Pine Link Trailhead - this hike is one-way.  North to South. Shuttling cars at the end - or getting picked up by a support crew.

Trip Report/Photos
Featured Photo

What an adventure!  On Friday evening, June 10th, Scott, Robin and Rob gathered at the Dolly Copp campground in preparation for a Presidential Traverse – a brilliant and robust challenge!!  Scott and Robin arrived in the early afternoon and spotted the cars for Saturday.  Rob arrived at the campground around 8:30pm – it was commencement where Rob works – there would be no escaping the day on an early note.  Rob quickly set up camp and by 9:30pm was sacked out for the evening.  Scott was a trooper and greeted Rob on arrival but the time for catching up would have to wait for the trail.

The forecast for the week called for Saturday being the pick of the weekend but the “pick of the weekend” is a relative term for weather in the White Mountains, especially surrounding Mt. Washington.  At Friday’s last check, there was potential for late day showers but by then we were hoping to be on the journey’s end of the traverse – little does one know how quickly things can change.

Four am came early – very early – and fully energized.  Scott made some coffee, we all had a quick breakfast and by 4:40am we were at the Pine Link Trail head off of Dolly Copp /Pinkham B Road.  It was surprisingly bright, no head lamps needed and it felt remote and wild – the purity of that moment can only be absorbed.  We ascended the Pine Link Trail with vigor; it was a steady climb up from the trail head, at times near vertical, rugged, wet, the forest dense like no other and the smell of pine hanging in the air.  Compass – daring pup that she is – often led the way – she’s a brilliant little dog and we were happy to have her with us ringing her bells with every step.  The morning started promising as through the trees the sky was clear, blue and sunny with light cloud cover.  We periodically looked back to catch views and take in Pine Mountain which was soon reflecting like a ‘small hill’ to us. 

From the map it appears the starting elevation was approximately 1,650’.  We stayed on Pine Link for 2.4 miles and intersected with Howker Bridge Trail for another 1.1 miles connecting at Osgood Junction with .3 miles more to summit Mt. Madison at 5,366’.  Yep, inside this very short morning we had tackled 3,716’ of climbing – we felt pumped.  From this point forward we were well above the tree line and we’d stay there until the last leg of our journey.  We began the descent soon arriving at the Madison Spring Hut.  At the Hut Rob checked the weather report – the pm showers were moved up to sometime around 2:30 to 3:00pm with a chance for thunder…. Hmmmmm…  We decided to carry on, not to be deterred.  While at the Hut, Rob also purchased an old fashioned donut – a quick energy boost, Scott fed compass a mini pecan pie, we had snacks, hydrated, took a brief break, filled our water bottles and headed out the Gulfside trail to connect with the Mt. Adams Loop Hike to the summit at 5,799’ and achieving approximately 5.2 miles.  A quick group photo and down began the descent to Thunderstorm Junction to reconnect with the Gulf Side Trail and begin the journey to Edmands Col.   By far, this was the most spectacular stretch of the day – Mt. Washington was in full view, periodically dancing with whispering clouds, Jefferson Ravine to the left, stunning geography, and beautiful landscape as far as the eye could see.  The cloud ceiling remained high above Washington and the sun, while warm, was filtered by the clouds which made for great hiking.  The trail was busy, encountering many a hiker, several who were committed to the same journey we were making, others going hut to hut.  It was an experience and a world unto itself.  We were enjoying our time but Rob seemed to gobble up every moment.

We periodically checked the time but weren’t noting the summit arrivals.  From the summit of Adams to Edmands Col was approximately 2 miles.  Here we took a solid break, lunched, hydrated and began the next leg of the Journey.  Scott and Robin decided to preserve energy and skirt the summits by staying on the Gulfside Trail; Rob was intent on hitting each peak so he followed the loop trails to the top and reconnected with Scott and Robin back on the Gulfside.  We carried on Summiting Mt. Jefferson at 5,716’ and then Mt. Clay at 5,533’.  Mt. Clay was Rob’s favorite of the day.  There he could peer into the Great Gulf – stand precipitously close to the edge if he wanted (he did not) and take in the vast wilderness – indescribably really – must be seen to truly appreciate.

We all met up again where the Mt. Clay loop trail connects with the Gulfside Trail and here is where the fun begins – the Rain.  The rain came fast and started lightly but quickly became a steady pour… the clouds swirled in and with a mile to go to reach the summit of Mt. Washington it would disappear, reappear and disappear in the density of the clouds.  It was rather an amazing experience but also felt daunting.  Add to that, a fairly swift temperature drop.  To our relief, no thunder, just heavy rain, cooler weather and heavy clouds.  While ascending Compass began to shiver and was not doing well with the rain or chilly temps.  We paused, discussed our next steps and it was decided Scott would scoot back down and skirt Mt. Washington to join the Crawford Path and make his way down to Lake of the Clouds Hut – Compass needed a break and Scott was sure the folks at Mt. Washington wouldn’t accommodate his need to shelter Compass.  Robin and Rob would ascend Mt. Washington, take a short break, and make their way to Lake of The Clouds.  The beauty of the moment, if it can be stated, is we were prepared.  We suited up in rain gear, gloves and protected ourselves from the elements.  Compass was a little less fortunate but was well protected by Scott.  As Rob was closing in on his final ascent to the summit, he stood alone waving to a comfortable crowd chugging down the Cog Railway, Robin not far behind. I’m sure it was comical to some… why… why the passengers must think, do people do this, lol.  Because it feeds the soul Rob thinks to himself.  Just a few more stones to skip over to reach the summit and the rain had let up and hikers began emerging.  Robin and Rob bumped into two women who marveled at our day’s accomplishment – they thought us inspiring – and that charged us up!  They were headed down the Jewell Trail.  We reached the summit and took a snack break.  We did our best to ignore the crowds – there were lots of people and it had been a decent outlook day until roughly 2:00pm – crowds to be expected – this is common knowledge.  At the summit Rob checked the weather report and rain and temps in the low 30’s were predicted for the remainder of the day into the evening, cooler at the summit.  Robin and Rob layered up in additional gear and Rob pulled out some hand warmers.  He’d joked on a previous trip that he’d be using them through July – no truer words could have been spoken.  They took their summit photo and off they went to descend the Crawford path to Lake of the Clouds.

Sometime around 4:30pm Robin and Rob arrived at Lake of the Clouds – the day was passing and the weather, while it seemed to have improved, could not be relied upon.  Scott was very happy to see us and Compass was peacefully nestled in his little bunk sleeping peacefully despite the buzz of the hut.  Discussion time – what was the next plan of action.  We were all taxed by the intensity of the passing storm but Compass was out and seemed intent on sleeping through the night.  We ultimately decided to end the traverse and make our way down the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail.  It was a prudent decision and a testament to Scott’s leadership and group cohesiveness.  During our conversation Scott had a bowl of chili and Robin had a bowl of vegetable soup – freshly made by the caretakers.  Rob snacked on his bagel and peanut butter.  We all agreed the weather was not going to improve and a light mist had settled upon the geography.  As we left the hut we looked up and could see nothing – clouds were socking in the summits and none of us were interested in hiking through dense fog knowing full well we’d not emerge till after nightfall – and nightfall would come early with such heavy fog. 

Ahhhhhhhhh, to skirt one challenge only to have another.  Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail was breathtaking and spectacular all by itself.  The waterfall photos you see are from Rob’s descent along the trail.  The early part was steep, slick and if we were to do this trail again, we’d recommend you go up, not down.  Along the path are many tricky water crossings and we all agreed this probably isn’t the trail to hike in spring, especially after a heavy winter of snowfall.  We gave Rob the key to Robin’s car and he scooted ahead.  We knew he’d get there sooner than Scott, Robin and Compass and the theory was he’d encounter fellow hikers at the parking lot who might be kind enough to give him a ride to Crawford Notch to retrieve Robin’s car.  Along his journey he only passed a group of four young 20 something’s.  Rob shared his story and carried on down the trail seeing no one else.   Shortly after he emerged the young 20 something’s emerged but were not interested in assisting so Rob made himself comfortable awaiting the arrival of his hiking mates.  Around 7:30pm Robin, Scott and Compass connected with Rob at the trailhead parking and they journeyed their way along the Base Road – easily an additional 1.5 miles – To connect with Mt. Clinton Road.  We estimated Mt. Clinton Road to Crawford Notch would be another 3 mile walk when out the blue a car came charging up the Base Road towards the Cog Railway Station – A true gift.  Scott quickly flagged him down and he agreed to take Scott to Crawford Notch while Robin and Rob carried on a short distance and waited at the intersection of Base Road, Mt. Clinton Road and Jefferson Notch Road.  A few minutes later Scott zooms up and we make our back to Dolly Copp but not before pit stopping to get Scotts vehicle at the Pine Link Trail head.  We arrived at camp by 9pm having achieved five summits and roughly 17 miles – well done!

Rob was intent on a coffee and shower but once he retreated to his tent – he had three sips of wine and recalls briefly thanking Scott with Robin for a brilliant adventure but quickly fell asleep.  Robin expressed intent to read a little and this morning indicated the first sentence resulted in no comprehension and she too quickly fell asleep.  Robin and Rob are certain Scott and Compass experienced a quick dive into deep sleep as well. We all slept well and we slept long.  Rob was first to rise sometime around 6:30am… he scooted down to Pinkham Notch where he showered and changed.  He came back to camp and begin to pack up for the day.  While packing Rob looked up and the sky was a mix of blue sky, dark clouds but brilliant sunshine.  He said in passing to Scott that he had a real wonderment of what it must be like on the summits today – he was kind of ready to do it all over again.  We all had a good laugh because I think we would have… had the forecast been better. 

Rob had a long drive and he also wanted to pick up his dog, Soleil, from overnight camp.  Scott and Robin also started packing up and were making their way to Gorham for a pancake breakfast.  We exchanged bear hugs and said our good bye’s. 

Trip Report:  Rob Laverdure (Scott has full Editorial Rights)

Trip Photos:  Rob Laverdure – I was a bit inconsistent with Photos on this trip – enjoy all the same – Post Summit of Washington I put the camera away – we had a journey to finish!

A big thank you to Scott for sharing his knowledge, experience, wisdom and energy for such a fun trip.  While we didn’t achieve a full traverse – the experience was equally rewarding.  I learned – as did Robin – some important considerations when it comes to hiking at these higher elevations.  Nature is to be respected and appreciated for all her depth, wonderment and beauty.  When I can wake up the next day and say let’s do this all over again, you know you are hooked onto something special and what makes it more meaningful is sharing those experiences with people who love it as much as you do – Thank you Scott, Compass & Robin – until next time – Happy Trails.

Members That Participated


Outdoor Fitness Level: Moderate to Strenuous

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Outdoor Fitness Level: Very Strenuous

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