Sunday, November 21, 2010

Presidential Traverse Attempt - 8/7/10

Waterfall heading up Madison
On August 7, 2010, I attempted a Presidential Traverse of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. It may have been one of the best hiking days in late summer this year. The weather was pristine and perfect. After studying the maps in the preceding week, I had in mind a few different routes for possible camping locations and for escaping if necessary, so I felt prepared. My knees had not bothered me in while, and I was not expecting for them to flare up so badly on this trip. However, I do know that my pack was too heavy. If I REALLY wanted to make the whole range in 2 days, I would have needed a MUCH lighter pack. Nevertheless, it was still an amazing experience of difficult hiking above treeline, and another summit of Mt. Washington.

Summit - Mt. Madison
I began the hike from Appalachia all the way up the Valley Way Trail to Mt. Madison. Let me tell you, I did not expect the beginning to be so treacherous. Besides seeing some trail side streams and waterfalls on the way, the hike to Madison is straight up and all rocks. To me, the summit of Mt. Madison is more of a pile rocks than Washington, and feels intimidating in a way. The wind was ripping, and there really isn't a whole lot to grab onto, so I stayed for a minute, then headed back down to Madison Hut. Mt. Adams was the second mountain.

As I descended Adams, that is when I realized my knees were starting to really hurt. I still had a long way to go, and mountains to climb in between. The trails above treeline on the Gulfside Trail are not easy, especially with a pack that includes a tent and sleeping bag. This traverse hike should be done very light gear, ideally excluding a tent altogether. There is some climbing involved from rock to rock in some locations. With my knees hurting, I was laboring, and other hikers began to notice, and asked if I was ok. I was seeing signs for Mt. Washington that said 5-8 miles. One thing I knew....there was no escape until the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail.

I started at 6am, but by the time I made it to Mt. Washington, the last shuttle had gone down, and I just made it time to get a candy bar and a soda, as the kitchen was closed. I called my parents, told them I was hurting, (but not how much) and my plans for where I was camping. It was about 7pm as I began to descend the Crawford Path to the Lakes of the Cloud Hut. It is a really interesting feeling descending Mt. Washington while there is not a person in sight behind you or in front of you, until they become visible outside the hut. I used the Ammo trail both ways before, so I was confident going down to camp. It was about 8pm now, so I decided to sit next a small stream on a bit of a perch and cook my dinner before I went down into the trees. I watched the sun go down over the western mountains as I finished up. I turned on my headlamps and began to....slide down the Ammo Trail. I say slide, because I could hardly walk.

Lake of Clouds - Around 7:30pm
I really expected to find a suitable spot to pitch the tent much earlier on the way down, but I overshot that expectation. It was not until 12am that I found a flat area that would work. Once I got everything situated, it was a huge relief to relax, take a couple Advil, have some water and an energy bar. I slept well, and actually slept in later since I had to hike most of the trail down to find that spot. I hiked out the next morning with a solid limp, walking by all of the starers at the cog, who probably thought I had rough hike.

Even though I was hurting, I still take the trip for what it was. It was amazing. I had spent all day above tree line in the northern Presidentials and saw the sunset from Mt. Washington.

Hike Stats
Trails: Valley Way Trail, Osgood Trail, Airline Trail, Gulfside Trail, Crawford Path, Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
Distance: 15 miles
Elevation Gain: 5950 ft
Book Time: 30:18 (camped overnight at stealth location on Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail)

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