Wednesday, June 15, 2016

White Mountains Direttissima Attempt - An Unsupported Thru-Hike of the 48 4,000-Footers of the White Mountains

June 2016
Dan, Alton, & Cole (aka SuperPup)

Tomorrow, June 16, 2016, Alton, Cole (K9), & I (Dan) begin an attempt to hike a “direttissima” of the 48 4,000-Footers of the White Mountains. It is our goal to traverse each of the 48 4,000-footers in one continuous and unsupported hike, and by using the most direct route as possible. This means that we will not retrace one step or re-hike one spur trail as we traverse each and every summit on our way to, we hope, completing a direttissima of the White Mountains.

The word or idea “direttissima” comes from its use as an Italian climbing term in the 1930s and 1940s. Definitions across the board state that, generally, it means “most direct route to a mountain top”, or “the shortest link”, or “most direct route”. There have been previous thru-hikes and other unrecorded attempts revolving around the idea of a “direttissima” or “thru-hike” of the White Mountains. Based on my due diligence in understanding the prior attempts, the previous six known thru-hikes of the White Mountain 4,000-footers generally tagged the summits using the typical trails and spur trails (aka "out-and-backs"), and/or with the benefit of leaving backpacks/supplies behind for short portions of trails, spur trails, in particular. If one retraces a spur path or section of trail, then the route might not be considered the “most direct route”. If one has to retrace their path to get to the next section, than it is likely not the shorter or shortest route. Such a hike may be a continuous hike from start to finish, but wouldn't be a continuous, direct path or route. If one relieves themselves of their supplies along a route that is not the most direct, then a question could still be asked as to what truly is an unsupported Direttissima of the 48 4,000-footers of the White Mountains?

During our attempt, we will use trails, roads, and bushwhacks with all our own foot power. We will not use any spur trail more than once, which will require either an off-trail approach or off-trail descent from some of the peaks (namely Owls Head, Galehead, Hale, Zealand, West Bond, Bond, North Hancock, Passaconaway, Tom, Isolation). The ultimate goal is to take a route that does not retrace any part of our path and to potentially blaze a shortest route of all prior attempts. Our secondary goal is to pursue the fastest known time of any unsupported thru-hike of the 48 4,000-footers (8 days, 8 hours or less). By shooting high with our goals, we give ourselves a chance to still accomplish this inspirational feat, at the end of it all, in a number of potentially different ways. Any use of huts (except water), services (stores), or gifts, could deem this hike self-supported, as opposed to unsupported. We may use available open shelters or tent sites, but not enclosed huts with doors for sleeping. We will carry all of our gear and food for every step of the way (since we can't go back), and dispose of everything properly, practice LNT, and follow all WMNF rules for camping.

We respect, admire, and share the same passion and inspiration as those who’ve previously accomplished a thru-hike of the 4,000-footers. Such a hike is in inspiration to anyone. Each before us has done it in their own way, direction, or with their own twist, and we are simply doing the same, with a desire to push our physical ability to beyond its limits, while hiking across our favorite and beloved mountains. Below, is a brief synopsis of the known completions and attempts of a White Mountain thru-hike. Below it, is a brief note on what makes the prior attempts different compared to our goal.

Previous White Mountain Thru-Hike Accomplishments & Attempts

1969 - Reverend Henry Folsom, 19 days
In the summer of 1970, the Reverend Henry Folsom, of Old Saybrook, Connecticut worked out the shortest continuous route of walking trails and roads to climb all the peaks - “direttissima” --in the most direct manner. In 19 (non-continuous) days and 244.5 miles, he bagged them all starting with Cabot and ending on Moosilauke. His tale is told in the December 1971 issue of Appalachia.
-Steve Smith & Mike Dickerman

*Folsom drove home at the end of each day or section to sleep in his own bed and drove to the next trail head the next morning.
*Folsom’s set his "direttissima" guidelines as using only established trails and roads available to cars, and using the motorized vehicle as part of the route.

2007 - Mats Roing, 10 days 12 hours and 7 minutes
In 2007, the feat was reprised by hiker Mats Roing, who climbed all 48 peaks in one continuous, unsupported backpacking trip, starting with Mt. Moosilauke, and ending with Mt. Cabot. For his own twist, Roing dropped down for 10 push-ups on each peak
-Steve Smith & Mike Dickerman

Journal as it happened on VFTT

* Roing dropped his pack for a number of summits and used out-and-backs and spur trails.

2009 - Mats Roing & MEB, (Attempt) in reverse.
44 of 48, called off the attempt at Lafayette Campground, 4 shy of finishing

“We're carrying everything from the start and the only thing we'll refill is water. MEB's pack weighed in at 50.4 lbs last night (with 3 liters of water). Mine was 51.0 lbs but I still have 15 lbs of stuff to add (including water). The food is the bulk of it. We are using a Black Diamond Lighthouse tent without the vestibule. No tent stakes to save weight. Have solar charger for the Iphone so the GPS tracker will work....knock on wood.” - Mats Roing

* Roing dropped his pack on occasion and used out-and-back and spur trails.

2012 - Ryan & Kristina Welts (Attempt)
3 of 48

2014 - Taylor Radigan, approx. 14 days
*Route details were not available online, although it is presumed that only trails were used and was completed in the style of a White Mountain Challenge.

2014 - Arlette Laan, 11 days 19 hours

Arlette’s Blog & Personal Account -

*Laan dropped her pack on occasion and used out-and-backs and spur trails

2015 - Ariel & Anna Feindel, 8 days, 8 hours, 37 minutes, fastest time
On September 16, 2015, Ariel and Anna Feindel of Portsmouth, completed a 4000-Footer Direttissima (an unsupported, continuous backpacking hike of the 48 peaks) in, to the best of our knowledge, a record time of 8 days, 8 hours and 37 minutes. They started up north on Mt. Cabot and ended on Mt. Moosilauke, averaging nearly 30 miles per day on their 240-mile trek.
-Steve Smith & Mike Dickerman

*The Feindel’s used out-and-backs and spur trails

Other Information & Discussion Regarding the idea of a “Direttissima”

A Views from the Top discussion on trying to decipher and discuss the “shortest route” and the term “Direttissima”.

A thread in Views from the Top discussing “direttissima”.

Philip Werner’s (Section well thought-out ponderings of a White Mountain Direttissima or White Mountain Challenge

A general comment from Tim Seaver about blazing a direttissima route, explains our approach best.

“I am sure a very interesting route could be constructed using only bushwhacks which would be shorter mileage-wise, but what I am really after is the most efficient way to tie all 48 peaks together (using primarily the established trails) without an undue amount of thrashing.”

White Mountains Direttissima Itinerary

Start: June 16, 2016
Target End Date: June 24, 2016
Estimated Distance: 230-250 miles
Estimated Elevation Gain: 80,000 ft +/-
Estimated Elevation Loss: 80,000 ft +/-

A very rough and approximate daily peak itinerary is below:

Day 1
Moosilauke, Kinsmans, Cannon

Day 2
Flume, Liberty, Lincoln, Lafayette, Garfield, Owls Head, Galehead

Day 3
S. Twin, N. Twin, Hale, Zealand, West Bond, Bond, Bondcliff, N. Hancock, S. Hancock

Day 4
East Osceola, Osceola, Tecumseh, N. Tripyramid, S. Tripyramid, Whiteface, Passaconaway

Day 5
Carrigain, Willey, Field, Tom, Jackson, Pierce, Eisenhower, Monroe, Washington

Day 6
Isolation, Wildcat D, Wildcat A, Carter Dome, South Carter, Middle Carter, Moriah

Day 7
Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Waumbek, Cabot

General Astronomical Outlook for Mid-June

Sunrise:  5:00 AM
Sunset:    8:30 PM
Twilights: 20-30 minutes before and after sunrise/sunset (4:40am / 9:00pm)
Day Length: 15 Hours 20 Minutes
Moonrise: In the evenings, one hour later each day. 8:30 pm on the Full Moon
June Full Moon: Monday, June 20th, 7:04 AM; Full Strawberry Moon
Summer Solstice: Monday, June 20, 6:34 PM

Estimated Route Details & Camping Options

Complete Pack List

Complete Food List

As always, we tremendously appreciate the support, and encouragement of all our friends and family in our crazy endeavors, and we hope that you will support us in this exciting attempt to complete, perhaps, the first “true” direttissima of the 48 4,000-Footers of the White Mountains. We look forward to seeing many of you out on the trails next week! Remember, we will be on a precise plan and focused on our goal. Someone please bring us some good champagne and some ice cold beer to the Unknown Pond Trail head next week! Welcome Summer! Cheers to all of you!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Kinsmans & Cannon - 06/09/16

This was a fun Thursday evening hike with Alton & Nate. The weather was looking much better a few days prior, but it takes a little more than what was there for us to alter plans.  It was strange for June with gusty winds and temperatures in the 40s at Lonesome Lake Trail head (Lafayette Place).  We packed for a chilly, potentially wet, but fast hike of Kinsmans and the Cannon. We elected to ascend the Fishin' Jimmy and hit the Kinsmans first. 
The gradual ascent on Lonesome Lake Trail 
Jogging by Lonesome Lake
We did some quick climbing up the wet rocks on the Fishin' Jimmy. We reached the summit to no views.  Moving on quickly towards South Kinsman, we encountered a patch of ice pellets. They almost looked liked broken ice cubes. Cole seemed happy to see them and stick nearby.  We took the opportunity for a quick stop and photo to enjoy the freak ice in June.  It made us talk about how we've been encountering ice for the last 7-8 months in a row now, including a winter with a storied abundance of icy trails. 
Fishin' Jimmy Trail 
No views today from North Kinsman 
Enjoying a nice break with the ice
 As we reached the summit, we saw a potential view starting to clear. As we got our phones out to capture it, it went away. We decided to wait 20 seconds to see if would come before we'd shoot back into the trees. Within time, but for only another few seconds, we had this view below from South Kinsman. On the way back, we had a few more little view opportunities before it was going to get dark. On a hike like this, when the view opens, its kind of cool to take it in if its there. This happened a couple of times, and during those times we'd grab a snack or change a layer.
South Kinsman
View from Kinsman Ridge Trail
Hiking north on Kinsman Ridge Trail
Cannon from the Cannonballs 
This loop is one my favorite late afternoon or night hikes.  I like it as a fast and physical hike...5,000 ft of gain over 11 miles.  We had fun slipping into the puddles on the trail, sliding off bog bridges, and trying to beat daylight to the summit of Cannon. We kept on going, and climbed up the steep backside of Cannon.  It was incredible to see the boulder that recently wiped out many trees next to and across the trail.  It was amazing to see such a tremendous force and reality of nature. We reached the summit of Cannon in 4hrs 25 min, which is fast. It felt like it'd been a while since I did a short fast hike, so this one was fun, and I felt good.
Nearing the Rim Trail on Cannon 
Nate and I braving the wind on the Cannon Summit deck
Kinsmans - 13th Round
Cannon - 14th Round

Trail Conditions:
It was extremely windy at the trail head with temperatures in the mid to upper 40s. The trail was wet from start to finish. Slippery bog bridges all along the way, and muddy puddles up on the ridge. Going up Lonesome and Fishin' Jimmy included wet, slippery rocks and flowing water, and Kinsman Ridge Trail had wet, slippery rocks and mud puddles. Only a few spills during this fun and fast hike.

Hike Stats
Trails: Lonesome Lake Trail, Fishin' Jimmy Trail, Kinsman Ridge Trail, Hi-Cannon Trail
Distance: 10.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 5,036 ft.
Actual Book Time: 5:18