The Presidential Traverse

The Presidential Traverse has been on my bucket list for a long time, and it was my #1 hiking priority when I came up to New England for the month. After my failed attempt due to weather the week before, I spent some time debating whether or not to try again. The problem was that I only had one possible day that worked with my ER schedule – 9/21/15 – and it was the day after my climb of Mt. Katahdin. It was also the first day of the year that the AMC shuttle wouldn’t be running, so I’d have to pay for another cab. I eventually decided to try for it anyway.

I woke up at 5:00 am to make the 2 hour drive to the White Mountains, and couldn’t believe how sore my left thigh was. I practically limped to my car, wondering how on earth I was going to manage 20 miles and 18,000′ of elevation change just one day after doing 12 miles and 8,000′ of elevation change. I was pretty sure I remembered smacking my left leg against a rock while crossing the Knife Edge on Katahdin…so I was banking on this being a bruise rather than an overuse injury. A bruise would likely get better while hiking, but tendinitis would only get worse.

AMC Presidential Range Trail Map

AMC Presidential Range Trail Map

After catching a cab from the AMC Highland Center to the Valley Way trailhead, I started the climb up Mt. Madison (5,367′) at 7:30 am via the Valley Way trail and Watson Path. This was the exact same route I had taken the week before, and I was moving at a much more relaxed pace. Despite this, I made the summit in 2 hours 24 minutes…exactly one minute faster than the previous week. The key difference was the weather. Rather than crawling on all fours above treeline (see last week’s post), the clear skies and gentle breeze meant I could hop easily from one rock to the next. After just a few miles of climbing, my sore leg stopped bothering me.

Mt. Madison summit

Mt. Madison summit, looking toward Mt. Washington (left) and Mt. Adams (right)

From Mt. Madison, I descended to Madison Hut to refill water and inhale a protein bar before starting up Mt. Adams (5,793′). As an optional add-on, Mt. Adams is flanked by several smaller sub-peaks (Mt. Quincy Adams, Mt. Sam Adams, Mt. Abigail Adams). Since I was feeling good and making decent time, I opted to climb Quincy Adams (5,394′) and Sam Adams (5,489′).

Mt. Quincy Adams summit - looking back toward Mt. Madison

Mt. Quincy Adams summit, looking back toward Mt. Madison

Mt. Adams summit - view south toward Mt. Washington (left) and Mt. Jefferson (right)

Mt. Adams summit – view south toward Mt. Washington (left) and Mt. Jefferson (right)

Mt Sam Adams, with Mt. Washington in the background

Mt. Sam Adams, with Mt. Washington in the background

From Mt. Sam Adams, I tried following some rock cairns to shortcut back down to the Appalachian Trail…but unfortunately, they led me to the edge of a nasty, steep boulder field. I made it down just fine, but this probably cost me an extra 15-20 minutes. Once back on the AT, the trail descended to a saddle between the Adams group and Mt. Jefferson (5,712′). Shortly after starting up Jefferson, a side trail branched off leading to the summit.

Mt. Jefferson summit

Mt. Jefferson summit

Somewhere between Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Clay (5,533′), I had the brilliant idea to clip a bag of beef jerky onto one of the carabiners on my shoulder strap. This meant constant snacking and no more stopping from here to Mt. Washington.

Mt. Clay summit, looking back toward Mt. Adams (left) and Mt. Madison (right)

Mt. Clay summit, looking back toward Mt. Adams (left) and Mt. Madison (right)

Between Mt. Clay and Mt. Washington, I crossed over the cog railway – a popular way for tourists to travel from the valley floor up to Mt. Washington (6,288′ – highest point in New England).

Mt. Washington cog railway

Mt. Washington cog railway

Mt. Washington summit, looking north toward Mt. Jefferson (left), Mt. Adams (middle), and Mt. Madison (right)

Mt. Washington summit, looking north toward Mt. Jefferson (left), Mt. Adams (middle), and Mt. Madison (right)

There were lots of tourists at the Mt. Washington visitor center and observation deck, and I only stayed a few minutes before heading south again on the AT.

Approaching Mt. Monroe and Lake of the Clouds Hut

Approaching Mt. Monroe and Lake of the Clouds Hut

The southern Presidentials are definitely smaller and less rugged than the northern Presidentials. The trail was still rocky, but the rocks were flat and smooth rather than sharp and jagged. So I made much quicker time from here on out. I stopped briefly at Lake of the Clouds Hut to refill water, then began the steep (but short) climb to the top of Mt. Monroe (5,372′).

The view south from Mt. Monroe

The view south from Mt. Monroe

As you can see above, the trail south of Mt. Monroe made for a nice evening ridge walk. No more tough climbing to speak of. My next stop was Mt. Franklin (5,003′), a small sub-peak of Mt. Monroe, which can be seen to the far right in the picture above.

Mt. Franklin sub-peak

Mt. Franklin sub-peak

The sun was starting to move toward the horizon by the time I reached Mt. Eisenhower (4,780′), and my feet were finally starting to get a little sore.

Mt. Eisenhower summit

Mt. Eisenhower summit

My final peak of the day was Mt. Pierce (4,310′). I think the summit was technically below treeline…but the vegetation was short enough and sparse enough that I was still able to see clearly.

Mt. Pierce summit, looking back toward Mt. Eisenhower (left) and Mt. Washington (right)

Mt. Pierce summit, looking back toward Mt. Jefferson (far left) Mt. Eisenhower (center) and Mt. Washington (right)

Sunset from Mt. Pierce

Sunset from Mt. Pierce

I rested for a few minutes atop Mt. Pierce, taking a little bit of satisfaction at how far away Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington looked from here. It seemed hard to believe I’d been standing atop them a few hours before. In hindsight, I wish that I’d stayed another 20-30 minutes on Mt. Pierce, because the sunset that evening was outstanding…and the best of it came when I was well below treeline. I could have snapped a few really impressive mountain/sunset shots had I just stayed put.

Sunset from below treeline

Sunset from below treeline

I returned to my car (near the AMC Highland Center) via the Mizpah Spring Hut and the Mizpah Cutoff trail. The last hour or so required a headlamp, and was only a little eerie.

Final few miles of trail...Bigfoot standing off to the right

Final few miles of trail…Bigfoot standing off to the right

I made it back to my car with a final time of 12 hours 30 minutes. You can see the splits for each individual mountain below.

Splits:

Mt. Madison – 2:24

Mt. Quincy Adams – 3:18

Mt. Adams – 3:39

Mt. Sam Adams – 4:05

Mt. Jefferson – 5:16

Mt. Clay – 6:23

Mt. Washington – 7:15

Mt. Monroe – 8:38

Mt. Eisenhower – 9:58

Mt. Pierce – 10:55

Finish – 12:30

Published in: on September 27, 2015 at 8:39 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The photo Sunset Below Treeline is stunning with the silhouettes of the trees in the foreground. I think the timing was perfect.

  2. Nice job son! Glad you were able to achieve your goal on my birthday. We enjoyed our stay with Allison and Micah. Micah, Grandma Rodgers and I had some pretty good split times on laps in the stroller around Milwaukee. : )

    • Haha nice!

      I actually sent you the birthday text from Lake of the Clouds Hut.

  3. Fantastic! It’s great that you had a good weather day to grab another check-off of your bucket list.
    G’Pa Rodgers

  4. Thanks for the post. I attempted the Prezi (on my bucket list, too) just a few months before you in July. We (I was with two 20 somethings that had never made a hike like that) made it to Madison and Adams, but had to bail for several reasons. We hammocked about a mile north of Adams, back down Valley Way, before heading back to Appalachia.

    Anyway, I’m making another attempt (solo) the last week of July. Your post has given me some great info to make it more enjoyable.

    Thanks, again, for sharing.

    Joe

    • Thanks for reading. Let me know how it goes!


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