Thursday, July 24, 2014

2014 Presidential Range Traverse – Multi-day Hike

2014 Presidential Range Traverse – Multi-day Hike
Dedicated to Sue Barber!

AMAZING 3 days - 9 summits - 21 miles – 8,800ft elevation gain!

Mt. Madison #30, Mt. Adams #31 and Mt. Washington #32 for me. Washington #41 for Tim!!! My first time on Clay. Third time on Jefferson. Second time on Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower and Pierce!

Started traverse 3 days after my 55th birthday!!!

A year ago Sue asked me if I would be interested in hiking the Presidential Range Traverse with her. I hemmed and hawed a bit but ended saying yes! And I’m sure glad I did.

Fast forward to May 2014. Sue and I agreed on a 3 days/2 night-traverse. She also invited Tim along on the traverse. Reservations were made at the Madison Springs and Lake Of The Clouds huts. I also set up reservations for the shuttle to take us from the AMC Highland Center to the Appalachia Trail on Route 2, the start of our 3-day trek. Unfortunately, 3 weeks before our traverse, Sue had to back out due to illness. Tim and I decided to go ahead with the traverse.

The Presidential Range Traverse in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is one of the most coveted hikes in the Northeast. Most of the hike is above treeline making for exposure to every sort of weather. The traverse covers all the summits named after USA presidents: Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower and Pierce. It passes over the highest peak in the Northeast. As well as the second, third, fourth and fifth highest. The traverse can be done in a day. This blog covers our traverse done as a multi-day, north to south hike.

Day 1
Mt. Madison (5,366ft) – Madison Spring Hut (4,825ft)
Trails: Valley Way, Osgood
On the day of our traverse, Tim and I met up at the AMC Highland center. Since we weren’t allowed to park at the center overnight, we parked in the Crawford Path trailhead and walked back the short distance to the center to catch our shuttle. At the Appalachia Trailhead, we started up the Valley Way trail. Two words for this day……hot and muggy! We took frequent breaks but I didn’t get enough to eat, and as a result, my left lower quad cramped up. With just 100 yards to the hut, I breathed deeply with every painful step. Eventually, the cramps subsided. But I wasn’t worried about the cramps. What worried me about this hike in hot muggy weather was my asthma. These type of temps/conditions can trigger an asthma attack and I was glad that I could breathe freely in this weather. So long as I maintained an even pace, I was fine. We checked-in and were put in the Adams Bunkroom (22-bunks). I quickly ate a bowl of soup/crackers and then Tim and I were off to bag the Madison summit.

Mt. Madison summit - Tim & I - my #30!
Presidential Traverse

Yes, I lugged my 3lb DSLR up & down for 3 days! Ugh!

Tim photographing another peakbagger

From the Madison summit

Also celebrating Madison! Frank for #41 and his buddy Gerry

It was very windy with some gusts up to 40mph! We decided not to bag Adams and a good thing too. 10 minutes after getting back to the hut, it started to downpour! This and high winds continued throughout the night. Sunday dinner throughout the AMC hut system was Pasta. Stuffed shells with soup, garden salad and dessert. I had the lactose-free dinner of pasta noodles and sauce. Interestingly, no meat for this meal! :( The next morning breakfast of coffee, oatmeal, scrambled eggs and bacon was served at 7am.

Madison Springs Hut

Madison Springs Hut

Log-in book

Madison Spring Hut Passport stamped!

Menu board

My bunk for the night!

Every stitch of space is used to dry wet gear

Day 2
Mt. Adams (5,774ft), Mt.  Jefferson (5,712ft), Mt. Clay (5,533ft) & Mt. Washington (6,288ft) - Lakes Of The Clouds Hut (5,012ft)
Trails: Gulfside, Lowe’s Path, Clay Loop, Crawford Path
From the Madison Springs hut we took the Gulfside Trail. I had found a blog that described that small section of the Gulfside trail between the Airline trail and Thunderstorm Junction as “almost smooth as a sidewalk.” And sure enough, there is a patch of trail that is, well, almost smooth as a sidewalk! Tim and I were so glad we took this trail instead of the Airline trail directly over the Mt. John Quincy Adams summit and then onto the summit of Mt. Adams! The stones in this section are indeed leveled making this section very easy going all the way! In no time Tim and I were at the Thunderstorm Junction. From here we hiked up the easy 0.3 mile to the Adams summit. Just how easy is that section, you ask? Well, Tim and I were at the Airline/Gulfside junction and there were 6 others....they decided to take Airline up over the smaller peak and then onto Adams. Tim and I took that "almost smooth as sidewalk" section and we were at the Adams summit before that group of 6! How's that for easy huh?!?!?

Goodbye Madison!

King Ravine from the Gulfside Trail

Thunderstorm Junction

Snuggling up to the Mt. Adams summit marker - #31!
Presidential Traverse

Tim at Mt. Adams summit

Onwards to Mt. Jefferson! That little section of the trail from the Edmund Col up to the Gulfside Trail junction was so fun. Easy-peasy rock scrambling with great views of the Jefferson Ravine! We had  a quick lunch at the large cairn just below the Mt. Jefferson summit. And since Mt. Clay didn’t count, we just “walked-thru” the summit and continued onto Washington. 

Bouldering, sort of, LOL!

Mt. Jefferson summit for the 3rd time
Presidential Traverse

Spaulding Lake

Last push to Mt. Washington summit

For me, that last mile to the Washington summit was the hardest! My quads weren’t cramping and I had no asthma flare-ups. But I was so sleepy and it was work to maintain an even pace.  Tim helped by telling me to just focus on one cairn at a time. I did and no time, we were at the summit! As expected, the summit sign had lines – two lines, actually! We got into the “hiker line” and there were some folks that let us go ahead of them to take our photos.

Mt. Washington summit
My #32 & Tim's #41!
Yellow Cog Train in the background
Presidential Traverse


After our summit photos we had a snack and visited the gift shop before heading down to the Lakes Of The Clouds hut. On the descent to the hut it was getting really chilly. We arrived at Lakes Of The Clouds hut just as the clouds were settling over the lakes. We checked in and set up our bunks and then the downpour began! It cooled things off a bit and we settled in for what I think was THE BEST dinner EVER! White Rice, Ginger Chicken, sour soup & bread, garden salad and double chocolate fudge brownies. I had the lactose-free Peaches & cinnamon for dessert. I couldn’t finish my dinner so I made a sandwich with the bread and chicken I had left over. Didn’t want it to go to waste plus this would be great for lunch the following day since the huts don’t provide any lunch or sandwiches!

From the Mt. Washington summit to the Lakes Of The Clouds hut

Lakes Of The Clouds sign

Lakes Of The Clouds

Sunset at Lakes Of The Clouds (2)

Lakes Of The Clouds Hut Passport stamped!

Lakes Of The Clouds hut

Day 3
Mt. Monroe (5,372ft), Mt. Franklin (5,001ft), Mt. Eisenhower (4,780ft), Mt. Pierce (4,310ft)
Trails: Mt. Monroe Loop, Franklin Loop, Mt. Eisenhower Loop, Crawford Path
I got up early, at 4:30am, and couldn’t go back to sleep. In the dining room there were 4 thru-hikers still asleep in their bags. They had come in after the 9:30 lights out/quiet time. One of the croo members were already up and in the kitchen prepping for breakfast. I dressed in my new “High Huts” fleece pullover and my ice climbing fleece beanie and took my DSLR and iPhone outside. The weather was overcast and the outside air chilly. But it felt good to sit in the silence. Slowly the others in the hut woke and I quickly grabbed a cup of hot coffee and snapped more photos.  Breakfast was hardy oatmeal, scrambled eggs and bacon.

Good Morning Mt. Washington!

Mt. Washington Hotel

6:30am wake-up serenade performed
every morning by the the hut croo!

Day 3 would be the only day with ‘bad weather.’ Unlike the 2 days before, it was overcast much of the way. And since Tim and I had already bagged the southern peaks, we decided that we would “walk-thru” the southern summits. At the Monroe summit we quickly located the pin and tapped it with our toes and descended onto Franklin for our summit walk-thru. The same for Eisenhower and Pierce. I couldn't believe how socked in those two peaks were. Such a disappointment since I had carried my 3-pound DSLR along in hopes of getting photos of the southern Presidentials. I had originally planned to go onto the Mizpah Springs Hut to get my AMC Passport stamped. But I was feeling tired and decided I could save it for a solo hike on another day. So at the Pierce summit we tapped the cairn and headed back down to the trailhead. We lunched in the middle of the trail on our sandwiches made from dinner we had the night before. It was delicious and hit the spot. I’m so glad I listened to Tim when he told me to use all the chicken! ;)  At the Gibbs Falls we stopped for a few so that I could wet my bandana and dip my hands into the ice cold water. It was such a welcomed relief since the last part of the trail was annoyingly hot and muggy. 

Mt. Monroe from Lake Of The Clouds hut

Mt. Franklin

Mt. Eisenhower

British Soldiers Lichen


Cotton Sedge

Gibbs Falls

This traverse was more than just hiking 21 miles and bagging peaks. For me it was about the exhilaration of being in the mountains for several days. Enjoying the gorgeous landscape above treeline. And experiencing all the joys and challenges that the mountains have to offer. I started somewhat anxious about the traverse but was quickly calmed when I looked at it as 3 days of hiking. This traverse was also a learning experience for me. The fact that I have EIA (Exercise Induced Asthma) did make for some extra bit of thought in my planning, but it didn't worry me at all. As long as I kept a pace that I was I comfortable with, hydrated well and used my inhaler as needed, this would not be a handicap that would cut short my traverse. Except for a scratch on Tim’s shin, we were fortunate that we remained safe during our entire traverse. And finally, this traverse was about being thankful. Thankful that God has given me the opportunity to experience every mountain, in His presence.

The views and the exposure above treeline are truly amazing – Tim and I were also fortunate to have such good hiking weather! And we weren't the only ones hiking a traverse. We met many hikers (solos & groups, men & women of all ages) on the very same journey, some traveling in the opposite direction.

The Presidential Range….so beautiful yet so unforgiving – but by far, my favorite hike!

There were 3 sections of this traverse that was the hardest for me:
1) Day 1 the last 100 yards to the Madison Springs hut when I got a cramp in my left quad; 
2) Day 2 the last mile to the Washington summit; 
3) Day 3 the last mile of traverse when my backpack felt its heaviest.

** I went a long time not realizing I have asthma and my favorite activities were limited and not fun because I wasn't aware of the symptoms of EIA. I even blamed myself for not being fit enough. Check out this article from the American Academy of Allergy Asthmas & Immunology and help spread the word!

AMC Hiker Shuttle Map & Schedule

Marc Chauvin Presidential Traverse Escape Route Plan

Monday, July 7, 2014

Minty - Multi-pitch Rock Climbing

Minty (5.4)
230 feet, 3 pitches
The Gunks (Shawangunks)
Mohonk Preserve, NY

What a difference a year makes! Although that day a year ago wasn’t what I expected, it was a day that I would never forget. And will try not to repeat! So when Geoff and Jeff invited me to tag along for a day at the Gunks, I was skeptical. But I had been ice and rock climbing with them for several months now, so I felt comfortable seconding them. As expected, it was crowded and as the day wore on, the popular routes had queues! Enjoy some photos of our day at the Gunks.

Jeff leading up Minty

My turn!

At the belay ledge I found an old piton in addition to my anchor

Jeff and I on the belay ledge

Pretty view from the belay ledge

Geoff leading up pitch 2

Belay ledge selfie

My turn! This section up the face is so sweet, but short!

Geoff leading pitch 3

After a few minutes of searching, we found the tree on the GTLedge
(which already had slings and a rap ring) to rap down on (3).

Originally we wanted to climb Northern Pillar but there was a party already climbing and two more other parties waiting their turn. So we started up the Twin Oaks (5.3). 

But we didn’t climb the second pitch of Twin Oaks.
Instead, leader Geoff traversed left to a tree on a ledge. 

We finished off the climb on pitch 3 of Northern Pillar. Then rapped down from bolt anchors on a large boulder.  Free-rapping fun on two 60m ropes! It was such a beautiful day for some mellow multi-pitch climbs. The routes were fun with sections of rock scrambling. Good to be climbing in The Gunks – great one-to-three-pitch climbs of all levels of difficulty!

YouTube Channel - Hawaii Girl Adventures

Check out my YouTube channel at:  Hawaii Girl Adventures I will eventually be phasing out blog posts and be posting videos of my climbing, h...