The Climbing Club

at the University of Washington
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 10:18 pm 
Raging Alpoholic
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Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2007 10:15 pm
Posts: 812
Here is a long overdue TR. Nathan and I found ourselves in Maine this fall for a wedding. Whenever visiting a new area it is always fun to try to tick off one of their classics, whether it is a ski tour, perfect rock pitch, or alpine climb. When I started researching New England in fall, the Presidential Traverse stuck out as a perfect objective. The Presidential traverse is a 20 mile hike, tagging 9 summits and gaining 9000’. There are nice huts up there to do the route in 2-3 comfortable days, but the Presidential traverse in a day seemed like a suitable prize for my first trip to New Hampshire. This is really just a hike, but with a couple unusual challenges. First, Mt. Washington (in the center of the traverse) is notorious for intense storms and some of the highest recorded wind speeds. Second, the trail is very rocky, in fact often times is not a trail at all, but just a very well-marked boulder field. This can really slow you down when you are trying to cover that many miles in a day.

With the weather uncertainty in fall being a real concern for our quick trip, I planned 4 days in which we could try the traverse. We really lucked out and the best weather that they had all year just so happened to be on day 1. After a red-eye flight, we grabbed our rental car and got into position for the start at the Valley Way trail at the Appalachia trailhead. The only downside of starting our hike right after arriving in New England was that we didn’t have time to work out a car shuttle. There is a shuttle that makes stops along the route and can be used to leave your car at the end and be dropped off at the trailhead the night before, but we missed the last shuttle. The new plan was to hitch-hike back, which I’ve read that several people do.

We began at 4am most of the gain is at the very beginning and it was nice to get this out of the way before what ended up being a scorcher of a day. By sunrise we were on our first summit, Mt. Madison.

After a quick stop, we dropped down to a saddle between Madison and Adams, containing Madison Springs Hut and Star Lake. It was a little strange to peer in the windows of the Hut as we walked by. It was packed with hikers having a rather fancy looking breakfast. We were dirty, sweaty and had already been hiking for a couple hours.

Another climb brought us to the summit of Mt. Adams. From here, we had a good view of Mt. Washington, the highest point at the center of our traverse. It still looked quite a ways away. Mostly flat, but very rocky, trail brought us along the ridge line up and over two more summits: Jefferson and Clay. These are both just minor bumps on the ridge compared to Madison, Adams and Washington.

The final climb up Washington was more significant with the heat of mid-day. As we got closer, we started to get a better look at the ridiculousness that is the summit of Mt. Washington. The rest of the trail was fairly quiet, but this was a big destination for tourists. The “Mt. Washington Auto Road” is another (much more popular) route to the summit. For $28 plus $8 per additional person in the car, you can drive to the top. You can even get a “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker. The summit is as built up as a ski lodge, with a food court, post office, train and a line to the official summit! We did take advantage of the food and running water there as we were just about out and it was hot. That crappy little hot dog tasted so good, I went for seconds!

We left Mt. Washington shortly after noon (we were making good time as most of the elevation gain and roughest sections of trail were behind us now). We dropped down to the Lake of the Clouds Hut (another scenic place to spend a night). Next was Mt. Monroe, then Franklin, Eisenhower and finally Pierce to finish the traverse. These are all much easier than the earlier peaks, but the distance and elevation gain does add up. We were good and tired when we arrived at the Highland Center (marking the end of the traverse) at around 5pm(I think). Our final challenge was to get back to our rental car, which was a long drive away. I’ve heard that people can hitch-hike back from the highland center, so I stuck out my thumb and asked for the Appalachia Trailhead to anyone who stopped. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to have a clue what I was talking about. 30 minutes pass, I try to describe the highways to get there, still just confused looks. Uh-oh… We are 30 road miles away crossing three highways, but still I figured somebody would recognize our trailhead. We are starting to imagine a dinner of power bars at the hotel lobby. Finally I see a park official driving by, he stops, I try describing everything again. He is confused. Damn. If he doesn’t know what I’m talking about then something is very wrong. I try again, “We are parked at the Valley Way trail at Appalachia trailhead.” Success! Valley Way was the secret code word to the locals. The highway I wanted was also locally known as the Presidential highway. We’d be having a pizza and beer post-hike dinner instead of powerbars. Yay!

I’ve done a few sections of the AT now and this area was by far my favorite. It has real elevation gain, tall (feeling) summits and big views. If you ever have a free day and are near the presidential mountains it’s worth checking out.

Sunrise near the summit of Mt Madison:

Fall colors:

Heading over to Mt. Adams:

Star Lake:

Summit of Adams, looking back at Madison:

Near the top of Jefferson, Mt Washington in the distance:

Summit of Clay, looking back at Jefferson, Adams and Madison:

The summit line on Washington. We said close enough and continued onward:

Lake of the Clouds Hut:

On the summit of Monroe. The rest of the traverse (Franklin, Eisenhower, and Pierce) can be seen ahead:

On the summit of Eisenhower, one peak to go. Most of the rest of the traverse is visible behind us.

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