Spring Presidential Traverse

Still very much Winter as John and I approached treeline on the morning of our traverse.

On the morning of Wednesday April 17th, Notch Hostel regular John Pike and myself ventured into the White Mountain’s Presidential Range with the intention of completing a full traverse from Mount Madison to Mount Pierce. This traverse in particular felt very special to me, as it marked my 9th in as many months, and would hopefully be the last in Winter-like conditions for the season.

Madison Springs Hut always has a haunting quality in the Winter.

Knowing that we would be up against a variety of conditions, John and I made the decision to start fairly early – 4:30 AM. As we shuffled along the Valley Way Trail, we noted that there was a fresh 2″ of snow on the ground, likely falling the night before. Fortunately, this didn’t slow our pace much, and we topped out on our first summit in 3 hours, flat.

The iconic Mount Adams as seen from the shoulder of Mount Madison.

As we left the summit of Mount Madison, a good portion of the snow pack disappeared, and suddenly we found ourselves rock-hopping on rime-covered boulders, headed deeper in the Presidential Range.

John approaches our third objective of the day, Mount Jefferson.

One of the things that I have always appreciated about the Presidential Traverse in Winter-conditions is the ability to move cross-country in certain sections. Because the snow is so deep, many trail markers and cairns are completely buried, and the snow is stable enough to hike freely in the direction of your choosing. These dream-conditions appeared off and on as we approached Mount Jefferson, and made our way to Washington.

Mount Washington watching our every move as we hike closer to the day’s high-point.

Although the sun was shining for a good portion of our day in the Presidentials, the warmth of Spring really started to show face once we crossed over our high-point, Mount Washington, and started down towards the Lake of the Clouds hut.

There is no mistaking the iconic Mount Washington Observatory, especially under a blue sky and dressed in a fresh coat of snow.

The miles on the second half of the traverse (when headed in a southbound direction) always seem to tick by a little bit quicker than the first. As John and I entered the southern Presidentials we hit a steady stride, hiking over a precarious mix of snow, ice, rock, and mud, but ultimately refusing to slow down or stop until we reached our final summit of the day – Mount Pierce.

Lake of the Clouds Hut, Mount Monroe, and the peaks of the Southern Presidential Range as seen from the shoulder of Mount Washington.

After close to 10 hours on the go, John and I wasted no time getting our summit photo on Pierce, and starting the last several miles down to the Highland Center in Crawford Notch. Our hiking pace quickly transitioned to a jog, and the descent was over in less than an hour.

All in all, I don’t think we could have asked for a more enjoyable day in the Presidential Range, especially this time of year. The sunshine, low wind, steady pace, and excellent company left me feeling both thankful for the experience out there that day, and also anxious for the next. Fortunately for me, I won’t have to wait long.

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