What is referred to here in the White Mountain National Forest as a “Classic” — or a “Presi” — is the Classic Presidential Traverse. This hike, which hovers around 20 miles and offers over 8000 feet of elevation gain (depending upon specific routing) is long. It tackles several 4000-footers. In this case, collected were Mounts Madison (5363′), Adams (5797′), Jefferson (5713′), Washington (6288′), Monroe (5369′), Eisenhower (4763′), and Pierce (4313′). These are not all the peaks in the “Classic” segment, but it is all of them that count toward the 4000-footers list. That said, for what it’s worth, Arlette and our regular guest did add Mt Clay (5531′) for bonus points.
Hiking North to South, this would be the order. Heading northward, however, is by the numbers, easier, but due to the way this range physically exists, going northbound seems like it’s more uphill. Psychologically, this can be important as it can affect morale, and may even present physically making one feel tired. Inasmuch many if not most will start at the north and head south taking on more, but it’s more of a good thing.
We will decorate this the story with photos, but to set the stage, to bring you there, to help you know what it’s like, first check out this short video. Do turn your volume down because of wind noise! Up there the weather can be a beast.
Okay, now that that’s been experienced, let’s move on to a synopsis drafted by Arlette and some of the photos she took…
Day one… we headed up Valley Way to see the waterfalls then over to Airline for views. As luck would have it the clouds started clearing out as we reached treeline. We headed over to Madison hut and tagged our first summit, Mt Madison. Then back to the hut and over to Adams. It was quite windy so we didn’t linger on the summit [for long] and headed over to Thunderstorm Junction.
To break a summer Presi traverse into two days without an AMC hut stay you have to drop down quite a bit and we chose the RMC tent site named The Perch to set up camp. The last downhill section was steep and tough at the end of a hard day and we were very relieved to arrive and grab the last wooden platform. It was challenging to set up two trekking pole tents on the tiny site but we made it work.
Day two… we got up at 5:30AM to allow for lots of daylight to tackle the next leg. 13 miles with more rocks and elevation to tackle. Jefferson was first, then over Clay and onto Washington. Thoughts of chili at the snack bar kept us motivated. The line at the summit was longer than we wanted to bother with so we snapped a selfie with the line and had a good chuckle. Clouds had blown in but when we exited the summit building it cleared up again and we had great views of the southern peaks. Down we went to the Lakes of the Clouds hut where we met a 77 year-old woman about to complete the AT thru-hike she had started last year in March. Kudos to her!
We filled up on water and headed up Mt Monroe, relishing on how much easier these southern peaks are. Of course to bring us back to reality there was a brief rain storm. We donned rain gear and continued on. The strong wind blew the clouds right on through and we were back to having views again. Looking back, Mt Washington seemed to mostly be in the clouds from then on. We had timed it just right.
Eisenhower seemed far but the trail was a breeze and before we knew it we were on Pierce. We were both getting pretty tired at this point so a ‘dinner’ break was had at the bench near Pierce before the last 3 mile downhill push. Knees started to protest at this point and wet socks became a bit abrasive but we made it down safe and sound before dark. A great experience but most definitely not an easy one! —Arlette “Apple Pie” Laan