There are several long and difficult traverses in the White Mountain National Forest: Franconia Ridge, the Mahoosucs, the Kilkenny, the “Pemi Loop,” as well as others. One traverse, however, stands above the rest as a mountaineering adventure due to its danger and difficulty, mainly due to simple exposure, and that is the Presidential “Presi” Range Traverse. It is on this traverse, particularly in winter, that significant challenges will be presented to the climber, whether it’s a one- or multi-day expedition.
This traverse is described in three north-to-south forms, normally: First there is a “Classic Traverse” from Mt Madison to Mt Pierce; next is the “Full Traverse” which adds Mt Jackson to the end; and the last is the “Extended Traverse” which throws Mt Webster. This latter route allows for a couple of different exit options. An extended traverse exiting to the Highland Center is roughly 24.5 miles with about 8,000-feet of elevation gain. It is possible to hike this traverse south to north, but we normally don’t recommend it. Psychologically, we find it’s easier N-S. Here in we will offer three durations: a brutally hard one-day traverse, a two-day, and a three-day option. Depending on season, the latter two overnight options, may require camping above tree line on two feet of snow or more, camping at approved sites below treeline, or by utilizing cabins/huts. Some of these options may carry extra charges for accommodations and be determined by weather, etc.
THE DAY BEFORE: The day before might include logistical and preparatory actions such as spotting a car, performing a gear check, etc.
THAT EVENING: Start eating right this evening if you haven’t been. Avoid experimental foods, drink lots of water, and avoid alcohol. Prepare anything that you will need in the morning. Also, ensure you’re well rested. The excitement may hamper this effort so go to bed early.
FIRST THING: This is where the excitement really starts. The objective will vary depending on the season, specific plan, and duration. If not attempting a one-day traverse, the first day’s objective may include making it to a camp just below or at treeline, or establishing an alpine camp, In any case have a good breakfast but don’t go hog wild on the bacon. Also, limit your coffee intake and avoid breakfast drinks.
MEETING AND GOING: Meet time will vary but probably start early at Basecamp. Earlier is possible and the guide may request this, but that will depend on the plan — for single-day efforts, expect to meet well before dawn. Our guides are well trained and often make program tweaks for weather reasons, or whatever. After a quick gear summary and a final check of layers, equipment, food, water, etc., the team caravans to a car spot, or carpools to the Appalachia trailhead (for a N-S tour).
AFTER THE START: After approximately ten to twenty minutes of hiking, the team will generally stop. The reason is to make small layering adjustments, especially needed by the guests who started warm and comfortable in winter at the start. (It’s best to start off cold at the trailhead in winter.)
THE STEADY SLOG: From there the team will continue on to treeline, perhaps taking a break or two along the way, as needed. The break locations and durations are quite variable based on the trip’s duration, length, etc. In other words, if doing a single-day tour, as a simple matter of perspective, you can count on fewer breaks further between.
DAY ONE PEAKS: Once at treeline the team will focus on two summits, primarily: Madison and Adams. If hiking a single-day traverse, all of the other steps which follow will be included with exception to the overnights. A two-day traverse will probably stop at Edmand’s Col for the night, though shortening that or extending it further may also occur. A three day traverse may stop at any point on day one to include treeline, a cabin, a shelter, a tentsite, or hut (depending on the season, etc.).
TRAVERSING THE ALPINE: Regardless of duration, most of the trip will be completely exposed above treeline. Proper layers and gear usage will be critical. Weather can be a big challenge. This trip can also be a navigational challenge in certain conditions. Our guides rely on a combination of map and compass, electronics, and some good old experience and know-how.
OTHER PEAKS: In addition to Mts Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Little Monroe (non-qualifier), Eisenhower, and Pierce, “optional” mountains such as Mts Clay and Franklin may be added as a matter of course. In some cases, Abigail Adams may be added. Of course, the Full and Extended Traverses add mountains, too, of which Jackson is a “4k qualifier” whereas Webster is not.
THE OVERNIGHT(S): If taking on this adventure in one day, this part is moot. You will continue on to the final destination. If doing a two- or three-day traverse, however, the overnights are part of the adventure. The specifics will vary as will the plan but our guides will be prepared to teach and accommodate the needs of our guests. Furthermore, these overnight trips may be strictly an adventure while others may be training oriented. The details will vary greatly as will gear requirements as some overnights will require significant backpacking gear.
DESCENDING AND ENDING: The team will generally descend from the ridge in one go only stopping briefly to delayer and change out gear as needed. The descent usually goes a lot faster, but that can depend. In most cases this will be via Crawford Path for the Classic Traverse. As noted, however, other exit trails exist for the longer traverses. Conversely, there are several bailout trails and routes that may be used if weather or some other reason forces the team down. Upon arriving at the trailhead the second vehicle will need to be collected. The guide may then either collect the gear and part ways then, or request this be done at Basecamp where there is more space. Guest items (a laptop, street shoes, etc.) may be securely stored at Basecamp so may need to be retrieved anyway.
Equipment and Gear
Refer to our Mountaineering Page for Mountaineering Gear Options, but take note here that the following specialty gear — which may be rented from us along with standard gear — will be required on this route:
- Ice/snow axe.
- Mountaineering boots.
- Mountaineering crampons.
- Climbing helmet.
- Mountaineering harness.
- Avalanche beacon (if needed).
- Avalanche shovel (if needed).
- Avalanche probe (if needed).
- Rated sleeping bag.
- Mountaineering tent.
- Inflatable sleeping pad.
- Pillow (may be puffy).
- Sleep layers.
- Double boots.
- Camp footwear.
- Camp sit pad.
Note: All of these items may be rented separately, or rented as a whole with our all-inclusive Alpine or Backpacking Ready Pack.
Guests are responsible for their own transportation, to our location, then subsequently to the training grounds and mountain itself, but during normal times incidental car-pooling is common and encouraged. It saves gas and reduces pollution. It is also common to work jointly with us to spot a car during these traverses.
Meals and Lodging
Guests are responsible for all of their meals and lodging costs. Take note, however, our Backpacking Ready Packs come complete with food for the duration (lunch kits and a variety of freeze dried meals are available for purchase at $15 per meal).
Our guides graciously accept gratuities. After all, your life is in their hands on the mountain. A tip of 15-20% is a common way of showing your appreciation of the guide’s skills and decision-making. Of course cash is greatly appreciated.
- The difficulty of this activity is as requested though is inherently tough.
- This activity has a typical 1:2 guide/guest ratio.
- The maximum group size may be 4 with 1-2 guides.
- For parties larger than 4, please contact us.
|One Day Presi Traverse Pricing|
|For one person||$475|
|For two people||$600|
|Added people||$300 each|
|Two Day Presi Traverse Pricing|
|For one person||$575|
|For two people||$825|
|Added people||$375 each|
|Added Day Presi Traverse Pricing|
|For one person||$200|
|For two people||$325|
|Added people||$175 each|
|Premium Presi Traverse Options|
|Make it private||Add $75/day|