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Winter Presidentials

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 — this is a winter endeavor (for summer see Hiking) 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.


Itinerary

Pre-Trip:

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 Day:

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.

Added Days:

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.

The mountains are calling and I must go —John Muir

Other Information

Equipment and Gear

In addition to the normal gear required for mountaineering/backpacking (see details on Mountaineering/Backpacking pages) this specific activity will require this specialty gear.

  • 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.

For all gear options, including Alpine/Backpacking Ready Packs, see the master list below.

Rental Gear Master List - Click to Open
Note: Rent our Alpine or Backpacking Ready Packs — available “full” with food and water or without. The Alpine packs are $75/person/day and $60/person/day, respectively. And the Backpacking versions (all meals) are $120/person/night and $75/person/night, also respectively. Or simply choose items from this master gear list:

General Rental Gear Pricing
  • Empty Backpack: $15/person/day.
  • Headlamp w/ Batteries: $5/person/day.
  • Trekking Pole Set: $5/person/day.
  • Bushwhack Kit (Compass/Glasses): $5/person/day.
  • Food and Water (Lunch Kit): $15/person/day.

Summer Clothing/Layers Pricing
(NOTE: By “Summer” we mean warmer, summer-like conditions, not the season.)
  • Fleece (Midlayer): $5/person/day.
  • Puffy Jacket (Midweight): $20/person/day.
  • Hardshell Set: $35/person/day.
  • Light Gloves: $5/person/day.
  • Climbing Gloves: $10/person/day.

Winter Clothing/Layers Pricing – Add to List Above
(NOTE: By “Winter” we mean colder, winter-like conditions, not the season.)
  • Puffy/Parka (Heavyweight/Winter): $25/person/day.
  • Hardshell Set: $35/person/day (Gaiters Req. w/ Crampon Use).
  • Mitts/Overmitts: $10/person/day.
  • Watchman’s Hat: $5/person/day.
  • Balaclava: $5/person/day.
  • Face Protection (Faceglove/Mask): $5/person/day.
  • Ski Goggles: $5/person/day.
  • Gaiters (Winter): $10/person/day.

Winter Rental Gear Pricing
(NOTE: By “Winter” we mean colder, winter-like conditions, not the season.)
  • Light Traction: $10/person/day.
  • Mountaineering Snowshoes: $15/person/day.
  • Mountaineering Crampons: $15/person/day.
  • Climbing Helmet: $5/person/day.
  • Ice/Snow Axe: $10/person/day.
  • Whippet: $10/person/day.
  • Alpine Harness: $10/person/day.

Winter Technical Gear Pricing
(NOTE: By “Winter” we mean colder, winter-like conditions, not the season.)
  • Ice Climbing Crampons: $15/person/day.
  • Technical Ice Tools: $15/person/day.
  • Climbing Harness: $10/person/day.
  • Mountaineering Boots: $25/person/day.
  • Avalanche Beacon: $25/person/day.
  • Avalanche Probe: $10/person/day.
  • Avalanche Shovel: $10/person/day.
  • Avalanche Kit: $40/person/day.

Summer Technical Gear Pricing
(NOTE: By “Summer” we mean warmer, summer-like conditions, not the season.)
  • Climbing Helmet: $5/person/day.
  • Alpine Harness: $10/person/day.
  • Rock Climbing Shoes: $15/person/day.
  • Climbing Harness: $10/person/day.
  • Chalk Bag w/ Chalk): $5/person/day.

Backpacking Gear Pricing
  • Sleeping Bag (Rated): $20/person/night.
  • Sleeping Pad (Foam): $5/person/night.
  • Sleeping Pad (Inflatabe): $15/person/night.
  • Tent (1-2 People): $20/person/night.
  • Tent (3-4 People): $30/person/night.
  • Stove w/ Fuel: $15/person/night.

Other Gear-Related Pricing
  • Gear Insurance (Regular/Hiking): $10/person/day.
  • Gear Insurance (Alpine/Winter): $20/person/day.
  • Gear Insurance (Backpacking): $30/person/day.
  • Outsourced Gear (Pick Up Fee): $40/person/day.

Transportation

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).

Gratuities

Our guides graciously accept gratuities. After all, your life is in their hands on the mountain. A tip of 15-25% is a common way of showing your appreciation of the guide’s skills and decision-making. Of course cash is greatly appreciated.

Specifications

  • 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 12 guides.
  • For parties larger than 4, please contact us.

Winter Pricing

One Extended Day Winter Presidentials DT Pricing
For one person $525
For two people $375 each
For three people $350 each
For four or more $300 each
2D/1N Winter Presidentials DT Pricing
For one person $650
For two people $425 each
For three people $375 each
For four or more $325 each
Add Day/Night Winter Presidentials DT Pricing
For one person $325
For two people $250 each
For three people $225 each
For four or more $200 each
Winter Presidentials Premiums
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