Presidential Traverse in June

10:54 a.m. on January 22, 2013 (EST)
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I am turning 30 in the third week of June. Obviously this calls for something epic! I hear that a Presidential Traverse is the most epic hike on the East Coast, so that is what I want to try to do. I want to try to break it up in two days. Has anybody done this? If so, I have a few questions:

1) Does anyone have any information on shuttles?

2) What is the nearest town with a hotel or hiking hostel?

3) Can this be done as a backpacking trip or do you have to stay in the huts?

4) On your typical day in late June do you think Mt. Washington would be ok to cross? Mt. Washington is what I want to hypothetically summit on my actual 30th birthday. I am of course aware of it's unpredictable weather.


Thanks! :)

11:38 a.m. on January 22, 2013 (EST)
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1. The AMC shuttle bus.

2. Well there used to be an AMC hostel located in Crawford Notch, but apparently it's closed, so it looks like Gorham, a little town on the shuttlebus circuit located between you likely starting and ending trailheads, will be the best base camp.

3. No camping above tree line, so if you want to camp out (and carry all that gear through?) then you have to dip down quite a ways to get below tree line or stay at Naumann Shelter near Mt. Jackson an power hike the rest (= most of it) in one day, not for the faint of heart. You could also try to figure a way to drop down to Gray Knob of Crag Camp, two nice cabins run by the Randolph Mountain Club, near treeline on Mt. Adams. But the AMC's "Lake of the Crowds" (Clouds, actually) is a natural midpoint so staying there may be the best way to break it up into two days.

4. Typically, yes, but you should have a backup plan in case of severe weather. You can bypass the summit if necessary, but you'll still be very exposed and have other summits ahead of you.

I did the whole thing in four or five days when I was a teenager, and the whole thing in one day, over all the summits from Crawford Notch to Appalachia, in my late 20s. It's a haul, almost 20 miles and 9000 feet of up and down by the usual route, so even doing it in two days is respectable. 

Have a good one!

2:45 p.m. on January 22, 2013 (EST)
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BigRed said:

2. Well there used to be an AMC hostel located in Crawford Notch, but apparently it's closed, so it looks like Gorham, a little town on the shuttlebus circuit located between you likely starting and ending trailheads, will be the best base camp.


what was Crawford Notch is now the is now the Highland Center at Crawford Notch, a large meeting center/hostel.

12:38 p.m. on January 23, 2013 (EST)
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most importantly.....................bring 'DEET"!  that time of year can be unbearable below treeline. 


8:04 p.m. on January 31, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks so much, guys! Great and very helpful info!! :)

12:12 p.m. on February 2, 2013 (EST)
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There used to be a "backpacker" lodging option at "Lakes (Lakes of the Clouds hut).  Basically it was a room underneath the hut where backpackers could make their meals and sleep.  This was years ago, but it might be worth checking into as a sort of "midway" stop if you want to avoid the regular cost of staying in the hut.

9:19 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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i have done that hike ten or twelve times.  a few suggestions:

1.  invest in an appalachian mountain club (AMC) white mountain guide.  great trail descriptions and topo map.  pretty essential for planning a trip like this.

2.  avail yourself of the AMC website, parts of which people linked above.  there are a couple of hostel-like options near the mountains - highland center has a bunkhouse, joe dodge lodge at pinkham notch, and shuttles will drop you in strategically helpful locations.  

3.  you don't have to stay in the huts if you don't want.  there are campsites at various points, below treeline - the AMC guide is very helpful in that regard.  can't pitch a tent above treeline, nor is it particularly safe.  randolph mountaineering club mentioned above has some tent platforms and a lean-to at about 4300 feet, on the shoulder of Mt. Adams.  so, if you were to start up the Valley Way to go over Madison first, you could do Madison, Adams and Jefferson on a healthy day, then drop down/back to the platforms (no reservations, unfortunately) on day 1, then bypass those peaks and go up/over Washington on day 2.  depending on your fitness and desire to move quickly, you could then just walk over the southern presidentials for a long 2d day, or you could drop down below treeline to camp at hermit lake (lean-tos and tent platforms, not sure if they take reservations either) or at some other point below treeline, then take day 3 over the southern presidentials.  personally, i like the hike to hermit lake because Tuckerman's ravine is one of the more spectacular views in the Whites, and because there are a lot of interesting trails that come down Mt. Washington in that direction; I love the ridge trails adjacent to tuckerman's, boott spur and the lion's head trail.

if you don't like organized sites, you can go below treeline and find a place, provided you live by the rules - at least 200 feet from a trail and water, which can be tough to find sometimes, bury your degradable refuse thoroughly, etc.  i have done some 'leave no trace' hammock/tarp camping up there in the summer, it was interesting.  i wouldn't recommend that for a first-time traverse, but i don't know your level of experience.  

4.  no such thing as a typical day up there.  hope for fair weather, plan for the worst - which could be temps in the 30s, snow showers, sleet or rain, high winds, dense fog, perhaps all of the above in the same day.        


1:08 p.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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with the weather having scotched my winter hike, i'm thinking about a summer traverse too.  i might use a hut one night - lake of the clouds or mizpah springs, off the summit of Mt. Pierce.  could significantly cut food weight by getting breakfast and dinner at a hut, and avoid a pretty significant up/down that camping at Hermit Lake or other below treeline tenting would add. 

some additional thinking about going north to south:

-the initial hike up Madison is big, a lot of vertical gain.  the summits of Adams & Jefferson after that aren't cake, but they are on the ridgeline.  doing those 3 in a day would be a very healthy hike.  adding Washington and the down-hike to lake of the clouds or hermit lake would make it a very arduous day, more than i would probably enjoy.  i definitely favor breaking that up with the randolph mountaineering club sites if possible. 

-the randolph sites to lake of the clouds is (i'm estimating) between 7 and 9 miles going up and over Washington, with a solid but not outrageous amount of climbing, depending a little on whether one goes up and over Jefferson that day too.  it's mostly Washington.  hard work but very manageable for a day.   

-mileage and vertical gain from lake of the clouds hut (south of Washington) to the exit point at crawford notch are roughly 7 1/2 miles and roughly 1100 feet of vertical gain - it's a half day if you're fit and blessed with fair weather, much easier than the northern presidentials.   

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