Presidential Traverse, White Mountains, New Hampshire

Start Elev: 1900'    Max Elev: 6288'
May 27, 2014 - After following my friend Rob Rives home across the Kanc Highway,
after our successful quest on the Pemi Loop, to meet his girlfriend Carolyn, grab
a bite to eat at Subway, a craft beer, a shower, and a few more smiles, I joined 
Charlie Gadol and Amy and Scott Hanlon who had already made camp in the rain at
Dolly Copp Campground, just south of Gorham.  Getting in after ten I spoke to 
Charlie briefly before nodding off in the car for another good night's rest before my
sequel to the Pemi Loop - an attempt at the Presidential Traverse.

Despite continued intermittent rain we arose early and got around to drive over to
Crawford Notch where we decided to begin our adventure.  The weather continued
to be mild, but all indications were that we were in store for even more rain as the
day proceeded.  It would be another wet one, but all were prepared, so we set off
in good spirits after getting a late start, figuring that the hike wouldn't take us too
long and shouldn't be a challenge in terms of finishing before dark.

I was tired, predictably, so likely held up the rest a bit as I slogged up the 
immediate incline of the Webster-Jackson Trail.  Legs were still good, but feet were
sore still.  Having donned my hiking boots instead of running shoes I had increased
protection but at the cost of increased weight.  It took a few miles, but I finally
found some rhythm and blended into everyone else's tempo.

It was great to once again have the company of friends.  The weather never seems
to matter as much in the presence of smiles and stories.  No one complained as
we finally had to don rain gear for precipitation that would increase and never
go away.  We bypassed Mt. Webster to reach our first peak of Mt. Jackson after
2.6 miles, then after another 1.8 miles reached the Mitzpah Hut where we stopped
to eat and refill water bottles while conversing with a couple seasonal employees.

After a long break we hiked another mile to Mt. Pierce before hitting the Crawford
Path.  Most of the way we were easily able to follow the white blazes of the
Appalachian Trail as it snaked its way across the White Mountains past abundant
cairns.  The rain began to pour in earnest as we contined on over Eisenhower, then
Franklin, and around Monroe.  There was no lightning, but it was a real soaker by
the time we reached Lakes of the Clouds hut.  Conversation had dwindled to a
minimum as each of us focused on the immediate task of continued progress over
the rocky trail that was increasingly becoming one flowing stream of runoff after
another.  Fortunate for all of us, the wind was probably less than ten miles per
hour.  Strong gusts of any sort would have led to miserable circumstances, but as
it was the climb was tolerable, but not a lot of fun.

It was most of two o'clock by the time we reached the Mount Washington summit.
After a quick couple of pictures together by the elevation marker we all sought
refuge in the warm enclosure of the restaurant.  Cloud cover was getting thicker by
the moment.  For me, stopping was a mistake; I knew that if I could have 
continued to walk I would be okay, warm enough to continue as long as I was 
eating.  Stopping allowed each of us to gauge our situation and question a 
continued effort.  Upon ascertaining that we had an option other than fighting the
elements we collectively agreed to ride a shuttle back to the bottom and call it a 
day.  The critical factor was time - at our given pace we may not have been able to
complete our objective of the complete traverse before early darkness set in.
The risks of continuing in misery and not enjoying it could not stand up to getting
off the mountain with an early dinner for Charlie and myself while Amy and Scott
got an early start on their trip home.


The weather continued to deteriorate with even less visibility and a thunder and
lightning storm that moved in to produce even harder rain.  In hindsight, not one of
us questioned our decision to stop.  We all came away healthy and enjoyed the
new trails we experienced as well as doing it under tough weather conditions on the
top of the mountain with the worst weather in the country.  Knowing that no one 
can predict with certainty just how bad it can get up there, choosing discretion was
the only reasonable option.  We'll all be back when the skies turn blue again.

                                   FKT  WEATHER / RADAR / TRAIL CONDITIONS