View Full Version : Presi traverse March 21-22, a success, but not without incident

03-23-2009, 11:02 AM
Well, after completing the winter pemi loop last weekend, we were off to tackle the Presi Traverse. Don, Mike,Sue, and I started out Saturday morning by getting a great breakfast at the Water Wheel Restaurant. We all gave it a thumbs up! After filling our bellies I pounded a Red Bull and we headed off to Appalachia. The four of us put on our backpacks at 8:00am. Both Don and I carried 42 lbs including water. It was a beautiful day! Stunning views, blue skies, and endless sun made for a very awesome but uneventful day. We decided to bypass the summits (due to huge blisters on Sues feet)
For some reason we did summit Madison and when we got to the top we could not figure out whose idea it was. Oh, well, it was very scenic.
Conditions were very icy with some windswept snow patches. Parts of it were crusty while others were powdery. It was cool and crisp but there was almost no wind! We got to Sphinx Col at 3:30 to find that the usual camping area was a frozen pond. We dug out two tent platforms on the side of the hill and set up our tents. Later that night the wind decided to pick up. It was so loud that earplugs were useless! Due to the awkward tent sites on the side of the slope, guying out the tent was a challenge which led to a lot of flapping throughout the night. We did manage to get a lot of broken sleep and felt well rested in the morning.
We woke to very cold, windy, snowy conditions. We were in the clouds and had less than 1/10th of a mile of visibility. We were in for a treat.
We packed up camp and headed out into the wind. We did a fine job navigating and got ourselves over to the Westside trail. Don and I stopped for a quick break and Mike came up behind us. He asked where Sue was and we told him we hadn't seen her. He then told us that she was in front of him. Mike took off to go find Sue and Don and I followed. As we turned the corner Don and I saw Mike fall and start sliding down the icy slope. It didn't register what was happening until we saw Sue down the hill yelling for help. Don carefully made his way down to where Mike was able to luckily able to self arrest (with his hiking poles). I carefully made my way to Sue to find out that she had fallen in front of Mike and due to poor visibility he didn't even see it! She had hit rocks on her fall and ripped her pants, lost a pole, and cut her knee up pretty good. Mike was okay and actually stopped right where Sues pole was. We all got back up to the trail and assessed the situation and decided to carry on. We were below Mt Washington on the Westside trail when the accident happened. It scared the crap out of all of us.
When we got to Lake of the Clouds hut we realized what had happened. Mike and Sue brought Katoohla Spikes instead of Crampons. (Don and I almost did the same thing but I decided crampons were safer and worth the extra weight.) The spikes did not work well on these condtions.
When we left the hut we were welcomed with high winds and ice chards blasting us in the eyes, face, etc. Goggles were useless due to fogging and sunglasses didn't help much either. We navigated with the GPS and did a fine job staying on the trail. When we got to Eisenhower we experienced winds so strong we were almost pushed over! The wind actually hurt! We could not see Crawford Path but decided we would use the GPS to navigate because going over the summit would be too dangerous with the winds. Crawford Path was on the Leeward side of the mountain and was very calm. It was nice to have a break. When we came back around to the ridgeline we were attacked by the wind again and just wanted the trip to be over with. After what seemed like eternity we finally made it to below treeline and hiked out to the car. Sue was such a trooper! When we finished her knee looked like a purple grapefruit. We celebrated with some hot chocolate and dinner at the Moat. The clouds then lifted off the range and we had a spectacular view of the snow blowing off the ridgeline. We were so happy that we all made it. Watching your friends sliding down a slope in a white-out is a horrific experience and I never want to see that again. We learned a valuable lesson about bringing the right gear. Sometimes an extra couple of pounds can save your life.
Links to the pics are here:http://www.flickr.com/photos/kfolcik/sets/72157615803512264/

03-23-2009, 11:43 AM
Nice TR, great pics. When I saw the second days pics, all I could think was; "now those are the Presidentials I remember best". Funny I remember them best yet I couldn't see any of them. When I did the traverse a few weeks ago, I set my tent a bit further down the Sphinx trail. Makes for a beautiful not so windy campsite.

Anyway, glad to hear everyone made it out okay. You guys are pretty hardy folks.


03-23-2009, 12:24 PM
Another epic trip Kristina - perhaps a bit more than you would have liked this time though. Sounds like quite a scary situation. Glad everyone wound up being OK. Amazing seeing the transition from the conditions the first day to the second (and then back to perfect again after you finished). A good testament to how quickly things can go bad up there and how much you need to be prepared (which you guys obviously are). The pictures are spectacular - including those showing the horendous conditions the second day. Thanks for sharing with us again.

03-23-2009, 12:59 PM
Amazing TR and pictures

03-23-2009, 01:00 PM
Wow that was a great trip report and fantastic pictures. All except of course getting the crap scared out of you. I'm glad everybody made it ok except I am sure a little bruised. Some of the pictures looks like it was beautiful but also scary at the same time. Thanks for taking the time to share.

03-23-2009, 02:12 PM
The trip would have been a blast and the weather change fun and exciting, but watching your friends get hurt makes it a completely different trip. All we could think of was getting to the car. It went from being fun to just wanting it to be over. We just kept moving together as a team, looking out for each other and staying very close together. We tried to stay within eyesight of each other. It was such a relief to get back to the car.
Yes, the weather changes very quickly and you always need to be prepared.
Check out this link: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/data/obhistory/KMWN.html
You will see how rapidly the weather changes from hour to hour.

03-25-2009, 07:16 AM
Glad everyone made it through okay...what an adventure!

I had recently posted some comments about microspikes in the General Discussion forum, along the lines that I think they're a great invention but I find that sometimes they cause an uncomfortable braking motion of the legs going downhill on packed snow when boot glissading would work better.

But what you described raises a whole different issue.

You and Don made the right choice to use crampons above treeline. No offense to your friends, and I'm sure they'll never do the same thing again, but they made absolutely the wrong choice. Microspikes are just not adequate for hard water ice on any kind of slope. The weekend before last I climbed Eisenhower, and I was glad I had my crampons. I probably could have worked around the really hard steep icy parts using micropikes or maybe even barebooting, but it would have taken a lot of picking my way carefully. It would have been difficult even though that day was bright and sunny. Crampons were definitely the right tool for above treeline conditions in winter.

I'm realizing now that perhaps other people will be tempted to use micropikes instead of crampons because of the lighter weight and ease of use. The word needs to get out that doing that is a bad choice.

Jimmy Legs and Little d
03-25-2009, 01:43 PM
Once again a great report and pics of the traverse. I can only try to imagine how it felt in that situation. We can all learn from your experience. And the next time my husband tells me to take something that I may need on the hike, I will listen to him.
little d