When I was "shopping" for a doctor to help with my patellar-femoral syndrome, I defined "success" as being able to complete the Presidential Traverse. On July 5, accompanied by Old Man, Larry, and LRiz, I completed my first Presidential Traverse.
Planning had been underway for weeks, including a test hike last weekend of the Kinsman Ridge Traverse. Sunday seemed to be the best day, weather-wise, and Saturday evening we were all up north (Seven Dwarfs for me & Larry, Ed at his camp) with a car spotted at the Ammo and another at Mt. Clinton. Driving down Mt. Clinton Road, Larry & I saw a yearling cow moose - traditionally a good omen as hikes where I see a moose have always been outstanding. At 4:30am the next day, Ed picked us up at the 7Ds and we were on our way to Appalachia (spotting another young cow in the wallows at 2/115 in Jefferson.) Just before 5am, we rolled in parked next to a highly-caffeinated LRiz. Just after 5am we struck out on the Valley Way. The forecast was for summits "in and out of the clouds" with a near-zero chance for rain. I started out with 3L of water in the bladder and an empty 1L Nalgene for mixing Gatorade.
We hit Madison hut while the guests were having breakfast and we geared up to hit the peak. It was up there somewhere - I knew from past experience - but exactly where was anybody's guess. Visibility was 1 - 2 cairns with a wind in the high 30s to low 40s. With nothing to see and a lot more hiking, we did not stay long. Back to the hut, refill water, mix up a liter of Gatorade, adjust layering, debate about going on (took too long at the hut, of course), met Chris & Chris (Gracilis and Wenzel) who were also planning the traverse. We decided to try Adams and see how that felt. Opting for the more-sheltered, and not-yet-been-there Star Lake Trail, we ascended Adams to find just as much fog and just as few views, but it was noticeably warmer and less windy. Down to Thunderstorm Junction where we aquired one more person. The traverse is about stringing along a bunch of mountains, and since we had a car at the Ammo, we struck off for Jefferson. Sadly, the Edmand's Col half-pipe has melted, but we did see two guys with skis and boots hiking towards Madison in search of snow. On Jefferson, we ran into Una_Dogger (and Terra) and MichaelJ, who informed the group that Bob & Geri had to turn around as Bob had taken a spill (hope you are OK, Bob!) For some reason, the area below the giant cairn, and even the top of Jefferson itself, was far less windy than Madison and Adams, so we had our first real lunch break.
Thunderstorm Jct(L), Jefferson(R)
After lunch and photos and a discussion of how the rest of the day could proceed, we decided to go over Clay with the intention of hitting Washington. Of course once past the Jewell and on the way up Washington, it is pretty much assumed that the rest of the traverse is on. There was slightly better visibility along Monticello Lawn and we could see 2-3 cairns ahead. Up and over Clay we went. I tried to describe my last visit there for those who had not seen the views into the Great Gulf. To date, Clay is my favorite non-list peak and one of my favorites overall. Down from Clay and onto the nicely graded Gulfside we went. The conveniently oriented rocks may travel much faster. Gangsta Girl LRiz posed for a picture with her favorite trail (name) - Westside. There were choo choo tracks but no choo choo train. LRiz vanished into the fog ahead and after taking the Trinity Heights connector to the top we reunited in the Sherman Adams summit building. Lunch #2 was eaten inside. Attempts at making cell phone calls to update folks on our status had limited success. A solo hiker asked if he could follow us - we said he probably wouldn't want to - he wanted some company going down Tuckerman's Ravine. I left Washington with the refilled/remixed liter of Gatorade and another 3L full in the bladder. This lasted all the way to to the end.
After (again) spending too much time stopped, we high-tailed it down the Crawford Path. Halfway down it occured to me that my gloves were actually drying out a bit. Yes, while still foggy and windy, it wasn't as wet as earlier in the day. The northern Presie trails were not full of standing water, but the lichen-covered and moist rocks were quite greasy. Here, the stream-I-mean-trail was nowhere near as slick and we made good time down to the Lakes. There is a new-this-year air-quality project in place behind the more northern lake (between the two lakes actually) and the hut's mini turbines were whirling right along. At the hut it we once again bumped into Michael and Sabrina, and also Phil (Grouseking) and his party. While standing around and eating cookies, Ryan (Farmer) ran through... he'd run up the Davis Path and was heading back. What once was 4 separate groups more-or-less ascended Monroe as one before our 4-turned-6 person group crossed over Little Monroe and back to the Crawford Path. Next up was Franklin and low-and-behold the "out" part of "in and out of the summits" was beginning to show. Down in the col after Franklin the views opened up for longer periods of time.
The eighth (sixth 4K) peak of the day was to be Eisenhower, and it was still well in the clouds. After the initial steep switchbacks, the trail moderates some, enhanced by many new steps/waterbars made from that lumber drop of last summer. On the summit it seemed like things were on the verge of clearing up. First to the south and east we could see Chocorua and Pierce and Jackson. Then Carrigain and all the peaks to the east. The north / northwest was still in the clouds. Halfway down the southern end of the Eisenhower Loop, our wilderness experience was drowned out by the sound of chainsaw. The AMC pro crew was installing more water bars, steps and ladders, so expect that to take a few more days, but the entire Eisenhower Loop should be much more erosion proof for years to come. At the junction with the Crawford Path, it was time to lose the rain pants and shell. With cooler, dryer air coming in it did not take long to dry out. Now from the col to the summit of Pierce, the rocky nature of the trail gave way to... mud and lots of it. I stopped on pretty much every ledge or bump with a view to enjoy, 11 hours later, some of my personal favorite viewpoints. Every time I stopped, more of the peaks to the north were visible. Nine down, one to go.
I finished my 48 on Jackson last August with the family, and when I did Pierce and Ike for the first time I went back via Mizpah hut. This section of trail was otherwise new to all of us. It does drop down a fair amount, and is fairly steep and (like everything this year) wet and slippery. A final check of water and supplies at Mizpah and we proceeded onward to number 10. Beyond Mizpah the trail got quite muddy in some spots. The punchins were covered/buried and without poles to find them you could sink who-knows-how-deep. The bridges above the water line were slick and I slipped off one and nearly went calf-deep. Luckily none got in my boot. Soon the slabs which form the summit cone were in sight, and we scampered up them at 8pm. At the top we spent about 10 minutes enjoying the evening light on the range we had traversed. The breeze was chilly now and sadly we slid down the west side into the setting sun. Mud, mud, water and more mud. Scramble, scramble. At the Webster Branch Jct., it was dark enough to require headlamps. We hit 302 at 9:50 and walked 10 minutes back to Mt. Clinton lot to retrieve my car. Off to the Ammo for Larry's, and back to Appalachia for Ed's and LRiz's. I got home at 1:15 in the morning.
View from Jackson(L), Jackson(R)