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Numerous trails can be used to accomplish this Presidential Traverse, a hike over the Presidential Range of New Hampshire's White Mountains, although the main route between Madison Hut and Mizpah Spring Hut via Lakes of the Clouds Hut is fairly standard of course. Bagging up to eight 4,000 footers, what is great about this trip is you can visit as many of the major summits as you want!
Encountering alpine plant species that are more common on the tundra of northern Canada than in New England, and taking in views that stretch from horizon to horizon, peering into glacial cirques, even if you choose to skip the summits, you will have an incredible hike above treeline. Most people take three or four days in order to enjoy a unique experience, but some very fit people can complete this hike in a day. You can have an easier time of it and lighten your load while scaling the heights, by staying at huts.
Incredible Hike Above Treeline
Beginning at any given trailhead on U.S. Route 2 at the northern end of the Presidentials, the basic Presidential Traverse crosses the great ridge of the range and ends in Crawford Notch at its southern terminus, or vice versa. With 2,041 m (6,695 feet) of elevation gain, a hiker making such a journey would travel 27.7 km (17.2 miles).
A presidential traverse requires a participant to cross over the summits of peaks named after U.S. Presidents, by definition. Listed from south to north, they include: Mount Pierce - named after Franklin Pierce, Mount Eisenhower - named after Dwight Eisenhower, Mount Monroe - named after James Monroe, Mount Washington - named after George Washington, Mount Jefferson - named after Thomas Jefferson, Mount Adams - named after John Adams, and Mount Madison - named after James Madison.
Otherwise bypassed by standard through trails, the inclusion of spur trails up the summit cones of peaks on this list would result in 2,687 m (8,815 feet) of elevation gain and 30.9 km (19.2 miles) of travel.
In the Presidential Range, a traverse which collects all of the trail accessible peaks includes from south to north: Mount Franklin - a sub peak of Mt. Monroe, named for political figure and famed inventor Benjamin Franklin. Mount Webster - named for Daniel Webster, New Hampshire native and famed American statesman. Mount Jackson - named for Charles Thomas Jackson, who served as State Geologist for Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire in the late 19th century, but not for President Andrew Jackson as many believe. Mount Clay - named after a contemporary of Daniel Webster and senator, Henry Clay. Clay lacks the 61 m (200 feet) of prominence above the shoulder of Mt. Washington to be considered eligible and is thus considered a minor summit of that peak, strictly regarded.
View From Mount Franklin
Adding these peaks increases total elevation gain and mileage traveled to 3,060 m (10,041 feet) and 36.7 km (22.8 miles).
The Presidential Range in particular and the White Mountains feature both some of its most dangerous and challenging terrain and some of the most beautiful vistas in the Eastern United States. Causing many costly search and rescue operations, many hikers attempting a Presidential Traverse have become disabled or lost in inclement weather above treeline.
The Presidential Range And Mount Washington
Highlighted by the often extreme and erratic conditions upon Mount Washington, the Presidential Range is perhaps most famous for its tumultuous weather. Being both at the center of multiple converging valleys funneling wind from the south, southwest, and west and the intersection of several storm tracks make its weather at times violent and unpredictable.
An average of 110 days a year, the summit of Mount Washington has been known to see ice and snow in all seasons and is subject to a combination of blanketing clouds and hurricane force winds! Forcing summit buildings to be chained down so they won't blow away, the mountain long held the record for the highest wind speed ever recorded at the Earth's surface, clocking 372 km/h (231 miles per hour)!
The Summit Of Mount Washington
A Presidential Traverse involves repeated loss and gain of elevation between individual summits along the way, it does not merely require the absolute gain of some 4,500 feet from starting point to the 6,288 feet summit of Mt. Washington. Errantly suggesting that the terrain embraced by the Presidentials lacks remoteness, the facts that most of its main trails are easily accessible from major through roads and the range stretches less than twenty miles from one end to the other.
The range is a wind ravaged wilderness is the truth. Doubled when difficult descending is included, a basic Presidential Traverse encompasses almost 9,000 feet of combined vertical. In a single traverse, adding the principal sub peaks stretches this to almost 20,000 feet of up and down!
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