Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tripping Through the Whites

Back in June, I outlined my Grand Plan to climb all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000 foot peaks in a span of 6 days. I had aggressively (and wrongly) assumed I could run/hike over 33 miles a day (with 3 of those days at around 37 miles) and still enjoy myself. Then I started my trip. And all it took was one 37 mile, 8 summit, 13 1/2 hour day for me to quickly change my tune.  For some reason,  the 30 mile mark was just about the point where it stopped being fun.

So, after Day 1, I re-shuffled the deck. I extended the trip from 6 days to 7 ½ and lowered my average daily mileage down to 30. The big change included taking Owl’s Head and Isolation out of the Pemi & Presi traverses. And, I set them both up as “stand alone” events. This did increase my overall mileage from around 200 to over 225. But, it made both traverses a heck of a lot easier and the summit attempts of Owl’s and Iso a heck of a lot more fun!

Below is a brief trip report of each of my 7 ½ days on the trail - with notes and totals from each day. I also did more detailed trip reports for the Cabot and the Pemi portions - if you have some more time to kill. And for the truly OCD, a fully detailed spreadsheet of the entire endeavor (including start times, trails, distances, splits, elevations, etc.) can be found HERE.

Also, photos from each of my trips can be found here: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3.

I had an awesome time running around in the woods this summer and I feel so blessed to have had a chance to do so! I learned quite a few things that I can use going forward as I continue to explore the wonderful world of endurance running, namely: Navigation, Pacing, Refueling and Recovery. But, most of all, I learned a lot about myself. A few of those things (48 to be exact) are shared HERE.  Enjoy!

Day 1:  Friday 6/21 – Start 6:15am / Finish 7:25pm – 13.54 Hours
8 Summits: E. Osceola, Osceola, S. Hancock, Hancock,
Passaconaway, Whiteface, M. Tripyramid & N. Tripyramid.

Trail Notes - Day 1:
Started the day a bit late but made up time on the ascent.
Ended up giving it back later. Somehow I missed
having to do E. Osceloa twice while calculating
my est. pace. Also slipped while talking to someone
Note to Self: Mountains are like Oceans,
you should never turn your back on them!
Two hours in and I'm already injured. Awesome!
Hancocks were pretty uneventful. The run up and
down were much easier/quicker than I thought.
Subway lunch while overlooking the Kanc. Pretty sweet!
Started the "Trip Loop" with a nice and easy 5k road run.
But the day heated up and I was cooked by the time
I got to the top of Passaconaway. Ran out of water
and had to tap a stream on the way to Whiteface.
Saw many piles of unknown animal scat on this route.
Thought it might be bear so I spent most of the PM
clapping and hooting. Saw no other hikers for 4+ hours
Loads of messy blow downs on the Kate Sleeper Trail.
Had a great Prime Rib Dinner at a Country Store
in Bartlett and was fast asleep by 9:00pm. Long day!
Day 1: Hiking Hours: 11.62, Miles: 37.1, Elevation: 15,308 ft.

Day 2:  Saturday 6/22 – Start 7:00am / Finish 6:25pm – 11.94 Hours
3 Summits: Carrigain, Cabot & Waumbeck

Trail Notes - Day 2:
Tired today so I took it a bit easy. Carrigain had a nice
run in but got steep in a hurry. Forgot that there was a
little summit about 10 min. before the big one. Great
views from the fire tower. Could see all of the 48. Nice!
Long drive to Cabot. But stopped for Dunkin's, so it's good.
Found the trail head OK. But, got lost about a mile
into the hike. Bushwacked for an hour before
giving up and heading back down. Only to find the
right trail about a half mile from the car. Grrr.
Angry energy powered the rest of the hike up Cabot.
Rained the whole time up Waumbeck. Summit was a little
underwhelming. Pile of rocks in the woods. What a waste.
I wonder if people would summit this if not on "The List".
Had a huge Dinner at a Restaurant next to the hotel
in Gorham and went to bed at 8:00pm. Sleepy.
Day 2: Hiking Hours: 8.81, Miles: 27.0, Elevation: 16,572 ft.

Day 3:  Sunday 6/23 – Start 5:20am / Finish 6:30pm – 13.69 Hours
7 Summits: Wildcat D., Wildcat, Carter Dome,
S. Carter, M. Carter, Moriah & Tecumseh

Trail Notes - Day 3:
Early wake-up call so I could get out and on the ridge
in time to finish the hike and get back to theAMC
shuttle in Gorham by 2:30. Started with a 1 mile road
run in the rain followed by a harrowing crossing of
the Ellis River. Had to toss my pack across at 1/2 way.
Busted the bladder on impact. Climb out of the Notch
was hard but the rest of the day was pretty easy. The
lone exception was a nasty little descent into the Imp
Shelter Col. The run down from Moriah was great.
Even had time for a soak in the river and more Subway.
Recovered a bit while driving to the Tecumseh Trailhead.
The first part of this run was so easy it was like taking
candy from a sleeping baby. Then the baby woke up and
puked up lightning, torrential rain and hail all over me.
Never ran so fast back down a mountain in my life.
Dodged thunderstorms on the whole 2 hr. drive home.
Day 3: Hiking Hours: 9.63, Miles: 24.7, Elevation: 11,590 ft.

Day 4:  Friday 7/12 – Start 6:20am / Finish 8:25pm – 14.05 Hours
5 Summits: Owl’s Head, Field, Willey, Tom & Hale

Trail Notes - Day 4:
Made great time until I had to cross 4 raging rivers
And got "lost" trying to find the ellusive Owl's Head Path
Also almost broke my leg racing down the Owl's Head
Slide to make it back in time for the shuttle. Crazy!
Sun bathed while waiting for the shuttle at Gale River.
Had a nice (but quick) lunch at Highland before heading
up the Avalon Trail to the Willeys. Started to get dizzy with
the heat on the way up to the ridge. Had to climb Field
twice. Bonus Points! Mis-calced the distance (again!)
to the Hut from Tom but still made it for dinner! Mmm.
Enjoyed wowing the guests with my "aggressive" itinerary.
Bonus "after dinner" hike of Hale. Cut it a bit close with
the daylight, but a real nice night for a stroll in the woods.
Checking off another pile of rocks in the woods. Grrr.
Didn't sleep well at the Hut, never do. But food was great!
Day 4: Hiking Hours: 10.47, Miles: 35.1, Elevation: 11,238 ft.

Day 5:  Saturday 7/13 – Start 7:50am / Finish 5:55pm – 9.94 Hours
8 Summits: Zealand, W. Bond, Bond, Bondcliff, S. Twin,
N. Twin, Galehead & Garfield

Trail Notes - Day 5:
After an awesome breakfast I met up with Dan and Amber
for todays "recovery" run. But, with the heat it turned out
to be anything but easy. Pretty gorgeous day, though!
Loved the run into and out of Bondcliff. And the views
from West Bond were sweet. My first time without fog!
Quick run to and from N. Twin and decended S. Twin in
a harrowing 20 minutes. Galehead was a waste (as usual)
and the Garfield climb sucked (also as usual) but the run out
was real nice. Long, but nice. Great to have company
for today's intinerary! Chaffing's becoming a painful issue.
Note to Self: For the love of God, wear bike shorts!
Finished feeling naseous and hungry at the same time.
Pizza and french fries for dinner didn't help the situation.
Day 5: Hiking Hours: 9.70, Miles: 25.5, Elevation: 7,489 ft.

Day 6:  Sunday 7/14 – Start 4:10am / Finish 3:45pm – 11.57 Hours
8 Summits: Madison, Adams, Jefferson, (Clay), Washington,
Monroe, Eisenhower, Pierce & Jackson.

Trail Notes - Day 6:
Didn't make the early wake-up call. Started 40 min late.
Very moist climbing Valley Way even in the dark. Moleskin
bandages on chaffed areas not holding up. Tried to fix at
Madison Hut. No luck. Madison and Adams completely
fogged in. Still pretty warm, so I hiked shirtless. First time!
Dodgy footing and tired legs caused me to lose a bunch of
time. Decided to bail on Isolation which freed me up to do
Mount Clay- first time. At 5333, it should be in the 4k club!
Washington summit was a zoo but the run down Crawford
Path was divine. Able Crawford was a genius! Got warm
around Eisnehower, as the clouds broke, but cranked on
through. Run to Jackson was fun. But, the decent was hell.
Enjoyed a beer and a quick dip in a much-too-warm Saco
Lake before catching the shuttle to the car. Good day!
Day 6: Hiking Hours: 10.32, Miles: 22.1, Elevation: 10,302 ft.

Day 7:  Monday 8/5 – Start 5:20am / Finish 6:20pm – 12.96 Hours
8 Summits: Flume, Liberty, Lincoln, Lafayette, Cannon,
N. Kinsman, S. Kinsman & Moosilauke.

Trail Notes - Day 7:
The forecast for today's hike was for 75 deg. and sunny.
When I arrived at the trailhead it was 60 deg. and raining.
And the morning only got worse from there. The ridge was
windy and vacant of hikers. With no hat, gloves or even
long sleeve tee I froze my gibblets. Greenleaf provided great
relief and free pancakes (bacon) too! Things (and views)
improved significantly as I climbed up Cannon. I fell
coming down the "back side" and almost broke mine!
Turned out to be a nearly perfect afternoon, weatherwise.
Clear, cool and almost no humidity. The descent from the
Kinsman Ridge to Franconia Notch was very, very wet.
But, the quick ride (and recovery) over to the Ravine Lodge
boosted my spirits as I ran neraly the entire length of
the Gorge Brook Trail. The sun was going down and the
summit was sublime! "Big Moose" may be my favorite.
PS. The Ravine Lodge is a hoot. Check it out sometime.
Day 7: Hiking Hours: 12.30, Miles: 32.9, Elevation: 16,300 ft.

Day 8:  Saturday 9/7 – Start 9:20am / Finish 3:00pm – 5.66 Hours
1 Summit: Isolation

Trail Notes - Day 8:
Picture perfect day on the Davis Path. Sadly camera died.
Saw only a handful of people but lots of Moose tracks!
Hit Davis, Stairs and Crawford on the return trip. Great run.
Got a handshake, 2 high 5's and a hug on top of Iso. Nice!
Day 8: Hiking Hours: 5.66, Miles: 20.8, Elevation: 6,006 ft.

Grand Totals: Hiking Hours: 78.52, Miles: 225.2, Elevation: 94,805 ft.

Hiking Hours Per Day: 10.47
Hiking Miles Per Hour: 2.87
Hiking Miles Per Day: 30.03
Elevation Feet Per Day: 12,641

One Final Note:
As part of my initial discussion of the NH 48 I mentioned the inspiration of  Tim Seaver and his amazing, record-setting adventure in 2003. Now, after actually climbing all 48 peaks myself, I have a new appreciation for what he accomplished in that incredible 3+ day span – 10 years ago. Let me Illustrate …

I did my hike in four separate trips with 3-week breaks in between each trip. Tim did his hike continuously.  I hiked 12 hours a day and rested the other 12. Tim hiked 24 hours a day.  I slept 8 hours a night.  Tim slept about 8 hours total.  I ate like a king at both breakfast and dinner.  Tim ate where and when he could.  I hiked during daylight hours only.  Tim hiked through the day and night.

So, basically, I did everything I could (given the time frame) to maximize my overall hiking speed. However, even if I connected all my 17 hiking events together and did them as one continuous hike (as Tim did), while still somehow maintaining the same rate of travel (despite hiking half of it in the dark, having no sleep and no real meals), I still would have come up short of his record - by about 12 hours!

Simply amazing!


  1. Wow, that'a a pretty amazing feat! Nice job Michael.

    1. Thanks Dan. I'll admit, it was pretty daunting when I looked at it in it's entirety. But, when I started looking at it in little pieces (one peak, one hour, one mile) it got a whole lot easier.

  2. Nice job! I loved reading all your reports. I am in the process of peak bagging myself; however, it will probably take me another summer to get it done!

    1. Thanks Robin. Good luck. And, enjoy every moment of it!

  3. What you did this summer is nuts! Congratulations for attempting and completing so many crazy things!

    1. Thanks Jim. Only now, after having completed it all, is it really starting to sink in. Not sure what I'll do next year (ever?) to top this.