View Full Version : Planning Presidential Traverse, N-S, Nov. 20-22

11-11-2005, 09:29 PM
I'm the staff member recruited by the St. Lawrence University Outing Club (SLU OC) to do a Presidential traverse at the beginning of Thanksgiving break.
I'd welcome any suggestions as to what we might encounter, equipment, alternate routes, water availability and treatment (filter, or purify?), etc.
It sounds like the freak, record breaking snow is melting quite a bit. Is there a chance we could leave the snowshoes behind, or is the weather too unpredictable. We'll be following the observatory reports and VFTT trail condition reports.
I typed "Mt. Washington" into the space on Wunderground, and although the current conditions were observed at the summit, the forecast appears to be for the valleys. Is there a site that gives forecasts for the ridge, or is that just too unpredictable?
It looks like a real major detour, to be started well in advance, to go around the leeward side of Mt. W. if (more likely when) it's going to be too windy to be exposed that long. Any advice on that?
Thanks in advance.

11-11-2005, 09:53 PM
Mt. Washington area weather (http://www.mountwashington.org/weather/index.php)
Keep in mind the weather up there is notoriously unpredictable. Forecasts for the Presi's are good for about 24 hours at best. Bring the snowshoes. You'll likely encounter a wide variety of trail conditions along the way.

Know the escape routes if the weather turns ugly, ie. Randolph path, Caps Ridge trail, Jewell trail, Lions Head/Tuck's, Ammonoosuc ravine trail, and Edmands path are some of the more common escape routes.

The springs and ponds on the ridge will likely be frozen at that time. personally, I'd bring all my water for the traverse. Maybe a couple of filters for the group, but I doubt they'll be of much use. Even if you find water up there on the ridge, trying to filter it with a -40 wind chill is no fun.

More info here (http://home.earthlink.net/~ellozy/presidential-traverse.html)

More info later, I'm sure there will be plenty of info in this thread. :)

11-11-2005, 10:01 PM
There is good info on a winter Prezzie traverse in


11-11-2005, 10:10 PM
Will this be a dayhike or an overnight? How many nights?

If it's an overnight, you'll likely be bringing stoves which will allow you to melt snow for your water.

11-11-2005, 10:24 PM
Hi NH_Mtn_Hiker,
2-3 nights. We hope to hit the trail early PM Saturday, or very early Sunday AM. Plan to be out sometime Tuesday, though we've been told we could do it in two full days. Group of about 8.

11-12-2005, 04:01 AM
Doug Paul has the right link for the info needed. I soloed it in Winter 2002 and got lucky and had fantastic weather the entire time. Pack as light as possible within reason, don't skimp on your gear and know where the bail out points are at all times just in case. Chauvin Guides has it right, when you're wearing crampons or snowshoes you feel like you have the wrong ones on half the time. It is one awesome piece of terrain in the winter.

11-12-2005, 07:19 PM
Thanks for that link, DougPaul!
The Chauvin site lists ice ax and poles under gear, but allows that gear choice involves a lot of personal preference.
We're planning for everyone ot have crampons and trekking poles. Ice axes were mentioned, but it was felt that with the previous two items, an ax wouldn't be needed. How does that sound?

11-12-2005, 07:24 PM
BRING ICE AXES. We just hiked Washington today and my life flashed before my eyes enough, even having the axe with me (Thanks, giggy). Poles were used about half the way, ice axes (on and off) the other half. As far as I'm concerned, they're not interchangeable.

David Metsky
11-12-2005, 07:40 PM
If it's icy enough for crampons, it's icy enough for an ice axe. There are places on Jefferson, Adams, and Washington where self-arrest is certainly something to keep in mind. On lower peaks, where there's no place to slide, it's not that big a deal, but on a Presie Traverse I'd bring them.

The typical approach for a two day winter traverse is to hit Madison and Adams the first day, spending the night at one of the RMC camps, either Gray Knob or the Perch. The second day, get out early, climb Jefferson, Clay, Washington, and Monroe, then look for a place to camp either down the Edmands Path, or in the col between Monroe and Eisenhower, or push on to Mizpah if everything is working well.

Know your bail routes, if possible, put a car at the Cog Base. Anywhere short of Jefferson, you bail back down to Appalachia. Past there, to the Cog.


11-15-2005, 10:25 PM
Bail to the Cog Base? OK. That's a surprise. I ASSuMEd that with the awful weather, one would bail to the leeward.

David Metsky
11-15-2005, 10:46 PM
Bail to the Cog Base? OK. That's a surprise. I ASSuMEd that with the awful weather, one would bail to the leeward.
Once you get passed Jefferson, Jewel is a MUCH easier bail than going up Washington and down to Pinkham. Same if you are over by Lakes, you're right next to treeline and can quickly drop down the Ammo for shelter. Otherwise you have to climb up and over the exposed terrain before you can drop down Lions Head.


Sir Hikesalot
11-15-2005, 10:54 PM
Bail to the Cog Base? OK. That's a surprise. I ASSuMEd that with the awful weather, one would bail to the leeward.

First of all you may not be bailing due to the wind. You might have to bail due to an injury or just plain tired, in which case you'll want something shorter and easier than taking the Great Gulf out to Pinkham.

Secondly on the Presidentials the wind doesn't always come from the southwest.....does the term "Noreaster" mean anything to you. Sometimes the Cog side is the leeward side.

Have a great hike, safely. :)

Jim lombard
11-16-2005, 02:51 PM
The Mt Washington Higher summits forecast is here (http://www.mountwashington.org/weather/mountains.html)
This is updated early in the morning and covers two days. Weather forecasts are for lots of moisture over the next week, could be interesting up there. I've used the Ammo as a bail and it's excellent, there are some places where I was glad to have the ice axe. Have fun.

11-23-2005, 10:14 PM
Thanks to everyone for the info and the great links!
We gave it a try, but couldn't do the traverse. Between losing so much elevation going down to The Perch, and a bad forecast, we decided to just loop back to Appalachia.