I am posting on VftT for only the second time in over a decade, the last time to reflect on the passing of long-time, winter hiking friend Al Dwyer in a thread initiated by Cath Goodwin about four years ago. I post here to inform of the passing of Alex MacPhail on 19 January 2022, at the age of 78. A link to an obituary appears below. Although details of Alex’s passing are not provided in the obit, I am told that during his last few weeks he was hospitalized with pneumonia and anaplasmosis (typically a tick-borne bacterial infection) on top of dementia, following which he contracted Covid-19 in a nursing home. He survived the first nearly two years of the pandemic at home.
Since 2007 when I initiated this thread, I have felt somewhat badly about making public Alex’s 1963 H2H run in August of 1963. Alex forgave me for this indiscretion, which led eventually to his long post in 2010 on the history of H2H traverses in his White Mountain Sojourn blog (see link below). There remain a few discrepancies, for example some confusion between his White Mountains training run of 40 miles on 16 August 1963 and his full H2H run of about 54 miles at the end of the month, probably during his next set of days off (known as “daze”). OH croo work 11 days on, 3 days off, but it is really 12 days on, 2 days off, as croo members cannot leave the hut until after breakfast and hut clean up on Daze 1, and must return in time to help serve supper on Daze 3. Yet, most OH croo reflect that their time in the huts was the best job that they ever had, but also the hardest; I know that I do. Also, Alex left off his 12 hr 11 min finish time on his H2H run, although he wrote that he arrived at the summit of Lafayette in 10 hours 45 minutes about an hour behind his goal from Madison via Carter, the Wildcats, and Pinkham, so I and other OH folks have no reason to doubt that he reached the old Lonesome hut in 12 hr 11 min (he noted that his goal was to finish in under 12 hours). I still need to do the research of hut journals from August 1963 to confirm these details, but I am usually in a rush when passing through the huts these days, although I did check the Zool hut journal from 1968 when I worked fill-in croo during mid-August 2018, the 50-year anniversary for my last year of work in the huts.
During the OH fall reunion in 2010 at the Highland Center, after my last post on this thread, Alex and I spent a wonderful afternoon before supper hiking Caps Ridge Trail to Mount Jefferson for examination of patterned ground and other periglacial features in the alpine. I feel good about finding him a copy of Linc Washburn’s 1973 long out-of-print book “Periglacial Processes and Environments,” which he lists at the end of his White Mountains bibliography on the home page of his blog, in which his last entries are from 2016 and 2017.
For a couple of decades or longer (maybe even begun when he worked in the huts?), Alex carried out a botanical revegetation study of the landslide scar on the west side of the Gale River Trail (above the large rectangular landslide block that rests on the trail about 2.5 miles up), with many of his observations recorded in his White Mountain Sojourn blog. His plan was to expand this effort into a book titled “Ecology of the White Mountains,” which sadly never happened.
I feel good about Alex having been an inspiration to many H2H runners, especially over the past decade (see the comments section of the FKT website link below). On the KFT site, Pseltzer announced on 8/15/20 that he planned an attempt to better the 12 hr 11 min FKT time on the “MacPhail variation” of the H2H the next day, but there is no follow up. FKT protocols are now to announce publicly one’s running plans and to provide a a follow up, time-stamped, GPS-recorded route link. The MacPhail route from Madison to Carter and over the Wildcats to Pinkham to Lakes and across to Lonesome is about five miles longer and about 3000 vertical feet greater gain than the standard H2H route typically followed today.
Former OH Hillary Gerardi, Katie Schide, and Jeff Colt provided an after-dinner H2H slide show during our OH fall reunion at the Highland Center a few years ago (see their names in FKT lists below). Hillary and Katie moved to Europe for continuation of their mountain running and xc skiing exploits. Hillary (from St. Johnsbury, VT) has the FKT for the winter Haute Route between Chamonix and Zermatt (on xc skis), in 26 hours 21 minutes, during early April 2021 (106.4 km, 8100 meters elevation gain; see link below). Katie has focused on mountain trail running while working on her PhD in geology at ETH in Zurich, but made time for return to the Whites in 2019 to set the women's FKT for the H2H.
I have tried to proof-read this entire post in a Word doc on my screen, but apologize up front for any typos and/or misstatements.
Male self-supported fastest known times for the modern (skipping Wildcats and Pinkham) H2H:
1) Jack Kuenzle, 9 hr 58 min 3 sec, 9/01/21
2) Jordan Fields,10 hr 24min 44 sec, 9/20/20
3) Jeffrey Colt, 10 hr 57 min 47 sec, 8/17/18
4) Liam Davis, 11 hr 46 min 14 sec, 7/19/18
5) George Heinrichs, 12 hr 38 min 0 sec, 7/21/11
6) Peter Howe, 12 hr 49 min 33 sec, 9/25/15
7) Matthew Cull, 13 hr 8 min 0 sec, 5/9/93
Female self-supported fastest known times for the modern (skipping Wildcats and Pinkham) H2H:
1) Katie Schide, 12 hr 23 min 6 sec, 7/25/19
2) Kristina Folcik, 14 hr 28 min 6 sec, 8/25/18
3) Megan Farrell, 15 hr 12 min 0 sec, 8/25/17
4) Hillary Gerardi, 15 hr 59 min 3 sec, 8/7/15
5) Larisa Dannis, 17 hr 3 min 13 sec, 7/1/12
6) Sue Johnston, 18 hr 15 min 0 sec, 6/1/99
Male self-supported fastest known times for the modern (skipping Wildcats and Pinkham) winter H2H (all huts):
1) Ryan Mitchell, 18 hr 29 min 10 sec, 1/1/21
2) Will Peterson, 19 hr 29 min 0 sec, 3/8/21
(only three open huts, shorter distance)
1) Tim Seaver, 18 hr 25 min, 2/29/04
2) Cath Goodwin, 23 hr 41 min, 3/11/04
R.I.P., Alexander MacPhail