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White Mountain Presidential Traverse
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Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
White Mountain Presidential Traverse on 12/13/2006 14:22:57 MST Print View

In a month I have planned to do a White Mountain Presidential Traverse for the first time. While I have several years of experience winter climbing in the Presidentials in the winter, this is a beast of a different nature. I plan on completing the trip (18 miles) in 2 days. Conditions this time of year are generally hovering above or below freezing with high winds up to and over 100 MPH, sleet, snow and freezing fog. Camping will be at sheltered area above treeline. I have my gear listing posted below, but I am looking to see what other people would carry for a trip like this? Preferably people who have completed or attempted this route. My setup is similar to the one Ryan posted, but with several mountaineering specific options (boots, axe ect…)

Graham Williams
(crackers) - F
Re: White Mountain Presidential Traverse on 12/14/2006 08:58:38 MST Print View

My comments below are solely comments and are in no way ,shape, or form a substitute for experience, training and ability.

Why two days? The prezies traverse is a fairly easy day hike if you and the range are both in condition. I've done it in the winter, and probably will again this winter, and I find it's significantly more comfortable and more enjoyable as a fast and light expedition rather than a long slog.

Do you plan to camp or stay in a hut? Are you after a winter hiking experience or a winter mountaineering experience? I'm not sure how you're going to find a very sheltered area above tree line. The entire ridgeline is a blast line for wind and weather.

I prefer to go North to South and start way early in the AM, at about 2am or therabouts. My pack weight is under 30 pounds, and I am generally at the summit of Mt W well before noon. The most important part of my planning is watching the weather (good vibes to the guys on hood) and planning escape routes. If the weather goes bad, get the heck out ASAP. I've called off or bailed on the traverse at least three times due to bad weather coming up or just developing as it is wont to do.

I highly recommend checking out the Chauvin Guides website and his description of how he runs trips on the traverse for a second opinion.

My gear for a one day traverse attempt:
g14's with the walking spring
lightweight trango mountaineering axe.
a picket.
an icescrew.
three biners.
8.1mm beal randonee rope
lasport trango extreme leather boots
extra socks, 1 pair
cannister stove w/ heat exchanger gear
.75 liter thermos
3liter platypus
1 liter nalgene widemouth
silkweight top w/ arms cut off
mid weight top
union suit
midweight bottoms
hardshell bibs
softshell jacket
fleece jacket, 300weight polartec equivalent
belay parka
belay pants
pack without lid, frame and extra straps: no more than 2.5 pounds.
ascent skis.
hiking poles.
1 goo every 30 minutes
2 ramen for lunch
2 clif bars for lunch/dinner
1 freezedried soup for dinner
+3 ramen, +5 goo emergency food
tea bags and sugar
3 chocolate bars with highest possible level of cacao and butter
expedition weight top.

integral designs mk1xl tent
40d down sleeping bag

please note that the above gear list is what I would bring. And that i duplicate critical items like gloves/mittens, sunglasses/goggles, hat/hat and all that. You don't want to have a problem.

Graham Williams
(crackers) - F
Re: White Mountain Presidential Traverse on 12/14/2006 09:09:08 MST Print View

Terribly sorry. I forgot three absolutely vital things:

a routeplan left both in my car and with a friend.
an avalanche transceiver. There aren't many 'lanches in the prezies, but short of a plrib, a transceiver is as good as it gets.
my shovel. A good metal D handle voile shovel. Dig an snow cave, a trench or make a block wall. Don't leave home without it.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Overnighter on 12/14/2006 11:54:04 MST Print View

I agree that it is more than possible in a long day, but that is not totally our objective. My partner and I are training for some climbs down in Argentina and we want the 2 day overnight at extreme cold temp experience. While you are correct that there is not much cover up on the route, there are several places a couple hundred yards off the trail that are great for camping if you know where they are.

I agree with your gear list, but I tend not to take as much technical gear as I do not find it needed for most of the route.

Thank you for the feedback

The one thing I am going back and fourth about is my headlamp choice. I have both a Tikka XP and a PT Yukon HL. I use the Tikka just about every night running and it seems to be just right, but I am trying to imagine if I need more power in case I get stuck doing some longer than expected night time above treeline navigation.

Graham Williams
(crackers) - F
Re: Overnighter on 12/15/2006 13:11:57 MST Print View

Ah ha. So you aren't interested in the Prezies traverse per se, just in freezing your metaphorical balls off.

Are your intended routes alpine or snow slogs? I'd rather just do alpine on cathedral or cannon or even within the range than do the traverse.

I use a headlight with a belt.

James Doneski
(jdoneski) - F
Presidential Traverse on 12/17/2006 18:37:16 MST Print View

Hi, John,

I saw your post and it caught my eye as I am planning a traverse for next week as well.

My intention is similar to yours. Sure I could get up way early and pound out the traverse in a day. I've done that in the summer and it's cool. However, my intention, and I think yours as well, is to spend a few nights up high in an inhospitable climate to have that tough alpine experience. That's a very different goal and one that has merit if you're planning extended alpine adventures elsewhere (as it appears both you and I are). I don't see any reason to belittle this approach, afterall the Chauvin trip is three days. Yours (and mine) will be two (God willing).

The gear list posted gave me pause and I'll add my two cents.

First, although you will likely need pickets and ropes where you're headed, you're certainly not going to need them on the traverse.

The ice axe is a great tool, but you're not going to need it for any self-arresting. I'm bringing mine, but I'm pretty sure I'd be fine without it.

The leather boots sent a shiver up my spine. Having done many a winter trip in my La Sportiva's, I can tell you it's miserable. I never winter camp without double boots now (either Sorels for non-alpine stuff or Koflach's for alpine). There's nothing worse than spending the first hours of the day in frozen blocks of ice. Brrrr!

I love using a platypus too, but I'm not sure about winter use. I always use a couple of wide mouth nalgenes and put them in thermal liners. This will keep them from freezing during the day. They can be buried at night to keep them from freezing or, if you have the liners, you can toss them in the bottom of your sleeping bag (I've never had a leak).

For cooking I'd recommend some sort of cooking pad to keep the stove off the snow. A piece of luan with a piece of an old thermal pad on the back works great.

I'm assuming you're eating breakfast?

I'd also bring a balaclava. This can double as your lightweight hat. The winds can really whip up there; you'll want the ability to cover all skin at times.

I'd skip the "googles" - no internet access up there. Ha!

Good luck!

Graham Williams
(crackers) - F
Re: Presidential Traverse on 12/18/2006 07:54:15 MST Print View

James, I think you read my gear list, for a one day prezzies traverse. In that case, no, I would not be taking any breakfast with me. And yes, I definitely 'enhanced' that gear list because I don't know anybody on this website personally and I have no idea who is reading these words. Maybe I wouldn't really take everything I wrote about with me...

I've experienced windblown ice crud on the ridge in the winter, and that is why I really do bring that ice axe with me.

I have never really experienced a significant problem with my platypus use in the winter. They do require a bit of anal retention, but keeping well hydrated definitely keeps me moving faster.

I guess that there are places that I would rather go winter camping, also in inclement weather, that are easier to access and escape from if need be. For example, I can do long snowshoe / ski trails in the Adirondaks or the Whites or the Greens that are more aesthetic, at least in my eyes than that ridge in the middle of even the most mild winter.

I just use my shovel handle for the stove. But that is a great tip, to keep the stove on something.

I'd go with leathers for up to two days out there, and I've gone camping with them before. You do preheat your boots, don't you? (leave a shake'n'bake in your boot then put them into your sleeping bag. if they're still cold, put hot h20 in your nalgene and put it into one boot at a time.) But if I was going to be putzing around and goofing off all day, I would go plastic. Leathers, like that platypus, require quite a bit of oversight.

I will keep my hats. I don't bring a lightweight one, I just bring two.

Verizon works pretty good on most of the ridge. ;-) but you're right, I meant goggles....hee hee hee

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
One Day Winter Prezzie Traverse on 12/27/2006 12:03:12 MST Print View

Well I think I have come up with my final gear list. I used most of this stuff last year in the Whites, but it needed a few tweaks to dial it down abit. The more I have been thinking about it, the more a 1 day attempt could make sense. Logistics wise how do you do it. Stay at a hotel the night before? What time at night do you start?

Gear + Clothing List
Ibex long sleeve woolies top
Marmot Driclime top and bottoms
Ibex Solitude pants and Wild Things Guide Jacket
Arc Teryx Sirrus SL Shell
Patagonia R1 clava w/ brimmed softshell hat
Ibex climawool gloves w/ Manzella SW N2S liner gloves
Sportiva Makalu’s w/ wool liner, VBL sock and exp weight sock
Patagonia DAS + Wild Things EP pants + Micropuff vest
Mountain Hardwear Zero mitts
BD Raven Pro Axe and Grivel G12 pons
1 Nalgene with insulation cover + 2 platy bottles in the pack
MSR Simmerlite w/ Ti Kettle
Life Link Guide poles
MSR Denali snowshoes (under certain conditions)
Sigg thermos (for hot lunch)
Princeton Tec Yukon HL
Blade shovel

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
White Mountain Presidential Traverse on 12/27/2006 13:01:37 MST Print View

I have a lot of comments having been through the Mt Washington area several times in the winter but not for now. There are several gear lists made just for what you are planning.

One suggestion I have is that you add a neoprene face mask to cover your face completly where your goggles don't. You should expect to get frost bite on any exposed skin.

You also don't seem to list your boots or crampons.

Graham Williams
(crackers) - F
Re: One Day Winter Prezzie Traverse on 12/27/2006 13:33:30 MST Print View

I'd start at the boyscout camp parking lot on the north end, and finish at the cabin on the other end. Make a reservation for the cabin for that night, and hitch hike back to your car the next day.

I would bring sunglasses as well.
I'd also bring a spare pair of socks, and change at some point. It will make it a lot more pleasant. Keep the new socks somewhere warm in a ziplock or something to keep them dry.
I'd also bring a cup to make some really goes a long long way, especially with some nuts and chocolate.

I've started anywhere between 2am and 4am for a one night traverse, depending on how in shape I was. You want to be off the mountain before too long after dark. In mid-february, that should be about 7pm.

Don Selesky
(backslacker) - M
Re: White Mountain Presidential Traverse on 12/27/2006 13:38:48 MST Print View

> I plan on completing the trip (18 miles) in 2 days.

The Presidentials are famous for bad weather, including not only bitter cold but also very high winds. What might be a pleasant stroll one day could verge on paragliding the next. I'd plan on four days, even though you might very well do it in two. Better to be safe than sorry (think "Mt. Hood").

Also, no huts (up there) are open in the winter, so they aren't an option for shelter.

Good luck, and enjoy.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
White Mountain Presidential Traverse on 12/21/2007 07:05:02 MST Print View

Alrighty it is that time of year again. I attempted this route 2 times last year with no luck. This year I am in marathon training and I have also really cut down on my pack weight. Anyone here do this route last year? I am thinking that an ice axe for the route that I am going to take is not required. Any thoughts?

check out my gear list under my profile and let me know your thoughts

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
White Mountain Presidential Traverse on 12/21/2007 09:25:02 MST Print View

Jonathan -

Your gear list looks thorough and well planned. There appears to be a good combination of gear designed to move quickly (speed is safety in the mountains) but without sacrificing some emergency bivy gear for the unthinkable. May your planning pay off on this winter's attempt(s).

- Sam

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
White Mountain Presidential Traverse on 12/21/2007 11:48:05 MST Print View

Thanks Sam, this trip is all about the speed. Unless you really move and have a lighter load with reasonable weather conditions I do not think it is possible. With my clothing I tried to make sure everything was light of course, but also breathable and free moving. As for my gear, this area is not a place anyone should be winter hiking without some form of bivy gear. While I do not think a 0 degree bag is required, some form of protection is smart to pack along as well as an external heat source. For most of my snowshoeing day trips this year I have brought along my bushbuddy with esbit tabs, but 13 of the 20 miles on this route is above treeline so a white gas stove is the only option. I think the biggest change in my gear this year will be the freedom of wearing my winter trail runners with overboots. I have done 2 hikes in them so far this year and they have proven far warmer and obviously more comfortable than my old mountaineering boots. Now all I need is a weekend with a good weather window...

Edited by Jkrew81 on 12/21/2007 11:51:49 MST.

Matt Drayer
(xoomboy) - F
Have fun, be safe on 12/28/2007 18:23:11 MST Print View

Just an additional comment on something that Graham (I think) mentioned in one of the first replies. In my experience, if you're doing a traverse and you're not at the summit of Washington by noon at the very latest, you need to shift your mindset somewhat from "making it to my destination" to "looking for a good place to hunker down" -- especially in the winter. So, if you come along a good spot a little ahead of your planned time/location, seize the opportunity.

You want to have your shelter secured before the light begins to fade and the weather starts to really hammer on you, and up there you might find you're hanging at camp for an extra hour because you stopped a little earlier, but at least you'll be both comfortable and safe.

Have fun -- it's a great trek and I'm very jealous (as are my crampons) :)


Graham Williams
(crackers) - F
Re: One Day Winter Prezzie Traverse on 01/11/2008 10:34:43 MST Print View

When to start?
Depends on how fast you're going. 3AM? Remember that goal from above, to be past Mt.Washington's summit by noon. You'll get a majority of your elevation gain on the way up to the summit of Madison.

Too much clothing IMHO, despite what I wrote above. Ditch 3/4 of it. Or consider really lightening that load.

Check out the new terrain feature of google maps. From Mt Madison, follow the Hawker ridge drainage down to the Dolly Copp Campground Road. It's a nice place to bivy.

Graham Williams
(crackers) - F
Re: White Mountain Presidential Traverse on 01/11/2008 10:36:08 MST Print View

another thought. The ice axe isn't for your route. the ice axe is to escape down lion's head or tuck's or madison gulf when the weather goes to heck and beyond and you need to bail.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Re: White Mountain Presidential Traverse on 01/11/2008 10:46:34 MST Print View

Hey Graham,
the start time is what foiled me last year. I did not start early enough so I did not make my distance goals by certain times in the day. Plus I stupidly picked a route that had a seldom used trail with deep deep snow that slowed me down too much to make a real go at the route.

I totally agree, an axe is not somthing this route requires. If I plan on bailing it will be on the other side down to the cog railroad.

Want to sponsor my adventoure with one of your shiny new Spectra packs :) just kidding...

Umair Lateef
(ulateef) - F
Best Spots to Camp above on Presidential Traverse on 01/24/2008 23:00:30 MST Print View

Me and my freinds are planning on doing the Presidential traverse from the South in mid February this year. We will start from Crawford Notch trail head and camp somewhere before treeline. Then on second day we plan to summit Mt. Washington and plan to camp somewhere on Presidential Traverse. The third day we want to Camp near Mt. Madison.

I am looking for the best spots to camp for Second day. I can descend down few hundred feet to find a good spot. Please if any good suggestions. THX

Hows the sphinx col or sphinx tr junction.


Edited by ulateef on 01/24/2008 23:01:45 MST.

Nathan McDonald
(Nate_M) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Overboots? on 11/20/2013 11:26:32 MST Print View

Were you hiking in overboots? Or were they just for in camp?

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Overboots? on 11/20/2013 14:13:17 MST Print View

That person only posted once 5 years ago so may not reply to you.

Will Elliott
(elliott.will) - F

Locale: Juneau, AK
1 on 11/23/2013 14:48:59 MST Print View

I'm from the opposite coast so my reply isn't tailored to your specific route. Based on the gear list in the first reply, though, here are some thoughts based on similar trips in AK and the west. The original respondent knows more than I about your area, so I guess defer to him.

>g14's with the walking spring

Overkill below WI4. The steel Air Techs will climb vertical ice and are much nicer to walk in. G12s are somewhat heavier with better climbing and poorer walking. The front points break off the aluminum Air Techs if used on too much steep ice. Yes on the walking spring.

>lightweight trango mountaineering axe.


>a picket.

Short one?

>an icescrew.

Long one for v thread?

>three biners.

I have found Neutrinos and other little ones perfectly OK with huge gloves

>8.1mm beal randonee rope

Love it

dyneema runners...

> lasport trango extreme leather boots

I haven't worn them. My Nepal Evos are OK to around -10F, maybe. I would put my money in some of the new synthetic double boots if it's really going to be subzero and you are going on to colder and longer things. If you have plastic boots, get intuition liners.

>extra socks, 1 pair

Yes, absolutely!

>cannister stove w/ heat exchanger gear

MSR Reactor + shovel + parka = stove, tent, and sleeping bag. I have not had good experience with Jetboils on multiple winter outings. Maybe they just needed more finesse. Reactor rules.

>.75 liter thermos

No. Wrap nalgene in clothes.

> 3liter platypus

Do you need to carry so much liquid if you have a stove?

> 1 liter nalgene widemouth


> silkweight top w/ arms cut off

Yes. Helps keep arms loose.

> mid weight top
> union suit
>mid weight bottoms

Are these either-or? It seems like a lot of binding layers. I would just wear a powerstretch or powerdry unionsuit over the tshirt. Invest that weight in a warmer parka and boots.

> hardshell bibs

I would opt for lightweight shell pants stored in your pack, and wear warm softshell pants, which I think are easier to move in and more comfortable. On a trip I once brought nice shell pants and was continually zipping and unzipping them to vent (when I couldn't stop to adjust layers); now I just wear softshell pants and sweat if I need to. They dry fast in the cold. If your upper layers are long enough, you shouldn't need bibs. Sew a skirt of fabric on the hem of your expensive shell jacket, if needed.

> softshell jacket

no, unless you expect abrasive rock climbing.

lightweight hooded windshell

> fleece jacket, 300weight polartec equivalent

Thin down or puffy jacket.

>belay parka

Yes. Wild Things belay parka is awesome— nice and long.

>belay pants



Yes. Huge ones. With removable puffy liners to fit over your gloves. My hands are too big to do this, unfortunately.

> Gloves

Breathable softshell

>pack without lid, frame and extra straps: no more than 2.5 pounds.

I like the Granite Gear Virga, at about a pound, for this sort of thing. The collar goes up to your waist for emergencies.

> ascent skis.


> hiking poles

yes. Whippet? I don't know the route...

> 1 goo every 30 minutes

If you have a dehydrator, you can make fruit rollups out of apple sauce. These produce less garbage. You can also buy maltodextrine and mix it with protein powder, salt, vitamins, and flavor, to make your own Gu. Keep adding the DIY powder to your Nalgene. I like Gus but I hate the sticky trash.

> 2 ramen for lunch

I don't think Ramen are worth the space and trash, though I guess legendary feats have been accomplished on Ramen... How about oatmeal packets, which can be consumed with cold water and powdered milk.

+ sausage or jerky. Protein, protein...

> 2 clif bars for lunch/dinner

Yum. You can make your own.

>1 freezedried soup for dinner

plus olive oil or cheese or nuts

>+3 ramen, +5 goo emergency food

You could make some brownies with good stuff

>tea bags and sugar

I'd skip this and just bring powdered drink mix in a little container. It seems simpler.

> 3 chocolate bars with highest possible level of cacao and butter

Yes! They do horrible things to cocoa between when it's on the tree and in a candy bar. Buy some fancy ones that haven't had the butter taken out and then put back in. If you like nuts you could buy the cocoa beans and eat those.



> sunglasses


>expedition weight top.

what is this? another shirt? If so, skip





>integral designs mk1xl tent

shovel and tarp, or BD Firstlight, etc. I don't have a bothy bag, but I have wished for one while sitting out in the open melting snow or resting.

>40d down sleeping bag


+ etcs like a sparker/lighter, knife, blister stuff

Have fun!

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Need HUGE mitts? Look for snowmobile mitts on 11/23/2013 19:32:49 MST Print View

Re: "mittens. Yes. Huge ones. With removable puffy liners to fit over your gloves. My hands are too big to do this, unfortunately."

I bought a pair of snowmobile mitts years ago that go over ANYTHING! Synthetic. I don't remember the retailer.

Zach .
(Overshot03) - F

Locale: North East
Conditions / gear update on 02/10/2014 04:52:20 MST Print View

Has anyone completed this route in the last couple of weeks? If so, is it feasible without an axe, and crampons? (Microspikes, and moving fairly fast?)


Jason F
(jfront2112) - F
Re: Conditions / gear update on 11/25/2014 14:01:37 MST Print View

Was poking through this thread and I know this last post was close to a year ago but I feel I should add that microspikes are not suited for the northern presidentials.

I was climbing Madison via Watson Path last week and thought I could get away with some lighter gear. Big mistake. Microspikes cannot penetrate the hard ice and they can also peel off your feet. I lost one that day before turning around. Had no idea cause I was more focused on moving safely through 60 mph winds. Can't believe I found it on the way down which made things much easier. Hillsound makes a light crampon, not to be confused with their version of Microspikes, which is the minimum I'd use early in the season. Certainly not in the middle of winter.