201903-Presidential 2 Day






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201903-Presidential 2 Day

March/April 2019 2-Day Presidential Traverse

Planning a 2-day Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains. Start from the north end, camp at Sphinx Col, and end at Crawford Notch. Pre- and post- nights will be either in camper at trailhead or nearby hotel.

Report from Joe's solo Presidential Traverse last year

Contact Joe with questions.

Gulfside Trail heading north from the Great Gulf north of Mt Washington


Seven Presidentials, the minimum route

  • Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower, Pierce

Common bonus summits, not actually named after presidents

  • Clay and Franklin lie between the Presidentials
  • Jackson and Webster are on small extension to the south

North to south is typical

Main stretch is all above tree line for ~12 miles

  • Only 3 structures providing solid windbreaks
    • Madison Spring Hut, Mt. Washington Observatory, Lake of the Clouds Hut
    • All closed in winter



  • Mar 21--24
  • Mar 22--25
  • Mar 28--31
  • Map 29--Apr 1
  • Apr 11--Apr 14
  • Apr 12--Apr 15

A Thursday start (Mar 21, Mar 28, or Apr 11) with flexibility to slip a day for better weather is ideal.

Doodle poll for best dates


Personal equipment rental(s) if needed (~$125)

Shared hotel room or personal hostel cost (2x ~$30 person)

Shared tent rental(s) (3x ~$30 /person)

Shared gas + tolls

Personal food


Need to be able to hike for 6--8+ hours at steady pace with a winter pack. Some trails are steep, some rugged, but there's nothing approaching vertical climbing (like, say, the early bottleneck on the Lion's Head winter route to Mt Washington).

Setting up and tearing down camp on Sphinx Col could be brutal cold & windy.


General Randolph, NH (north trailhead) weather

General Bretton Woods (south trailhead) weather

AMC Backcountry Reports

RMC Conditions at Gray Knob Cabin

Mt Washington Observatory reports

Mt Washington Avalanche Center Advisory

Sunrise and Sunset

Be prepared for snow, serious wind, and extreme cold, especially overnight at Sphinx Col.

 Temp AvgWind AvgSunriseSunset
March5--21F40 MPH~6:45am~7pm
April17--30F35 MPH6am7:30pm


Four day, three night trip---

Day 1: Travel

  • Depart Philly ~9am to drive up (~8.5 hours + stops)
    • Go through N Conway, NH for rental gear (tent(s) at minimum) and last minute needs
  • Drive to and dump car(s) at Crawford Connector Trailhead
    • Maintained by US Forest Service
    • Off Mt Clinton Rd, just above NH 302 and the AMC Crawford Notch Highland Center
    • Self-deposit box, $3/day
  • Drive to north end of range
    • Stay in Gunnar's camper at Appalachia Trailhead or hotel or hostel

Day 2: Northern Half (Madison, Adams, Jefferson)

  • Early AM start from Appalachia Trailhead
  • Up Valley Way or Airline Trails to Mt Madison
    • ~4mi, 4000ft gain
  • Gulfside, Airline, Gulfside, Jefferson Loop, Gulfside to Sphinx Col
    • ~4mi, 1800 feet gain, 2200 feet loss

Day 3: Southern Half (Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower, Pierce)

  • Early AM start from Sphinx Col
  • Across Mount Clay Loop (optional), Gulfside, Trinity Heights Connector, Crawford Path, Mount Monroe Loop, Mount Franklin Loop (optional), Mount Eisenhower Loop, Mount Pierce
    • ~7.5mi, 2700 feet gain, 3400 feet loss
  • Down Crawford Path and Crawford Connector
    • ~3mi, 2500 feet loss
  • Drive to camper or hotel

Day 4: Return

  • Collect car(s) from Appalachia Trailhead if not using camper
  • Drive home to Philly

CalTopo map of routes


Default gear list

  • To be tuned for specifics

Mountaineering boots, crampons, axe required

  • Rent from EMS, IME, or other in N Conway
    • Will run ~$125 total for 3 days

Micro-spikes and trekking poles recommended

Snowshoes might be useful emergency gear (though hopefully unnecessary extra weight)


Two nights in hotel or hostel if not using Gunnar's camper

One night in tent(s) at Sphinx Col

  • Joe has a 3-person 4-season tent, but it's heavy and takes a ton of pack room
  • Rent one or two 4-season tents for 3 or 4 people each
    • IME ~$80/tent for 3 days
    • NE Mountaineering has Trango 3s for $80/day, Hi Light 2s for $60/day
    • EMS does not have 4-season tents for rent
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