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Author Topic: December Presidential Traverse questions  (Read 1094 times)

hawkeyes39

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December Presidential Traverse questions
« on: September 24, 2012, 12:19:04 PM »

So, me and a buddy are planning on a presidential traverse attempt this December and I've got a few questions.

- First off, anyone have any recommendations for the shuttle situation? The AMC shuttle doesn't operate during the winter and we're coming all of the way from Atlanta and can't bring two cars. I'm not afraid to hitch-hike but are there any other options? And does the road see enough traffic in the winter to make hitch hiking viable?

- Snowshoes. I'm assuming that the snow in NH is pretty wet and frozen in December but I've never been up the east coast in winter so I don't know. I'm a big guy and with a full load I'll probably be pushing 250lbs. Do you think I can get away with something like a 22 inch MSR evo tour snowshoe or would I need to add the tails? I'm kind of inexperienced with the whole snowshoe thing (rented before but that's about it) so any advice would be appreciated as I don't want to waste money on crappy gear.

- I plan on getting weather updates via NOAA broadcasts to an frs radio. How is the reception along the traverse?  I'm assuming you can receive the weather band just fine but I want to make sure...

Any other advice would be appreciated especially if you've done a winter presidential traverse in the past.
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DMan

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2012, 01:52:47 PM »

If you go North to South (preferred IMO) you can probably find a ride back to the trailhead at the AMC Highland Center as there will be many hiker-types in the area, some who may live near Randolph. Easier to find a ride north IMO, maybe from a friendly AMC employee.

22 inch snowshoes should be fine, unless we get some huge early season snowstorms. Keep checking this website daily 1-2 weeks before your trip: http://www.mountwashington.org/weather/

This is a good link to bookmark as well: http://www.outdoors.org/recreation/tripplanner/go/backcountry-weather.cfm

As for other advice, how many days are you planning? What's your winter/camping experience to this point?
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JBrochu

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2012, 04:56:13 PM »

There are private shuttle services available for a reasonable fee - at least certainly cheaper than driving 2 cars. Here is one:

http://www.trailangelshikerservices.com/shuttle.html

If you do a Google search you will be able to find some others.
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OldEric

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2012, 05:00:29 PM »

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ELM

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2012, 07:37:38 AM »

You'll be able to get radio updates more often than you think on the trail.
The Evo's are great just remember poles too!
You're going to lug all that gear up here and now watch..we'll have no snow and you'll be hiking shirtless.
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slink

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2012, 07:02:15 PM »

I say go climbing at the T wall and enjoy yourself instead of freezing in a tent. :) But if that is your thing really pay attention to the weather and do not be afraid to bail if the winds get bad.Also really get familiar with your maps as if you get caught in a whiteout you will want to be able to escape.Good luck.
 Jim
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eyebolter

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2012, 08:52:10 AM »

Another option is to go super light and do it in a day.  Not that hard if you skip Jackson; a friend and I did it in full clouds and snow all day with low visibility so we were slowed way down by losing the path in several places.  Start up Valley Way  (almost always beaten out) under headlamps, and you can go down Crawford Path which is almost always beaten out as well.    In a normal year you should be able to skip the snowshoes provided there hasn't been a recent big dump.

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DMan

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2012, 05:14:17 PM »

Another option is to go super light and do it in a day.  Not that hard if you skip Jackson...

Based on the fact he has zero winter experience in the Presidentials, I would say this isn't a good idea. 148 deaths and counting, one should have atleast climbed Washington once in the winter before attempting a one-day Presi-traverse... something to give it some scale...

Eyebolter, I'm assuming you had some Presi-winter mileage under your belt before your one day traverse right?
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DMan

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2012, 05:32:10 PM »

In a normal year you should be able to skip the snowshoes provided there hasn't been a recent big dump.

The exception to this if you need to bail for any reason down into one of the exits. Weather will force people into the Great Gulf, Dry River, etc, and while you may not have needed snowshoes up high these less traveled remote areas can be serious slogs without snowshoes. A light pair of snowshoes just in case could really save your hide if things don't go as planned...
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eyebolter

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2012, 01:11:02 PM »

Another option is to go super light and do it in a day.  Not that hard if you skip Jackson...
.

Eyebolter, I'm assuming you had some Presi-winter mileage under your belt before your one day traverse right?

Yes, many years climbing in Huntington's and various presidential peaks in winter, including going above treeline in whiteout and heavy winds just to check it out.  Also a bad weather traverse (including Jackson) over four days.

The first time I climbed Washington (with my mother no less) in winter it was -20 at the start but absolutely bluebird day.  We were way over prepared with snowshoes for the lion's head trail but carried them all the way to the top.  I think the OP should absolutely not go for it if the weather is less than perfect, which is usually the case.

Also, as it says in the white mountain guide, there is no substitute for knowing the range really well in summer. 

Probably good advice to bring the snowshoes in case you have to bail.   Next time I do it though I'm going to wait for a bluebird day and go light and fast.  Still gotta do it with Jackson in a day, so I will be dragging the snowshoes along.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2012, 01:16:36 PM by eyebolter »
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hawkeyes39

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2012, 09:23:23 PM »

Thanks for the responses everybody! 

DMan, thanks for the links.  As for previous experience, we're both avid backpackers and climbers.  As for mountaineering experience, I've done some alpine stuff in the Tetons and RMNP.  One of the things we did in the Tetons was Cascade Canyon > Paintbrush Divide > Paintbrush Canyon (ended up being about 20+ miles or so) on May 1 of this year and I'm imagining that the traverse will probably end up being something like this only about 20 degrees colder and with higher wind but at lower elevations and with a little less snow on the ground.  I'm confident that I'll be able to navigate in a whiteout as been able to do a bit of nightime land nav both in the military and on my free time.  But thanks for that chauvin guides link.  There's a great navigation plan on there with azimuths and distances that we can use.  Plenty of other good info too.

I think we'll probably just try to catch a ride from the AMC hut back north rather than pay the $110 for a shuttle.  If all else fails I found a taxi service I can call. 

Also we'll probably not try and do it all in a day.  I've heard plenty of horror stories about weather in the presidentials and don't really feel comfortable going out there without bivouac gear especially since it'll be my first time in the range.

We're going to try and take at least a weeklong trip and just wait for good weather if we have to.  But if the weather cooperates right off the bat and we have extra time, are there any other good daylong alpine climbs in the area?  I've looked at huntington ravine (specifically Central Gully).  I'm looking for something that can be done with a single mountaineering axe and general mountaineering crampons.  Are there any good snow/alpine ice climbs that have enough snow in them during a typical December?   

Thanks for the help!
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lucky luke

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2012, 11:01:37 PM »


We're going to try and take at least a weeklong trip and just wait for good weather if we have to.  But if the weather cooperates right off the bat and we have extra time, are there any other good daylong alpine climbs in the area?  I've looked at huntington ravine (specifically Central Gully).  I'm looking for something that can be done with a single mountaineering axe and general mountaineering crampons.  Are there any good snow/alpine ice climbs that have enough snow in them during a typical December?   
Thanks for the help!

Do you ever sleep at minus 20 in a sleeping bag after hicking a day. If you don't I will suggest you to take a day or two before you enter  in the timber line. Ounce I climbed on that area and, after a small summit, we traversed a "col" near madisson. the weather felt from around fifteen to minus 10 in five minute. My hand froze in my glove. So, it is not just a walk in the mountain that you are going to do, you also have to understand why the weather change so fast in five minutes.

As you come from Atlanta and I just climbed with a good partner and friend in the yos, I know that there is not a lot of snow in Atlanta. You want a great adventure, and I hope that you will have as much fun as I had in mt washington. I am not trying to discourage you. There is also the harvard cabin in mt Washington that can be a base camp to your expedition. In that way, you can try many route and came back safely to your camp and, if any problem, to the cabin which is heat. It is possible to do half the traverse in one side, and on the other side without taking any shuttle.

With the global warming, the weather is warmer, but still; they received three foot of snow in one day not so far ago.     
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hawkeyes39

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2012, 02:15:08 AM »

Do you ever sleep at minus 20 in a sleeping bag after hicking a day. If you don't I will suggest you to take a day or two before you enter  in the timber line.

Thanks, that's not a bad idea. I'll probably go ahead and do that the first night we get there so we can get an idea as to what layers to wear while sleeping, etc.
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JBrochu

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2012, 09:32:10 AM »

Central Gully will almost always be well climbable by mid-December most years, typically its in shape by early December. The only question is "climbable with a single mountaineering axe and general purpose crampons" is very subjective--especially early in the year. You will likely need to climb about 30' of moderate water ice that early in the year since the bulge down low doesn't usually get buried until later in the year. This is easily climbable with a single tool for some people, but may make other folks nervous.

Some other options are Great Gully in King Ravine (follow the summer hiking trail) and the winter Lions Head trail. You might also look into South Gully in Huntington's and some of the snow lines in Tucks. (Just be careful some of the lines in Tucks will have water ice early in the year - but that's usually mid Nov to early Dec.)
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Have a quiche, now, or maybe a tort.  You deserve it!
-bristolpipe

I like to keep things simple, even if it's faaaken painful and miserable.
-Stoney Middleton

This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption.
-Friar Tuck

lucky luke

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Re: December Presidential Traverse questions
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2012, 02:27:55 PM »

Thanks, that's not a bad idea. I'll probably go ahead and do that the first night we get there so we can get an idea as to what layers to wear while sleeping, etc.
Keep dry and have a good mattress. One guy burn is back to the second level while sleeping over the timberline as an emergency procedure. The worst, I think, is melting temperature in evening, when all thing became wet, and cold morning with stars. One time, the weather inside the tent was fourteen and outside it was minus 24. In the previous evening, I did cross counry skying with just a wind jacket and a t-shirt. I was completely damp. I remove my t-shirt and put on dry clothes. Keeping warm is all trick. The ice in my t-shirt take three days to melt in my bathroom when I came back home (true story)
 
Doing the presidential traverse in good condition is nothing...to be ready to any eventually by testing our capacity with a safety marge is fun and making the traverse in not perfect condition is more a training for high altitude. 
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