Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 3 of Hiking: Presidential Range

Saturday was our biggest day of hiking. Three peaks - Mt. Jefferson (5812 ft), Mt. Clay (5533 ft), and Mt. Washington (6288 ft). (Yes, I know Mt. Clay isn't technically a peak because it's only 125 feet above the col (mountain pass) separating it from Washington. But to hell with that, it's hard to climb!)

We took the Caps Ridge Trail up Jefferson. It starts at 3006 feet, so it's only a 2800-foot climb to peak. Unfortunately, that's over just 2.5 miles. Wonderful hike - the views are amazing almost from the start, and getting to the summit is quick - but it's brutal. Free-climbing 50 feet of rocks on a 60+ degree angle is tough.

From there, we headed south. A few hundred feet below the summit is Monticello Lawn - an improbable field of grass on a flat plain, over a mile about sea level. More descent to 5000 feet at Sphinx Col, then the 500-foot climb up Clay. At Clay Col, we split up. I headed on the Gulfside Trail up Washington; everyone else took the Westside Trail around.

I booked it. 1.0 mile and 900-foot grain up Washington in 28 minutes. Tapped the signpost, bewildered the stupid tourists, started down. Down 1.5 miles and 1300 feet in 26 minutes. That's incredibly fast for alpine hiking. I actually caught my family on the way down, even though their route cut off 0.7 miles and 600 feet of climbing.

"You're slow. I just ran up Washington and I still beat you here."

We rested at the Lakes of the Clouds hut for a few minutes and refilled water. (I ran out halfway up Washington. Speed-hiking 2 miles with no water: not fun). We took the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail down. It's very steep at the top, but the waterfalls are awesome. We managed to hike 10.5 miles in the Presidentials, including 2 very steep trails, without getting rained on. Pretty rare.

Total distance, as I said, was 10.5 miles. Absolute vertical was precisely 3282 feet. Total vertical... somewhere around 10000 feet.

Here's an awesomely cool map:

View Jefferson - Clay - Washington in a larger map

You'll note the computed map distances don't match real life, like they do on the other map. Why not? Different trail types. The Hight-Carter Dome loop is dirt trails, straight up the sides of mountains, and only a few bits above treeline. The Presidentials route is mostly above treeline, twisting around rocks and winding up steep slopes. The actual traveling distance is up to a quarter longer than the as-the-crow-flies distance.