Why Am I Doing This? (Part 3 of 3)

It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves.
— Sir Edmund Hillary

During the weeks following our traverse, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  A few days after getting back to the comfort of my home, I had forgotten about the pain. Within a week I was ready to get out and hike again. A week after that I would have headed right back to the Appalachia trailhead for round 2 of the traverse if David has asked. 

David navigates the strong winds near the summit of Mt. Madison. Mt. Adams looms in the background.

We ended up doing about 23.5 miles with our addition of The Perch and a bit of wandering to find the trail.  There’s no denying the fact we made some errors, and we will adjust for future traverses.  Some things you just have to learn by doing.

  1. We didn’t bring snowshoes - Our reasoning behind this was sound, as we didn’t want to be switching footwear frequently and dealing with superfluous weight, and I knew that deep snow above tree-line was hard to come by on the Presidentials.  We had neglected to account for the descent to the perch and the fact that we would need them for our bail-out routes or changes to the planned itinerary. Snowshoes from here on out!
  2. We ran out of food - This was just stupid.  Next time I’ll double and triple check my car and duffel before leaving the trailhead.
  3. We ran out of water - Iodine tablets for the winter!
  4. We didn’t check the time at our most strategic escape point – We had very specific itineraries, turn-around times, and bail-out plans.  However, all of that is useless if you forget to check your watch.  The 50mph winds had made me hesitate to pull my jacket back to check my watch, and when we hit Mt. Washington all I wanted to think about was popping ibuprofen and descending.  An alarm will be very helpful in the future.

Some people will say that it was foolish to attempt a Presidential Traverse in winter without having done it in summer or without having hiked the separate mountains in winter. That may very well be true, but it also provided an even better challenge, which is what we after. 

I head towards Mt. Jefferson as the clouds roll in.  Photo by David Savoie Photography

And while we were out for a challenge, we weren’t stupid about it. We brought along more layers than we used, as well as extra bottles of fuel and a 4-season tent that we didn’t end up needing. I’m quick to admit our shortcomings, but also took comfort throughout the whole expedition that if the situation degraded too far we would easily be able to adjust and stick it out until conditions improved.

Like any great test of physical and mental strength, during the final hours you swear to yourself that you’ll never do something so long, painful, and demoralizing again. At one point on our final descent down the Crawford Path we began discussing whether we should continue winter hiking and move towards mountaineering.  After both of us agreed that we never wanted to see snow again, David thought for a moment and said, “well…”

“I’ve done 6 Half-Ironmans.  And every single time, I swear that I’ll never do another one.”

Don’t get me wrong; it sucked. But it was also one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in my life.   

So I’m back. Winter highlights the unrivaled beauty of the White Mountains, and I can't think of a better way to challenge and motivate myself for a goal than 48in1winter.  Look for me out there; I’ll be the one who never leaves home without snowshoes.

An awesome selfie on the top of Mt. Adams, brought to you by David Savoie Photography