Hiking the White Mountains
Thu Sep 10, 2020 · 960 words · 5 min

Starting in May, my girlfriend and I began hiking together more consistently. We had gone in the past, but not ever consistently or purposefully. We wanted to start a hobby that was both active and social-distanced, so hiking met both of these criteria. We started by hiking Mount Major in Alton, NH. After that, we wanted to do something a bit more adventurous so we completed the Mount Morgan and Percival loop. This included climbing ladders mounted on the side of the mountain and cliff scaling. Both of these hikes were fun and had great views, but we wanted to challenge ourselves even more. After some research on hiking in New England, we came across the NH 48.

The beginning of the 48

To start our journey to conquering the 48 4000 foot peaks, we chose to do Mount Tecumseh. The reason behind this was it was labeled as one of the easier hikes as well as being the lowest peak. It was a great introduction to the 48, but I actually wouldn't say it was the easiest one we have done so far. Our next hike was to this day still one of my favorites, the Franconia Ridge Trail. This hike was astonishing even though we were up in the clouds at the peaks. The entire time on the ridge, I felt like I was in Middle-earth. Luckily both my girlfriend and I are in decent shape so we were fine doing this hike, but this is rated as one of the more difficult of the 48 as well as being a lot longer and steeper than our previous hike. Due to parking in the overflow lot, we clocked a total of 13 miles for this hike (typically around 9 without the walk to the overflow lot). This hike humbled us yet it also made us even more excited for our next hike.

15 peaks later

As of today, we have completed 15 out of the 48 peaks. This took us about 2 months and hopefully by the end of 2020, we will have around 20-25 peaks. So far we have climbed the following:

We have begun to enjoy peak bagging more since we can check off more peaks in a single hike. Our next goal is to begin to do long traverses that hit 5+ peaks. The one we are planning to do next summer is the Presidential Traverse. This is also going to be our first overnight hike, it can be done within one day, but we want to do an overnight hike.

Tips for beginners

I am by no means an expert in the white mountains or even an expert hiker at all, but I just wanted to share a few things that I have learned through my experience so far.

Quantifying difficulty

Difficulty ratings are super subjective. If you are looking for a consistent difficulty rating scale with these mountains, you aren't going to find one. Different websites/blogs all rate them differently and I bet you will probably find yourself disagreeing with a lot of their ratings as have I. Difficulty depends heavily on context as well, I think my Tom, Wiley, and Field hike was by far the most difficult because it was raining and there were limited views. This was a mentally tough hike which was harder to deal with for me. compared to the Beaver Brook trail for Moosilake which was much more physically demanding.

If you are trying to quantify the physical difficulty, I would suggest looking at a trail map that shows the gradient of the trail. Some hikes, such as Moosilake, don't have a crazy amount of elevation to be gained, but it's almost all gained within the first 1.5 miles of the trail making it very strenuous.

Finally, to note again, the best way to get a feel for what you are comfortable doing is just by getting out there and attempting a few trails. Building out your own difficulty model will benefit you more for the future of hiking.

The water balance

Ensuring you have enough water is an absolute must for hiking, especially in the summer. But overloading water can cause issues as well. On your first hike, I would suggest carrying a little extra since you might not know exactly how much you'll need, but then after that, I would try calculating how much you'll need. I tracked how much water I drank on each hike and was able to estimate a per mile consumption that is favoring the higher end (just to be safe). Overloading water is safer than underpacking, but be prepared to carry that extra weight up the mountain.

Get a hiking backpack

If you feel like you want to consistently hike and you can afford to, I would suggest investing in a hiking backpack with a waist strap and water bladder. The waist strap of backpacks takes a chunk of weight off your shoulders and upper back. This reduced soreness for me by a large margin. The water bladder as well has been a huge helper because of the weight distribution. Water is heavy. Having a bunch of water bottles at the bottom of your backpack can cause strain on your upper body, with the bladder being almost parallel with your back makes it a lot easier to carry.

I hope this post was interesting to read and helpful for new hikers!

It's nicer outside,

~ Dan

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