I’ve made it through the Whites! New Hampshire’s White Mountains are known as some of the most difficult miles of the trail. I had been hearing stories about them since I stared the trail, and they really did live up to everything that I had heard. I had great luck at the huts, experienced some of the infamous nasty weather, and hiked some seriously beautiful trail.
I had great luck at the AMC huts on the trail. The first hut I passed was Lonesome Lake hut. I stopped in just to check it out, and after chatting with one of the croo members for just a few minutes, they offered me the leftovers from breakfast. I had pancakes, eggs, and oatmeal for free. It was a great first experience with the huts! Later in the week I would do work for stays at two of the other huts, and they were both great experiences. It was a real treat to eat some real food, and I was happy for the roof over my head at Madison hut when it was storming all night. Aside from the work for stays and breakfast leftovers, it was great being able to stop in to fill up my water bottles. I was able to fill up from the sinks inside the huts a couple of times a day, which meant I rarely had to spend time filtering my water.
The Whites are renowned for having some of the worst and most unpredictable weather in the country. For some reason I always envisioned myself walking through the section with perfectly blue skies, but that was not the case. My first couple days in the Whites were filled with light rain and dense fog; I didn’t see a thing from the first couple of summits. Sadly, Franconia Ridge was totally socked in by fog when I hiked it. I’ve heard that it’s one of the most spectacular ridge walks on the trail, so I’ll have to get back there and walk it again during good weather some day. Luckily the weather improved after the first couple of days. Conditions remained good while I hiked over the Presidentials, but got sour quickly when it was time to hike over Mt. Madison. Crossing over the mountain and the following ridge was without a doubt one of the scariest experiences I’ve ever had in the mountains. Winds blew at a steady 85 mph, and I struggled to cross the two miles of ridge line while crawling on my hands and feet. It was extremely hard to make out the cairns marking the trail through the dense fog. I was almost knocked over by the wind several times. It took over two and half hours to cover the two miles from Madison Springs Hut to tree line on the north side of the ridge. I would later learn that myself and the two hikers in front of me were the only ones to cross the ridge that day. Several hikers behind us had attempted to cross shortly after us, but turned around before reaching the summit of Madison.
When I wasn’t pigging out at the huts or struggling to keep footing on windy ridges, I was enjoying the incredible beauty of the White Mountains. I had always sort of assumed that none of the mountains on the east coast could compare to the Rockies, but the Whites come pretty damn close. Even though they are significantly lower in elevation, they feel every bit as huge. The trail there was definitely the most challenging I had seen on the A.T., requiring lots of hand over hand climbing on steep rock faces. While the climbs were exhausting and challenging, the views were well worth the effort.