Hike Distance: 10.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,150 ft
Prominence: Mt Eisenhower: 350 ft, Mt Pierce: 235 ft
Click here for a review of prominence and its role in mountain topography.
“You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” Dr Seuss.
The Presidential Mountain Range is located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Containing the highest peaks of the Whites, most summits are named for American presidents, followed by prominent public figures of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Presidential Range is notorious for having some of the worst weather on Earth, mainly because of the unpredictability of high wind speeds and whiteout conditions on the higher summits. Photo courtesy of Granitegeeks.
Of the eleven recognized Presidential Range Mountains, Mt Eisenhower (4,780 ft) ranks 6th highest followed by Mt Pierce (4,310 ft) as the 7th highest. Of the 67 New England 4000 footers, Eisenhower ranks 12th highest and Pierce 30th highest.
We began our hike at the Edmands Trailhead with perfect hiking weather. This trail began with just a slight incline to get us warmed up for lies ahead.
We passed over a handful of small streams.
After 0.75 miles, the trail became steeper and more rocky and more root-filled.
Fortunately most of the rocks were well organized and not difficult to navigate around.
If you regularly hike in a part of the country where the trails are graded and tramped smooth mitigating the necessity of negotiating rocks and roots, hiking in the Whites may prove to be a disappointment.
As I've mentioned in other blogs, according to the Appalachian Mountain Club, the generalization that New England trails are rockier and steeper than elsewhere in the country is true-ish.
On top of the roughness of the trails, the trails to White Mountain peaks are quite steep, rising over 1,000 feet per mile for miles at a time without switchbacks to provide physical or mental relief to weary hikers. The best thing to do under these circumstances is to keep your eyes down to avoid crushing all hope, and take small steps so not to exhaust your quadriceps muscles.
After two miles we reached a section of the trail with partial views of the mountains.
The views provided an opportunity to stop and take a break from the constant uphill terrain.
A tough section of the trail to navigate holding a 35-mm camera.
Just a friendly reminder from the National Forest Service.
The trail narrowed with dense tree growth on both sides.
In the occasional openings we could see some of the Presidential Mountains. In the center of the picture is Mt Washington at 6,288ft, the tallest mountain in the state and on the left, partially hidden by the tree trunk and branch, is Mt Jefferson at 5,712 ft.
We emerged from the forested area and fortunately for us there was no wind. This is the section of the trail where weather conditions dictate whether or not it is safe to continue hiking above the tree line. In the winter, on average, Mt Washington experiences hurricane-force winds once every three days and 100-mph winds once a week. This line explains it clearly: Mt. Washington’s danger lies not in its height, the length of its trail, or the roughness of its terrain. Its danger lies in how the mountain makes its own weather.
We had broad sweeping views leading to the Washington summit.
After 2.5 hours we reached the junction with Crawford Trail which leads to the Presidential Traverse and Mt. Washington. After our lunch break, we'd follow the Eisenhower Loop to the summit.
What a background.
We needed to hike up this rock outcropping before heading to the summit. It was a bigger than it looks in the picture.
A close up of a hiker climbing the outcropping
Time to get moving again.
Dave making his way up the switchbacks of this crag. What amazing luck to have such a clear view of Mt Washington (first peak moving left to right).
Dave waiting patiently ahead. I'm not a slow climber, it takes time to position myself to get the perfect shot.
From this elevation, we could look down see our lunch spot and where the Edmands and Crawford trails intersected.
Still climbing the crag.
Although the cairns weren't needed today they are probably life savers during bad weather.
Twenty minutes after restarting, we were on the bald summit of Mt Eisenhower (4,760 ft) with 360 degree views. In 1972 this mountain known as Mt Pleasant was renamed by the NH state legislature in honor of the former US president.
Clear skies looking toward the east.
Starting to hike off the summit via switchbacks.
We were heading to the ridgeline. Mt Pierce is the tallest peak in the foreground located just left of center in the picture below.
Walking along the mostly flat ridgeline was a welcome break.
Several sections of the trail had raised platforms to protect the fragile plant life in these boggy areas.
The Webster Cliff Trail to Mt Pierce was marked by a small sign but I photographed the wrong side.
On the short 0.1 mile summit trail looking back at the dome-shaped summit of Mt Eisenhower and the ridge line we had followed after dropping off the summit.
A close-up of the geodetic survey marker at the Mount Pierce summit (4,310 ft). The 2nd NH 4000 footer conquered today.
It was an easy 1.5 mile hike between summits but now it was time to return to the Crawford Path and begin the grueling downhill section of the loop.
Because trails in the Whites run straight up and down the mountains at steep grades without switchbacks, they behave like rivers when it rains. The trails become channels for the water causing erosion and exposing even more roots and rocks and further deepening the trails and channels.
The never ending rocky road continued for 3 miles with an average grade of 20% or more.
Some people don’t mind and sail effortlessly from rock to rock. Others, like me carefully navigate between rocks and around roots.
One highlight that broke up the monotony of navigating every rock and root was Gibbs Falls.
Less than a half mile later we were back at the car and ready for the long drive home.
Hike Distance: 10.8 miles
Duration: 7.25 hours
Average Pace: 40.5 min/mile
We had a great view of Mt Eisenhower from Route 302 as we were heading home.