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Newby to Whites needs dayhike davice (LONG post)



I have the opportunity to come up to the Whites for the first time ever for about three-and-one-half days at the end of September. I've purchased the AMC's White Mountain Guide & maps, have done much web surfing for suggestions, and have polled the members of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (my local org.) for their recommendations. I'm now about 90% sure how I want to spend my time up there but wanted to solicit your advice and recommendations.

Because my time is limited and I really enjoy CHALLENGING hikes, I'm looking for maximum "grind" combined with maximum beauty. I can understand that I may not get as much of both grind and beauty as I want in any given hike but I'm willing to compromise to get as much of each as I can. BTW, I'll be staying at Pinkham Notch my entire visit.

Here's my plan (not necessarily in the order in which I'll hike them):

#1 Mt. Washington - I HAVE to hike this one because it's the tallest. I plan on doing this via Ammonoosuc-Crawford-Gulfside-Jewell. This seems to be one of a few pretty "traditional" loops.

#2 Mt. Adams - this one seems to have the advantage of climbing the headwall of King Ravine but here's where I really need some advice. I plan on doing this one via Airline-Short Line-King Ravine-Airline to the summit. The return part of the loop has me a little puzzled. Based on what I've read I'm sure I DON'T want to return by the same route. But I'd like to be able to have nice views of King Ravine on the way back to the car (Appalachia). Is the Airline a reasonable RETURN trail? Does it have an inordinate amount of steep downhill (gotta worry about these old knees of mine)? Do you recommend some other return route?

#3 Franconia Ridge - HAVE to do this one because it seems to be an almost universally agreed-upon "must do" hike. This also appears to be another of those "traditional" loops: Falling Waters-Franconia Ridge-Greenleaf-Old Bridle Path.

#4 Tuckerman Ravine - again, based on the research I've done, it seems to almost be a sin to hike the Whites and not see Tuckerman Ravine. Here's where I'm most stumped. Hikes 1, 2, and 3 will, I figure, use up a majority of the first three days I'm there (and will probably use up most of my energy in the process). I don't have to leave Pinkham Notch until around 3:00 in the afternoon of my last day to catch a flight out of Portland, Maine at 7:20 that evening (burning up some frequent flier miles here). I've considered doing a Tuckerman Ravine-Lawn Cutoff-Davis Path-Boott Spur-Tuckerman Ravine loop. It's a little over 8 miles which is easily do-able in 4-5 hours where I do most of my hiking (Shenandoah National Park). Since I'm staying in the Lodge I can begin hiking by 7-7:30 in the morning so I'll have about 7 hours or so to do this one. Does it make sense? An alternative I've looked at is a loop doing Tuckerman Ravine-Boott Spur Link-Boott Spur-Tuckerman. This one's around 5.5 miles thus about 3-4 hours (I'm guessing). What do you suggest?

Please remember this is my first time! I want to get as much out of this trip as I can. From what I've read and heard I fully expect it will not be my last time either! I have no doubt I'll only be scratching the surface during one short visit. Here's the deal: you guys and gals AWE me this time and I PROMISE I'll come back to do more. There are individuals in this area who make an annual "pilgrimage" to the Whites ... I could do that!

Thanks in advance for your help.



Staff member
Jul 1, 2001
Peter - It's a little tough to give advice without knowing your hiking ability/experience, aside from the fact that you like 'challenging' hikes. All of the hikes you mentioned are very challenging and not for beginners, and will provide both maximum 'grind' and beauty.

The second point I'd like to make is that late September above treeline in the White Mountains can be a lot like winter. To put it in perspective, the average wind speed in September on Mount Washington is 29.1 MPH; average wind chill is 13 degrees F. In October, the average wind speed is 33.8 MPH with an average wind chill -4 degrees F. Snow can fall on Mount Washington every month of the year so be sure to bring along gear and clothing appropriate for hiking in these conditions. You may not necessarily need to use it, but you need to carry it. I'm not saying you'll definitely see conditions like this, but you need to be prepared as many inexperienced and unprepared hikers have died in these areas from exposure. For more info on Mount Washington climatology, click here.

Re: Hike #1:

Definitely a winner. The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail is one of the most popular route up Washington so you may have a lot of company, especially on a weekend day. Early October is normally prime leaf peeping season so expect a lot of people. Ammonoosuc is a very direct ascent to the ridgeline so it's certainly going to be a challenge. I prefer steep ascents like this myself due to the very quick altitude gains, but be sure to pace yourself. The cone of Washington is no joke either and you'll want to have energy for that. I've never descended via Jewell, but this is a very popular loop and I've heard Jewell is very nice.

Here is a trip report and images from a variation on this hike from last September. On this trip, Mike P bypassed the summit of Washington and descended the ridgeline from Jefferson via Caps Ridge. Note, this is a much longer and more challenging hike than you proposed and there's still a pretty good walk from the parking area on Jefferson Notch Road to the Cog area where you'll most likely park. As a newbie, I would stick to your plan as it's a bit shorter and you'll end up back at your car, but the images and TR should give you some idea of the scenery and conditions you might experience.

Here's another TR up Washington via Jewell.

Other Mount Washington images with some great pics of Tucks.

Re: Hike #2:

Don't have a lot of advice here as I've never summited Adams this way. Check here for some info. I'm sure others will comment.

Re: Hike #3:

This is a great hike, but again can be very crowded as it's also very popular. The Franconia Ridge is a bit tamer than the Presidentials, but you still need to carry appropriate gear. Here are some images from this loop:


Re: Hike #4:

I took <a href="http://www.alpinezone.com/hiking/01images/tuckerman/">my first hike into
Tuckerman</a> this past May. We only hiked up to the Ranger Station to check out the skiers but the area is awesome! One of the most impressive spots in the White Mountain, and yup, you guessed it, will probably be pretty crowded. You can certainly kill two birds by summiting Washington during your trip up into Tucks. Take the Tuckerman Ravine Trail right to the summit and descend via Tuck Ravine Trail and Lion's Head. Not a total loop hike, but descending the headwall after climbing Washington can't be a lot of fun (never done it) so Lion's Head would be a better way down.

It seems like you're researching these hikes a lot which is a good approach. Please don't underestimate the potential severity of the weather in these areas. I hope others here will reiterate that fact. All of these hikes are great choices for experiencing the White Mountains though and you should have a blast! If you plan accordingly, you should be fine. And when you get back to Virginia, write be a trip report and pass along some images and I'll publish them on the AlpineZone.com! Hope this info helps and best of luck Peter!

Greg Blasko
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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Administrator on 2001-07-30 09:42 ]</font>

Mike P.

Jul 1, 2001
See my reply on AMC's Hiker Journal page where you also posted your question.


I'm thinking, if you are really pressed for time... the 2 Mt. Washington climbs may be a little redundant.

Since you are staying at Pinkham, why not forgo Ammonoosuc (from the far side of the mtn), then do Nelson Crag up past Huntington Ravine and the Alpine Garden, to the summit of Mt Wash, then down Tuckerman's? (or in reverse) Your estimate of 4-5 hours to do the ravines on your last day seems maybe cutting it close. I would put it at closer to 7-8 hours, > 9 if you do the summit.

Parts of the trail are very steep, and rugged footing makes the going slow, especially around Nelson Crag. Boulders and more boulders.

Was there a few weeks ago. Some photos at:
Nelson Crag

Franconia ridge is most definitely worthwhile. The loop you propose should take ~ 7 hours at an average pace.
Franconia Ridge