Month: May 2009

Presidential Figure of Eight

Figure of 8: Pushing the Mountain Run

Wednesday May 27, 2009

img_6468Many have heard of the Pemi Loop here in the White Mountains and it has become the signature long trail run/speed hike in the White Mountains. The Pemi Loop is just over 30 miles and it has an elevation gain and loss of about 9100 feet The thing about the Pemi Loop is that it does not go over the signature range in the White Mountains, the Presidentials! The long hike/run in the Presidentials tends to be and end to end hike that requires two cars and the logistic of a car spot. What I wanted was a loop hike like the Pemi Loop with the same kind of distance and elevation gain and included the majority of the Presidentials, what I came up with was the Presidential Figure of Eight. The reason I call it the Figure of Eight is because of the shape of the route when drawn on a map. The route starts at the AMC Pinkham Notch Camp and climbs via the Tuckerman Ravine Trail across the Bigelow Lawn to Lakes of the Clouds Hut. From there it continues down the Crawford Path and Webster Cliff Trail to Mizpah Hut. From Mizpah the “eight” goes down the Mount Clinton and Dry River Cut-Off trails to the Dry River trail and follows that up the Dry River and Oakes Gulf back up to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut. From there it goes up the Crawford Path towards Mount Washington to the Westside Trail and onto the Gulfside Trail. The Gulside trail is then followed all the way to Mount Madison then down the Osgood and Osgood Cut-Off to the Madison Gulf Trail then on to the Old Jackson Road back to Pinkham. The Presidential Figure of Eight Loop is 30.6 miles long with an elevation change of 10,000 feet. Here is a PDF Map of the route with hour splits, the red line sections are the sections I was able to run while the blue line sections are where I did some speed hiking, it is best viewed at 150%. Figure of Eight Map.

The trip started well all the way to Mizpah Hut, the Southern Presidentials and in particular the Crawford Path has to be some of the best high mountain trail running in the White Mountains. Things started to change as I descended down into the Dry River. The trail is rough and the long winter had taken its toll with mud, debris and blowdowns. The conditions worsened as I descended to and made my way up the Dry River. About 2 miles away from Lakes of the Clouds Hut I started to run into snow, I had expected some snow on the trails but I was surprised by how much was still on the Dry River Trail. There were sections of postholing and a few times it was difficult to find the trail. The Dry River section took far more time than I had planned adding about 1 hour to my estimate. Once I broke treeline the trail cleared out and I was able to keep to a more consistent pace. I was feeling pretty good all the way to Madison Hut, the climb up from the Madison Hut to the summit of Mount Madison however felt very hard. I was able to run down from the summit of Madison all the way to the Madison Gulf Trail but it was a very stiff labored run. When I hit the 2 mile section of the Madison Gulf Trail up to the Mount Washington Auto Road the slight uphill of that trail made it impossible for me to run. I was able to eeek out a run for the final section down the Old Jackson Road.

Here are the statistics;

Trails: Tuckerman Ravine, Lion’s Head, Alpine Garden, Tuckerman Crossover, Crawford, Mount Clinton, Dry River Cut-Off, Dry River, Crawford, Westside, Gulfside, Osgood, Osgood Cutoff, Madison Gulf, Old Jackson Road, , 
Type of Trip: Figure of Eight Loop
Distance: 30.6
Elevation Gain and Loss: 10,000 Feet 
Time: 11 Hours 38 Minutes

The Pack

To give you an idea of what I wore and carried here is a list;

This is what I wore all day;
EMS Techwick Short Sleeve T-Shirt
Patagonia Running Tights (no longer available)

LaSportiva Wildcat Trail Running Shoe
Julbo Sunglasses

This is what I carried;
1.5 Liter Camelback Water Bladder
Marmot Driclime Windshirt
Pearl Izumi Cyclone Gloves
Petzl E Lite
Cell Phone
MP3 Player
Roll of Athletic Tape

This is what I had for food;
3 Snickers Bars
9oz of Trail Mix
5-Hour Energy

Here are the conditions on the summit of Mount Washington during the day;

Temperature Degrees F
8 AM
NNW 23

9 AM

NNW 22
10 AM
NNW 17
11 AM
Variable 5
Variable 7
1 PM
W 8
2 PM
WNW 14
3 PM
W 16
4 PM
W 12
5 PM
6 PM
WNW 15
7 PM
W 12
8 PM
W 10

Quality views and awesome running in the Southern Presidentials

Can’t beat running trails like this

Looking into the black hole of the Dry River

Looking back at the great running of the Southern Presidentials

Now this is a real White Mountain Trail, dropping into the Dry River 

img_6497More fun in the Dry River


Views of the high peaks from the Dry River


Blowdowns and snow, just what a mountain run needs to make it an adventure.


Why trail runs are often measured in miles per hour. Or is that hours per mile???


Back to the good stuff, Jefferson and Adams


The last big up, Mount Madison


The last view of Mount Washington just before entering the trees on the Osgood Trail

Posted by Marc Chauvin in Selected Posts From My Old Site

Chamonix Zermatt Haute Route

April Haute Route
May 11, 2009

img_6306Whenever I haven’t written in my blog for awhile I find it difficult to get started writing one. Often it is not because I don’t have anything to write about it’s usually because too much has gone on and I feel daunted trying to write it all down. For instance my last entry was posted in the middle of March. Since then I’ve ice climbed with Hakan and Mike who were training for Rainier, I climbed with Ed and his grandson for two days, I I taught two 4 day AIARE Level II Avalanches Courses, got to climb with Harold who has been coming up to climb at the end of March for as long as I can remember and I got to climb with Jacky and Tim. That list ended my March. At the start of April I left for Chamonix to do some ski tours, I had scheduled two Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Routes, the first with Ryan, Mike and David the second Haute Route was with Joe, Cameron and Tom.

The first trip started April 5th with a ski down the Vallee Blanche, although this ski descent isn’t very steep it is very scenic and is a good way to get over the jet lag and begin the process of acclimatizing. The next day we took off and started our tour to Zermatt. The weather on this trip was not as good as I have had in the past but it wasn’t so bad as to prevent us from completing the tour. The poor weather we did get had the benefit of creating some really good skiing, particularly the last day where we got good powder skiing down toward Zermatt with the Matterhorn in the background. 

The weather did have it’s challenges though. We had two very poor days, the first was the day from the Dix Hut to the Vignettes Hut, the second was so bad that we couldn’t move so we stayed all day holed up in the Vignettes Hut. The day from the Dix started out pretty good but it soon turned cold windy and eventually so foggy we were in a whiteout. This day also happens to be the highest point you reach on the Haute Route, going over the Pigne D’Arrolla at a height of 3790m (12,435ft). Fortunately I had a good route plan (sample pdf) and we were able to follow that to the Vignette Hut. The route plan I had made for the Haute Route was used as a sample in the book Backcountry Skiing By Martin Volken, Scott Schell, Margaret Wheeler.

After waiting a day at the Vignettes Hut we woke to less wind but the weather still looked marginal. We started that day with the idea that we would give it a try for a couple of hours and if the weather did not improve we would either turn around or descend the Haute Arrolla Glacier as an escape. As we crossed the first of the three cols we had to climb to get to Zermatt the weather started to improve and we made it to the last col in pretty good weather. Once we arrived at the final col the clouds had moved back in and I was getting prepared to navigate the complex glacier down from the col to Zermatt. We skied a couple of hundred meters and we were greeted with clearing skies, a beautiful view of the Matterhorn and powder skiing. It was a brilliant finish to a challenging trip.

After a few days off in Chamonix I met my second group. Our first day was quite eventful. The Haute Route starts with a lift to the top of the Grand Montets ski area and from there quickly leaves the piste and heads down the very popular Glacier de Rognon. After a 30 minute descent down the Glacier de Rognon you cross the Argentiere Glacier and begin your climb to the Col de Chardonnay. We began our descent from the top of the lift and within the first 20 minutes one person in our group took an awkward fall and twisted his knee. Apparently the injury will not require surgery but he was unable to continue the tour. After a couple of hours he was evacuated back to Chamonix and we continued the trip. Unfortunately the delay along with some acclimatization problems slowed us down to such an extent that we all returned to Chamonix. The next day we took the train to Verbier where we stared our trip back up. Fortunately the rest of the trip went well and 4 days later we were in Zermatt.

Since I’ve been home I have had three days of rock climbing in beautiful weather climbing a average of 12 pitches per day with Richard and Jim and then a trip to the Boston area to teach an AMGA Single Pitch Instructors Course. It was quite a change going from skiing in the Alps to rock climbing on NH granite but it was nice getting to enjoy some warm rock. 

Skiing down past some crevasses and seracs

Just before getting to the first hut on the Haute Route

Getting ready to ski down the Val d’Arpette on the second day

Good skiing in the Val d’Arpette

Powder skiing below the Rosablance on day 4 

More powder as we get to the Prafleuri Hut on day 4

David with the Matterhorn in the background during a side trip to
La Luette

Skinning up with the Dix Hut in the background just before the weather went “white”

The group with the Matterhorn clearing up just before a great powder run!

Fresh snow on the Glacier de Rognon
Trip 2

Climbing up to the Col de Momin
Trip 2

Powder to the Prafleuri Hut
Trip 2

Spooning in the turns
Trip 2

The Prafleuri Hut after a great powder run
Trip 2

A beautiful view at the Nacamuli Hut
Trip 2

Posted by Marc Chauvin in Selected Posts From My Old Site