The Whites and Avoiding Fear Mongering


The White Mountains… they’re infamous, they’re awe-inspiring, and… they’re scary as sh*t…. or that’s what “they say”

Going into the White Mountains, I was terrified. One, because I had recently separated from my previous tramily — meaning I was alone, and two because I let “them” get into my head. When you’re on trail or considering hiking, EVERYONE is going to have a warning or opinion about the trek you’re planning for, and when you mention the AT — the Whites will inevitably come up.

Don’t Listen

I thought that once I was on the AT, I would feel confident approaching the Whites, and maybe I would have felt that way. However, I really let everyone else’s horror stories affect me.

I had one hostel in particular, that looking back now, was really just interested in making money from slackpacking and definitely uses fear-mongering as their #1 sales pitch that had me leaving in tears I was so terrified. I mean I actually cried I was so scared…

While the Whites deserve respect, as they are a true challenge — they ARE doable! I found this post so important to write because I wish someone would’ve told me to ignore the nay-sayers and go into the Whites with an open mind.

This section of trail tested me more than any other section, but I did it! You can too!! I had NEVER hiked any terrain like the Whites, and I made it to the other side just fine. Not only did I make it, but I felt like a BAD A*S at the end of it. I can look back at this section as one of my favorites now too.


Do Listen

I managed to make a great new tramily in the Whites which absolutely helped my morale. Leaning on other hikers in tough sections for mood boosts was a key part of getting through the tough climbs. Another aspect of hiking with others in the Whites was the ability to learn.

One member of my new tramily was from MA, and they were very experienced in the Whites. They were able to help me in technical sections of climbing when my fear was clouding my judgment of where to put my hands or feet. My new tramily also taught me about Alpine zones as I was very uneducated on the importance of protecting them.

Picking the right people to listen to was crucial to my personal experience through the Whites. I know others that preferred to go through the Whites alone, so you can definitely do that too. Just in my experience, my tramily was a major factor in how much I enjoyed the Whites and helped ensure my summit of Mama K (Mount Katahdin).

The Whites weather is unpredictable, but if you listen to rangers and have the right gear you can avoid a lot of discomfort. This is not to say that the Whites will be all sunshine and rainbows because let’s be real here, thru hiking isn’t a sport for someone looking for nothing but happy little trees. However, every storm means you’re a little closer to a sunny day, and let me tell you, just one day of views in the Whites and those rose-colored goggles will become fixed in place.

You Got It

To all those considering a thru hike, don’t let the Whites be the part of trail that keeps you from getting out there. For all those that make it out there, don’t quit when you get there. Don’t spend the time leading up to the Whites stressing about whether you can do it or not because you absolutely can. Be smart about who you surround yourself with, and don’t even entertain those who make you feel like you’re anything less than 100% capable of successfully making it through the White Mountains.

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Comments 3

  • Julianne Smith : Jan 27th

    Thank you so much for this post! I’ve heard scary things on YouTube about this section and after that poor young girl died there in November I was really worried. ?

  • Crossword : Jan 27th

    I was so scared of the Whites that I did a section hike on Franconia Ridge the year before to convince myself I could do it! And I completed my thru hike last year with the help of another hiker who I was able to plan with. I think I know which hostel you talked about! I ended up going hut to hut because I am retired and have the funds to do that! But it is definitely the hardest part of the AT!


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