My Trip Report From Setting the White Mountains Direttissima Record
**Disclaimer about the categorization as unsupported** I took water from the AMC huts and used their composting toilets. I deferred to the judgment of the folks who run Fastest Known Time about whether my hike should be considered Unsupported or Self-Supported, and it was decided that the huts are a White Mountains tradition, and that using the free services at the huts should not disqualify from being unsupported. I did not have anyone come join me at any point during my Direttissima.
About 70% of my calories came from Infinit nutrition powder, and the other 30% came from power bars. I didn’t bring a cook system on my hike. Additionally, I dropped my backpack and carried a hydration pack for all out and back sections. When I mention doing an out and back section, you can assume that I was using a hydration pack.
Finally, I am aware that SPOT devices kind of suck in New Hampshire, and the GPX files (available on fastestknowntime.com) from the SPOT device have some obvious holes in them. I hope that this trip report, my Strava tracks, and the SPOT GPX files create a bulletproof case when put together. I also have pictures of my watch with the date and time at the top of almost every mountain, if anyone wants to see those.
7/24/2020 – Day 1 – 44.5 Miles
I set out for my first out and back up Moosilauke at 4:23 a.m. Rain had come through the day before and the trail was damp, but other than being cloudy the conditions were fine. I summited Moosilauke at 5:34 a.m. I then set off toward the Kinsmans. The trail conditions were solid and I made good time, reaching South Kinsman at 10:19 a.m. and North Kinsman at 10:44 a.m. From there I hiked down to the Lonesome Lake Hut where I grabbed water before heading up Cannon. By then the weather had become nice and mostly sunny. After grabbing Cannon at 12:48 p.m., I made my way down to I-93 and headed up the Falling Waters Trail to Franconia Ridge.
After reaching the top of Little Haystack, I took a long out and back to Liberty and Flume, peaking them at 4:22 p.m. and 4:42 p.m., respectively. I then went across Franconia Ridge to Lincoln and Lafayette, reaching those peaks at 6:04 p.m. and 6:27 p.m. I decided to go around Garfield Ridge rather than trying the Lincoln Slide bushwhack, so I kept on going to Garfield. After peaking Garfield at 7:54 p.m., I went into the Pemi Wilderness and finished the day at the 13 Falls tent site.
7/25/2020 – Day 2 – 42.3 Miles
I set out on the long out and back to Owls Head at 5:35 a.m., reaching the summit at 7:19 a.m. After backtracking I headed to Galehead, reaching the summit around 10:30 a.m. After grabbing water from the Galehead Hut, I undertook the steep climb up South Twin, reaching the summit by 11:32 a.m. The weather was crystal clear all day, and this was the one time on the trip that I felt the need to whip out the sunglasses and put on sunscreen. I did the out and back to North Twin, grabbing the summit at 11:58 a.m. before continuing along the Pemi Loop. I did the out and back to Zealand, grabbing the summit at 1:33 p.m.
Continuing along the Pemi Loop, I made quick work of West Bond, Bond, and Bondcliff, grabbing the peaks at 2:25 p.m., 2:48 p.m., and 3:17 p.m. I then headed down to the East Branch of the Pemi River, which is a wide and rocky river that I needed to ford in order to get to the Cedar Brook Trail, which leads to the Hancocks. I continued on to the Hancocks, summiting South Hancock at 7:13 p.m. and North Hancock at 7:39 p.m. I continued beyond the Hancocks and stealth camped near Kancamagus Highway.
7/26/2020 – Day 3 – 40.1 Miles
I began day 3 at 4:28 a.m. by climbing up the Osceolas, reaching East Osceola at 5:51 a.m. and Mount Osceola at 6:16 a.m. Another glass day weather wise, but I was concerned because my phone showed possible thunderstorms set to roll in the next morning. The sunrise was a deep blood red that I have never experienced before. I continued over to Tecumseh, peaking it at 8:53 a.m. I headed down to the base of the ski area and then started the road walk over to the Tripyramids. Middle Tripyramid was one of the 4,000 footers that I had not hiked before, and it was much more difficult than I had expected for a mountain in the Sandwich Range. I got to the top at 12:19 p.m. before doing an out and back to North Tripyramid, grabbing the peak at 12:34 p.m. I then headed over to Whiteface and Passaconaway, reaching the summits at 2:19pm and 3:44pm respectively.
After descending Passaconaway I headed toward Carrigain on the Sawyer Pond Trail. After a few easy and flat miles, I stopped near the Sawyer Pond campsite sometime between 7:15 and 7:45 p.m.
7/27/2020 – Day 4 – 40.8 Miles
Technically day 4 started during day 3. I was concerned about the thunderstorms that were supposed to roll in by midmorning on day 4, so I decided to night hike. I slept from about 8:30 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. on day 3, and I then got up and got back on the trail at 11:52 p.m. I went up FR58 toward Carrigain, which has evidently not been a fire road for many years. It was incredibly overgrown and difficult to follow at night. Eventually I made it to the Signal Ridge Trail and summited Carrigain at 2:45 a.m. Carrigain was the last NH 4,000-footer that I had never previously hiked, and I found it rather anticlimactic to finish the NH 48 in the pitch dark.
I kept going toward Zealand on the Shoal Pond Trail, which may be my least favorite trail of all time. Even though it had not yet rained, the trail was soaking wet, muddy, and overgrown almost the entire length. I saw four moose during this stretch and was startled by a fifth large animal somewhere to my right which I lay eyes on. I started getting rained on as I neared the Zealand Hut, where I grabbed water and then did an out and back to Hale, bagging the peak at 7:49 a.m. I did not document exactly when I hit Field and Willey because I was still under the impression that I was racing thunderstorms, but the weather began to clear right before I hit Tom at 11:31 a.m. The thunder thankfully never arrived.
I headed down to the Highland Center where I took a break and allowed my shoes and socks to dry out as the sun had come out. I then headed up Crawford Path to the Mizpah Hut. I set up my tent nearby and did a quick out and back to Jackson, reaching the summit at 5:25 p.m. I got some much-needed sleep that night to make up for the short sleep the night before, sleeping from about 7:30 p.m. to 4 a.m.
7/28/2020 – Day 5 – 42.1 Miles
The next morning, I was again nervous as there was a chance of thunderstorms from midmorning forward. I got on trail at 4:59 a.m. and traversed the Southern Presidentials as quickly as I could manage, summiting Pierce, Eisenhower, and Monroe at 5:22 a.m., 5:55 a.m., and 6:42 a.m. I then ran up and summited Washington as quickly as possible, hitting the summit at 7:30 a.m. From the time I summited Eisenhower almost to Isolation I was in the clouds with very strong wind and moderate but sideways and pelting rain. Again, luckily the thunderstorms never arrived. After returning from the summit of Washington, I took the Camel Trail over to Davis Path, which I followed to the peak of Isolation at 9:17 a.m.
The day had turned from rainy to partly sunny by the time I reached Route 16, and for that I was extremely thankful. I then headed up the Wildcats, hitting Wildcat D and Wildcat at 1:03 p.m. and 1:47 p.m. The climb up Wildcat is another that is sneaky difficult, but I had already done this climb on my AT thru-hike last year, so I knew what to expect. After watering up at the Carter Notch Hut, I continued along the Carter-Moriah Range, peaking Carter Dome, South Carter, Middle Carter, and Moriah at 3:43 p.m., 4:21 p.m., 4:46 p.m., and 6:25 p.m. I then descended on the Stony Brook Trail to Route 16, where I road walked over to the start of the Daniel Webster Scout (DWS) Trail.
One important note here: the Dolly Copp campground is at the base of the DWS Trail. I found a stealth spot nearby as I felt as though it would be against the spirit of the hike to stay at a paid campground.
7/29/2020 – Day 5.5 – 42.9 Miles
I got on trail the last day at 3:43 a.m., reaching the top of Madison as the sun was rising at 5:32 a.m. This last day was absolutely sublime weather wise. I made my way across the Northern Presidentials, hitting Adams and Jefferson at 6:12 a.m. and 7:01 a.m. I then descended on the Caps Ridge Trail and took the long 12-mile road walk over to the beginning of the Star King Trail. I was pushing myself pretty hard through these last miles as I wanted to put down the best time that I could. I summited Waumbek at 12:43 p.m. and then began the lengthy and overgrown hike on the Kilkenny Ridge trail over to Cabot. I finally reached the summit of Cabot at 4:04 p.m., making my “trailhead to last summit time” five days, 11 hours and 41 minutes.
However, tradition is to use the “trailhead to trailhead” time as the official time, so I motored down Cabot to York Pond Road, reaching my final destination at 5:28 p.m., making my White Mountains Direttissima five days, 13 hours, and five minutes.
If you have questions feel free to comment or shoot me an email! [email protected]
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Enjoyed reading about your experience very much. Oh to be 21 again! I just finished the 48 in June at age 72 and I am in awe of how you “grabbed” the mountains. I never knew that you could do so many in succession – most of mine were in and back out.
Keep on hiking and writing. Congratulations 🎊
That is some tough hiking! Well done!
Amazing! Congrats! Thanks for posting