Day 141: The Whites Will Break You

Publish date: Sep 10, 2019

We’ve been walking towards the White Mountains for 140 days now. Along the way, vets have told us: “this is all warm up for the whites!” or “The last 25% of the trail is 75% of the effort!” or “Don’t plan on doing big miles there!”

The hype is true. Our pace has been 2-3 times slower through this section for two reasons.

First of all, they’re technical. They involve sketchy scrambling that you do not want to do when it’s wet out. Most of their 105 AT miles are steep, and apparently no one believes in switchbacks here. Some of these trails are just granite slabs, and all you can do is hope your shoes still have some grip in them. One day another hiker commented on the cuts and bruises on my legs, “looks like you had a nasty fall!” My bruises are thankfully an accumulation of small falls.

Second, they’re tall. This is the first time we’ve been above 5,000 feet since the Roan Mountain area, 1,400 miles ago. At this elevation and latitude we’re walking above tree line. That means exposure to the elements, and the elements here are rough. Mt Washington has the highest wind speed on land recorded in history, and the weather has a reputation for changing rapidly.

Here’s an elevation profile of Pennsylvania:

And here’s one of New Hampshire:

Before now, I never let myself look at photos of these mountains in order to level my expectations. They are magnificent. I really didn’t know that the east coast had these kinds of views. This area is both the most challenging and the most rewarding yet.