AMC Huts 1997

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SCWDC Hut to Hut Traverse of the Presidential Range '97

Last Update: 8/27/97
New Information:

Driving Directions to Pinkham Notch

Daily Hiking Itinerary

The daily hiking itinerary html file was automatically created with Word and it made it 50% larger than necessary. I can provide a more compact listing if desired (2 pages vs. 3).

If there are any other ham radio operators in the group who have 2 meter or 440 HT's please bring them along. It would be a great way for us to stay in contact over this sprawling area. There are four ham radio repeaters on top of Mt. Washington, not to mention many others in the area.

This is a beautiful geographic area with outstanding hiking, and backpacking during the warm season and excellent snowshoeing and back country skiing during winter. More people visit the White Mountains per year than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined. Much of our trek will be above tree line providing spectacular panoramic views of the Presidential Range. We will traverse the entire Presidential Range during this week of hut to hut hiking. Numerous opportunities will be available for peak bagging during the trip. We will be hiking on the Appalachian Trail (AT) for most of the week with some potential side trips. The AT skirts some of the peaks and crosses others. Skirted peaks can be reached via side trails if desired. The highest peak will be Mt. Washington at 6288 ft.

If the weather is good we can have some flexibility as to the routes people choose to take. Some days may have alternative hikes from one hut to the other, as well as the previously mentioned peak bagging. If the weather is bad we will hike as a group and all stay on the same trail. Because of potentially severe weather and that a number of trip participants are day hikers and not experienced backpackers, I have included more information in this trip description than I normally would, particularly in regard to required equipment.

The huts are typically spaced 6 to 10 miles apart. Due to the steepness of the terrain, potential for severe weather, and the increased pack load relative to day hiking, this is a reasonable distance to travel in a day. If the weather is good there will be opportunities to add short but steep side trips to nearby peaks or do a short day hike from the next hut. On some days the entire day will be consumed just getting to the next hut. An average hike in the White Mountains is equivalent to the most difficult hikes that we do in the Mid Atlantic States. The most difficult hikes have either been eliminated or made optional for this trip.

Trip Itinerary

Trip Dates: 9/5/97 to 9/14/97

Depart: 9/5 or 6, PYOT, a list of participants will be distributed for car pool formation
Saturday 9/6

  • Arrive: Pinkham Notch Visitors Center
    6:00 PM Supper at Joe Dodge Lodge
    spend the night at Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham Notch

Sunday 9/7

  • Leave Pinkham Notch via shuttle to trailhead
    Follow trail to Galehead Hut
    Dinner at 6:00, spend the night
    Optional day hike from the hut

Monday 9/8

  • Leave for Zealand Falls Hut after breakfast
    Dinner at 6:00, spend the night
    Optional day hike from the hut, or just enjoy the falls
    and take a soapless bath

Tuesday 9/9

  • Leave for Mizpah Hut after breakfast
    Dinner at 6:00, spend the night

Wednesday 9/10

  • Leave for Lakes of the Clouds Hut
    Dinner at 6:00, spend the night
    Day hike to Mt. Washington

Thursday 9/11

  • Leave for Madison Hut
    Dinner at 6:00, spend the night
    Optional day hike from the hut

Friday 9/12

  • Leave to return to Pinkham notch
    end of trip
    stay at the lodge Friday night
    go out to dinner

Saturday 9/13

  • Drive home or stay one more day and night for an optional day hike to Mt. Washington from Pinkham
    Must make your own reservation for Saturday night

Mt. Washington Weather

Anticipated weather includes anything from warm and sunny conditions to cold, wet, and very windy. The weather here can be SEVERE. You must bring a small amount of winter gear for possible use (MANDATORY - NO EXCEPTIONS). See below for details. Mt. Washington has some of the worst weather on earth. It is much less likely that we would run into this in summer or early fall, but it is possible.

Equipment you will need

sturdy, broken in, hiking boots that give you good ankle support and a stiff sole for rock hopping. Light weight hiking boots are the minimum acceptable option up here.

Hot Weather
Shorts, T shirts, sun glasses, sun block, visored hat, bandanna

Cool weather
Wool or fleece sweaters or jackets, warmer hat

Severe weather (Mandatory Equipment)
Heavy wool or fleece hat or balaclava
Heavy wool or fleece gloves or mittens
Wool or fleece sweater or jacket
long pants
long thermal underwear tops and bottoms
rain suit

Absolutely no cotton clothing in this category! Everything must be wool, fleece, or synthetic. You need enough winter gear to make it to the next hut, retreat to the last hut, or retreat off the mountain. You don’t need enough for a real winter trip.

You also must have something for rain. A poncho is a cost effective solution below treeline but is at best a nuisance above treeline in high wind. A rain suit is the preferred solution. Waterproof and breathable is desirable. A cheap, waterproof only, rain suit would be much better than a poncho. Some design features to look for in a rain suit: waterproof, breathable, zippers at the bottom of the pants leg, pit zips, dual main zippers on the jacket, an internal mesh, and a hood that closes around your face. You have to be able to put the pants on without taking off your boots.
Also because of potential high winds I do not use an external pack rain cover in the White Mountains, I use a large garbage bag inside the pack. A poncho or loose fitting external pack rain cover could be dangerous in high winds.

3/4 or full sized internal or external pack, with a hip belt, should fit you comfortably. Approximately 3000 to 5000 cubic inches.

Map & Compass
You can get a set of maps from the AMC, Tyvek is recommended over paper. You can also buy individual maps at Pinkham Notch. Recommend buying the AMC White Mountain Guide book which includes a set of topographic maps. You don’t necessarily need the guide book (while you are hiking) but you will need several of the maps in the set (#5 and 6).

Miscellaneous Gear
Sleeping bag liner as a sheet.
Flashlight , extra bulb, & extra batteries
personal toilet gear
toilet paper & trowel
first aid kit (include iodine water purification tablets)
blister supplies
any prescription medication
glasses if you need them to read maps
2 quart water bottles
lunch & snacks

Optional Equipment
camera, extra film and batteries
cards or games
light reading
GPS receiver
ham radio transceiver
light weight shorts and shoes to wear in the hut
swim suit (the only place you might use this is at Zealand Falls hut)

keep the weight and volume as low as possible, try to make items do double duty, only bring items you are sure that you will use

Equipment you DO NOT need
tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove, cooking utensils, eating utensils (except for lunch if desired), water filter, breakfast and dinner

Rental Gear
As some of you who are new to backpacking are beginning to gather, there is a big jump from day hiking to backpacking. Typically the kind of gear that could be rented, if you don't already have it, includes: tent, backpack, sleeping bag, and stove. Most of which we are not even using on this trip. You could rent a backpack for this trip if you don’t already have one and really don’t want to buy one. Plan on getting all of your gear ready down here, there won’t be enough time to find places to rent stuff up there. You would be better off renting it here so you can try the fit. In recent years designers have been bringing out backpacks designed to fit women more comfortably than a standard pack for a man. Whether you buy or rent a backpack, make sure it fits comfortably. Just like boots, if it hurts in the store, it'll kill you on the trail.

Packing Your Pack

Put things that you might need quickly or frequently in outside pockets: maps, compass, water, snacks, rain gear, etc. For efficiency pack the heaviest items close to your back and up high for men, somewhat lower for women. You want the center of gravity of the pack to be close to the center of gravity of your body. A properly fitted, adjusted, and packed pack will move with you. You should not be fighting it. If balance is an issue, you want the center of gravity of the pack to be somewhat lower; i.e., for rock scrambling or back country skiing.

Physical Conditioning

This is not a series of day hikes. This is essentially a week long backpacking trip. Because we are staying in huts and having two thirds of our meals prepared for us we will carry about 1/2 to 2/3 of what a backpacker would normally carry. Expect to be carrying 25 to 35 pounds per person all week. Because the terrain is quite steep, try (real hard) not to exceed 35 pounds. You must be in good physical condition. This trip is suitable for experienced backpackers and strong dayhikers. This trip is not suitable for beginners and hikers who are out of shape. Participants must also have good eye - hand - foot coordination and balance as quite a bit of this hike is above tree line and will involve some rock hopping. As far as rock scrambling is concerned, it really isn’t any more difficult than doing Old Rag (at least the trails that I’ve been on which is most of the ones that we will be doing on this trip).

Pinkham Notch Visitors Center & Joe Dodge Lodge

This is a combined dormitory, cafeteria, and equipment store where people stay before and after their trips to the huts or during day trips in the area. The accommodations include 2 or 4 person bunk rooms. Common but separate bathrooms with showers are available. Excess gear must be kept in your car while you are staying in the huts. The gear store is open until 10:00 PM and carries miscellaneous gear such as thermal underwear, hats, gloves, maps, guide books, some film and batteries (limited choices), snack food, some first aid gear, etc.

The Huts

These are primitive and remote mountain huts. The only way to get there is on foot or via helicopter. All supplies are brought in this way. Each hut can accommodate about 40 to 60 people. While each hut is different, there are normally two coed bunk rooms, with bunks stacked three or four high. Each wooden bunk includes a mattress, three heavy wool blankets, and a pillow. There will be separate sex toilets, one per bunk room. Only Mizpah Hut has flush toilets, all the rest use privies. There is running water at the huts. The water at the huts can be assumed to be safe to drink, but its always a good idea to ask first. Fill your water bottles here each day.

All of these huts are “Full Service” meaning we get a hearty, prepared breakfast and dinner each day. You must provide your own lunch and snacks. It is possible to “weasel” lunch. The amount of food that they provide is Enormous. You could use your desert cake or bread or fruit for lunch the next day if you want. Its probably not a good idea to depend on this every day. You might forget or they might run out of food (unheard of).

Each full service hut is manned or “womaned” by a four person crew, referred to as “Da Croo”. Each of them has to pack in 80 to 120 pounds of food per week (usually in a single trip) and pack out an equivalent amount of garbage. The women have to carry the same amount as the men. God I love equality. They can make more trips if they wish - but nobody wants to do that - that would be too easy. Breakfast and dinner trash is packed out by Da Croo. Your own personal snack and lunch trash is packed out by guess who ? There are no trash cans. They have enough trash to carry, you have to pack out your own.

You can buy some items at the huts: maps, T shirts, thermal underwear, gloves, hats, candy bars, very limited selection of film and batteries, ear plugs (yes snoring can be a problem - if you snore please don’t go on this trip). You cannot depend on buying needed cold weather gear at the next hut - you might not get that far.

Shuttle Vans

There is a shuttle van service provided by AMC which runs around the White Mountain area surrounding Mt. Washington. This is typically the easiest way to get to and from the appropriate trailheads from Pinkham Notch.

Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC)

The AMC has been in existence since the 1800’s and has an agreement with the National Park Service (NPS) to run the mountain huts in the White Mountains. I have been very impressed with them as an organization. They offer a huge number of workshops each year on outdoor travel, recreation, etc. Most of their activities take place in New England but they do cover the Mid Atlantic states as well (NY, NJ, EPA, and MD). I did a five day snowshoeing and backcountry skiing trip with them last March which was beautiful and exhausting. I will probably be doing a telemark ski workshop with them this winter.

Appalachian Mountain Club (main office)
5 Joy Street
Boston, MA 02108

Pinkham Notch Visitors Center & Joe Dodge Lodge
POB 298 Gorham, New Hampshire 03581
Hiking & Weather Conditions: 603-466-2725
Reservations: 603-466-2727
Book & Map Sales: 800-262-4455

Because we made our reservations as a group we got the member price at the huts. You do not need to be a member for this trip. Members do get a 10% discount on their workshops which will frequently pay for all or most of the annual membership.

Map & Guidebook Options

  • AMC White Mountain Guide, 25th ed. + complete set of maps (1,2,4,5,6,7,8) for the White Mountains, $16.95
  • Individual Maps 5 and 6, about $3 to $5 each
  • Single Large Map of Mount Washington, $8.95 shows from Lakes of the Clouds to Pinkham Notch only
  • Everyone must have at least maps 5 and 6
  • Paper or Tyvek available


Estimated cost is a maximum of $310, per person, excluding transportation to and from New Hampshire, lunches, snacks, books & maps, tips, and any required gear that you don’t currently have.

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