Sunday, January 13, 2013

AMC Guide to Mount Washington and the Presidential Range

THE GUIDE to Mount Washington and the Presidential Range

Taken from the Granddaddy of hiking guides for the White Mountains in New Hampshire, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) White Mountain Guide, the AMC Guide to Mount Washington and the Presidential Range is a guide book to every public trail that climbs Mount Washington and the other mountains in the Presidential Range.

Mount Washington and the Presidentials 

Mount Washington and the Presidential Range are located in Northern New Hampshire, in the heart of the White Mountains. Mount Washington at 6,288 feet is the highest mountain north of the Carolinas and east of the Mississippi River. The mountains surrounding Mount Washington along the Presidential Range are lower, but similar in height. The summits of all of these peaks reach above treeline (the altitude at which trees stop growing) and all are exposed to the full force of the weather.

Mount Washington has the well deserved description as home to the “world’s worst weather,” and “the most dangerous small mountain in the world.” The highest recorded surface wind gust was recorded by the Mount Washington Observatory at 231 miles per hour in April of 1934. Winds on all of the Presidentials often reach well over 100 miles per hour and conditions with windchills can often rival the conditions on Antarctica (while the temperatures are more mild, when windchills are factored in, conditions can be at times equivalent). These conditions can occur during any month of the year – the average temperature in the Presidential is below freezing and snow has been recorded in every month of the year. Conditions can change quickly and without warning and anyone hiking in the Presidentials and on Mount Washington should be prepared for the worst.

Inexperienced hikers often do not understand the difficulty of climbing Mount Washington or other Presidentials. While the actual trail mileages may not be that great, the elevation gains can be as much as 4,000 feet. These climbs will take longer and will require more effort than most hikes anywhere else in the east.

Just remember, if conditions are bad, they will only get worse the higher you go and the climb will continue to be just as strenuous, if not even more so. There is nothing wrong with turning around. A hiker/climber who lives to finish the climb another day is a lot better off then one frozen to the mountainside. Many people have died on the Presidentials - don’t become a statistic.

What You’ll Find in the Book 

Coming in at 238 pages, AMC Guide to Mount Washington and the Presidential Range provides comprehensive descriptions of all the trails throughout the Presidential Range.

An introduction to Mount Washington and the Presidentials starts off the book. This introduction reviews Mount Washington’s reputation and conditions and offers advice for novice hikers and climbers new to the area. In addition the introduction reviews regulations in the White Mountain National Forest (where Mount Washington and the Presidentials are located), along with other information pertinent to the area.

Following the Introduction, the trail descriptions are broken down into two main sections, first are the trails on Mount Washington and the southern peaks of the Presidentials, and then the trails on the northern peaks of the Presidentials and in the Great Gulf.

Each trail description goes into almost minute detail about the hike. Major features along the trail are described; as are steep pitches, trail junctions, side trails and more. It is literally as if the descriptions were written as someone was walking the trails, they are that accurate and detailed. The descriptions also contain information on the vertical elevation you will be gaining and losing on the hike, the mileage for each trail and an estimated trip time for that trail.

The book comes with the Appalachian Mountain Club’s map for the Presidential Range. This map shows all of the trails described in the guidebook and provides enough detail surrounding the range that you will be able to locate the trailheads from the surrounding major towns and villages. The map is best used in conjunction with the guidebook as they are both excellent resources and together, you really can’t get any better.

Following the trail descriptions, the AMC Guide to Mount Washington and the Presidential Range delves into a short history of the Mount Washington area and then into a natural history of the Mount Washington area. Both are interesting and entertaining reads and provides a thorough, though quick introduction to the human and natural history of the Mount Washington and the Presidential Range.

The book is quite small and can easily be packed away in your backpack. I would suggest it is always worth carrying with you whenever you are out on any of the trails, because with the multitude of trails in the area, it always helps to have a guidebook and a map so you don’t get confused.

Who Needs This Book? 

If you plan on hiking in the Presidentials, then you should have a copy of this book, or it’s larger cousin, the AMC White Mountain Guide because there are no equals to the detail, quality and thoroughness of the AMC Guide to Mount Washington and the Presidential Range. Additionally, no one should be hiking in the Presidentials without a solid guidebook and map set and this book provides them both.

Should you be considering hikes throughout the rest of the White Mountains, then pick up the AMC White Mountain Guide, which includes the trail descriptions for Mount Washington and the Presidentials, in addition to the rest of the trails in the White Mountain region. However, this book is more massive (as it has to be to cover all of the White Mountains) and less easily carried with you while on your hikes.

But if you’re hiking focuses on Mount Washington or the other Presidentials, or you want a smaller, more packable guide while you are in the Presidentials, do yourself a favor and pick up the AMC Guide to Mount Washington and the Presidential Range, you won’t be disappointed.

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