For July’s installment of the New Hampshire 4000 footers, I decided to cross another item off my bucket list and tackle the 48 peaks Direttissima style. “Direttissima” is an Italian word meaning “most direct route.” In the context of the NH 4’s, the idea was hatched by Reverend Henry T. Folsom, who in the December 1971 edition of Appalachia defined the endeavor as climbing the 4000 footers in the most direct manner using only trails and roads, starting at one end and walking all the way to the other. Rev. Henry began his quest on June 18, 1970, on Mt. Cabot and finished with Moosilauke on September 3, hiking 19 non-continuous days toward his summer’s goal. Returning home most nights, he also spent 4 nights camping out plus a night at Galehead Hut. Including off-route miles, Henry hoofed a total of 258 miles to complete his Direttissima.
Somewhat surprisingly, the feat was not repeated until the summer of 2007 by friend and Denali ‘08 teammate Mats Roing. Mats added a twist to the challenge: He planned to stay on route for the duration and, excepting water, to carry everything with him from the start. Needless to say, Mats’ pack was huge, but he accomplished what he set out to do in 10 days, 14 hours, 2 minutes, trailhead to trailhead. There are 4 others who are known to have successfully completed the Direttissima: Taylor Radigan (first woman), Arlette Laan, and Ariel and Anna Feindel, the latter pair who own the fastest known time. Like Mats, all 4 accomplished the goal self-supported, backpacker style, more or less. A few others have attempted the feat in Mats’ style but have failed, perhaps underestimating the effects of super-heavy packs on feet and energy levels. To my knowledge no one has attempted a Direttissima in the spirit of Rev. Henry--that is by mostly “day hiking.”
My #1 goal in hiking and peakbagging is to enjoy myself and to have fun. Schlepping a huge pack over the ridiculously gnarly Whites is not my idea of a good time. Having thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, Long Trail, John Muir Trail, High Sierra Trail, and having climbed the Colorado 14ers and US high points, I know what it means--what it FEELS like--to carry a big pack. As a means to an end, carrying a heavy pack sometimes makes sense to me--the long hauls required to really get into the remote Sierra backcountry, for example. In contrast, in summer months everything in the White Mountains is day-hikeable for me, even in the context of the White Mountain Direttissima. So carrying a huge backpack over these peaks holds absolutely zero appeal.
Pack weight aside, other factors in favor of a Rev. Henry-style Direttissima include nightly showers, real food, beer, my own bed, and getting to see my husband and kitties every day, with regular daily life not too terribly disrupted since we normally spend a lot of days hiking anyway. In reading about others’ attempts, perhaps the thing that freaked me out most was the necessity of having to ration food. I like to eat and generally eat what I want, when I want. Rationing food = MAJOR buzz kill. Ultimately, for me, the only real merit in going self-supported would be the ability to hike as far as I want on any particular day, setting up camp wherever it struck my fancy. With the Rev. Henry style, daily mileages are dictated--and sometimes constrained--by road crossings/access. It was a point I was willing to live with. I decided to do the Direttissima in the spirit of Rev. Henry… mostly: I opted to bushwhack to and from Owls Head, and, unlike Henry, I spent EVERY single night at home!
Key to being able to dayhike the Direttissima is, of course, a reliable and supportive crew, and I am most fortunate and thankful to have that in my husband Chris, who helped with 0dark30 car spots, joined me on some peaks, and made damn yummy sandwiches. He is a gem. J
My adventure began on Monday, the 4th of July. *Having Fun* was Rule #1. I vowed not to hike if the forecast was dismal--cold rain, high winds above treeline, etc. Bad weather = no fun. To that end, I hiked a total of 10 days with 4 days off when the weather did not cooperate. Striving solely to complete the Direttissima, I was not particularly interested in pushing myself to move quickly--a supported Direttissima could be done much faster--but I did make note of start and end times each day. I spent a total of ~119 hours covering ~234 miles with ~74,000 feet of elevation gain, which, including breaks, averages just 2 mph. For mileages and vertical I referred solely to the AMC White Mountain Guide and didn’t get too hung up on complete accuracy of numbers. Surely my totals are +/- a few! I did not track mileage on a hi-tech device, use Strava, Garmin, or anything like that. The only techie gear I brought was an iPhone which was used predominantly for texting Chris and a bit for GPS‘ing during the bits of bushwhacking. For the Stony Brook to DW Scout Trail and the Caps Ridge to Starr King Trailhead section, I did throw my pack in the car and run those miles, but all the rest was just walking. I ended up doing 37 peaks solo, the remaining 11 with Chris, and 2 with our buddy Al. Half of my starts were before sunrise; I have really come to love hiking between 4 and 6 am, waking up with the songbirds!
And now, the play by play…
Moosilauke, South Kinsman, North Kinsman, Cannon - 24.4 m, 8800 ft
Trails: Gorge Brook, Beaver Brook, Kinsman Ridge
*Ravine Lodge 4 a.m. I head up Gorge Brook Trail while Chris does the Asquam Ridge-Beaver Brook-Gorge Brook Loop. Moosilauke’s summit is as spectacular as ever, and the morning is a beaut. There is a couple bivying on the summit and enjoying the day’s first light. Chris and I meet near Mt. Jim. At the bottom of Beaver Brook Trail (glad I’m not carrying a big pack--haha), I use my Sawyer mini filter to load up on water for the long trek across Kinsman Ridge. The USFS sign at Kinsman Notch is old and inaccurate: “Mt. Moosilauke 3.2 miles” it says. Yeah, via the old Beaver Brook Trail which was relocated about 20 years ago! (It’s now 3.8 miles.) Kinsman Ridge Trail is also known for signs sporting inaccurate mileages, and I smile when I see that this is still the case, as it has been for the past 20+ years. Just after Mt. Wolf I pass a northbound thru hiker in a Patagonia shirt. He looks like he is not having a good time. The Eliza Brook Shelter to Harrington Pond section is gorgeous. Spotting pitcher plants near Harrington Pond is a real treat, and I enjoy the steep climb up South Kinsman. Near North Kinsman there is a family from my hometown out enjoying the day. We chat for a few minutes before I continue over the Cannonballs and steeply up Cannon. This past spring a huge boulder came crashing down the steeps of KRT settling ON the trail. A new route has been constructed to go around this boulder. I help orient 2 men, each hiking solo down this difficult trail, who came up the tram, are carrying nothing but cell phones, and have no idea where they are. Chris is waiting for me atop Cannon along with a bunch of tourists. There is a lot of litter around the tower, some of which we pick up. Grrr! We head down the remainder of KRT, both of us marveling at the utter nastiness of the severely eroded parts of this trail. Home to beer, food, shower, and bed…
Lafayette, Lincoln, Liberty, Flume, Owls Head, Garfield, Galehead, South Twin, North Twin - 30 m, 11,250 ft
Trails: Greenleaf, Franconia Ridge, bushwhack, Lincoln Brook, Owls Head Path, bushwhack, Lincoln Brook, Franconia Brook, Garfield Ridge, Frost, Twinway, North Twin Spur, North Twin
*Today is the longest day in terms of hours, partly because it involves about 3 miles of bushwhacking. I begin precisely where I stopped yesterday and head up Greenleaf Trail by headlamp, reaching the hut well before breakfast. Other than a few early hut risers, I don’t see anyone until the summit of Lafayette and just a couple others on Franconia Ridge. Chris hikes up Liberty Spring Trail to meet me for Liberty and Flume--yay. After catching my toes on a rock or root, I notice that the sole is really peeling off the forefoot of my very old Montrails and say “Maybe we’ll meet someone who has duct tape.” I am concerned about bushwhacking down to Owlie with a shoe whose sole is peeling off from the front! Chris laughs at me since there is hardly anyone else up there at this hour and chides me for being so frugal. Just as we are about to leave the summit of Flume, I spot a hiker approaching from the south. It’s Jack the Rower, whom I’ve run across on peaks 3 other times this year! What a coincidence, he has duct tape! Thanks, Jack! With the entire front of the shoe now encased in tape, we backtrack toward Flume-Liberty col and I head solo down the “Roing Route” bushwhack toward Lincoln Brook Trail with renewed confidence. Rev. Henry felt negatively toward bushwhacking: “…The reason for this was because I realized that other people might want to do the same thing in a spirit of competition in which they would attempt to find a shorter route. If bushwhacking were allowed, it would be almost impossible to measure the mileage accurately, it would be pure chaos, and, worst of all, some people might get into genuine trouble in the more remote reaches of such places as the Pemi.” (Appalachia Dec. 1971) Pure chaos?! Sorry, Henry… gotta respectfully disagree with ya there and make my own rule on that. And anyway, I’m doing this not for competition but for fun. J
Coincidence #2 for the day: It takes me *exactly* the same amount of time to complete this ‘whack as it did the last time, 5 years ago: 1 hour 26 min. My route is perhaps not the best, being quite scrappy for the first ½ hour, but it works. I head north on Lincoln Brook Trail about a mile, opting for the Owls Head Path since I haven’t been up the slide in awhile, preferring the Brutus route these days. There seem to be more diverging paths since last time. I even hear people coming down a paralleling path to the north, but we never see each other! I hit the summit and head NNW for a repeat of the bushwhack I’ve done off Owlie in each of the past 2 months. Still not convinced this is the most efficient way to go, I am loathe to retrace my steps south across the ridge, back down the Owls Head Path, then UP the wet and gnarly Lincoln Brook Trail, and this seems to be the shortest, easiest ‘whack off the summit, so down I go… Upon reaching the Franconia Brook crossing about 1½ hours later, I luxuriate for a few minutes with my entire body in the water. Heaven! The grind up Franconia Brook Trail goes well, but through the trees I catch glimpses of a peak resembling Everest; my, but Mt. Garfield looks imposing from this vantage point! Heading west toward the waterfall section of Garfield Ridge for the out-and-back to Mt. Garfield, I again meet the Patagonia-clad AT hiker, who asks energetically “DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE AND WHERE YOU ARE GOING?” I calmly answer “Yes, do you?” He is freaked out by the roughness of these trails, and it occurs to me that he doesn’t recognize me from the day before.
I tag Garfield and head over to Galehead Hut. As I am leaving my little pack on the hut porch, a croo member emerges for the “pre-dinner talk.” I head to Galehead Mtn. By the time I return everyone is eating dinner. I head up South Twin. It is a few short hours until sunset, but the light and views are spectacular for the walk over to North Twin. Finally I head down North Twin Trail, easily rock hop across the Little River, and for the only instance during my Direttissima, go off route a mile, continuing straight to the parking lot as the Firewarden’s Trail turns right toward Hale. I am very tired upon reaching the prespotted car but am happy to arrive just before needing to pull out the headlamp, especially given the fact that 3 of today’s miles--the bushwhack miles--were at 1 mph pace. I notice that the Lays potato chip bag--the one containing the chips I was very much looking forward to diving into--has been nibbled on by a small critter. THEN… I notice a mouse turd conspicuously deposited on a pad of Post-its on the dashboard. Ack! I must find the mouse lest it runs over my legs or lap as I am driving home causing me to swerve off the road! Ten minutes of searching the car uncovers a couple stray potato chips but no mouse, so I tentatively start the car and head on home for, you guessed it: shower, food, beer, bed (and also REAL coffee in the morning!).
Incidentally the duct tape held all day, but the shoes are retired after today’s miles. I wear cushy Hokas most of the rest of the days, and they perform marvelously. The mouse was never found.
Hale, Zealand, West Bond, Bond, Bondcliff, South Hancock, North Hancock - 30 m, 8650 ft
Trails: Firewarden’s, Lend-A-Hand, Twinway, Zealand Spur, Bondcliff, West Bond Spur, bushwhack, East Side, Cedar Brook, Hancock Loop, Hancock Notch
*Another pre-dawn start, but this is my last really long day. Firewarden’s Trail is a joy. I see many toads out enjoying the morning. Psyched to reach Zealand Falls Hut just after breakfast. I am very hungry today and inquire about leftovers. A very nice hut girl tells me to help myself and it’s on the house. Music to my ears! I load a plate with bacon and scrambled eggs w/veggies and could eat another but opt for restraint--don’t want breakfast to backfire on the climb up Zeacliff. Heading over toward Zealand, I encounter Patagonia thru-hiker guy one final time. Once again he doesn’t recognize me in my fresh clothes, just mumbles “hi” as he passes by. Too funny. Guyot and West Bond are their usual awesome, but the trek from Bond to Bondcliff is downright HOT, with temps approaching 90 in the valleys. At the old Camp 16 site, I do the short bushwhack to ford the Pemi. I carry Crocs for this purpose, and it feels great to get some air and water on my feet. Like yesterday, I lay in the river for awhile to cool off before continuing the short bushwhack to East Side and Cedar Brook Trails. From this point on, I see no other hikers besides Chris for the rest of the day. Black flies and mosquitoes are slightly annoying, but Cedar Brook Trail goes well, the climb shallow and steady, the trail nicely maintained. Nevertheless, it is a real push to get the Hancocks in at the end of this day, probably the hardest peaks in the entire Direttissima. (I may have had to make a slight exception to the “Have Fun” rule here!) Chris hikes in from the Kanc to meet me near the height of land on Cedar Brook Trail but informs me he has no desire to climb the Hancocks. Such a smart man he! To occupy my brain up the steeps, I start counting steps. From the junction to South Hancock is about 1650 steps in case anyone wants to know.
East Osceola, Osceola, Tecumseh - 15.4 m, 5100 ft
Trails: Kancamagus Highway, Greeley Ponds, Mt. Osceola, Tripoli Road, Mt. Tecumseh, Mountain Road, Pipeline Trail
*Today is a short day that commences with a stroll from the hairpin turn on the Kanc to Greeley Ponds Trailhead. The climb up East Osceola seems slow--the body is feeling the last 3 days--but I have fun scrambling up the Chimney and make it to the main summit in decent shape. On the way down, I encounter almost 40 people, half of them kids from Camp Walt Whitman. Showers are forecast, and just as I hit the Tripoli Road parking lot, the skies open up. I head for the port-a-pot. What perfect timing! The shower quickly passes and I head down Tripoli Road. Chris does Mt. Tecumseh from the backside for the first time and loves it. (“Wow, a nicely maintained White Mtn. trail with dirt instead of rocks!”) We meet near the bottom. I head up, over, and down the ski area side marveling at all the rock steps higher up. A lot of hard work there that is much appreciated! I plan to bushwhack from the ski area to Livermore Trailhead but get lucky and discover the Pipeline Nordic ski trail which pops out near the trailhead. I clean off in Osceola Brook before hopping in the car and doing a long car spot for tomorrow…
North Tripyramid, Middle Tripyramid, Whiteface, Passaconaway - 25.3 m, 5350 ft
Trails: Livermore, Scaur Ridge, Pine Bend Brook, Mt. Tripyramid, Kate Sleeper, Rollins, Dicey’s Mill, Walden, Square Ledge, Passaconaway Cutoff, Oliverian Brook, Kancamagus Highway, Sawyer Pond Trail
*Day 5 is Wild Kingdom Day. We see a fox running along Tripoli Road with a gallon-sized Ziplock bag of dog kibble in its mouth--a campsite robber! Shortly after that a deer bolts across the road. Then I start hiking and spot a small bear and a bull moose on Livermore Trail! Since it has rained the night before, I scratch my plan of ascending the North Slide and its steep wet rocks and use Scaur Ridge Trail instead. It’s probably faster and anyway, what’s another mile? There is no one on the Tripyramids this early in the day, ditto for Kate Sleeper, one of my favorite trails in all of the Whites. A rare occurrence, I actually spend some time taking photographs of dew-laden spider webs and other cool things in this lovely “forest primeval.” On Rollins Trail I finally encounter another hiker, then only 3 more on Passaconaway. The short walk along the Kanc and the last 6 miles to Sawyer River Road are easy, and my feet are refreshed in the Swift River ford. Thankfully the water is low! I meet a couple with a small boy hiking back from Sawyer Pond. They are surprised and say I am the first person they’ve met all day. Sawyer Pond looks so beautiful and inviting, but I’m in git’r done mode so boogie on down to the road.
7/09/16 - Rainy, cold, windy weather. Day off!
7/10/16 - Ditto
Carrigain, Willey, Field, Tom - 22 m, 6750 ft
Trails: Sawyer River Road, FR85, Signal Ridge, Desolation, Carrigain Notch, Shoal Pond, Ethan Pond, Willey Range, Mt. Tom Spur, A-Z, Avalon
*It is Monday morning and I am well rested and rarin’ to go after 2 days off. I know FR85 is going to be loaded with wet grass, but it is a shortcut worth taking, so I resort to an old ultra running trick: slathering my feet in Desitin diaper rash ointment. It seems to help with the wrinkling and subsequent foot pain, but the smells emanating from my feet--good god! (For those who don’t know, Desitin smells like fish, and they don’t call me Stinkyfeet for nothing.) Chris joins me for Carrigain. It is quite brisk on Signal Ridge and feels more like September than July! We are the only ones on the mountain this early in the day, and--no surprises--we meet no one on Desolation Trail this Monday morning. At the bottom Chris takes a right and heads back through Carrigain Notch while I head left toward Stillwater Junction and Shoal Pond Trail. Having done SPT last month, I know what to expect: blowdowns, lots of blowdowns. For entertainment purposes I start counting them--every tree and large branch laying across the trail that I have to step over. By Ethan Pond Trail, I have counted about 350, all below knee height, most laying on the ground. I believe this is the WMNF’s policy on “maintenance” of wilderness-designated trails. I am not complaining, merely reporting, and warning people to get their marching muscles in shape for this trail. J
There are fresh moose tracks and many beautiful wild irises on this trail, also some tricky rotting bog bridges. Upon hitting Ethan Pond Trail, I met a couple of AT hikers, then a few more hikers on the steeps of Willey. Willey, Field, and Tom are pretty unremarkable and soon I am at Crawford Depot and homeward bound. The smelly socks are chucked in the garbage while refueling at an Irving Station!
Jackson, Pierce, Eisenhower, Monroe, Washington, Isolation - 21.8 m, 8400 ft
Trails: Route 302, Webster-Jackson, Webster Cliff, Crawford Path, Mt. Eisenhower Loop, Mt. Monroe Loop, Tuckerman Ravine, Lawn Cutoff, Davis Path, Mt. Isolation Spur, Glen Boulder
*Webster-Jackson Trail is not one of my favorites, and I lament not starting before daybreak: the less I SEE of this trail, the better! Mizpah’s post-breakfast offerings are no match to Zealand’s--plus they aren’t on the house--so I don‘t linger. The sky is most interesting this morning, with Mt. Washington totally in the clouds, which allows Mt. Monroe to stand out in all her glory without the overshadowing backdrop of her dominating neighbor. I actually take a photo! It is funny to see hardly anyone on the trail, then, predictably, like clockwork, the hut crowds marching down the trail after breakfast. Chris meets me at Lakes of the Clouds Hut after ascending Tuckerman Ravine. We climb Washington together, encountering a guy with only one leg climbing the mountain (!) and some hikers carrying a long-haired Chihuahua in a special doggie daypack, one with a hole that allows the dog’s head to stick out. Haha, so cute! We buy soup and ice cream on the summit and have fun people watching for a few minutes before heading down to Isolation. “Which one is the peak?” asks Chris. “One of those little bumps” I say. “It’s not as far as it looks.” He knows I’m lying. It feels hot going down to Isolation and back, and we almost run out of water. Jolly Ranchers and Sour Patch Kids to the rescue! Finally we are heading down Glen Boulder Trail, our new least favorite trail in the Whites. OMG, it is so rocky and steep to descend at the end of a long day! A saving grace is the spring which has good water flow and allows us to not die of dehydration.
7/13/16 - We are wiped out from the day before, plus the weather forecast is calling for high temps. We take the day off!
Wildcat D, Wildcat A, Carter Dome, South Carter, Middle Carter, Moriah - 21.8 m, 7150 ft
Trails: Wildcat Ridge, Carter-Moriah, Carter Dome, Stony Brook, Clay Brook Road, Marion’s Way, Route 16, Pinkham “B” Road, Dolly Copp Campground Road
*Refreshed from my day of rest, I head up Wildcat Ridge Trail from Glen Ellis Falls parking lot by headlamp. It has been 2 or 3 years since I’ve made this climb, usually ascending Wildcat D via the Polecat ski trail. Holy crap, it’s steep. Weather is forecast to be hot again today, but I am over the two BIG climbs--Wildcat Ridge and Carter Dome--by 8 a.m. The rest of the Carters goes quickly, and I jump and lurch my way down North Carter before meeting Chris at the junction with Stony Brook Trail. We do the out-and-back to Moriah, meeting a few southbound AT hikers who ask about the trail ahead. “Easier than the Mahoosucs!” I try to be optimistic. We head down Stony Brook and take the cutoff to the housing development. With my GPS tracker on, I discover that the cutoff saves a whopping 0.9 miles vs. taking the official trail. It is hot in the parking area. I chug down some seltzer, eat some Fritos, throw my pack in the car, and run roads--Clay Brook Road, Marion’s Way, Route 16, Pinkham “B” Road, and through Dolly Copp Campground--3½ miles to the start of the next leg, Daniel Webster Scout Trail.
7/15/16 - We awaken at a ridiculous hour, I check the Obs weather, and suggest another day off. Winds are 50-55 mph, temps around 50--ick. I go to yoga this morning instead.
Madison, Adams, Jefferson - 16.6 m, 6100 ft
Trails: Daniel Webster Scout, Osgood, Gulfside, Airline, Lowe’s, Israel Ridge, Gulfside, Jefferson Loop, Caps Ridge, Jefferson Notch Road, Valley Road, Carter Cut
*Our friend Al pulls himself away from work and joins Chris and me for the first part of today’s hike. Daniel Webster Scout Trail starts off mellow enough but then gets very steep and crosses a talus field which reminds me of certain routes out West. At Madison Hut Chris and I scarf down leftover scrambled eggs and chocolate chip cookies. The 3 of us climb Adams, then Al descends Lowe’s Path. Chris and I soldier on through the fog toward Edmands Col and Mt. Jefferson. Visibility is 1-2 cairns from roughly Sam Adams to Jefferson, but winds are light. We meet people on the trail but don’t see them until they’re only 20-30 feet away so they appear rather ghostlike. Normally I avoid being above treeline in such conditions, but it is actually a very, very cool experience this day. We descend Caps Ridge Trail and have fun scrambling down the rocks. I finally meet fellow Gridiette Lady Grey, and we encounter a guy hiking up barefoot. In the parking lot, I switch over to lighter running shoes, leave the pack in the car, and head down Jefferson Notch Road. It is 5.3 miles to Valley Road, another 0.6 to Carter Cut, and another half mile up to the Carter-Bridgman Spring on Route 2. Traffic on Route 2 is nuts this afternoon, at least by North Country standards. I opt to stop here for the day!
Waumbek, Cabot - 27 m, 6750 ft
Trails: US Route 2, Starr King Road, Starr King, Kilkenny Ridge, Bunnell Notch, York Pond, York Pond Road to fish hatchery gate!
*Running along Route 2 at 4:30 a.m. is a surreal experience. Traffic is very light at this hour on a Sunday morning, and I am SO glad to have saved these road miles for today. Much of the time I run down the middle of the road with my light off, jumping to the side and turning on my light the few instances a vehicle passes by. It is very quiet and I hear a pack of coyotes howling and yipping in the distance. Awesome!! It is almost exactly 5 miles to the Starr King Trailhead, and, surprisingly, I am actually sad to have to stop running and start hiking. Chris meets me near the trailhead, I grab my pack and head up while Chris drives over to the fish hatchery… well, the fish hatchery gate since the gate is still locked at 6:30 a.m.
Once beyond Mt. Waumbek, the trail is much less traveled and is overgrown with beautiful thigh-high ferns. It starts to rain ever so gently… then a little less gently. I don my shell and pop open my umbrella which keeps my head and upper body pretty dry. However, the waterlogged ferns are doing a good job of soaking legs and feet. As I head east across Waumbek Ridge, both the wind and the rain pick up in intensity, and blowdowns become numerous. I count 164 blowdowns between Waumbek and Willard Notch. This time I *am* complaining. L
Kilkenny Ridge Trail is a GEM. It is not designated wilderness (where such blowdowns seem to be allowed, or even encouraged it seems), so it is sad to see so many of them. Last year I hiked the Cohos Trail and noted all these blowdowns, so they are apparently not cleared with any regularity. After about an hour it stops raining. I spy a deer on my way up North Weeks, then Chris waiting for me on top! We do the rest of the day’s miles together.
We continue down to Bunnell Notch and over the Terraces, where we meet a couple who are thru-hiking the Cohos Trail. I give them a heads up on a couple of spots farther north. Nice to see more folks tackling this wonderful challenging trail. The trail over the Terraces is beautiful, and there are far fewer blowdowns. The trail up Cabot is much more heavily used, and after meeting just 2 people all morning, we meet another 15 or so on the way up/down Cabot. The last summit is anticlimactic as these things often are. Mostly we just want to get down to our celebratory BEERs waiting in the cooler, especially after lower Bunnell Notch Trail drags on longer than expected; THEN we have to walk the 2+ miles on York Pond Road to the gate with lots of dive-bombing deer flies. I walk down the middle of the road so that if anyone comes from behind, they HAVE to stop and pick us up! No one drives by.
Finally, we are done. The beer tastes extra good.
Final thoughts: The Direttissima had intrigued me ever since I first read about Henry T. Folsom many years ago, then again after Mats accomplished the feat in 2007. After climbing these mountains SO many times in SO many different combinations, it was intensely satisfying and great fun to finally string the NH 4’s together in one long, continuous serpentine line… carrying a light pack! Focusing on the “fun” part vs. pushing for a fast, competitive time in unappealing weather was key in the overall experience being a complete joy… well, maybe except for the Hancocks at the end of Day 3 and the deer flies at the very end. Huge thanks and gratitude to Chris for supporting me though this, and all, endeavors! Onto the next thing…