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  • About VJ
  • September 22, 2023 5 min read

    With the New Hampshire state slogan, “Live Free or Die”, it’s hard to not stay curious here.

    New Hampshire may not have any National Parks, but it’s home to one of the lushest National Forests in the country, The White Mountains. On any given day inVJ Shoes USA - Megan Stewart - White Mountains the White Mountains, I am entranced by its wildness, humbled by its immensity, and awed by the mystery of it. It simultaneously amazes and awakens me, but it always elicits a sense of profound serenity.

    There are many peaks here but the infamous summit in New Hampshire is Mount Washington.

    This mountain sits at 6,288 feet and is often referred to as having the worst weather on the planet, rivaling that of Mount Everest during the winter season. The White Mountain National Forest was established in 1918. Prior to that the forest was used primarily for logging and timber purposes.

    Tourism and pioneers in conservation such as John Muir helped advocate preserving the land that is now protected.

    People often travel to the White Mountains because of how accessible they are. Not often can you hop off the interstate and land upon the start of a 4-mile hiking trail with 3,000+ feet of vertical gain. The accessibility of these peaks often leads to fascination with the White Mountains for those who come to visit.

    Having traveled throughout the country a sense of wonderment remains each drive through Franconia Notch as it sits almost at sea level looking up above the Notch to see 5,000-foot mountains aside you.  It is often in these moments of astonishment that people learn of “the list”, also known as the New Hampshire 4000-footer club.

    On any given day hiking a 4,000-footer in the White Mountains, someone will likely ask you, “are you working on the list” and “what peak do you plan to finish on”.

    There is a comradery that amasses to people of all ages and abilities.  There is aVJ Shoes USA Megan Stewart - White Mountains positive energy flow in the region that feels supportive and willing to help, which is why many say they’re drawn to it. I was one of those people who became mesmerized by the peaks on this list.

    There are so many approaches to these mountains, and they never lose their beauty or grit. You can spend the day doing 1 peak as a loop or an out and back or you can condense your miles into the most efficient way to peak bag as many summits as you can in a single day. The journey is yours and there is no right or wrong way to experience these so long as you are prepared. The 48-journey fueled my passion for ultra hiking over these ranges. Two popular ultra day hikes in the region are known as the Pemigewasset Loop “Pemi Loop” or the Presidential Traverse “Presi”.

    This list consists of 48 mountains all 4,000 feet or higher.

    For hikers that live in areas outside of the Northeast this list seems like a walk in theVJ Shoes USA Megan Stewart - Hiking The White Mountains park based on elevation at the summit. I often find people saying the Northeast is humbling as they are much more difficult than anticipated. The benefit of this lower elevation is that altitude is rarely a factor for peril, but rooted rocky terrain along with unpredictable weather will always exist as a danger. Checking the mountain forecast is paramount for safety at higher elevations in the Northeast.

    These mountains weren’t built for herd paths and wagons, they were built for surveying, and that often meant establishing the most direct route up the mountain. The most direct route means that you’re probably going to be facing rocky wet terrain and there is a higher likelihood of unprecedented wind picking up at any time as wind likes to climb up steepness.

    How do you prepare for long days grabbing multiple peaks?

    Find a comfortable shoe – VJ’s Ultra 2 has proven to handle these rugged peaks with comfort!

    Get in vert!

    Just do it. How: Stair climber, join a vert challenge (strava), use incline on the treadmill, if you live in the flatlands do hill repeats, run up the downward escalator (don’t do that), find a local stadium or parking garage if you are really itching for some vert., other not practical ideas consist of: inviting someone you want to impress to get vertical and try not to breathe too heavy to impress them and get acclimated.

    Condition your legs!

    How:  Box jumps, lunges, cycling, deadlifts and squats. Cycling really has given me some of my best strength for the mountains.

    Have your ten essentials: (LINKS I RECOMMEND ON BOTTOM)

    • Navigation – compass, inReach, map
    • First aid kit- because Boo-Boo ain’t just a bear
    • Hydration- 2L for anything over 8 miles; I like Tailwind in water. High calories to minimize depletion and gentle on the tummy.
    • Shelter – bivvy if you’re packing light
    • Food - high protein bar stored somewhere and sugar/salt sources. Cold days I carry warm sugary liquids for hypothermic purposes.
    • Sunscreen- because no one wants to feel that burn. I like Supergoop
    • Insulation (hat, gloves, raincoat, thermal)
    • Matches- my uncle, rest in peace, often hiked the John Muir trail and taught me to carry Vaseline-soaked cotton balls and a Bic lighter in plastic baggies. These suckers light up easy.
    • Repair kit
    • Whistle- Don’t yell. Conserving energy is important at critical times, and this tool will provide ease. Many backpacks come equipped with this.
    • Pocket knife

    Other things:

    • Get a hike safe card.
    • Keep your medical information handy.
    • Tell someone where you’re hiking

    Use hiking/trekking poles, especially if you are prone to joint health or mobility issues as they decrease tension on your body.

    Start your hike cool, you will warm up. If you sweat through your clothes you may run into heat issues at the summit. Have a change of layer to minimize risk of hypothermia. If your clothes get wet, strip them, and put something dry on.

    Cotton kills- Don’t wear cotton. This can lead to hypothermic situations.

    Because these mountains are underestimated in size many think that they can ultra hike and they end up in critical situations. Mount Washington is known to have the highest recorded wind speed on the planet. The conditions can change in an instant because of the nature of the jet stream that runs through here due to a polar vortex.

    There have been many fatalities in New Hampshire from hiking. The number continues to rise each year with more deaths happening to young, otherwise healthy people.

    If you are in a bad situation:

    • Make a shelter.
    • Try to contact someone (inReach, signaling, whistle)
    • Find water and make a fire to boil it.
    • Don’t take your chances on mushrooms you don’t know and if you spend all day looking for berries and mushrooms of unknown origin the chances are you depleted more calories in the effort than you did gain. Be smart, stay dry, warm, and hydrated.
    • If you encounter lightning – stay off ridgeline, lone trees, and water. Caves, small- gathered trees and crouching down would be safer. 

    With the worst weather on the planet (Mount Washington), wear the the best grip on the planet (VJ’s). Even the Cairns on this mountain have nothing to complain about with these shoes.

    There will be more follow up on these peaks in the next blog I write!

    Meg Stewart @meglifewanderful
    Wilderness First Responder + Volunteer Search and Rescue Member, Team VJ

    A Good Place to Stay in the White Mountains

    Contact the owner she’s great (this is a shameful plug for my Airbnb, but it is a great spot!)

    Products I like as noted from the article: