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We started up the Valley Way at 4:45, and soon hit a comfortable pace. The lower three miles have good footing and a (relatively) easy grade, great for the warm up at the start of a long day. The last pitch from the Upper Bruin to the hut was steeper and rougher, but we cruised over it.
At the hut Dave and I decided not to go up Madison and waited for Chris and Jack. We were sweaty from the hike and the hut was rather chilly (48° outside, not much warmer inside), so we put on our fleece.
We all filled our water bottles, used the facilities, and were off. I was wearing my fleece top and Goretex pants as weather was cool and a bit windy. There is a steep section on the Gulfside as it rises to meet the Airline, then the Airline traverses the North slope of John Quincy Adams gradually, before attacking the main summit more steeply. I was able to keep a good pace, it seems that I can go up over rocks much more easily than I can go down. We all reached the summit of Adams in great spirits, happy that we had done about 5,000 vertical feet out of a total of about 8,500.
In retrospect I believe that we went up the Valley Way and Mt. Adams much too fast. Marathoners know that they will have to keep going for a long time, and know how to pace themselves. Many hikers find themselves fit and full of energy at the start of the day, and rush up the Valley Way at a pace that would be suitable for a Madison and Adams trip. Later in the day they pay for their poor judgment!
I started down Lowe's Path immediately after reaching the summit, knowing that it would be a slow and painful descent. Sure enough, the others started down later and passed me, we regrouped at Thunderstorm Junction. From there the Gulfside went down to Edmands Col easily. We had our first sit down break since the hut there.
The climb from the col to the summit was steep and, for the first time, we started feeling the cumulative effects of what was already a long day in terms of elevation gain (5,850 feet for those who had gone up Madison). We took a long, well earned rest, between the two summits.
The descent to Sphinx Col was uneventful but slower, and we had another sit down break at the point where the Clay Loop leaves the Gulfside. Here Jack and I decided to stay on the Gulfside, bypassing Clay, while Chris and Dave went over it. The savings in distance and elevation gain were minimal, but that section of the Gulfside has very good footing, reducing the effort quite a bit.
We regrouped at the other end of the Clay Loop and had a break during which we discussed what to do next. We were tired, not exhausted, but were slipping behind schedule. We decided to bypass Washington, taking the Westside trail to the Crawford Path. The Westside trail also has excellent footing, but nevertheless we did not go very fast. The sight of Lakes hut, getting bigger and bigger as we approached, motivated us!
At the hut we had a long break, almost half an hour. We ate, filled our water bottles, and just relaxed. It did us a lot of good, as we all felt much better as we started the final phase of the traverse.
The climb up Monroe is steep, but short, so we had little difficulty with it. Similarly the descent from its minor summit to Crawford Path has a very rough, but short, section. I was happy to realize that from here onwards we would be on a trail with much better footing than in the Northern Presis! Our pace picked up considerably, and we were in great spirits as we went over Eisenhower and down to the col between it and Pierce. Somewhere between that col and the summit of Pierce our energy started draining away, and by the time we were going down the Crawford Path to the waiting car it had vanished. The last hour we were all silent, just putting one foot in front of the other until we reached the trailhead.
Comments or Suggestions? Did you attempt a Presi traverse, or do you have any comments to make? That is what the Peakbagging Forum is for!