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White Mountain Challenge: A South To North Route Plan

Moosilauke-to-Cabot in Caltopo

Download a PDF Spreadsheet of this Route

Drill down on the map interactively from Caltopo

This is the route plan I developed for my first White Mountain Challenge attempt, a complete traverse of all 48 of the AMC White Mountain 4000 footers in one continuous multi-day backpacking trip. This plans documents an unsupported hike without any resupplies, starting with 28 pounds of food for 15 days + 3 rest days. That’s a very difficult schedule and I couldn’t keep up that kind of pace. On hindsight, I think it’s unrealistically short when you factor in bad weather delays for the higher above-treeline peaks.

I’m happy to share this information with you and it will definitely speed up your planning process if you want to attempt this hike.

The Caltopo map shown here is interactive, so you can drill down into it if you want to see the actual detailed route. I wouldn’t recommend downloading the GPS data points from this map and trying to hike it. Caltopo is a convenient tool for providing an overview of this route, but the USGS mapping data it displays is out of date and inaccurate with missing or re-routed trails, bridges and roadways. In reality, you’ll want to scout parts of your route by foot if you’re unfamiliar with the White Mountains and use multiple maps from different sources including maps for rail trails, snowmobile trails, forest and logging roads, and moutain bike trails.

Dsiclaimer: The author of this site is not responsible any damage, personal injuries or death as a result of the use of any information, maps, routes, advice, gear or techniques discussed on this blog and web site. All outdoor activities are carried out at your own risk.

Route Planning Advice

  • When planning a long hike in the White Mountains, your best bet is to use National Geographic’s White Mountains Trails Illustrated Explorer digital mapping tool. It’s been programmed to use the Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Guide mileage and elevation gains, which are all measured using a wheel and not based on GPS approximations. The editor of the White Mountain Guide advised me to use this program instead of the online White Mountain Guide. Both of these programs use the same data, but the National Geographic tools are much easier to use for multi-day route planning.
  • I recommend you find other maps for rail trails, snowmobile trails, forest and logging roads, cross-country ski trailsm and moutain bike trails which are not typically shown on hiking-specific or USGS maps. Historic maps of the area can also be useful for finding routes which are no longer officially maintained but still widely used by local hikers.
  • Don’t carry your food up peaks when you don’t have to. While it’s illegal to cache food on Forest Service land for more than 24 hours, you can hang it for a few hours and climb a peak without it. Doing this is a big energy saver and a good trick to exploit whenever possible.
  • Water is very heavy, so avoid carrying extra whenever possible. There are some dry stretches and ridges however, so plan carefully to avoid running out and bring plenty of extra carrying capacity. This is where local knowledge is very helpful. There are many water sources not shown on maps.
  • Don’t forget to factor in weather delays. especially when hiking above-treeline sections where lightning danger in thunderstorms is a real concern. Carry extra food because you may have to sit in a valley for a day or two for thunderstomrs to clear out before you climb an above-treeline summit.
  • It’s best to hike above-treeline sections before 2 pm when the threat of thunderstorms increases , particularly from June through August.
  • Avoid trails that are very hard to hike when easier alternative are available, even if they require walking a longer distance.

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