I have been interested in hiking all forty-eight of the White Mountain 4,000 footers in one continuous hike, called a Direttissima, ever since I read Chris Townsend’s account of hiking all 283 of the Scottish Munros in one round in his book The Munros and Tops: A Record-Setting Walk in the Scottish Highlands.
Direttissima means “most direct route”and implies that the shortest ‘as the bird flies’ route be taken. I don’t think anyone’s done that in the White Mountains, although I know of at least one person, named Mats Roing, who completed a Direttissima over the White Mountain 4,000 footers in 2007. The journal for that hike is available on Views from the Top, a New England peakbagger forum, as well as a second Direttissima attempt that Mats and his partner MEB had to end early in 2009, due to very bad blisters. Mats quit his second attempt after completing roughly 240 miles of hiking, 87,000 feet of elevation gain, and climbing 44 of the 48 peaks in 10 days.
While there have been other hikers who’ve set speed records for hiking the 4,000 footers, I haven’t found any other references to people who’ve hiked all of the 4,000 footers on a continuous, unsupported backpacking trip where you walk all the miles (no bikes or cars), carry all the food you need for the entire trip, and camp outside every night. That’s the appeal for me, but I’d like to think that anyone attempting a hike like this should be able to complete it the way they want without regard for any kind of set rules.
I have since hooked up with Mats via email and he’s been giving me some route planning advice. One of his biggest issues were dry stretches of trail and the need to carry extra water in addition to the weight of all of his food and gear. I will be paying special attention to this as I plan my route.
While I’m not 100% sure that I’ll attempt a Direttissima of the White Mountains (my wife is not against it), it’s proven to be a fun planning exercise to think about the route I’d take and what kinds of foul weather alternatives I’d have to take if there were sustained heavy rains or lighting.
There are also some interesting strategies one can take on a hike like this. For example, whether to start low and end high when your food weighs less, whether to bushwhack, whether to set up a base camp and climb certain peaks in a loop with minimal gear weight, whether to go solo or not, what kind of gear to take and so on.
The last time I had so much fun planning a trip was when I hiked across Scotland in 2010 in the TGO Challenge. That route was easier to plan because I only had to start and finish at set locations, but could hike (and resupply) anywhere else I wanted between the west and east coasts of the country.
So stay tuned. Tomorrow, I’m heading down to the Appalachian Mountain Club Archives in Boston to see if I can dig up any more historical information about White Mountain Direttissima hikes.
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