Notes from New Hampshire

The secret to racing, writes Ross Bentley is “to drive over the limit at times, bring it back, hang it out there, dance with the car at the ragged edge.”  I remembered Bentley’s advice a few weeks ago, while watching Top Gun: Maverick, with Tom Cruise as the aging fighter pilot who still feels, after all these years, “a need for speed.”  Who still pushes jet aircraft over the limit at times, and people, too. 

Later I was sketching out plans for a trip to New Hampshire, when the thought occurred to me — doesn’t everything worthwhile take place at some kind of edge?  Call it the ragged edge of reality.  A nebulous margin where knowledge gives way to the unknown.  Where jolts of pain and pleasure provide intermittent light, like signal flares.  Where the way forward, as Emerson wrote, “shall be wholly strange and new.”

In New Hampshire, the edge would lie for me along the White Mountain’s blade-like granite ridgelines, where I would attempt to climb a set of peaks without shoes or food (since that is how my practice works) — and to learn something, possibly, about myself and the world.

Continue reading “Notes from New Hampshire”

Notes from New Hampshire

White Mountains Presidential Traverse*

* Partial traverse including Mts Webster, Jackson, Pierce, Eisenhower, Monroe, Washington, Clay, Jefferson, and Adams, but not Madison

With a trip to the Grand Canyon on the horizon, the question is how to prepare for the big 4,000-foot descent from the rim to the Colorado River — and the big 4,000-foot climb back up.  An idea comes to mind:  hike the highest peak in the northeast, New Hampshire’s 6,289-foot Mt. Washington.

While studying the map, this idea morphs and expands and eventually crystallizes into a plan to hike the Presidential Traverse, a 23-mile crossing of the enormous exposed granite ridgeline that features Mt. Washington and nine neighboring peaks.  Memories surface from August 2004, when I’d completed the Traverse with my friend Andy and his wife Erin: we’d had a great time, except for the final descent through an unrelenting field of rocks.

It’s thirteen years and eleven months later as once again I pull into the AMC Highland Center in Crawford Notch, after a six-hour drive from New York.  It’s a struggle getting out of the car, thanks to an inflamed piriformis (a muscle in the butt) — the result of too many squats earlier in the week.  As I hobble across the parking lot the other issue weighing on my mind is the weather.  I’ve been watching the forecast steadily deteriorate over the last few days, until it now calls for “Thunderstorm” with 100% probability of precipitation and winds from the west at 37 MPH. . . .

Continue reading “White Mountains Presidential Traverse*”

White Mountains Presidential Traverse*