This is a copy of an essay submitted to the Green Mountain Club. It is one of the club’s requirements for anyone applying for an End-to-Enders certificate — an honor and acknowledgement for completing a thru-hike of Vermont’s Long Trail, whether it be done by sections or all-at-once the way we did. I undertook this hike, northbound, with my good friend, Bill Robichaud, from September 17 through October 6, 2015. This essay is meant to share just some of the highlights of our amazing journey.
In 2014 I took a trip out west with the aim of climbing three significant mountains with Northeast Mountaineering (the NH-based outfitter I guide for): Hood, Rainier, and Shuksan. The trip was a success and two of those peaks — Hood and Rainier — were climbed again less than a year later. We climbed in July last year, but in June this year. Changes were noted as a result of this and other factors. Some of the changes were significant. And that is the inspiration for this article.
Leaving North Conway, New Hampshire, we drove for three hours or so, my friend Brett Fitzgerald taking the wheel. Meeting up with two more friends, Brett’s brother, Corey, and co-worker Alek Pouliopoulos (we’re all mountain guides for Brett and Corey’s company, Northeast Mountaineering), we made our way to good old BOS and at 7:30 that evening we left the ground together on a Jet Blue flight bound for Portland, Oregon. Roughly six hours later we landed safely, and somewhere along the way we concocted this crazy plan to eat a late night breakfast and go on an adventure when we landed — instead of getting some rest. And by, “go on an adventure,” I mean climb Mt. Hood. It was late, we were up, so why not? We’d kick off our ten-day work/play Pacific Northwest-conquering mission with bang so off to Hood we went. After abusing ourselves at an IHOP.
March 7th, 2013, The Saturn Expedition: We thought of everything! The most prepared for a hike we had ever been. I’ve been hard at work training to be a mountain guide and am successfully applying what I know and have learned. Yep we had it all: Corrected compass bearings for every segment and dog-leg of the entire above treeline portion of a Presidential traverse; A back bearing for Madison; A GPS tracking our progress (in case we needed to make a step-by-step retreat, and to evaluate my compass work after the hike — which ended up being spot-on for what we did travel); We had six planned bailout routes, not including our entry, across the range, especially in the north; And a friend willing to get us at any of them; We even had a firsthand, up-to-the-minute MWOBS weather forecast and current conditions delivered to us by phone — nice to have some friends in high places when attempting something like this in sub-par conditions. We had so much of the minutia covered, a PLB and all sorts of gear designed to help us in an emergency of just about any sort, we had it all, and more… but we didn’t finish. What on earth went wrong?