Lesser-Known Traverses of the White Mountains

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For the past few years, we’ve been obsessed with trail running, hiking, and backpacking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Put simply, our goal is to get on a ridge line and then pick off as many summits as we can before descending to the car. As we’ve already written about several of our favorites on goEast (most notably the Presidential Traverse, the Pemi Loop, and the Franconia Ridge Traverse) and, more historically, on the Ninja (e.g., the Zealand-Twinway Traverse), we’ll focus instead on two lesser-known traverses that we really enjoyed as part of our 48-in-48 effort late last spring: the Sleeper Traverse and the Kinsman Ridge Traverse.

The Sleeper Traverse is an approximately 17-mile traverse linking Passaconway, Whiteface, the Sleepers, and the Tripyramids. The traverse has extensive portions of runnable terrain, but the flow is probably better if you start at Tripyramid and exit via Passaconway. Starting that way also saves about 500 feet of elevation gain. Of course, we learned both of those lessons the hard way.

An added bonus of this traverse is the Kate Sleeper Trail, which connects Passaconway-Whiteface to the Tripyramids. We did it on a typical, busy summer day for the Whites, yet did not encounter anyone. It felt nice to get off the beaten 4,000-footer ascent paths and to be on something that seemed to be frequented by moose as often as hikers.

A bit earlier last summer, we did the Kinsman Ridge Traverse (KRT), a 14-mile ridge-line loop connecting North and South Kinsman with the Cannonballs and Cannon. The trail is rough, especially during the portions ascending the Kinsmans and Cannon. And while we made good time overall, there were only a few sections of solidly runnable terrain. Furthermore, the ladders and ledges on the Hi-Cannon trail ruled out having a consistent speed on the descent, leaving us wondering why we hadn’t just run down the ski slope. Next time!

Another difference with the KRT is the crowds. Even though we started early, people were everywhere–on the trail leading to Lonesome Lake Hut, heading up the Kinsmans, traversing the Cannonballs, on Cannon’s summit tower, and all over Hi-Cannon. That, of course, makes sense, as the views from the Kinsmans and Cannon are plentiful and spectacular (at least when there aren’t any clouds).

Despite their differences, we’re looking forward to doing both of these traverses again this season. They each are fun in their own right and present intriguing possibilities for longer link-ups.

 

Words by Doug Martland
Photo by Tim Peck

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