FKT: Alex MacPhail* - White Mountains Hut Traverse (NH) - 1963-08-16

Route variation
MacPhail Traverse
Gender category
Finish date
Total time
12h 11m 0s

In 2007 it was reported on the Views From the Top forum that Alex MacPhail had run the Hut-to-Hut in a time of 12h11m, set when he was a hut "croo" person way back in 1963! Later, in 2010, MacPhail wrote a history of the Hut-to-Hut traverse (, including earlier speed records and a detailed account of his own 1963 trip. However, there are discrepancies in some of the details (splits) reported by MacPhail in 2007 and 2010. In an email exchange with me, MacPhail explained that he never intended to claim a record for the traverse, and had done his run purely as a personal challenge and for training. He explained that some of the details were from memory, which was obviously subject to error after 45+ years. He did indicate that the total time of 12h11m was accurate to the extent that his watch was accurate. Finally, MacPhail said "I do not feel comfortable with anyone using my time as 'the record'".

On this page, Jeff List discusses some more about the Hut-to-Hut route & times. Importantly, he breaks the Hut Traverse into two variations, the "Standard Hut Traverse", which includes the 8 huts definted by the AMC today (and was the route run by Matt Cull), and the historic "MacPhail Hut Traverse", which includes a 9th destination at Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch, and is about 5 miles longer than the Standard route used by most runners and hikers today.

Here is Alex MacPhail's 2007 account of his 1963 trip (from
I left Madison Hut at 5:30 am on August 16, 1963 (didn't log in), timing myself with two devices, including a stop watch in a cardboard case that I recorded Hut2Hut times and a Movado wrist watch for total elapsed time (12 hrs. 11 mins.). The difference in Hut2Hut time versus elapsed time was 40 minutes accounting for 10 min.-long rests at Pinkham, Lakes , Zool, and Ghoul.

I wore a "fanny pack" containing the stop watch, an ace bandage, a Gerry squeeze tube containing evaporated milk that I replenished at each hut, and 3 to 4 fig newton bars that I also replenished at each hut. At each hut I ate a large bowl of Elberta cling peaches, and at Ghoul I ate a ham and cheese sandwich and drank lots of water and a cup of cocoa.

I wore my black Limmer's from Madison to Carter and then switched to Adidas (Romas named after the Rome Olympics) track shoes for most of the trip. I switched off three pairs of Adidas. One pair fell completely apart on the A-Z Trail. I wore my brown Limmer's from Ghoul to Flea and Adidas from Flea to Lonesome.

My route and times were as follows:

From Mad House I went down the Madison Gulf Tr to the Great Gulf Tr to the Glen House then up the Aqueduct Tr to 19 Mile Brook Tr. to Cata (1 hr. 55 mins.)

From Cata I took the Wildcat Ridge Tr to the gondola station and ran down the Wildcat Ski Tr to Rt. 16 and then ran up the road to Pinkham (1hr. 15 mins [3 hrs. 10 mins.]) arriving there at 8:40 am.

I rested/ate at Pinkham for 10 mins and then climbed to Lakes via Tuckerman's (47 mins. [4 hrs. 7 mins.]) arriving at 9:37 am and rested at Lakes for 10 mins.

From Lakes I took the Crawford Path, Webster Cliff Tr (To Mizpah Shelter) and Mizpah Cut-off, and the A-Z Tr to Zealand (Zool) arriving there a few minutes after noon (2 hrs. 15 mins. [6 hrs. 32 mins.]).

I took a quick bath in the river at Zool before proceeding on to Galehead (Ghoul) arriving there at 2:04 pm (1 hr. 52 mins. [8 hrs. 34 mins.]) I was getting cramps in my thighs and calves and I rested at Ghoul for 20 mins. and rehydrated.

Ghoul to the Flea was the most difficult part of the trip. The rest at Ghoul was not long enough but I was trying for a time of under 12 hours or an average speed of 4-5 mph and needed to keep moving. I left Ghoul at 2:25 pm and arrived at the Flea at 4:40 pm. I rested less than 5 minutes, just long enough to change shoes again.

I made it from Flea to Lone (the old hut on the north side of the lake) in 57 minutes arriving there at 5:41 pm for a total elapsed time of 12 hrs 11 mins, 15 minutes longer than my target time.

I then went to Jo's Snack Bar in Twin Mountain and ate/drank two cheeseburgers and two or three milkshakes and was back at Pinkham by 8 pm. -- Alex MacPhail

MacPhail also added the following valuble information about historic Hut Traverse trips:

Two years ago I was planing to write a definitive story for the Resusitator on the Hut Traverse from 1936 to 2007. There is a story in the 1936 December Appalachia titled "On Breaking One's Own Record" by an H.L. Malcolm who crystalized the Traverse in my mind when I read his article in 1953 at my summer home on Lake Winnespesaukee. He begins that article by exclaiming that his interest in 24 hour mountain marathons "was aroused in 1931 by the Marshall brothers, and other hikers in the Adirondack Mountains." Malcolm next heard that two AMC croo, Batchelder and Loomis, completed the AMC hut traverse in 1933 in 23 hours, 15 minutes.

Malcolm set out on his own attempt on July 7, 1936. He left Carter at 12:04 am and finished at Lonesome at 10:07 pm, or 22 hours and 3 minutes. Two weeks later on July 22, 1936, he repeated his traverse, leaving Carter at 6 am and hiking first to Pinkham via the Wildcats and then to Madison via Osgood Ridge. He also went over all the summits. He arrived at Lonesome in 21 hours and 43 minutes, hiking 55 miles with a vertical rise of 19,000 feet.

In the late 1950's and early 1960's there were several new records set on the Traverse by some well known hikers including Tom Deans and Chris Goetz. Chris, I believe, did the traverse west to east in just over 16 hours. Tom Deans did not complete his traverse because of jock rash. I have some other names as well.

I completed a traverse on August 16th, 1963, after training for two weeks. I started at Madison at 5:30 am (first light) on that day and ran down Madison Gulf to 19 Mile Brook, up to Carter, over the Wildcats and down the Wildcat Ski Trail to Route 16. I ran to Pinkham on the road and then up to Lakes via the Tuck Trail. I made it from Pinkham to Lakes in 47 minutes but stopped to vomit twice after eating too fast at Pinkham. From Lakes the run was pretty easy. I went via the Mizpah shelter so that my Traverse would include Mizpah after it was built. I got to Lonesome, the old hut, in 12 hours, 11 minutes. I hardly mentioned it to anyone as I was using the traverse pretty much as a training exercise. I have all my hut to hut times documented in a notebook that I kept.

I've heard of others completing the traverse in good times but I think Malcolm and the others before and after him included Pinkham in the Traverse. -- Alex MacPhail


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After finally getting a fast go on the standard route, I must say, your split from Lakes to Zealand is bonkers fast! I thought I was moving along well and purposefully hammered over Mount Tom and I was 16 minutes off the back of your pace. I came through Zealand in 5:55 and Liam recently came through in 6:31. Looks like we both may have had a little more juice on the second half as it took each of us just over 5 hours to reach Lonesome from Zealand. 

I've been holding out on the Wildcats for another adventure, I'd love to try the classic MacPhail route as it means getting to not only spend a night up at Madison, but the course goes right by Tucks (my second home after Zealand). 

Kudos Alex. Thanks for keeping the history and tradition of this run alive.