Report from Facebook:
Unsupported solo female White Mountain Direttissima complete! 8 days, 23 hrs, 9 min. Gorge Brook trail to Mt Cabot trail summiting all 48 4000 footers in between in one continuous footpath. Carrying all supplies needed.
In September of 2014 I completed my first White Mountain Direttissima inspired by Matts Roing and Anna and Ariel Feindel. While I was happy I finished it, I was disappointed in my time. It took me 11 days and 19 hours. I also had my husband hike with me for a day over the Carter Range which took away my sense of a solo journey. I’ve been wanting to do a true solo in a faster time since then. A few years ago I tried again. With a much lighter load and off to a better start but feeling nauseous and less motivated I quit on day 3.
Recently a few males have completed or attempted, supported, self supported or unsupported Direttissimas. An unsupported speed record was set by Bill Tidd in 6 days and 7 hours this July. A female tried to go for 9 days recently but failed. My own husband about a week ago finished his trek in just over 9 days. I was hoping to do it in 10 days, 9 seemed out of reach with my slow uphill speed.
In 2014 I set out with close to 40lbs on my back, this time I set out with just under 30 including 13lbs of food and a liter of water.
On day 1-3 I regretted my choice of the lightweight Gossamer Gear Kumo backpack. No suspension meant all the weight was on my shoulders and it threw my balance off a bit on the scrambly down hills. After day 3, the pack weight was down to a more comfortable level and it didn’t bother me.
Day two was mentally the hardest for me since I knew what was still ahead and I was struggling going very slowly up hill on the Liberty Springs trail. On top of that the thought of having to go out of my way to get Owls Head was slightly overwhelming. I dropped my food bag at 13 falls tent site but brought all my other gear to go climb owls head in the dark just in case I wouldn’t have the energy to make it back. The planned bushwhack down Owls Head got scrapped because I wasn’t going to attempt that in the dark. Once back down I made it to the first stream crossing and cowboy camped.
Day 3 had me focus on mt Hale where I bailed on my second attempt. Once past that I felt a sense of relief and pushed on. I was now a day and several miles ahead of my first attempt. I was hoping to make it down to the pemi but after West Bond I was so slow and sleepy that it made more sense to lay down my pad and bag and close my eyes.
Being able to cross the pemi on day 4 saved me about 8 miles and put me further ahead of my first trip. I was behind my husbands schedule from the week before but decided to focus on being ahead of my own and not be frustrated. After summiting the Hancocks I allowed myself a good break with a ten minute nap. I didn’t enjoy hiking the Osceolas after that with all the rock jumbles and slanted slab. I started asking out loud in Dutch:”Will these rocks ever stop? (Oftewel houden deze klote rotsen nou nooit op?). There may have been some other choice words thrown in. I was hoping to push on to the summit of Tecumseh but slowed down to a snails pace at the false summit and cowboy camped again.
Day 5 had a glorious start with a pre sunrise view from the Tecumseh summit and amazing sunrise view from the ski slope. I was feeling good and strong, could I be enjoying this?
Then my body decided to give me my period early and the skies opened up. Luckily the two hour monsoon didn’t start until I was at the bottom of Passaconaway so I was safe to keep hiking. The downside of being low was that the trails were now ankle deep rivers. I was sloshing around dressed in my underwear and rain gear. My torso and head were staying warm and mostly dry with my rain jacket and hooded pack cover over it. I was laughing at the ridiculous sight of me walking down the Kancamagus Highway in the dark in the pouring rain heading towards the Sawyer pond trail. I sloshed right through the Swift river since my shoes were soaked anyways. I was worried the water would have risen too much but it was only knee deep. Following the trail got a little more challenging when I got to more rocky creek bed like sections but I wanted to conserve my headlamp batteries and changing them out in the rain seemed like a bad idea.
I was relieved when I made it to the Sawyer pond tent site. I briefly entertained the idea of staying in the shelter and not have to put up my tent in the rain but would that break the being unsupported rules? I wandered around the tent site in the dark, found the shelter with people in it and decided to suck it up and set up my tent. Thank goodness there was a break in the rain while setting up.
I woke up all puffy from the humidity and pack up my soaking wet gear. It did stop raining but my shoes are still soaked so the wet socks go back on as well. Such fun!
A short walk brings me up to the trail to Carrigain where luckily the sun is poking through and with a stiff breeze on the lookout tower I’m able to dry out my gear. Even my shoes are starting to dry.
The desolation trail on the backside is one slippery mess and slow going but the shoal pond trail is fairly quick. Unfortunately it also has a mess of flooded rotten bog bridges and my feet get soaked again. The Ethan pond trail is a breeze and I’m soon climbing up mt Willey annoyingly leap frogging with a group of college kids. Finally they wait long enough to give me some space. Field, Tom and the descent to Crawford Notch are quick and I force myself to get up mt Jackson. I’m now back on my husband’s schedule! I can’t believe it! I crawl under some bushes and go to sleep.
Three hours later I continue on and soon see pretty morning skies. Near Lakes of the Clouds hut it gets busier with hikers and on Washington summit it’s busy. I’m not going to stand in line for the summit photo so do a quick tag and take a picture of a cute Mexican family instead. Then it’s down Tuckermans over to Davis Path to tag Isolation. Another out and back. To my surprise I run into Philip Carcia one of the few others who has done a direttissima. How fun! We briefly chat before I move on. There is a threat of thunder storms for the afternoon and it’s getting really cloudy. Changes in weather/humidity often trigger allergic reactions with me in that the skin around my eyes gets puffy or red. It’s red now and feels like a sunburn and is pretty uncomfortable. Otherwise my body is holding up really well.
My shoes have gotten pretty sloppy after the rain and my insoles are already worn out from me pounding them so hard. I wish I’d brought an extra pair of insoles. I can feel some friction and decide to put on an extra pair of socks and tighten my laces. Hopefully this will help going down the steep Glen Boulder trail. It seems to never end.
Instead of climbing the steep challenging wild cat ridge trail my husband had suggested going up the wildcat ski slope. It’s longer but does seem to make sense so I go for it. I prefer not to start the day with a big up hill so am happy to make it almost to Wildcat before settling into my sleeping bag.
I’m moving great the next morning but feel the first real signs of continuous sleep deprivation when I have trouble staying awake around 10am. I want to push through so try chatting with some AT hikers and try to keep the pace up. Just after the steep north carter descent I run into Bear Repellant, an AT section hiker I enjoyed guiding earlier this summer. I’m so excited to see her! It totally boosts my spirits! I wish her luck on her last little section of the Carters with a fellow guide and promise to meet up after this is done.
Then it’s on to Moriah and I speed down the Stoney Brook trail. I find myself jogging down the trail. What is happening? I’m not a runner.
A four mile roadwalk brings me to the Daniel Webster Scout trail. I feel a lot of friction on the balls of my feet but only one little blister which I tape up. A short food and nap break prepare me for the climb up to the Presidentials. All goes well until I hit the ridge and encounter thick fog and strong wind gusts. I know these trails well but add in darkness and it’s easy to get disoriented. On a small sub summit I get blasted by a wind gust and I wonder if it’s safe to continue. I scan my memory for possible drop offs and conclude that as long as I move slow and carefully I should be fine. I check my Guthook GPS app frequently to stay on track and it happens a time or two where I’m at a cairn and am not sure where to go next. I’m relieved to make it over the summit and into even more familiar terrain.
My phone is doing double duty as extra flashlight propped up in my shoulder strap pocket and navigation back up. If I had had lesser experience with this terrain I would have bivvied somewhere.
Knowing that after Madison hut the trail is fairly easy to thunderstorm junction I push on. Once there it seems to clear and I do the out and back to Adams. To my dismay fog rolls back in and I strain to see the next cairn. The Guthook app is again appreciated. Back at thunderstorm I wonder what to do. My gloves have gotten wet and I don’t want to push on and get in trouble on Jefferson. I decide to bivvy behind the big cairn at thunderstorm. I’m not very comfortable and everything gets soaked but what to do? Finally it clears and I continue on. The stars are amazing.
This stretch has taken a lot out of me and once at Jefferson I decide to crawl in a little cave and sleep some til sunrise. Caps ridge trail is better done in day light anyways. (In 2014 I fell off one of the slabs in the dark).
With a sub 9 day finish still within reach I speed down Caps Ridge as much as I can and cross the parking lot like a bat out of hell. I must have been a strange sight for the early morning hikers starting up. A long road walk lies ahead. And while it goes quick it’s not good for the feet. About 12 miles later I arrive at the busy Waumbek trail. It’s hot and humid and I can’t stand wearing my dress any longer. I’m embarrassed for my shorts and sports bra look but it is what it is.
I debated whether I wanted to do a Waumbek summit tag and back, roadwalk to the old Mt Cabot trail and tag Cabot out and back, or stay on the Kilkenny ridge trail to Cabot. I change my mind halfway up and stay on the Kilkenny ridge trail. It’s much cooler on the ridge and the trail won’t trash my feet as much as a road. I’m doing fine with this decision until just after Terrace mountain. There is so much extra up and down it’s tough on the mind. I just want to go to sleep. But I also want to finish under 9 days. I dig deeper than I ever have and keep going. But then I’ll sit down in the middle of the trail closing my eyes for five minutes. And then I will myself to get back up. Once I’m moving my speed isn’t bad but the struggle is to keep moving. I guess this is what endurance racing is like. I’m pretty sure this will be my first and last taste of that. After what seems like an eternity I make it to the summit of Cabot. By now my headlamp is almost dead and I’ve been using my phone as my main light source. It’s awkwardly strapped underneath my headlamp strap until I stash my pole at the mt Cabot trail turn off and just hold it in my hand. I have now become one of those people navigating by iPhone flashlight. Oh dear.
Back at the cabin I lay down on one of the gross bunks and doze off. Probably no more than ten minutes later I’m back up and soon my slow mo pace going up is replaced by a speedy down hill pace. I surprise myself. I now have a sense of urgency. If I want to get to the trailhead within the 9 days I have to cover about two miles in 1 1/2 hrs and I need to finish before my phone dies. I splash through the muddy (unmaintained) mt Cabot trail and feel all kinds of wrong happening to my feet. Even my fingers are blistering from my gripping my trekking poles. When my phone does die I’m luckily almost to the trailhead and my dim headlight gets me there barely. I push the stop button on my tracker. It’s 2.39 am. My total time is 8 days, 23 hrs and 9 minutes.
Special thanks to Rich Gambale and Rachel Lewis for being there for me in the end. You guys rock!!! ❤️❤️❤️