FKT: Will "Sisyphus" Peterson - White Mountains Hut Traverse (NH) - 2023-12-23

Route variation
Winter Standard Traverse
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
17h 52m 9s

First, a couple big thank-you's. Thanks to my brother Ben Peterson for driving me to the start of the traverse in the late hours of the night. Thanks to Bill Tidd for going up the A-Z trail the day before my traverse to scout out the trail conditions. Thank you to Craft Sportswear, Infinit Nutrition, and Hyperlite Mountain Gear for providing me with the clothing, nutrition, and backpack that I used on this effort, respectively.

This was super brutal. My strength has always been my uphill climbing, but for whatever reason my legs just didn’t have it today. Every uphill was a slog. Just a grind it out kind of effort. Also my feet are destroyed from wearing spikes and being wet all day. Conditions were pretty varied, but overall themes were incredibly icy in some spots and completely bare in others, with good firm snow in a lot of the alpine zones. Weather was chill. Standard White Mountains cold, but wind was mild.

Started at 11:21pm Friday night. Wished I could have started at 10pm, but I had a family obligation to attend to. I wanted to start early in the night to minimize the night hiking on the back end. I also decided to go west to east because I am more comfortable in the Presidentials than on Lafayette, so I wanted to get Lafayette out of the way while I was fresh. I was in the dark from the start of the effort until about the Zealand hut or slightly thereafter, and then I was in the dark again for a couple miles at the end and for the hike back down from Carter.

Came up with a good strategy for keeping my water from freezing; I wore a hydration vest over my base layer, and more layers over that, and then a backpack with the rest of my stuff on top. My body heat kept the water liquid. I also ran the tube to the bladder through the sleeve of my shirt, which did the trick.

Winter conditions on this route are worth exactly 7 hours 54 minutes 7 seconds, so I actually have the overall Hut Traverse record.

On a more serious/general note, I think Winter speed records are a bit silly. Unless it’s an exception (like the presi traverse), many White Mountains routes (including the Hut Traverse, Pemi Loop, NH48, Mahoosuc Traverse, etc) are much much slower under true winter conditions. Compare this time today to my time on the same route in March 2021 - 19 hours 29 minutes. I felt way better that day than I did today, and I would consider it a much more authentic "winter Hut Traverse" experience, but it was much slower. I snowshoed through treetops for a solid 15-20 miles of that effort.

Why do we do Winter efforts in the first place? To me, the answer is that it's a fundamentally different and exciting adventure than Summer efforts. Safely and efficiently navigating long distances in the White Mountains in the Winter requires a skillset that not many possess. I think Winter speed records on many routes like the Hut Traverse pretty much defeat the whole purpose of doing a Winter effort because they encourage choosing the least wintery conditions possible. In an ideal world, we're out here basically just hoping for Summer in December, and the way things are going, the coming Decembers are probably going to continue to get milder and milder. So what's the value of a Winter speed record if it's really just late Fall conditions? In my mind, not much.

It's not lost on me that this seems pretty inconsistent coming from a guy who just spent 18 hours running through questionably Winter conditions to get one of these FKTs, but I'm still happy to have done it. Been in the back of my mind for a few years, and at this point it's more of a personal vendetta against the route type of thing for me. This is also pretty much the only way I can get on the same FKT page as Kuenzle - I do what I have to.

This was really unsupported (I carried all my stuff and had no pacers), but I dropped my larger pack for the out and backs to Lonesome and Carter. By the letter of the FKT law, I think that makes me self-supported.