What is the definition of summer? It is said to be the warmest season of the year, from June to August in the Northern Hemisphere and from December to February in the Southern Hemisphere. The Nordland is experiencing a heat wave with very high temperatures accompanied by high humidity. Some people love it, others not so much. My friends will tell you I’m definitely screwed.
Our summers seem to get hotter and hotter every year. Outdoor enthusiasts need to know how to prepare for hiking in hot temperatures to avoid heat exhaustion. In an article in Adirondack magazine, Tom Welch, MD, writes, “Heat exhaustion occurs when the body’s attempts to compensate for heat stress begin to fail, often triggered by dehydration associated with sweating and dehydration through breathing. Symptoms of heat exhaustion range from mild fatigue and lightheadedness to severe headaches, weakness, and fainting. Treating heat exhaustion on site is relatively simple. The effort has to stop, which means sitting in a shady spot and taking off your backpack. Both salt and water are needed.”
dr Welch recommends alternating water with salty snacks, as using water alone risks developing low sodium in the body, which can be potentially fatal.
I personally know that I can’t hike in these high temperatures, so I don’t even try. I get my fix by following other hikers’ adventures. I had heard through rumors that my friend Dawn Collins was joining a group trying to attempt the Presidential Crossing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This trek includes the tallest peaks of the Whites with their most notable peaks being named after American Presidents.
The group consisted of 7 experienced, fit hikers aged 45-59 and a super hiking dog, Emma. This cute dog has climbed over 100 different mountains. The group met in New Hampshire the night before and placed emergency vehicles at two different trailheads. There wasn’t much sleep that night, but their spirits were high and they were ready for their day in the mountains. The plan was to start with Mount Madison at the Appalachian Trailhead. Seven headlights came on and backpacks were thrown onto their shoulders when their boots hit the ground at 3 a.m
At the start of the trail was a sign: Only attempt this trail if you are in excellent physical condition, well dressed, and with extra clothing and food. Many have died from exposure above the tree line. Turn back at the first sign of inclement weather. I think this trail is not for the faint hearted. It was nice to start the day with temperatures in the high 40’s knowing it would rise soon as the sun came out.
As they climbed, they talked between breaths, putting one foot in front of the other. From time to time they would change position in the group to be able to speak to each hiker. When they reached the Madison cabin, they drank and ate some food.
Ready for their first summit, they set off on the final push into Madison, reaching the summit at 7:27 a.m. Everyone was excited and feeling good. One down and seven to go.
Before leaving the summit, Dawn texted her husband to update her location as she would continue to climb each mountain afterward.
Back at the cabin, all hikers load up on water since Star Lake (which is just below Madison) would be the only other place to get water up to Mount Washington. The next peak would be Mount Adams.
A few minutes after takeoff, Dawn took a big gulp from her tube, only to quickly spit it out. Laughing, she explained that she flushed her bladder and tube with vinegar and didn’t remove the vinegar from the tube.
The trail is steep and rocky but the view looking back was stunning. They were now walking in full sun and it was extremely humid.
When they reached Adams, they paused for a moment as they had a long way to go. As with any tightrope walk, you can see the mountains in the distance that you are heading towards. It’s a beautiful view but a little daunting at times to see how far away they are. That didn’t slow this gang down.
Jefferson was tough and the sun and humidity took their toll. Ninety percent of the hike was on large rocks. Dawn said, “The heat just slows you down and I personally would rather hike any day in the winter.”
They stopped several times, reapplied sunscreen and gave Emma water and food, which she carries in a pack. Arriving in Jefferson just after 1pm, they took a break and enjoyed the incredible view. In the distance they could see majestic Mount Washington.
This is the highest peak in New Hampshire and also its half point.
They were in the hottest part of the day now, with the sun overhead and no sign of shade. Dawn was happy to meet her friend Tom Penders who was also hiking in the mountain range. She had texted him her whereabouts and he was able to find her. technology, right?
After some friendly banter, they set off in different directions. The climb to Washington is not easy. The hot sun beat down on them and the path was again littered with stones.
Each step required careful placement. The heat definitely became a factor and the decision was made to abort the mission after they reached Washington.
Dawn commented, “The beauty of having great hiking partners is knowing when it’s time together.”
The group reached the summit at 5:00 p.m. From the summit they could see the mountain range they had just crossed. That in itself is no small thing. As for the other four mountains, they will still be there one more day.
“Being a good hiker means putting your safety and that of your partners first. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and I’m very happy with the mountains we climbed.” Dawn mused
The hike down took about 2 hours and got them back to their car at 7am. Sixteen hours of hiking in the mountains and everyone is back down safely. That’s what I call a successful hike.
I asked her how she prepared for such a hike. The week before she did a long test hike in the Adirondacks and felt great. She told me the night before she went to NH that she was well hydrated and had a hearty dinner. During the hike, she used a cooling towel, amino acids in her water, and clif bloks, which are energy chews.
Back at their bed and breakfast, Dawn’s husband Bob had everything grilled and was waiting for them when they walked in the door. What a way to end the day. Happy trails.