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New Hampshire’s Winter 48: Racing the Spring Equinox

Tuesday morning I was at Salt Pump Climbing working on sucking less at climbing when I got a message from Michael King, a good friend, training partner, and coaching client, who asked if I wanted to join him in closing out his Winter 48.  Mike had been working on summiting all of New Hampshire’s 48 4,000 footers in a single winter season and doing so by commuting back and forth from Augusta, Maine on the weekends.

I had tagged along with Mike for several big days in the mountains earlier in the year to get ready for the Orcas 100 Miler so this was a great chance to help support him in closing out his goal this season. 3 weeks out from racing a 100 miler I should have probably investigated Mike’s message to have a better idea of what he had planned:

“I have two big days left one doing Cabot then driving to do Hale and Zealand. Not a ton of climbing but higher miles then I want to finish with Moosilauke, Tecumseh, and Whiteface loop that includes Passaconaway. Little less miles but more climbing.”

Mike had done a nice job of downplaying what we would be tackling and I did not bother to even look into it further. I was more focused on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with friends and prepared for  the next two days in the mountains by moderately limiting my Guinness intake the day before.

5 am came fast, especially after 4 hours of sleep, and I was off to meet Mike at Mount Cabot. Mike went over the plan in more detail in the parking lot and it became apparent that it was going to be a long day.


Breakfast – Cabot, 8.2 miles and 2,943ft. climbing

Dinner – Hale and Zealand, 18.9 miles and 5,003ft. climbing

Total: 27.1 miles and 7,946ft. climbing 

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Descending Mount Cabot


After a 2.5 mile road run the trail up Mount Hale starts


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We were the only tracks going up Mount Hale


Vantage point heading up to the Summit of Zealand


The view from Mount Zealand Summit


Long descent down from Zealand including 3.5 miles of dirt roads


Breakfast – Moosilauke, 10.2 miles and 3,118ft. climbing

Lunch – Tecumseh, 4.7 miles and 2,344ft. climbing

Dinner – Whiteface and Passaconaway, 10.8 miles 4,357ft. climbing

Total: 25.7 miles and 9,819ft. climbing 

Tagging Moosilauke in the wind


No time to waste with a long day ahead


Summit view from Tecumseh


They can’t all be pictures of mountains


Losing sun heading up Whiteface




Squam Lake off in the distance


Once we tagged the summit of Whiteface we had a mere 2.6 mile ridge and one last short climb up to the summit of Passaconaway and Mike would be done. On top of Whiteface it was the first time I had seen Mike smile all day knowing now that he was close to finishing what he had worked so hard on this winter. I tried to reciprocate but the climb up Tom Wiggins trail in the ice left me feeling cooked. I ate my last gel and made our way over to Passaconaway which you can see looming in what felt like another world away at this point.


The sunlight finally faded enough to turn on the headlamps and this immediately brought me out of my funk. I have grown to love darkness as it forces me to focus solely on what lies ahead keeping me within the moment. Mike summited Passaconaway and finished his 48 to the glow of our headlamps and a less than energetic fist bump. In a few hours it would be Spring and in classic New England fashion we would be greeted with several inches of fresh snow.

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