By Michael Lanza

We scramble up the blocky talus of 5,799-foot Mt. Adams, reaching the second-highest point in New Hampshire’s White Mountains at 6:45 a.m. Pausing just long enough for a few quick photos, we drop a knee-crunching, ankle-wrenching 700 vertical feet in a mile to Edmands Col, then regain that elevation in a half-mile climb to the top of Jefferson, at 5,716 feet.

My friend Mark Fenton and I are attempting what is arguably the archetypal huge dayhike, the “Death March” of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range. Walking north to south, we’ll cover 20 miles and about 8,500 feet of uphill, tagging all nine summits along the way, from Mt. Madison to Mt. Pierce, including the Northeast’s highest, 6,288-foot Mt. Washington.

In the eyes of a hiker, the Presidential Range embodies aesthetic perfection. And the distance and difficulty hit a sweet spot: reasonable enough to be within reach for fit people, hard enough to fire aspirations. There’s simply no other hike east of the Rockies that compares to it, and few in the West with so much history and resonance.

But the Pressies Death March has a way of wearing you down physically and mentally in a sort of death by 50,000 steps. “No way we’re going to make it,” Mark mutters. I think he’s joking, but I’m not sure.

Read my full story about that adventure, with more photos and a video.