For those who have been following the 20-5-1 campaign, you will appreciate the latest of the weekend of the Presidential Traverse.


For anyone new to this campaign, a quick recap is that FOC’s Kelly Skelton, has been hiking a fundraiser with a goal to raise $100,000 and childhood cancer research awareness this summer during his off-office hours. The easiest way to catch up is here:


Just to get us up to date, the prior hikes that have been completed have included a last minute save with Croker Mountain when Mount Katadhin was shut down due to weather/safety concerns.  Later that month, bodies were pushed to summit three mountains in one day (North Twin Mountain, South Twin Mountain, Galehead Mountain) due to the finite number of weekends one can hike safely in New England.  And then Mount Ellen, in Vermont, was completed in July.  With time ‘running out’ in this season, the Presidential Traverse was planned for July 26-28.


The Presidential Traverse is a 23-mile long hike that spans from Bretton Woods to Gorham, New Hampshire – including 9,000 feet of elevation gain. The traditional starting points are the AMC Highland Center at Crawford Notch (Bretton Woods) and the Presidential Range Rail Trail (Gorham).  There are eight possible mountains to summit along the Traverse.  This is a full weekend, weight of gear, food and supply carrying, sleeping in the cold and dark of the mountains hike in hanging tents for a shelter system with a hammock, bug net and tarp.


Kelly set out for this weekend with Zach Robinson, also an UMass Lowell alumni, who had joined Kelly last year on the 10-4 campaign, summiting Mount Madison and Adams along the presidential traverse.


The two began this hike on the Friday night around 10pm.  After quickly dropping off one vehicle on the Gorham NH side of the range, they drove over to the AMC Highland Center for a starting place.  Their late start was attributed to both working late that day and also running into some construction traffic passing through Franconia.  They finally entered the trail at 11pm, equipped with headlamps and the full backpacks. After more than an hour, they chose a spot to settle in to for the night and assembled their hammocks.


Early Saturday they were packed, determined and set a great pace, summiting five mountains throughout the day including:

  • Jackson at 4,052 feet

  • Pierce at 4,311 feet

  • Eisenhower at 4,780 feet

  • Monroe at 5,371,

and reaching the highest peak,

  • Mount Washington at 6,288 feet, by 5pm.  



Weather was a factor with torrential downpours at times but it did not slow down or impede this great accomplishment.  But, it is New England and as we have referenced before…. the best laid plans can take a turn on mountains.


After checking in with their weather center experts and replenishing supplies, the two set out to summit Mount Jefferson with the intent to then dive below tree line to sleep before sunset. But as they ascended Jefferson, they were meet with thunderstorms and were forced to quickly abandon their summit plans to seek cover.


“Being halfway Jefferson, looking back, and seeing a dark purple cloud and rain in the near distance was one of the most terrifying moments of my life.”  Skelton said.


Due to the circumstances, they were forced to follow an alternative route, and one that took them far away from the last intended summits. They reached below tree line and set up camp, but not until midnight.


Unsure of how long re-reaching the range and completing the rest of our summits would take, along with continued thunderstorms expected, they were forced to begin a descent.

Though they did not officially summit Jefferson, Adams, Madison, their hike did cover the entire traverse, as they had to hike around Jefferson and Adams to find a trail leading to their parked vehicle.


Additionally he noted, “I never feel right about leaving a mission unfinished, but safety is more important than pride.”


There should be plenty of pride for these two gentlemen after it was determined that they covered the 23 miles and also conquered about 7,000 feet worth of elevation gain.

Note about Zach Robinson:  Zach focused in finance and accounting studies at UMass Lowell while also playing club basketball, where he and Kelly met. After spending time in his undergraduate program as an insurance representative and a CPA firm intern, Robinson is now an Accountant at the Hult International Business School in Cambridge, MA. No stranger to mountains, he spent a summer hiking in Wyoming through the NOLS program, a leader in wilderness education.


“I was lucky to have a well-experienced hiker like Zach by my side for this trip. He is well-versed in hiking, camping and survival strategy. Even in our most dangerous moments, he exercised great judgement.” Skelton concluded.


The 20-5-1 fundraiser has a goal to raise $100,000 for pediatric cancer research and childhood cancer research awareness this summer of 2019. The updates about this campaign can be found on the 20-5-1 Campaign Page including a bit about each hike.




Follow on twitter @FiberOpticCntr and the FOC Facebook Page.