Mount Tecumseh, 4000 Footers Hiking List

The village of Waterville Valley, New Hampshire during the autumn months. Mt Tecumseh is in the background. This mountain is named for the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh  (c.1768–1813).
Mount Tecumseh (2012) – Waterville Valley, New Hampshire
 

Mount Tecumseh, 4000 Footers Hiking List – On the same day that I publicized my Owl’s Head, Conserving Wilderness article, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) posted an article about some of the mountains on the White Mountain 4000 footers hiking list may not be over 4,000 feet. Being over 4,000 feet is one of the criteria for a mountain to be on the list. While our articles focus on different mountains on the hiking list, they both suggest that the time is coming for the AMC 4000 footer club to reevaluate the hiking list.

Lidar, a laser based technology, is currently being used to remap the White Mountains. This technology is very accurate at determining mountain elevations. And it was made public that the Lidar data is indicating that at least one mountain, Mount Tecumseh, is under the 4,000 foot criteria. According to the data Tecumseh is 3,995 feet, not 4,003 feet. Will the Lidar data reveal that Mount Isolation (4,004 feet) and Mount Waumbek (4,006 feet) are also below the 4,000 foot criteria?

July 2016 - A newly built stone staircase along the Mt Tecumseh Trail in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. Trail stewardship groups promote that minimal stonework should be done along hiking trails; and that any trail work done along a trail should look natural and blend in with the surroundings.
Mt Tecumseh Trail (2016) – White Mountains, New Hampshire
 

Once the Lidar mapping project is complete, the AMC 4000 footer club will have to decide if Mount Tecumseh and possibly other mountains that fall below the 4,000 foot criteria are taking off the list. And the wrinkle in all this is might be Sandwich Mountain (3980 feet). Could it be over 4,000 feet?

Mount Tecumseh being under 4,000 feet may seem like breaking news, but its elevation has been in question for a while. The Lidar data proves the mountain is indeed below the main criteria to be on the White Mountain 4000 footers hiking list.

July 2016 - Newly built stone steps along the Mount Tecumseh Trail in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire during the summer months. Trail stewardship groups promote that minimal stonework should be done along trails. And that stonework should look natural and blend in with the surroundings.
Mt Tecumseh Trail (2016) – White Mountains, New Hampshire
 

The hike to Mount Tecumseh is a very popular hike. And similar to Owl's Head, many hikers are only hiking the mountain because it is on the White Mountain 4000 footers hiking list. The main difference between the two is that Owl’s Head is within a designated wilderness area (Wilderness Act governs), and Mount Tecumseh is not. The management of these mountains is the complete opposite of one another. While trail work is minimal on Owl’s Head, trail work on Tecumseh is excessive to the point where man’s work overpowers nature.

June 2018 - A tree wound on a birch tree along the Mt Tecumseh Trail in New Hampshire. This wound is from man not using proper protocol to remove a painted trail marker (blaze) from the tree. A  yellow trail blaze was painted on the tree in 2011, and then improperly removed from the tree in the spring of 2012. The bark, where the blaze was, was cut and peeled away creating a tree wound.
Trail Blaze Wound, Blaze Removed in 2012 – Mt Tecumseh Trail (2018)
 

But what separates Owl’s Head and Tecumseh is the human impact. The impact concerns on Owl’s Head is debatable. However, between illegal cutting and poor (and excessive) stewardship practices, Tecumseh has seen real impact over the last eight years. And we can even determine when the impact started.

September 2013 #2 - View of illegal tree cutting on Mt Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. Unauthorized cutting of trees on National Forest land is considered vandalism, and it has become a problem on Mt Tecumseh. Forest Service has verified this cutting is unauthorized, and they are trying to determine who is doing it.
Illegal Cutting (2013) – Mount Tecumseh, New Hampshire
 

Over a period of time, rogue hikers illegally cut (vandalism) down trees on Mount Tecumseh to improve a viewpoint. Small amounts of cutting started in 2011, and a large section was cut away in 2013. They also cut other areas of the summit. It's very likely a peakbagger did some, maybe all, of this illegal cutting.

The higher elevations of the White Mountains are home to rare bird habitat. Mountain birdwatch results indicate that between 2000 and 2009 Bicknell's Thrush, an extremely rare species with very limited breeding grounds, was detected on Mount Tecumseh. So this illegal cutting possibly damaged bird habitat. However, some hikers don’t care about conservation and feel this type of impact too the environment is perfectly acceptable.

Stone steps along the Mt Tecumseh Trail in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire USA during the spring months.
Mt Tecumseh Trail (2016) – White Mountains, New Hampshire
 

If Mount Tecumseh wasn’t on any of the hiking lists, hiker traffic would drop on this mountain. And much of the human impact on the mountain probably would have never happened. And, let's be realistic, social media has influenced some of the issues surrounding this mountain.

July 2016 - A herd path on the summit of Mt Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. This herd path, illegally cut between 2011-2013, leads to a viewpoint of the ski area. The impact it is having on the environment is evident in this image, and it continues to worsen.
Herd Path on Summit (2016) – Mount Tecumseh, New Hampshire
 

Peakbagging in the White Mountains dates back to 1931 when Nathaniel L. Goodrich, in an Appalachia article, suggested a list of 36 mountains to hike. Goodrich’s list was the starting point for the White Mountain 4000 footers list we know today.

The official White Mountain 4000 footers hiking list, published in Appalachia in June 1958, originally consisted of 46 mountains. Galehead was added in 1975, and Bondcliff added in 1980. At the time, Franconia Ridge and the Presidential Range were seeing heavy use, and the intent of this list was to disperse hikers across the White Mountains. But because of the surge in peakbagging the original vision of this list isn’t working in the 21st-century. The hiking list craze is creating overuse (human impact) issues throughout the White Mountains.

September 2013 #2 - View of illegal tree cutting on Mt Tecumseh in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. Unauthorized cutting of trees on National Forest land is considered vandalism, and it has become a problem on Mt Tecumseh. Forest Service has verified this cutting is unauthorized, and they are trying to determine who is doing it.
Illegal Cutting (2013) – Mount Tecumseh, New Hampshire
 

The AMC 4000 footer club has been instrumental in luring people to the White Mountains. And the donations they have made over the years to better our trails can’t be ignored. But with all the concerns of overuse. And all of these hiking lists being partially to blame for the overuse, the perfect opportunity is coming to overhaul the White Mountain 4000 footers hiking list so that it better benefits conservation efforts.

Once the Lidar project is complete, and the AMC 4000 footer club reviews the data. Remove Mount Tecumseh and any other mountain that falls below 4,000 feet from the hiking list. And if need be, add any new mountains that do qualify. In the long run, this will help with overuse issues. But also add new criteria to this list that requires hikers to donate time (similar to the Trailwrights 72 hiking list) in some way to the White Mountains. Or even require a leave no trace course. The long term benefits of either of these should be obvious.

Nathaniel L. Goodrich (1880-1957), the founder of peakbagging in the White Mountains, would be thrilled to know how many hikers have followed in his footsteps. And an opportunity is coming to build off his vision so future generations can enjoy the White Mountains.

Happy image making…


 

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Erin Paul is a professional photographer who specializes in environmental conservation and historic preservation photography in the New Hampshire White Mountains. His work is published worldwide, and credits include; Backpacker Magazine, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and The Wilderness Society.

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2 Responses to “Mount Tecumseh, 4000 Footers Hiking List”

  1. Salty

    I am eagerly awaiting the LiDAR set for the Pemi (for many reason beyond just The List), but I'll be very curious to see if there's losses or additions just due to prominence. There's at least 2 potential losses and 1 possible gain that I can think of offhand. 

    Agree that the possible new list will completely reshape certain mountains, for better or for worse.

    Reply
    • Erin Paul Donovan

      Hi Mike,

      I am also waiting for the Lidar for the Pemi Wilderness. Should be pretty cool to see! And the possible losses and additions just due to prominence will be interesting.

      If the AMC 4000 footer club jumps on this possible opportunity to reevaluate the White Mountain 4000 footers hiking list, I think good things can come out of reshaping the hiking list.

      Reply

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