Mount Tecumseh – The Stairway to Hell (and why this should NOT be your first 4000 footer)

As I enter the final quarter of completing the 4000 footer list, I’ve been finding myself revisiting a lot of peaks from early on in my journey to 48. While I’d like to say I’m doing this because of some heart-warming, sentimental desire to reflect back on how much I’ve grown as a person – the truth is, the only thing that’s grown is the size of my bum – thanks to a global pandemic, excessive Netflix-watching, and the discovery that I can get Ben & Jerry’s delivered contact-free to my door.

So, as I work off this pandemic paunch and get myself ready for my final 13, I’ve been hitting a lot of the “starter” 4K mountains. Earlier this week, I ventured up my arch-nemesis Tecumseh – and as expected, my cold little heart filled with deep-seeded rage as I climbed up step, after step, after STEP – ugh! Like Tiger King to Carole Baskins – Tecumseh and I share a venomous rivalry – minus the flashy outfits, southern accents and well, tigers.

Now for some reason, Tecumseh is one of the most highly recommended starter mountains for the 4000 footer list – which I think is a conspiracy to promote summer tourism in the Waterville Valley Ski Area – I’m onto you Sununu! So, with that in mind, here are the reasons why you should NOT start your 4000 footer journey on that b*tch Tecumseh Mountain.

My mood when climbing the Tecumseh stairs

Low mileage does NOT mean low effort
At 5 miles roundtrip, Tecumseh is one of the shortest 4000 footers in terms of distance. But don’t let the low mileage fool you, you will cover 2200 feet in elevation gain in the 2.5 miles it takes to ascend Tecumseh. While I’m really terrible at math, my abacus tells me that’s like, A LOT of elevation gain in a short distance.

Stairway to heaven? NOPE!
When you first hit the rock stairs on Tecumseh, you’ll most likely think, “Oh, cool! Rock stairs!” But this will quickly be replaced by, “Oh, f***! MORE rock stairs!?!” as this seeming stairway to heaven, quickly turns into a stairway to hell. Then when you get to the top, the crashing realization that your janky joints have to go back DOWN all those stairs.

At one point, I tried counting the numbers of steps on Tecumseh to break up the monotonous slog but as I said, I’m terrible at math so I quickly lost count. Like Mr. Owl and his quest to uncover how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop, the world may never know how many steps it takes to climb Mount Tecumseh.

The summit is a snore (and awkwardly small)
Tecumseh’s summit is just meh – while it’s certainly not the worst summit of the 48, it’s not all that exciting either. It’s also kind of small – there were 4 other people on Tecumseh’s summit, and I found myself just kind of loitering around like a creepy Sasquatch waiting for one of them to leave so I could claim a spot and snap my stink face summit pic.

The summit – meh

Is it even a 4000 footer!?
Ok, this is a controversial topic. According to the Bible (i.e. The White Mountain Guide), Tecumseh stands at 4,003 feet. But more recently, some Judas came along reporting that – in a recent survey – Tecumseh stands at only 3,995 feet. While this was two years ago, and the AMC hasn’t delisted Tecumseh from the 48, there is the possibility that it could happen. But for me, I choose to think WWSSD (What Would Steve Smith Do?) and believe that Tecumseh isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Psst: To those of you not in the know, Steve Smith is the author of the White Mountains Guide and owner of the Mountain Wanderer bookstore in Lincoln. He is awesome, and the White Mountains Guide is a must have if you are serious about working on the 4000 footer list.

While it’s important to figure out where you plan to end your 4000 footer journey, I think it’s equally as important to figure out where you’ll start your 4000 footer journey. And honestly, is Tecumseh really the legacy you want to leave behind when you’re sitting in your rocking chair with your janky old knees reflecting upon your 4000 footer journey? I think not. Instead, I recommend Mount Osceola (or Pierce), to kick off your 4000 footer start.

Ok, the summit is kinda pretty but there are better mountains to start your 48 with

Final thoughts
Well, that concludes my vehement case against hiking Mount Tecumseh for your first 4000 footer mountain. But honestly, it’s not all that bad – and while it’s certainly not my first choice, YOU DO YOU when it comes to the 48 and only take the advice of some weirdo internet stranger (with apparent anger issues), with a grain of salt.

In the meantime, hike on and #hikesassy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *