North to South

The net altitude gain in doing this segment from the north is about a thousand feet. The difference between Woods Creek and Glen Pass, however, is a good 3500 feet. The first two thousand feet of that gain takes place over more than six miles, which isn't too bad. The last 1500 feet occurs in a mile and a half. After it leaves the southernmost of the Rae Lakes, the trail begins a relentless uphill assault, sections of which, towards the upper altitudes, are almost laughably steep. Couple that with an almost year-round expanse of snow near the crest and you've got a heck of a pass to climb. The descent down the other side is swift and convoluted. Eventually, it smooths out some distance above sparkly Charlotte Lake and glides down to a popular junction with the trail to the Kearsarge Pass trail. After the rocky extremes of the pass, the drop down to Vidette Meadow is a welcome change of greenery. The switchbacks provide extraordinary views of the climb to come as the trail settles into the coolness of the valley at the foot of East Vidette.

South to North

Northbound hikers will find the going a little steep after Vidette Meadow. The climb up to the Kearsarge Pass Trail junction is long but shaded for the most part, and a stream provides water if needed. Climbing past that junction gets steep again, but the views west over Charlotte Lake to Charlotte Dome are pretty damn cool. As soon as the trail veers east, cutting into the granite gorge below Glen, the going gets steep and rocky. When finally the pass itself heaves into view, it's almost impossible to see how a trail can even exist. But it does, and in measured, reasonable switchbacks it slashes its way up the final distance to the crest. Linger for a while at the top, because the descent to Rae Lakes happens so fast that in no time you'll be down among the trees again and the windswept euphoria at the top will seem like something of a dream. Be kind to your feet on the way down. One and a half granite-packed miles of descent can make even the strongest toesies cower in abject misery. Beautiful Rae Lakes provide a respite from the downhill and a pause before it begins again, but the stretch leading down to Woods Creek is hardly the granite blister-fest that came before.