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Rock hopping with Run the Whites

Creative athlete and gear guru Andrew Drummond helps athletes come together and explore the White Mountains year-round.

Morgan Tilton

September 11th, 2022

9 min read

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In 2015 Scott Jurek was on a mission to break the record on the iconic Appalachian Trail. The notch-on-your-belt hike from Georgia to Maine takes most people four to seven months to complete. Scott was attempting to run the 2,194-mile distance, but as he approached New Hampshire, he had fallen behind the daily mileage required to set a new Fastest Known Time (FKT). And he was traveling north, which meant that he’d have to tackle the portion of the AT that runs through the White Mountains — the most extensive section above treeline — late in his adventure.

Scott’s team reached out for local knowledge. They needed help navigating the quartz-granite formations and pinnacles of the Northeast through the White’s notoriously rocky and rooted vertical terrain. They called on Andrew Drummond, a local athlete and entrepreneur raised in Conway to guide Scott the 100-miles across north-central New Hampshire. Seventy hours after they hit the trail together, Andrew had run his first ultra-distance and Scott was back on track for his eventual supported record of 46 days and 8 hours.

Now, the Whites are experiencing a surge of FKTs. A large portion of that momentum connects back, like strands on a parachute, to the imagination of that same Granite State athlete.

Andrew Drummond turns pipe dreams into reality, whether it’s his adventure or not, and makes sure you’re along for the ride, whether you’re in New England or not. And he’s been focused on shifting the outdoor marketing paradigm from the Rockies and Chamonix towards the 4,000-footers of the Northeast.

Andrew, running the Whites. Photo by Chris Shane.

As a content creator, ambassador, and model for brands like Norrona, Fischer, and Patagonia, Andrew has produced countless short films, stories, photos, and magazine spreads over the past eight years. He earned a reputation of storytelling in sync with becoming an expert of the Whites by immersing himself outside — skiing every single day. And through his businesses, Run the Whites and Ski the Whites, Andrew has created a thriving community that feeds off the contagious, welcoming energy of having an open door to newcomers, competitors, experts, and travelers alike. As they’ve shown, positive, unstoppable momentum is built on shared experiences.

Growing up, Andrew’s parents were involved with a local road running club, but he was drawn to team sports. Eventually, alpine ski racing became the focal point of his athletic life. For high school, he attended the Gould Academy Competition Program and by senior year started ski patrolling. But he burned out. “I fell out of love with ski racing and switched to surfing,” says Andrew, who spent his 2003 college spring break in Costa Rica learning to catch waves. He was hooked and studied abroad in Australia.

“I bought a surfboard and van and did science courses for my biology major, but the emphasis was on surfing before and after school and on long weekends,” says Andrew. He started running on the beach to build his aerobic engine for big water.

After graduating from Colby College, the surfer moved to San Diego, and eventually Baja, Mexico, for a decade of around-the-clock swell chasing while working as an environmental consultant — his dream job. Eventually, he landed a role working on 300-foot-long oil exploration boats that map out the ocean floor, and his only means of exercise was a track on the deck or treadmill inside. He picked up Born to Run, and his curiosity piqued.

Waiting for sets of waves is a fickle game and the beaches got crowded, says Andrew. It didn’t feel sustainable. Fun trips back home resurrected old memories of family hikes — he’d summited all 48 of the 4,000-foot peaks by the time he had a driver’s license — and he’d started backcountry skiing. By 2014, he returned east to New Hampshire where he could consistently explore and learn the White Mountains. That summer, watching his longtime girlfriend Hilary McCloy compete in a duathlon sparked even more inspiration to find his own edge.

A year after he crewed Scott, Andrew established the FKT on the 200-mile New Hampshire 4000 Footers, called the White Mountain Direttissima, in July 2016. The route traverses all of the state’s 48 4,000-foot-high peaks totaling 200 miles and 80,000 feet of vertical gain. The cluster of glacial-carved peaks is characterized by round summits and sporadic monadnocks. Densely cloaked by red spruce, eastern hemlock, and red maple the undulating terrain is home to rocky, root-tossed, inhospitable singletrack. Suffice it to say that the area doesn’t spoil its stalkers. Andrew finished the self-powered push, joined by friends for stints, in 5 days, 23 hours, 58 minutes.

“I wanted to be the biggest cheerleader for our mountains and showcase how cool this route is by bringing people along and documenting it. I wanted to plant that seed for others to see what’s possible,” he says.

Andrew realized that what the community lacked was a local hub to get gear for backcountry running or skiing and a way to connect with other athletes. He launched a blog called Ski the Whites, and swarms of people sought his guidance on routes and gear. He started selling and loaning ski equipment out of his basement and truck bed that winter.

Next, Andrew and Hilary organized Friday Night Lights, a weekly uphill skimo style race at Black Mountain. Nearly 100 skiers showed up. Come summer, they introduced the same weekly vertical for Run the Whites with anywhere from 35 to 60 runners. Now, Andrew and co-race director Monte McIndoe organize 5Ks, 10Ks, ultramarathons, Strava challenges, and festivals for athletes year-round.

Friday Night Vert with Run the Whites. Photo by Andrew Drummond.

“Ski the Whites and Run the Whites is an opportunity to create events I want to see exist, and the community aspect is the driving force behind everything,” says Andrew. While directing events, he’s simultaneously checked personal objectives off his list, like the Vermont 50 and 100 Milers, as well as the UTMB OCC and TDS events in France.

Today, the prized 6-year-old gear and service shop is on Main Street in Jackson — 15 minutes from Mount Washington’s Tuckerman Ravine trail — and includes bike equipment, too. Andrew and Hilary run the store and live on the upper story of the converted art gallery with their Australian Shepard, Squall, and shop cat, Pika, who purrs in empty boot boxes and nibbles cardboard. To fuel the cause, in 2020 Andrew launched an in-house coffee shop, hand-roasting small batches to-order.

The medium roast 65 Hour Blend is named in honor of the 2022 Ski the Whites’ Last Skier Standing’ competition. Brody Leven, an adventure skier based in Salt Lake City, Utah, outlasted everyone for laps on Black Mountain, totaling 162 miles and 67,000 feet of gain in 65 hours.

Andrew, at the shop on Main St Jackson, NH. Photo by Monte McIndoe.

“Blown away by the community of folks you’ve created, Ski the Whites. Thank you a million times over. Hard to visit and not want to move there,” Brody shared in an Instagram post.

A few months later, Andrew assisted Jack Kuenzle when he completed the White Mountain 100 Appalachian Trail FKT, covering 104 miles and 34,000 feet of gain on the toughest, most rugged section of the AT between Gotham and Wentworth, in June.

“It’s an honor to take off work to crew people in the community for a legendary performance, document their adventure, take high quality photos, and run alongside them,” says Andrew.

Then Andrew helped capture the journey of Alyssa Godesky, who carved more than 3.5 hours off Will’s FKT time for the new supported female record two weeks later.

Less than a week after aiding Jack, he supported Will Peterson to establish a FKT on the New Hampshire 4,000-Footers. Andrew met him at the route’s terminus, 4,802-foot Mt. Moosilauke, camera in hand. Will has eight FKTs under his belt, and the 23-year-old’s first organized race was the 2021 Bubba’s Backyard Ultra, which Andrew created.

“Hopefully, those efforts catalyze even more attempts,” says Andrew. “Tagging along and watching others have success is helping to amplify the White Mountains and the community. Whether you’re doing a big effort or helping someone, it’s such a cool way to justify being in the mountains.”

4 responses to “Rock hopping with Run the Whites”

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  3. John Spannuth says:

    Nice article. What is a “must do ultra for NH?”

  4. Paul Fitzgibbons says:

    Man! Haven’t been back to NH for years! Now I’m pumped to run Ultras there. Everyone gets so crazy about Ultras in the Rockies and further West, but New England is damn beautiful too…

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