Franconia Ridge is gorgeous to hike any time of yr. However it may well get fairly bushy to climb in winter when it’s chilly and the wind is blowing laborious. The very best days don’t come round that always so you must watch the climate forecast carefully and find time for a hike when climate window presents itself.
I bought a kind of climate home windows final week, proper earlier than the Martin Luther King vacation, when the forecast referred to as for 20-degree temperatures and low winds, reducing to 10-15 mph within the afternoon. That’s distinctive for January, so I cleared my calendar and determined to go for it.
My objective for this hike was to climb 2 5 thousand footers, Mt Lincoln (5080′) and Mt Lafayette (5242′). That is normally accomplished as a loop hike, climbing a peak adjoining to Lincoln on the ridge referred to as Little Haystack (4760′), earlier than following the Franconia Ridge Path over Lincoln, a minor peak named Mt Truman (5020′), after which Lafayette, earlier than descending Lafayette to the AMC’s Greenleaf Hut (closed in winter), and climbing again right down to the Franconia Notch trailhead. The overall loop is near 9 miles in size with 4000′ of elevation achieve. It’s a critical hike and more durable in winter when you need to carry much more gear.
We’d skilled fairly heavy snowfall the prior week and I didn’t know what sort of snow situations can be on the ridge above treeline. No journey studies had been posted on NETrailConditions.com, which is how critical hikers share that info within the White Mountains.
So I packed all of the gear I would want for the traverse as a result of I didn’t wish to rise up there and never have the ability to end the route. I’ve used the entire gear under besides the Dion Snowshoes, on earlier winter hikes alongside Franconia Ridge, so this wasn’t my first rodeo.
- Hillsound Path Crampons
- Dion Snowshoes
- Grivel G1 Common Crampons
- Camp Corsa Ice Axe
- North45 Balaclava
- Smith Ski Goggles
- A number of units of gloves, meals, drink, and layers
The day of the hike, I met two buddies who wished to hitch me and we bought a civilized begin at 8:30 am. We knew it might take us about 3 hours to get to treeline, a 3.2 mile hike up with 3000′ of elevation achieve. It’s one other 2.8 miles alongside the ridge and down the west face of Mt Lafayette to get to the security of treeline on the AMC Hut, and a couple of.9 miles extra to get again right down to the trailhead. Our precedence was to get again right down to treeline and the hut earlier than darkish, for the reason that closing descent to the trailhead may be accomplished by headlamp pretty safely.
We set out and situations had been respectable however not nice. The path was lined by a foot or so of snow and had been post-holed by individuals who hadn’t worn snowshoes after which frozen. Whereas annoying, it meant we may hike of their footsteps, fairly actually, all the best way to treeline, with none traction aids. The entire water crossings en route had been bridged on the best way up and we made fairly respectable time.
Slightly below treeline, my two companions determined to bail as a result of they had been having a nasty day – it occurs – they usually headed again down the path. I continued up, judging the climate situations secure sufficient for a solo traverse. I’m cautious however I wished to climb Lincoln and Lafayette in January for my Grid and judged the chance degree as acceptable.
There was simply sufficient wind that I made a decision to guard my face by sporting a balaclava if you get to treeline on Little Haystack there are some rocks on the summit you’ll be able to shelter behind to get out of the wind, so I ducked between them and adjusted my gear for the ridge hike over Lincoln, Truman, and Lafayette The solar was heat however there was a breeze so I opted to placed on a balaclava to defend my face and full crampons for traction. Then I set off.
The ridge path was lined with dry powdery snow about 6″ deep interspersed with stretches of ice. The Franconia Ridge is pretty degree between Lincoln and Lafayette, however there are rocky outcrops and scrambles that one must climb over or round. I want the surety of crampons over snowshoes for scrambling, but it surely was a toss-up as to which might have been the higher possibility.
I solely needed to hike a brief distance north to climb Mt Lincoln so I set off. There was nonetheless some undercast within the valley under which I reveled in as I walked. I quickly handed a gaggle I’d seen on the trailhead heading south and began the climb up Lincoln which concerned clambering over the ice-blasted rock outcroppings. My crampons made this simple.
I summitted Lincoln and took within the view, earlier than climbing down the opposite aspect to the following goal generally known as Mt Truman which is a bump alongside the ridge between Mt Lincoln and Mt Lafayette. Mt Truman and for the matter Little Haystack are 4000 footers, however not on the AMC’s White Mountain 4 Thousand Footer Checklist. As an alternative, they’re on the Trailwrights 72 peakbagging checklist which is way more durable to complete as a result of it contains 24 extra four-thousand footers and you may solely rely one peak per hike towards completion. Meaning it takes 4 separate hikes to climb Litte Haystack, Mt Lincoln, Mt Truman, and Mt Lafayette.
Truman is only a bump alongside the ridge and is simple to high, but it surely has a tough descent down the opposite aspect, so I opted to hike round it utilizing a shortcut I’ve used previously. However there’s been so little site visitors on the Franconia Ridge Path just lately, that I ended up stepping right into a spruce entice. This can be a winter hazard the place snow covers the voids between bushes and when you step on one you’ll be able to sink into the void and never have the ability to get out.
I did sink in, however rapidly realized what was taking place and began to again away, solely to seek out that I couldn’t backtrack. I wiggled my toes to interrupt free and that’s once I suppose I misplaced one among my crampons. Not good. I lunged ahead throughout the spruce entice and managed to scramble out of it on the opposite aspect earlier than sinking additional. Good factor too, as a result of I didn’t wish to die there alone.
I rapidly put the incident out of my thoughts and headed towards Lafayette, passing by means of a stand of krummholz (dwarf shrubbery) earlier than rising again out within the open on the opposite aspect. Lafayette was about 200 toes of elevation achieve farther up and I felt myself tiring. However I nonetheless had loads of daylight left, so I slowed my tempo and took smaller steps till I reached the summit signal.
That is the place earlier expertise paid off. If you get to Lafayette, you must flip west to descend to the Greenleaf Hut and never proceed north. The path down generally is a little difficult to comply with, particularly because it’s solely marked by snow-covered rock cairns that appear to be all the opposite rocks piled on the aspect of Lafayette. Nearly all of fatalities on Lafayette in winter happen when folks miss that flip or lose the path on the best way down and find yourself descending right into a steep gully north of the particular path. I had glorious visibility on my hike, however you’ll be able to actually get into bother when you’ll be able to’t see the cairns marking the route taking place.
After I bought right down to the hut, I refueled, consuming and ingesting. I nonetheless had two hours earlier than sundown and I used to be assured that I’d make it again right down to the trailhead by sundown at 4:30. The path under the hut (referred to as the Previous Bridle Path) runs over a sequence of peaklets which can be generally known as Agony Ridge. Whereas they take some effort to climb, I made glorious time on the descent, getting again to the trailhead by 4:00 pm.
I’d had incredible climate and moreover my spruce entice expertise, it’d been a reasonably simple hike. I used to be elated to “grid out” Lincoln and Lafayette for my 4000 Footer Grid, that means I’ve now hiked them in each calendar month of the yr. However that is one route I’m certain I’ll hike time and again sooner or later: it’s simply too lovely to move up.
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