Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Franconia Ridge Traverse - August 18, 2013

Wrapping up a beautiful weekend in the White Mountains, I naturally was thrilled to be hiking Franconia Ridge, home of some of the best ridge hiking in the area. Of course, the weathermen missed a bit on the forecast, as we didn't get the clear blue skies that were forecast, but it was still a terrific time. Theresa had posted this hike on Friday, and I was the only one who signed up. Meeting bright and early at Lincoln Woods, we saw one of Theresa's hiking friends in the parking lot getting set to embark on a Pemi Loop with his dog (we would see them again about 10 hours later as they neared the end of their loop!). Leaving my car, we took off up the notch to the Skookumchuck Trailhead, our starting point for the day. This was a trail on my to-do list, and getting to combo it with one of my favorite hikes, a full traverse of Franconia Ridge, was awesome.

The Skookumchuck Trail was a pleasant trail, with a steady, never steep, grade all the way up, and terrific footing the whole way. The trail work was great, with great rock staircases installed and not a blowdown to be seen on this lightly-traveled trail. We cruised right up it and soon met the Garfield Ridge Trail North of Lafayette, where the fun ridge-walking was to start.

Nice trail work on the Skookumchuck Trail

Looking to the North as we climbed the Northern side of Lafayette

The summit of Lafayette ahead

Cannon Mountain across the notch

People on the summit - most left before we got there though
I had last been on the North side of Lafayette in 2000, during my first trip to the White Mountains, and I had forgotten how awesome it was. Summitting Lafayette, we were clearly ahead of the bulk of the crowds, and despite the overcast skies, we thoroughly enjoyed the views we had. An added bonus was running into Scott, of 2 Brother's Hikes, who was up for a single-day traverse of the ridge himself. His plan had been to descend via Flume Slide Trail (?!?!?!) and walk the bike path back to his car at the Old Bridle Path lot, but we invited him to head to Lincoln Woods with us, and he accepted. The three of us had a great hike the rest of the day.

Franconia Ridge heading South

Mount Lincoln

The gliders were flying over the ridge today, which was very cool!

Lafayette from Lincoln
Still moving right along, we worked our way over Truman (a bump on the way to Lincoln), Lincoln, and then to Little Haystack Mountain, still seeing fairly few people considering how popular the ridge is on the weekend. It may have helped that we were there before noon, I am sure it was mobbed shortly after we departed for Liberty. The 2 miles from Little Haystack to Liberty is not some people's favorite stretch of trail, but I personally think it is a pleasant stretch once down the scrambles off Little Haystack. Soon enough we made it to the awesome cliffy summit of Liberty.

The "Knife Edge" to Little Haystack Mountain

Descending a scramble

Looking back to Lincoln


Flume (L) and Liberty (R) from Little Haystack Mountain

The summit of Liberty
We enjoyed a brief break on Liberty before heading over to Flume, the part I consider the hardest part of the single-day traverse as you have a significant drop and gain of elevation in the 1.2-mile stretch (roughly a 550 foot climb to Flume once you drop nearly 650 feet). We made quick work of it though, reaching the Flume in good order for our last major views of the day. I love Flume's summit, and twice have seen ravens dropping from its cliffs before, though today was not such a day.

The cliffs just below the summit of Flume

Looking back at where we'd been

Still some folks on Liberty

All that was left now was the 5.5-mile hike out on the Osseo and Lincoln Woods Trails, which is a fairly mild descent route (especially when you get lower down where the lower 2.5 miles is pretty flat on old railroad and logging grades). Low on the Osseo Trail is where we were overtaken by Theresa's friend and his dog, on their way to finishing their Pemi Loop in roughly 10 hours, well done guys! Making it to the lot, we piled into my car and dropped Scott off at his car before retrieving Theresa's, and the 3 of us grabbed some dinner at the Mad River Tavern in Campton on our way to our homes to the South. Perfect end to a great weekend in New Hampshire.

Bonds from the Osseo Trail "downlook"

The vast Western side of the Pemi Wilderness from the Osseo Trail "downlook"
Route: Skookumchuck Trail, Franconia Ridge Trail, Osseo Trail, Lincoln Woods Trail
Peaks: Lafayette (5260', NH4K), Truman (5000', TW72), Lincoln (5089', NH4K), Little Haystack (4760', TW72), Liberty (4459', NH4K), Flume (4328', NH4K)
Mileage: 15.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 5000ft
Book Time: 10hr 20min (actual 10hr 20min)

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