Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Franconia Ridge Traverse. December 26, 2015

Peaks: Lafayette, North Lincoln, Lincoln, Little Haystack, Liberty, and Flume
Trails: Old Bridle Path, Greenleaf Trail, Franconia Ridge Trail, Osseo Trail, Lincoln Woods Trail.
15.6 miles with around 5300 feet of elevation gain.

There are two sections of the Whites that make me very nervous during winter: Greenleaf Trail through Franconia Ridge Trail (summit cone of Lafayette, plus Lafayette to Little Haystack) and the northern Presidentials (from Madison Springs Hut to Washington).  December 26 had a forecast of bright sun, warm temps (for the season), and still no snow, so it seemed appropriate to get one of those two sketchy sections of the Whites out of the way for Sage's winter 4K list.  The extremely unusual lack of snow and ice would make our hike much safer than it usually is during calendar winter.  Of course, we're now chasing the Grid, so we'll have to get those two sketchy sections during the other winter months as well (not just late December)..but I'm choosing to worry about all that one month at a time.

We chose the Franconia Ridge Traverse.  This way, Sage could get Lafayette through Flume for her winter 4Ks, plus another Trailwrights 72 peak, and John could get Lafayette and Lincoln for his winter 48.  Sage needs the northern Presidentials for winter as well...but they'll have to wait.

We spotted a car at Lincoln Woods and had boots on trail for Old Bridle Path around 7:20am.

Up we went.  We even had our dog with us (he usually doesn't hike during the winter since he doesn't like hiking in the snow).

We made quick time to the viewpoint just below the Agonies.  The temps were so comfortable below treeline that I ended up hiking in my tank top.

Looking back toward the valley

Lafayette in the clouds
Up we went, over the three Agonies.

This Agony is my favorite.  Smooth and steep, and it looks like a sculpture.

We encountered frosty trees near (closed for the season) Greenleaf Hut.

The sun finally breaking through the clouds
We layered up -- the wind was biting! -- and headed up the summit cone of Lafayette.  Every once in a while, we'd turn back and enjoy the gorgeous views.

Looking down on Greenleaf Hut with Cannon and the Kinsmans right behind it.

The ridge and Lincoln

This was the coldest part of our day.  The windchill must have been close to zero.  Up we went, over frosty rocks (but they were not nearly as frosty/icy as they usually are this time of year!)


The girls posed for a quick photo before they dove for cover to put on their windproof pants.

Looking at Owls Head and the Bonds...

The girls hunkered down and got on their windproof pants while I took this photo of Cannon, the Kinsmans, and the Moose...

Looking ahead to our destinations -- the ridge all the way to Mt. Flume.

After quickly eating a snack and chugging some light eggnog, we got moving again.  It was too cold on Lafayette to linger.

On the way down Lafayette, heading toward North Lincoln.  Sage is realizing she needs her balaclava.

Almost on North Lincoln...

Sage on North Lincoln!  Another Trailwrights peak down -- she's almost finished!

Alex says hello while on North Lincoln...

On North Lincoln, looking toward Lincoln.

On Lincoln, eating Feta on Franconia Ridge.   :)

On Lincoln, looking toward our next destinations, Liberty and Flume.

The girls and me on Mt. Lincoln.

We headed toward Little Haystack, where we passed out some of our excess Christmas candy to hikers coming up Falling Waters Trail, then we headed down into the trees and over to Liberty, where it felt like summer.

I hadn't done this stretch of trail (between Little Haystack and Liberty) in years, and I was pleasantly surprised at how mellow it is.  It never gets all that steep, and the footing is generally good.

On Liberty, with Cannon in the background.

Views from Liberty...

Looking toward Flume from Liberty.  I love how that peak looks from afar.  Depending on which peak you're on, Flume either looks very pointy or very cliff-y.

There were a lot of people enjoying the warm weather on Liberty.  I took out my bag of Christmas candy, made a general announcement, and put it down for folks to come and take from it whatever they wanted.

I also met quite a few familiar Facebook faces, and I re-met Joe, who had been on Moosilauke when then-six-year-old Alex finished her first round of the NH48 in August 2009.  It was really nice meeting everyone!

The trek from Liberty to Flume isn't very steep either.  This traverse was nothing like our Kinsman Ridge experience, which had felt like a never-ending series of steep PUDS (Pointless Ups and Downs).

The girls on Flume...

Me and the girls on Flume...

Views south from Flume, including the little cliff-walk that takes you down via Osseo Trail.

We took a final look at what we had accomplished before we headed down into the trees.  From left to right, there's Liberty, Little Haystack, Liberty, and Lafayette.

Down we went, via Osseo Trail and all its (mellow) ladders.

It was a great day, and we enjoyed our time on the trail with our friend John.  We always enjoy his company when he's able to hike with us!

Also -- I got to finally meet White Mountain legend Sue "Stinkyfeet."  We ran into her between Liberty and Little Haystack.  "Stinkyfeet" has either been the first woman or the fastest woman to do pretty much every hiking accomplishment in the Whites.  I enjoyed telling Alex and Sage about her after we crossed paths.

That's it for 2015.  We've done a lot -- tons of 4Ks, the Great Wall of China, and Idaho's Borah Peak.  in 2016, we'll do a ton more 4Ks, MAYBE another highpoint, and hopefully a fun trek through Iceland.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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