Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Frozen Shot of Franconia Ridge With a Lonsome Lake Chaser - 9/19 - 9/20-2009

After the early exit from the Pemi Loop in July we've had our sights set on Franconia Ridge. Couldn't be that close and not make it this year. This weekend all the stars seemed to be aligned. Our daughter was sleeping over at a friend's house, the weather forecast was great - perfect! We got a reservation for Saturday night at Lafayette Place (which turned out to be a good thing since they were full by the time we checked in). Our friend Mary who has been trying to get into hiking had also been thinking about going up North this weekend and decided to join us. Everything was set! 

We were on the road at 4:30 Saturday morning and were in the trailhead lot at 7:50. No traffic to worry about at that time. The skies were clear and blue all the way up - right until we got to Franconia Notch that is. Some clouds were moving in from the West and were covering the ridge when we started. Signs of things to come. The OBS higher summits forecast the night before had been for temps in the low 30s with 40-55mph winds and clouds clearing as the day progressed. We geared up accordingly and hit the trail. 

It was a bit windy and chilly but comfortable going up the Falling Waters trail and we made pretty good time. Just above Shining Rock we met a couple who were coming down from the ridge and commented that it was "28 and frosty up there". Frosty - hmmmm. As we reached the beginning of the trees just below treeline we were greeted by everything covered in a nice fresh coat of rime. Beautiful (but a bit surreal for a nice September day). We took our lunch break in the trees and put our extra layers on before hitting the ridge. We ran into a bunch of groups going past us with people in shorts and t-shirts with maybe a cotton sweatshirt for extra warmth. Many were grumbling about the cold but none were turning back. We told several what the forecast was but that just produced more grumbling.

When we ventured out onto the ridge we were greeted with a truly surreal landscape. The rocks, trees and everything vertical was covered in rime or "ice feathers". Visibility was only a hundred yards or so much of the time. The temp was probably around 30 and the wind was blowing 40-50 (a guess). As bad as that sounds it was just beautiful! We kept hoping that we were going to get the clearing that had been predicted so that Mary could get her first views across the ridge, but no such luck. We made it across without hurrying and stayed reasonably comfortable. We were able to get on the lee side of the rocks and stay out of the wind at least part of the time. My new Seek the Peak polar fleece did a great job of wind blocking and warmth (over a couple of other layers). I can't imagine how some of the "shorts and t-shirt crowd" made it across though.

We were on the summit of Lafayette at 1:00 (2 hours across the ridge) and found a nice spot in the rocks out of the wind for tea and snack to warm up. As we were finishing the clouds started to lift and soon everything to the West was in the clear. We never did get a view into the Pemi though. After a short stay on the summit and some summit pics to celebrate we headed for the hut. We had incredible views all the way down with some really wonderful ones back up to the ridge with the rime now gleaming in the sun. 

We stopped at the hut which was packed to overflowing with other day-hikers. We lucked out and got some great soup that they had made for the extra crowd. Warmed up inside and out we headed out after taking some time on the porch to soak in the views of the ridge now completely under sunny skies. The hike down the Old Bridle Path was great and we enjoyed more awesome views from the ledges on the way. We were back at the car at 5:30 after a long and wonderful day. We checked into the campground and quickly got our tents pitched and celebrated with a glass of wine (thanks Mary) before heading out for a fantastic dinner at Gypsy Cafe. We all slept great burrowed into our sleeping bags on a very cold Fall night. 

We woke to beautiful blue skies and the wind has disappeared. After a quick breakfast and coffee by the fire we did a whirlwind pack-up and headed out for a quick hike up to Lonesome Lake to finish off the weekend. The hike up to and around the lake was beautiful and the views across the lake to Franconia Ridge were spectacular. I reminded Mary of the fact that what she was looking at was the complete route that she had done over the last day and that she should be pretty proud for her first real significant hike after getting back into hiking. Hats off Mary!! We had a great time sharing this with you! 

We finished off the trip in the best way possible - with lunch on the patio at Woodstock Station. All in all an absolutely perfect weekend!!!

Cloudland Falls

The new fleece preparing to take on the cold

Ice Feathers

What Lies Ahead

The Frozen Version of "What the Hell Rock"

Frozen Landscape

Mary and Nat Crossing Lincoln

Cold, Windy (and slippery) on Mt Truman

Clearing on Lafayette

Happy Hikers!

Mary Joining the Lafayette Celebration

Frosty Cairn

Garfield Ridge Emerging 

Franconia Ridge Finally Out of the Clouds

The Agonies and Lafayette from the Old Bridle Path

Sunday at Lonesome Lake

No clouds, ice or wind on Franconia Ridge now...