In the Clouds, Lincoln and Lafayette, 12.17.11

Saturday was the last hike of the Winter Hiking Series, and the objective was Lincoln and Lafayette.   The plan was to hike the Falling Waters/Old Bridle Path loop, which I’ve hiked before but in the fall under obviously different weather conditions.

Once we were divided into groups, we headed quickly headed up the trail to get warmed up.  Soon we came to the brook and waterfalls, which were still flowing freely and not yet snowbridged or iced over.  Cloudland Falls is always impressive and just beautiful at this time of year with snow covered rocks and gigantic icicles on the rocks to the left when ascending around the waterfall.

A snowy Cloudland Falls.

Icicles to the left of Cloudland falls on the hike up and around the falls. Some of those icicles are 4 to 5 feet long.

After the falls, we hiked upwards in lightly falling snow, watching it collect on our dark clothing and marveling and the perfection and beauty of the snowflakes.  This was sort of snow which we could see all of the tiny snowflakes in perfect detail.  After a nice break and snack at the Shining Rock spur, we prepared for the last bit of hike to the ridge.  Before popping out onto the ridge, we put on the final layers of winter gear:  jackets, over mitts, balaclavas and goggles.  Thus prepared, we stepped out onto the ridge and seemingly onto another planet.  Without any trees to block the wind, it was much colder, windier and foreign than the safety and familiarity of the forest.  Not only were we definitely in the clouds, but every surface was covered in crunchy, feathery rime ice masking the familiar scree walls, cairns and other terrain features.  Once the goggles and face mask were in place, communication with other group members was limited, which further emphasized the feeling of isolation.

The last of the scrub before heading out over Franconia Ridge.

With only my own thoughts to keep me company, and with everyone keeping focused on staying together, we set out over the ridge with the main goal being Lafayette.  We moved quickly over the summit of Lincoln and with really no views or reason to stop for very long, we kept moving to Lafayette.

Rime iced rocks; I'm guessing somewhere near the summit of Lincoln, but it was hard to tell at the time.

Passing through the last bits of scrub, I knew we were getting closer to the summit, but really had no accurate sense of how close or far we still were.  Only when I could see the vague shapes of people standing on top of  the rocks on the final pitch near the summit did I know we were just about there.  One last little scramble up the rocks and we were on top.  Still in the cloud, we were treated single digit temperatures and a moderate wind.  We were there long enough for pictures and to see the group behind us summit and then regrouped to head down to the hut.

The trail signs at the summit of Lafayette. No views today.

At the signs, enjoying the summit as best as possible.

We quickly descended and coming down out of the clouds, we started to be able to see not only the hut, but down into and across Franconia Notch.  At the hut, we took a longer break, but soon had to keep moving due to the cold.  The trip down was uneventful and a good chance to practice using crampons in some of the iciest spots.  Since the clouds were lifting we were able to get a few views across the notch and back up to the ridge we had traversed, which was a nice way to end the hike.  By moving quickly, we were able to make to the parking lot right before the last light faded and didn’t even need to use headlamps.

First views down to Greenleaf Hut on the descent, as we dropped just below the cloud layer.

A peek back up to the ridge; with some of the cloud cover lifted it was interesting to see some of the day's journey.

The clouds lifted enough to view most of Cannon, across the notch.

The entire Winter Hiking Series was a good experience.  I learned some new things, gained some new confidence and met a group of people who love the mountains and all that the mountains have to offer.

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6 thoughts on “In the Clouds, Lincoln and Lafayette, 12.17.11

    • Thanks! It was an AMC group hike, the last hike of the Winter Hiking Series. The WHS is designed to educate participants in winter hiking skills through a 2-day lecture and then through a series of hikes Oct.-Dec. Pretty interesting day for the last hike!

  1. “Once the goggles and face mask were in place, communication with other group members was limited, which further emphasized the feeling of isolation.”

    A very descriptive statement! Even if I’d not experienced these conditions, your description would have made it seem real!

    And last, but certainly not least, your photo of “Cannon, across the notch” is a keeper! Truly excellent!

    John

    • Thanks John! Hiking in those conditions is certainly different from hiking on a bright, sunny, summer day. Not bad, just different and one needs to mentally adjust to the experience.

  2. Summerset – just found your blog through Kimball @ Trails NH. Loved this TR – great story and photos. Franconia Ridge is my favorite place in the Whites and this left me aching to get up there in winter. I’m looking forward to following your future hikes and maybe we’ll even run into each other out there someday. My blog is at theramblingsblog.blogspot.com if you’re so inclined.

    Happy trails and Happy New Year

    Mark

  3. Mark – Thanks for the compliments! I will hope over to your blog and then add it to the list here. Hope to cross trails some day!

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