Lafayette 5,260′, Lincoln 5,089′, Little Haystack 4,760′
Old Bridal Path, Franconia Ridge, Falling Waters
8 am – 2 PM
When my alarm went off it was -8 in North Woodstock.
“Time to get going Lucy.”
I said to the dog but more to myself. I was under warm covers at the Notch Hostle. It was 6 am and today we had a Franconia ridge hike planned. It was a cold start but it was supposed to warm up a bit. For this trip Lucy and I were being joined by my boss from work Josh who had been hiking with me a hand full of times but never in the winter, and Jay Morse who is an experienced hiking partner. A pleasure to have on a trip like this. The plan was to get started at 8. Lucy and I met Jason for a car spot at Whitehouse trailhead. We then drove to falling waters. Once there I finished a coffee I made at the Hostle and had a quick breakfast sandwich. Lucy was not eating and I was concerned that she was still spent from the previous days hikes. I packed some extra dog treats and the rest of my backpacks contents. I was ready to go. It was -2 outside.
“Colder than Mars.”
I believe it too. It was cold…
I have always gone up Falling Waters trail and down Old Bridal, but this time of year I understood the route to be backwards. The hike up was steady and quick. The wind below the treeline was easily manageable. I really enjoyed the views on the way up.
There was another group of folks with us on the trail till we reached the Greenleaf hut. Once there we changed layers and had a quick snack. It was quick though because the temps were low and the winds were starting to pick up. Here I put on a hooded mid layer over my base layer and pull over shell over that with a face mask and goggles at the ready. This set up worked well the whole of the ridge as long as I didn’t stop for too long.
I told Josh.
“It’s going to get real from here on out.”
This was no understatement. Once we got out of the last batch of trees past the hut the winds ramped up and it got cold. Instant breath frozen cold. We pressed on towards the summit. When we reached it we were granted a wonderful view of the Pemi loop and Franconia notch. I took a few pictures but quickly as not to let my hands freeze up. My thermometer was reading 0 and the winds were at least 30 mph making it around -26 with the wind chill. Perhaps the coldest temps I have ever hiked in. It was exhilarating.
We took rest in the rock foundation on the summit. Briefly shielded from the wind we had a rest and prepared for the cold ridge hike. On we went with heavy winds hitting us face side. The feeling was amazing but also concerning. How would Lucy take this? Lucy just turned 1 year old so I wonder still on how well she can handle situations. We have only been together 4 months so our relationship is still growing. None of that mattered though as she hiked as hard as ever showing no signs of fatigue. What an impressive creature! Onward over the ridge to Lincoln.
It was getting harder to take pictures due to how cold it was. We did not stop on Lincoln. Stopping meant losing valuable stored body heat and none of us wanted that to happen. We moved over to Little Haystack quickly.
I looked ahead at the trail. It was not broken. I did not have snowshoes. I was debating breaking trail for almost 2 miles without them. I didn’t want to do it. Better to leave it for another day. Woodstock Inn sounded much nicer. Everyone agreed. We decided to go down Falling Waters. It was no time before we were back below tree line and starting to warm up. There were a few groups of folks going up Little Haystack. Some in baseball caps and jeans. We had a chuckle on the way down. The waterfalls I adore in the warmer months now all frozen with the water running always beneath the layers of ice.
“That was one of the hardest things I have ever done.” Josh said.
“It was certainly one of the coldest.” I added.
We packed up and drove to Woodstock Inn where we had a great dinner. I recommend their new “Frosty Goggles” Red IPA it was amber hopped deliciousness.
This weekend Lucy and I were able to knock out 6 4000 footers for around 28 miles of hiking. This brings my winter totals to 27 out of 48 or 17 in this single winter season. 2015 is off to a hiking start to say the least. See you all next week where Lucy and I will make another attempt at big mountains for our winter totals. See you on the trails!