Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pemi Loop

On October 6, Nathan and I embarked on a ridiculously ambitious one-day endeavor. We had decided to attempt the Pemigewasset Loop, a 31+ mile day hike over 10+ 4000 foot peaks.
We arrived at the Kancamagus highway late on the night of the 5th, hoping to find a spot to camp at the trailhead, the Lincoln Woods trailhead. We arrived at Lincoln Woods to find posted restrictions on camping for miles around. We would have had to hike in for over a mile and a half (it was after 10PM at this point) to reach a viable camping zone, and we were not prepared to carry backpacking gear on the entire loop.

So we set out to find a spot to spend the night. The surrounding campgrounds were all at capacity, so we drove up the road a few miles. We found a parking lot for a kiddy nature walk called the Discovery Trail. There was an unpaved overflow lot that was barricaded off, around a corner and hidden by trees. Perfect! We covertly gathered our gear and set up camp in my small backpacking tent, right on the corner of the gravel lot. Nathan remained pensive over the arrangement throughout the night, but we had a few good hours of sleep before the big day.
On the morning of the 6th we awoke at 5:30AM or so. We quickly packed up and returned to Lincoln Woods.

Lincoln Woods trailhead, around 6AM

After following Franconia Brook for several miles, we ascended the first peak of the loop - Bondcliff.

Bondcliff - this was one of the highlights of the trip

The Bonds would make an excellent (sensible) day hike by themselves.

the summit of West Bond

After the Bonds (Bondcliff, West Bond, Bond) came Mt. Guyot, South Twin, Galehead, then Garfield.

the wooded summit of Galehead

Galehead from the summit of Garfield - there is a storm rolling in...

The halfway point was between Galehead and Garfield. After Garfield came a long and grueling ascent to 5260 ft. Lafayette, a mountain that we had summited many times, but never from this approach (and never as a passing peak in the middle of a 33 mile day trip).

The weather turned after we summited Garfield, and by the time we topped Lafayette we were very cold and wet. We did our best to layer up and keep moving,

and the weather soon let up.

My favorite picture of the day. Wet air would flow to the top of Franconia Ridge (from the left), hit the cool summit air, and barrel over into the valley to the right as fog.

We were now on familiar turf, the Franconia Ridge Trail, which we had hiked many times, but it was getting late. Before reached the last two peaks of the ridge, Liberty and Flume, the sun set.

We had some difficulty keeping the trail on the open fields of the mountain summits, but otherwise it was pretty smooth night hiking.

After we summited Flume we descended a trail that was new to both of us, the Osseo Trail. Descending an unknown 4.5 mile trail in the dark in wet conditions was an uneasy prospect, but we soon discovered that the trail was extremely groomed, wide, and safe.

Wooden stairs! (Note the stylish headlamp courtesy of Nathan.)

Nathan in the dark.

So we made it! The last leg of the hike, all down hill and through the woods, seemed to take an eternity, but we at least knew we were in relative safety and heading in the right direction.

We made it back to the car at 10:20PM or so. 33 1/2 miles and just under 10,000 ft of elevation gain in little over 16 hour. We had completed a loop that was named the second hardest day hike in America (you're next, Mt. Hood!) and even added a couple of detours to bag some peaks not included in that assessment. It was an accomplishment that neither of us will soon forget, and it puts other area challenges that we've yet to attempt, such as a Presidential Range traverse in perspective.

Nathan has a Picasa album with all of these photos and more, each with captions and his own summary of the hike here.


Kimberly Pye said...

Goodbye, sweet Nalgene bottle, lost to the elements because Dan was so tired when he heard you fall to the ground and the slosh of the water inside you, he assumed he kicked a log. I know it makes no sense, but he's insane. And he makes strange decisions sometimes. I hope you get lots of stickers on you in Nalgene Heaven.

Chris said...

Wow, that sounds like it was awesome. I miss hiking so much. Thanks for sharing and it was nice to have breakfast with you and the other guys yesterday.