Our plan was to climb to Little Haystack Mountain, follow Franconia Ridge north to Mount Lafayette (5,260’), then descend back into Franconia Notch via the Greenleaf and Old Bridle Path trails. Katie was very keen to see the stunning views across the Pemigewasset Wilderness that the ridge offers (I was too, although I had hiked the ridge before). From our camp in the Notch we could see mist blowing over the Franconia summits, but the forecast was for clear skies.
It was blowy at camp too, but for most of our climb to Little Haystack the air was calm. At about 4,000 feet, we were delighted to see rime frost coating the pines around us. After Shining Rock – a huge, steep ledge – we started to meet warmly bundled-up hikers coming down from the top. It was brutal up there, they said, the wind would knock you down. We pushed on.
Just below the ridge, among the last of the stunted pines, it was chilly in a thin mist, but not windy so that you would comment on it. But when we stepped onto the alpine summit we were hit straightaway by a fierce wind from the northwest. We learned later that it was busy channeling air from high pressure inland toward the low pressure of Hurricane Matthew out in the Atlantic.
If the sun had come out, the frosted summit would have looked beautiful. As it was, we hunkered from the wind in the lee of rocks. Just standing up to look around was to be shoved about, skin stung by the subzero wind. It was an easy decision to abandon our planned 2-mile ridge-walk. At the very least it would have required goggles and balaclava.
DATE: Monday, October 10th.
START & FINISH: Lafayette Place, Franconia State Park.
ROUTE: Falling Waters Trail, 3,000 feet up and down.
DISTANCE: 6.4 mi roundtrip.
TIME: 6-7 hours.
More from New Hampshire to follow.