After falling in love with Franconia Ridge in August (2016), we decided to drive up again in the middle of October, the same year, to see the fall colors! This was our second time making the sleepless drive up to New Hampshire to start in the dark in the hopes to summit for sunrise!
While planning for this trip we were aware of the famous warnings of the White Mountains. The weather can change at any second and be extremely harsh. We also prefer to be prepared, so we packed warm layers including a rain jacket/wind breaker, hats and Nova’s jacket! We even packed a Mountain House breakfast to try for the first time and our portable solid fuel camping stove! We thought we were all set…
We started hiking around 4:45AM. We passed the beautiful AMC Greenleaf hut around 6:15AM and continued up to above tree line. (We were not breaking any land speed records here)
Photo on the right: You can see my little camera mounted on my shoulder strap, I love it! (it was a knock off of the Peak Design mount).
The further above tree line it started to get colder and windy. We were greeted by a beautiful sight that made us wish we had brought gloves, and made me wish I was in much better shape! FROST!!!
I had wished I was in better shape for this hike because I was hiking SO slowly in this bitter bitter cold. At the time of this hike I was absolutely terrible at pacing myself…. I have since started realizing (with a lot of help from Zack) that it is much easier to hike a at a slow consistent pace instead of trying to move quickly for a short amount of time and then have to stop…. Back then I would start to hike quickly, thinking that moving fast would get me up there fast. However, I would get out of breath, almost immediately, tire my self out, and then to rest I would huddle behind a rock to try and recover.
After Zack and Nova both staying with me, pleading for me to hurry up so they could keep moving and keep warm, we eventually reached the summit around 8AM.
The cook system we had at the time was a solid fuel system. This was a leftover system I had gotten for a month and a half long volunteer trip to the mountains of El Salvador. It was the only way I had been able to fly down there with a heat source. Since this was what we owned at the time it is what we took with us on all backpacking and hiking trips, including this one! We were inexperienced and just didn’t know better. We put one of the solid cubes in the little “stove” lit it and filled our kettle with water. Unfortunately for us these solid fuel systems do not really boil water in a single cube in this cold windy weather (or at least we weren’t able to get that to happen). We wound up with luke warm tea, and cold soggy egg/bacon mix (not delicious!). Needless to say, we were disappointed with breakfast.
After packing up from our less than exciting breakfast we decided to take a few pictures and then get moving to keep ourselves warm!
We relaxed up on the ridge line out of the wind and enjoyed the view and the sun! To avoid the crowds down the narrow & tight path (Falling Water Trail) we decided to head back down the Old Brindle Path we hiked up.
Another reason we hiked down Old Brindle Path was because we had only hiked it in the dark (early morning hikes up!). We wanted to see what it was like during the day with some sun!
Our hike down took us past the Greenleaf hut once again, and along the ridge that looks out towards Franconia Ridge.
I love the way the fall colors look in this photo (right), with the line where they haven’t started to change in the higher elevation!
As we continued to hike down Zack took a bit of a miss step, and actually rolled his ankle pretty good. He decided he didn’t want to stop and wrap it, but I gave him my hiking poles to take the weight off of his ankle. We started to hike MUCH slower after this, which was good with Nova and I as we got to enjoy some beautiful fall leaves!
We took plenty of breaks, and were grateful that this roll happened when we were pretty close to the flat section to hike out and not still up on the ridge!
TRIP RATING: 9/10 – 1/2 day ~ 8 miles and 3,800 ft of elevation gain
Based on this experience, I would still 100% recommend getting out to the Franconia Ridge Trail! This is a BEAUTIFUL trail, and being later in the season helped with the typical crowds that can be found, but there was still a fair amount of people out to catch those gorgeous fall colors. Getting up there early in the morning is still a good way to avoid the major crowds. In addition, I would NOT recommend a solid fuel stove for any kind of cold or windy weather, and I would always suggest you have a few layers, even if the weather is supposed to be warm and sunny!
TECHNICAL: Hiked 10/15/2016
- ~4:45AM – Park in the Lafayette Parking Lot
- Hike up Old Brindle Path
- 6:15AM – Pass by the Greenleaf Hut
- 8AM – Summit Mt. Lafayette
- Attempt to enjoy breakfast in the cold wind!
- Hiked the ridge a little bit & enjoyed the sun out of the wind.
- ~10:45AM – Climb back up Mt. Lafayette & Head Down Old Brindle Path.
- 1:30PM – Arrive back at the car and head home!
FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS & SUGGESTIONS:
- Always pack extra layers, at least a fleece/down jacket and a wind breaker/rain jacket!
- Solid fuel stoves do NOT handle the cold/wind well!
- Take your time hiking! When you rush accidents are more likely to happen, in addition, I now like to keep hiking poles with me on any hike with elevation gain! It not only helps me, but can help someone else if they need the extra support when hiking out!