Partial Pemi Loop, NH

Here are some photographs from a partial Pemigewasset Loop that my wife and I hiked this 7-8 August.
We hiked the loop in a counter-clockwise direction from Lincoln Woods trailhead, over Bondcliff, Mt. Bond,
Mt. Guyot, South Twin Mtn, Garfield, Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln, and exiting
down Falling Waters Trail from Little Haystack Mountain.
25 miles, 17 Hours in two days.

The first (roughly) 10km is pretty flat, on an old rail bed, and after a long but easy vertical kilometer, you emerge onto Bondcliff, In my head, I think of them as the Bond Cliffs, as they are on the shoulder of Mt. Bond, and therefore, I anthropomorphically ascribe ownership
of the cliffs to the body of Mt. Bond…in any case, here’s my wife in the classic cliche Bondcliff shot, but it’s an amazing spot everytime I go to it.

Standing out on the far rock is almost sure to make one take pause (it always totally terrifies me), and most people will not stand closer than about 1m from the edge.

Standing out on the far rock is almost sure to make one take pause (it always totally terrifies me), and most people will not stand closer than about 1m from the edge.

View from the Bondcliff "plank" ; from the hiker's perspective, it's not clear whether the far rock is held up by anything, and even though you know it is, there's a part of the brain that doesn't really trust the visual observation. I mean, one of these years, it will fall...

View from the Bondcliff “plank” ; from the hiker’s perspective, it’s not clear whether the far rock is held up by anything, and even though you know it is, there’s a part of the brain that doesn’t really trust the visual observation. I mean, one of these years, it will fall…

From Bondcliff, its uphill to Mt. Bond (elev 1,432 m), and then to Mt. Guyot (1,396 m), and then a 3 km walk through the woods to South Twin Mountain (1,494 m). From there, its a short but STEEP downhill to Galehead Hut, and then a slow but steady and then steep climb to Mt. Garfield (1,372 m). At the summit of Mt. Garfield there are panoramic views from an old fire tower’s foundation (from WhiteMountainHistory.org)

The 1938 Hurricane blew down thousands of acres of forest and many sections of the White Mountain National Forest were closed to public use because of the high fire hazard. Several new lookouts, guard stations, trails and roads were constructed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) at this time. The concrete foundation of the lookout on the summit of Mount Garfield is a stark reminder of that period. (Incidentally the outhouse for the Garfield Lookout is still standing and is a short distance north of the summit hidden by balsam fir trees. )

View of Owl's Head and the Franconia Range from the summit of Mt. Garfield.

View of Owl’s Head and the Franconia Range from the summit of Mt. Garfield.

From here, it was several kilometers unti the summit of Mt Lafayette (1,603.2 m) became visible.

First clear view of the Mt. Lafayette summit after emerging from the forested ridge connecting Mt. Garfield and Mt. Lafayette. Note the inherent fashionability of this NH hiker on his way to the summit.

First clear view of the Mt. Lafayette summit after emerging from the forested ridge connecting Mt. Garfield and Mt. Lafayette. Note the inherent fashionability of this NH hiker on his way to the summit.

Stunning views from the summit:

The view looking south along the Franconia Ridge from the summit of Mt. Lafayette.

The view looking south along the Franconia Ridge from the summit of Mt. Lafayette.

And then, a down and up to Mt. Lincoln before a final descent/ascent to Little Haystack:

Descending Mt. Lincoln toward Little Haystack Mtn.

Descending Mt. Lincoln toward Little Haystack Mtn.

All in all, a great hike in perfect weather conditions over two days — a rarity in the White Mountains!

Mt. Madison, White Mountains, NH

It’s a little early in the season for proper trail running in the White Mountains,
but I decided to try for a Presidential Traverse this past weekend.

(The Fastest Known Time (FKT) was set last September by Ben Nephew in a crazy time of
4h 34min; a time I have no hope of achieving)

In any case, I started at 5 am with a breakfast of 4 eggs, sour cream, bacon, and a coffee with heavy cream.
I then ran to the dock to catch the 6:15 ferry off the island.

Gear from my run (Yaktrax in pack). Shoes are MT110 by New Balance.

Gear from my run (Yaktrax in pack). Shoes are the excellent New Balance MT110’s.

Then, it was a 2.5 hour drive to Pinkham Notch, and after a quick talk with the AMC about weather and trail conditions, I headed off to the Appalachia trailhead. On the way, there was a nice view of the Presidential range from the Mt. Washington Auto Road:

View of the Presidential Range from Rt. 16, just north of Pinkham Notch.

View of the Presidential Range from Rt. 16, just north of Pinkham Notch.


Finally, I started from the Appalachia Trailhead at 9:40 am. That’s really too late a start (IMHO) for a Presi-traverse, but here I was, finally ready to go:
Start of the traverse attempt...took Valley Way to Madison Hut.

Start of the traverse attempt…took Valley Way to Madison Hut.


The first 3 km were pretty straightforward running—okay, that’s really not quite true, because the average grade from the trailhead to the summit of Mt. Madison is 20% (about double that of the UTMB). But there was good footing and no snow. However, around 3km, the trail turned to serious amount of snow and ice which continued until Madison Hut. To top it off, every other step would involve post-holing, and it was plain slow going. There were even a few frozen waterfall sections (which would have been impossible without my Yaktrax)—just to make things more fun. I made it to Madison Hut in about 2 h 17m:
Madison Hut and Mt. Adams. 3 May 2014

Madison Hut and Mt. Adams. 3 May 2014


Now it was much easier going (snow-wise anyway) and I made it to the summit of Mt. Madison in 2h 49m.
View from the summit of Mt. Adams. Mt. Washington on far left, Mt. Adams dead center. The weather starting to look sour now.

View from the summit of Mt. Adams. Mt. Washington on far left, Mt. Adams dead center. The weather began to deteriorate by this point, with increasing wind and visible precipitation approaching in the distance.


From the summit of Mt. Madison, it was clear that the weather was changing for the worse (as predicted), and I didn’t want to summit Mt. Adams with the potential of a thunderstorm. I therefore headed south along the Gulfside Trail to Thunderstorm Junction, at which point I could re-assess the weather and either summit Adams and continue, or bail down the Spur Trail with a stop at Crag Camp.

Unfortunately, as soon as I descended Mt. Madison and arrived back at Madison Hut, I began having cramps in my quads that forced me to stop and stretch. This happened to me back in November on a 35 km run, and it eventually went away. But this time, the combination of iffy weather (forecast to definitely get worse) and persistent cramps made the decision to abandon the traverse pretty easy.

Well, at least the decision was straightforward. The descent on the spur trail was a blast through a snowfield by Thunderstorm Junction, but then turned into a slow post-holing and icy descent on a super steep ice covered Spur Trail down to Crag Camp. By the time I arrived hail had begun in earnest, and I was psyched to have a respite from the weather. You can see the sleet/hail beginning to fall on the porch of Crag Camp:

View of Mt Adams (in distance) and Mt Adams (in the clouds now) shortly after arrival - you can see sleet/hail on the deck.

View of Mt Adams (in distance) and Mt Adams (in the clouds now) shortly after arrival – you can see sleet/hail on the deck.

After taking a rest and getting out my pack cover and proper raincoat, I headed out down the Spur Trail. I figured I had about 300-400 meters of ice and snow, and eked my way down another long steep icy-snowy-ending-on-slushy trail. Finally, after making it to the Amphibranch, I could run the rest of the way to the trailhead. This last section was super fun, and was in fact the best running of the whole day. Strangely, the cramping was really not bothering me anymore.

By the way, there’s a great excellent article about cramping over at iRunFar. You should read it. Seriously, it’s quite interesting. I especially like the part about how apparently the taste of pickle juice on the tongue somehow convinces the brain to stop the cramping in your leg. See. I told you that you need to read the article.

So, now it’s two days later and my quads are still sore. Funny though, I can tell they’ll be fine in a day or so, and I’m already psyched to get out for another run. Next time maybe I’ll try something more runnable until all the snow is gone.