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Thread: Franconia Ridge - Lafayette to Flume

  1. #1
    Senior Member Tim Seaver's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Aurora Boulderalis

    Franconia Ridge - Lafayette to Flume

    After months of planned hikes that never materialized, I finally got a chance to go for a ramble with Mats Roing, who had contacted me some time ago announcing his intention to make an attempt at the Winter NH48 record. Also present was his friend Charles Steele, visiting from Michigan, and the infamous Drewski.

    On the platter was Franconia Ridge, from Lafayette to Flume, smothered in a creamy cloud and fog sauce, garnished with rocks, ice, and wet snow. Scrumptious!

    Franconia Ridge - Where stuff happens!

    Heading up the Old Bridle Path,we bare booted for a bit, but soon switched to snowshoes as the sun intermittently broke through the cloud cover and softened the snow.

    Mats is using Kahtoola's new Flightdeck system, which I had read about but never seen up close. I would describe it as a stiff soled, neoprene-like overboot with a built in crampon, that clips into a matching snowshoe that has additional traction teeth on it. It attaches very quickly, and releases with a small cable. A very interesting system, and it was neat to see somebody actually using it. As the overshoe is insulated, you can use just about any shoe inside it - Mats was using road running sneakers inside them today. He pointed out that you can use some ski boots inside it, making it a great all-around system for different types of terrain and travel. The system is relatively new, and has a few design problems, but I think it has great potential.

    The Merry Crew

    We paused on the porch at Greenleaf for a bit, dropped the snowshoes, and headed towards the mist-shrouded summit of Lafayette. Not far below the summit, we met up with another hiker, Richie, who joined us for the trundle over the ridge, with the intent of heading down the Falling Waters trail.

    Mats Heads Into the Light

    As we approached the summit, swirling mists and sunlight danced and fluttered across the rime-encrusted boulders. Today the patterns in the rime seemed unusually fine in their detail, resembling an engraving in ice. Soon we were at the summit, where it was windy enough for most of us to put on wind gear and face masks, even with the relatively mild air temperature. Mats and Charles both performed 10 push ups on the summit.

    Wings of Steele - Charles Makes a Landing on Lafayette

    The ridgeline was in good nick, a runnel of ice with rocky edges, and we all made our way, in our own way. The crampon wearers did what they could to seek out ice, and the screwbooters scritched, scratched, and hopped from rock to rock, stepping on the icy bits only when necessary. Diversity in traction is a beautiful thing.

    Richie Approaches Little Haystack

    At Little Haystack, we bid farewell to Richie, and we donned showshoes once again for the unbroken trail over to Liberty, under increasingly sunny skies. A bit below the summit of Liberty, we ran into VFTT'er avk4316 and a friend - nice to see you out there!

    After chatting a bit at the summit, Drewski and Charles opted to head down the Liberty Springs trail, while Mats and I chose to grapple with the great unknown - the descent of the Flume slide!

    Give me Liberty, or...Give me Ten?

    The trail over to Flume was a bit firmer, but we kept snowshoes on in case we ran into a rookie Posthole Patrolperson with nothing to do. Arriving at the junction of the Flume Slide Trail, we were relatively surprised to find it untouched, and draped in hip-deep wet snow under a blasting sun. Hmmm.

    Mats chose to take his snowshoes off just below the junction, and I kept mine on for a bit just to feel things out. Only a short bit down the trail, on a straight and steep section, I stepped down with my snowshoes perpendicular to the trail and set off a small surface slide of wet snow, which proceeded to build up and widen as it slithered down the slide, finally crashing into the woods where the trail took a left.

    Here I stopped to pause and ponder the snow conditions, and Mats soon joined me. It seems that the cable release for one of his snowshoes had broken, and he was unable to remove the snowshoe component from the crampon/overboot. After a short bit of awkward descending with one snowshoe on, we stopped and sliced through the decking of his snowshoe with a razor blade to remove the snowshoe. Hopefully Kahtoola will replace it for Mats and are working to improve this design flaw.

    We decided to bite the bullet hole our way down the slide, as it seemed to be the safest way to avoid being on top of any layers of the surface snow that were ready to slide. It was pretty slow going, with a few patches of water ice lurking here and there, but overall it was a fun and pleasant descent. Lower down , we had to sniff about for the trail here and there, as it doesn't appear to be blazed very well, particularly if you are descending. Drewski had given us the beta on the Basin parking lot cutoff, a few hundred yards below the Flume/Liberty Springs junction, where we found Charles and his tracks from their descent. We soon joined them at Mats car for the return shuttle to Lafayette Place.

    A great day on one of the most photogenic ridges in the Northeast, accompanied by fine weather and even finer company.

    Lafayette in Afternoon Light
    You donít have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things ó to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated. - Edmund Hillary

  2. #2
    Senior Member chinooktrail's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Hum, runnel, good word!
    Great trip report, is Drewski OFF the trail in his screwboots?
    Tsk tsk.

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