Friday, July 20, 2012

Franconia Ridge Traverse (Lafayette to Flume) - 7/14/2012

We battled all week with the decision of where to hike this past weekend. At the start of the week, we were set on heading up to Vermont to start working on the NE67. It was about Thursday night when we switched up the plan to go get Lafayette and Franconia Ridge. My brother was eager to get back in the summer after his unforgettable finish at Christmas. And me, don't forget my failed Pemi Loop after summiting Lafayette, making a wrong turn, and needing to descend to the road 30+ miles from my car on via road. I was just as eager, and for me I'd bag 4 July peaks, and a nice TW72 peak, so why not...let's make an early morning Franconia Ridge Traverse with sunrise from our favorite peak, shall we?

In order to accomplish that, we set our alarms for 12:45am, for a 1am departure, and 3:30am start from the Old Bridle Path. The temperature was so warm we were quickly in shorts and tank tops, where it was the perfect temperature. We made great time getting to the ridge over Walker Ravine. We were treated to an incredible view of the moon, Venus, and Jupiter, which we've seen a lot of lately. Next, as the sky became a little bit lighter, the birds starting to sing all around us, and the clouds provided a very different and intense atmosphere.
Old Bridle Path at 3:30am
A nice lil' fella we came across
Moon, Venus & Jupiter over Walker Ravine
Early summer morning over Walker Ravine 
It was still before sunrise time when we passed the AMC Greenleaf Hut. It was still quiet, but people were stirring inside. After a short break just after the hut, we kept going, pushing for the summit for sunrise (5:17am). On the approach, the sun blasting through the clouds made it look like a bright orb was above Lafayette, just in time for our arrival. It was pretty amazing.
AMC's Greenleaf Hut on Mt. Lafayette
Ascending Lafayette on the Greenleaf Trail
Approaching the summit of Mt. Lafayette at sunrise
All this time, there was only a light breeze. Now on the summit, it was different. Calm. We couldn't have been any happier with our effort and to have reached the summit at about 5:40. We had a unique morning sunrise view over the Pemi Wilderness from our favorite peak - just what we wanted. Something about Mt. Lafayette makes it just amazing every time, even those couple of times I just passed over it. We enjoyed a good twenty minutes taking in the view and talking all about the other peaks and our previous travels.

After our time at the summit, our energy was completely recharged by the beauty of what our eyes were witnessing. In addition to that, our next peak, No. Lincoln, a sub-peak between Lafayette and Lincoln, would be me 44th Trailwright 72 peak. With that, we were off along the Franconia Ridge Trail, cruising along with the awesome Pemi by our side.

I ran up ahead getting to the high point on North Lincoln (5000'), again no one else around yet. The view was essentially the same. It was quiet and peaceful, nothing but my deep breaths from bolting up ahead, then my brother came up over the rocks onto the summit. We remembered standing here the day after Christmas looking at Lafayette, and my brother about to complete all 48 peaks. What a different world it was that day with the undercast and setting sun over the Vermont Mountains. But this day, we were thrilled with sunrise over the Pemi - and on Franconia Ridge.
Greenleaf Hut and Cannon Mountain 
Summit of No. Lincoln - 44th TW72 Climb
Not too much further, the trail rises slightly once again, and we found ourselves at Mt. Lincoln.
Mt. Lincoln summit 
Pemi Wilderness from Mt. Lincoln
From here, the trail is visible in the distance ahead as it traverses the sharp ridge to Little Haystack. This was just the perfect thing to gear us up for Katahdin's Knife Edge the following weekend. From what I've read, this ridge also sometimes referred to as the Knife Edge.
Just checkin' out this cliff :) 
Little Haystack, Liberty, and Flume  
Little Haystack seen through the jagged rocks of Franconia Ridge
Bill traverses the Franconia Ridge for the second time - working on round 2
By the time we got to Little Haystack, it was stirring with a few people. There were definitely some Appalachian Trail hikers. We stopped to chat with a couple of people on the summit and take a couple of photos. After that, it was down into the trees for a little bit as we headed towards Liberty.
Cannon Mountain from summit of Little Haystack
Mt. Liberty

Mt. Liberty summit over Franconia Notch
On the summit of Liberty, we spent about 20 minutes having a nice lunch, which for both of us was a nicely sized sandwich which tasted so good after the morning's efforts thus far. We ate in silence basically with no one else around, just enjoying the views. From here, it quickly and steeply descends into the trees where it becomes another relatively easy walk to Mt. Flume.

View from Mt. Flume summit 
Mt. Liberty from Flume  

Looking back at the Traverse once more as we go into the scrub
This will be done - someday - The actual Flume slide
Now, with one car, and at this point, there was no way we wanted to go back over to Liberty, so waiting right there was the Flume Slide Trail. In the next half hour or so, we'd be called "lunatics" and "brave souls" for choosing to descend the Flume Slide Trail. When we told them we've been up the trail in both winter and summer, that seemed to make people look at us like we were even more crazy, but we continued on gingerly hopping and having a blast on our descent. We were given a heads up from someone on the ridge that the entire trail was dry, so there was no hesitation It really gave us no issues, and quickly we were at the bottom where the Flume Slide Trail turns into one of the prettiest trails there is with mossy river riverbeds and nice streams.
Descending Flume Slide Trail (summer) 
Franonia Ridge Bike Path / Pemi Trail back to Lafayette Place 
Passing by the Basin
For us, the Franconia Ridge Travesre has always challenged us, but at the same time, has never ceased to reward us with something spectacular of which to remember. Not only that, we were happy with our time, and this was good preparation for a Pemi Loop. Thanks for reading!

Hike Stats
Trails: Old Bridle Path, Greenleaf Trail, Franconia Ridge Trail, Flume Slide Trail, Whitehouse Trail/Bike Path
Distance: Approx. 15 miles
Elevation Gain: Approx. 5000 ft (fill it in later)
Book Time: 10hrs (including walk back to Lafayette)


  1. Catching up here, but what an awesome hike! Even though your picture are gorgeous, I'm sure they don't compare to really being up there at sunrise. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Sometimes it takes a little sacrifice, like getting up at 1AM, to be able to see the sunrise from a 4000 footer (if your not camping). The clouds were really interesting - our last two hikes here we've had amazing cloud formations. Once ending at sunset and now once at sunrise.