The First “Big” Hike of 2021

With a thinning snow cover and a prediction for clear and stable weather for the higher summits in the White Mountains, we decided to hike Franconia Ridge this past Sunday. It had been a while since we had been at higher elevations, so we were eager to stretch our legs and enjoy some views.

Our destination: Franconia Ridge, January 10th, 2021

While the forecast was for clear skies and sun, the winds at higher elevations were predicted to be high (30-45 mph). Since there is “no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”, we packed plenty of protective clothing, and outfitted Zealand with a coat, boots and plenty of Musher’s Secret.

The route we would take is a classic one. Leaving from Lafayette Place, we would ascend via Falling Waters Trail to the summit Little Haystack. There we would take Franconia Ridge Trail over the summits of Lincoln and Lafayette, descend on the Greenleaf Ridge to the Greenleaf Hut, and take the Old Bridle Path back to the car.

Zealand near the summit of Little Haystack

It was a treat to see the many waterfalls along the Falling Water Trail frozen in time. There are many stream crossings and we were pleased to find ice bridges over most of them. The trail was covered in hard-packed snow and we made good progress with help of micro spikes. We met a few people, and a few dogs, but overall the trail was quiet.

A fellow hiker for perspective
Sheri and Zealand after just crossing an ice bridge

As predicted we started hiking in low cloud but by the time we reached the ridge, we were standing in brilliant sunshine. An inversion could be seen in nearly all directions, and particularly to the north.

Looking to the southwest

At the ridge we found very little snow, so we removed our “spikes”. The wind was gusty, but not as bad as we feared. The sun and warm temperatures offset the wind, and the views helped too.

Bruno squinting into the sun with Franconia Ridge in the background.

As we approached the summit of Lafayette hikers coming towards us were looking pretty bundled up. Sure enough, just below the summit of Mt. Lafayette the winds were steady at 35-40 mph. We paused briefly at the summit to capture a few images, and then quickly descended down Greenleaf Ridge.

Views of the Mt Washington and the Presidential Range with an inversion in the foreground

We arrived at the Greenleaf Hut at 12:30 pm and had a leisurely lunch on the back deck of the hut where we were sheltered from the wind. From there we took the Old Bridle Path back to the car. The afternoon sun was low in the ski but still was warm. The moderate descent through a mixture of pines and hardwoods made for a nice stroll back to the car.

Sheri and Zealand on the Old Bridle Path with Cannon Mountain in the background
Bruno at the junction of the Old Bridle Path and Walling Waters Trail

A winter hike to Franconia Ridge has been on the “list” for a while. It was an enjoyable day and we were pleased to have made a successful day, and that Zealand did well in some challenging conditions. This is one worth repeating!

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