Ascent of Mount Garfield on 2013-03-03

Climber: Ryan Aschbrenner

Date:Sunday, March 3, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Garfield
    Location:USA-New Hampshire
    Elevation:4480 ft / 1365 m

Ascent Trip Report

I started the hike from Five Corners, where Trudeau Road meets Route 3, and followed Gale River Road (closed in winter), until I met up with the Gale River Trail. Once on the trail, the snowshoe track was filled in with a few inches of fresh snow. I followed it to the Garfield Ridge Trail, and turned left to Galehead Hut, which was completely socked in with a couple hundred feet of visibility, or less.

I planned on continuing to Galehead Mtn, but I couldn't remember where the Frost Trail branches off from the clearing surrounding the hut. There was a faint snowshoe track that quickly faded out, and then I wandered around a bit, but couldn't identify the correct route. With just unbroken snow cover everywhere, there was no obvious trail to follow. I thought there was a trail sign, but it must have been below snow level. I thought about following a compass bearing toward Galehead, which might have hooked me up with a more obvious part of the Frost Trail, but decided against it. It's winter, daylight is short, and the clock is ticking; pride cannot get in the way. I backtracked along the Garfield Ridge Trail, feeling upset that I couldn't find the Frost Trail, which I have successfully hiked in the past. The fact that I've been up Galehead before eased the disappointment a bit, but I would have made the same decision regardless.

Next came the trek along the Garfield Ridge Trail toward Mt. Garfield. There was no sign of previous travel between the Gale River Trail and the Garfield Ridge Campsite, so I broke trail for over two miles. At least I didn't have any navigation trouble this time, but I knew that if I lost the trail, that I could backtrack and retreat down the Gale River Trail. It was overall a pleasant walk through a winter wonderland, although the steep ledgy sections required a bit of work, and caution. The ledges were covered with deep powder, which slowed progress. I was also cognizant of the possibility of pockets of air hidden beneath the snow, between boulders. I've seen this trail in summer, so I knew what was under all that snow. In particular, the steep section just east of the Garfield Ridge Campsite was a long grind.

Once I made it to the Garfield Ridge Campsite trail, I saw fresh snowshoe tracks coming from the opposite direction, which led into the campsite. It felt so good to finally walk on a broken-out trail, and I felt like I had returned to civilization! I followed those tracks to the summit of Garfield, and pretty much just tagged the old firetower site and turned around, as no awesome view of the Pemi was to be had today.

It was then just an easy 5 miles down the Garfield Trail back to Gale River Road, which I followed for a mile before making a quarter mile highway hike back to my starting point. Today was my first 4000 footer hike in which I saw ZERO other people on the trail. I wonder if anyone has ever hiked all 48 of the NH 4000 footers, all on trail during daylight, without seeing any other people on the trail during the duration of each hike. Not a list you'd want to pursue on purpose, but it's an oddity to completely miss out on contact with other people.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:3120 ft / 951 m
    Elevation Loss:3120 ft / 951 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Snowshoes
    Weather:Cold, Breezy, White-out
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:3120 ft / 951 m
    Route:Gale River Tr, Garfield Ridge Tr
    Trailhead:Five Corners  1360 ft / 414 m
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:3120 ft / 951 m
    Route:Garfield Trail
    Trailhead:Five Corners  1360 ft / 414 m

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