Ascent of Mount Lafayette on 2013-05-26

Climber: Caroline Desrosby

Date:Sunday, May 26, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Lafayette
    Location:USA-New Hampshire
    Elevation:5240 ft / 1597 m

Ascent Trip Report

Loop for 3 summits: Little Haystack, Lincoln and Lafayette. The forecast for the day was ok: around freezing point and about 1 centimeter of snow on Sunday morning near the summit and partially sunny during the afternoon, some winds around 50km/h. So we packed knowing we would probably need winter clothes on the Franconia ridge between the three summits. We were surprise to get to the bottom of the mountain and there was already about 10 cm of snow (4 inches). It was an eerie landscape, with green folliage and white covering everything. Since the snow was very wet and melting, and it wasn't supposed to last, we started up the falling waters trail for our ascent.

It was still snowing, but barely. Unfortunately, because of the snow falling from trees, we had to put on our rain jackets. Our progression was ok. We had to cross a river multiple times, and the water level being quite high, in some sections we had no choice but to get our feet in the water up to our heels. The gaiters were quite helpful and we managed to keep our feet dry.

Arrived near the treeline, we added an extra layer and changed our wet gloves. We then took the direction of Little Haystack, and realized for the first time what we were getting into. The wind was blowing much harder than 50 km/h. There was snow or tiny pellets hitting hard and hurting any patch of skin exposed. It was definetely dangerous for frosbites, but since the wind was sideways, it was possible to avoid the hit. We decided (not sure if it was wise) to continue on the ridge, since the conditions were still manageable. We had to take cover quite a few times to take some rest from the beating. We didn't have crampons but it didn't seem necessary since the rocks were mostly exposed.

No need to mention that there was no view, we had maybe a 40 feet visibility. We made it to Mount Lincoln at some point...but I couldn't tell you which it was, since we didn't see anything. Finally we arrived at the summit of Mount Lafayette and met some climbers who were doing the loop in the other directions. They let us know that it was quite windy on the way down. How surprising! I attempted to take a picture of the post on top of the mountain, but my camera battery died in the attempt. I decided it wasn't worth it to take of my gloves to replace the battery. Wise decision.

We started on the way down, only to realize that the wind was now facing us. It hurt, a lot! We tried to push for the safety of the trees as quickly as possible, but the progression was quite slow since there were drifts of snow as high as our thighs. Again, thank god for gaiters! The cairns were really hard to distinguish at some point, and we wandered off path for 2 minutes. We traced back as soon as we realized our mistake, and were able to find our path again and get down to the treeline. Past that, it was a relatively easy way down to the hut, were we got in for half an hour to eat, rest, and try to warm up.

The rest of the descend went ok, except for the considerable amount of slush in the path, which made it tricky in some parts. It was like walking directly in a river for most of the way down. Our feet were definately wet at the end of the hike! We were glad to get to the bridge and see the parking lot a few minutes later!

Despite this report, I really enjoyed the hike and the challenge. I felt well equipped, and had planned for some harsh conditions on the ridge. However, I didn't expect they would be this harsh. To be completely comfortable, I would have needed mittains, snowshoes and ski googles at some point... This is hard to predict...especially at the end of May!

It was my first time on Mount Lafayette, and I was hoping for a much nicer view! I guess I'll have to go back.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles

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