July 20th – 22nd, 2012
Day One: 8.2 miles & 1419 feet of vert
With an exceptional weather window, a stoked D Mak and I bounced out of work early on Friday and blasted off to Lincoln to bust out a two day Half Pemi Loop variation. Starting off on the Pemi East Side Trail at exactly 4:20 pm, we cruised through an empty Franconia Brook Campsite and crossed the East Branch Pemi River which was the lowest I’ve seen it thus far. Since we had done a Bonds/Twins Loop on our last trip, we decided to do this variation of a Pemi Loop instead over 2 nights to accomplish a few things, namely visiting 13 Falls Tentsite again, bag Galehead & Liberty which I was missing for my NH48, hit a few small sections of AT I needed for my NH section, and to backpack all of them for my 48 4000 footer Backpack list which I recently decided is my new goal. When I sat down and looked at the map, I realized that doing this trip would put my backpacked peaks within a few of my total peaks.
We set a fast pace up the Franconia Brook Trail with the sun beaming through the trees and mosquitoes nipping at our heals, arriving at 13 Falls Campsite 8.1 flat miles later as the sun began dropping behind the ridge to the West. Setting up my new Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker Asym Zip Hammock for the first time proved to be a bit of a pain since I suck at knots. We had a late dinner in the dark, went and hiked the falls, sipped some Knob Creek, and watched some shooting stars before turning in.
Day Two: 14.1 miles – 6206 ft vert gained – 4495 ft vert lost
The next morning we got a late start after scoping out all the falls. They were sadly about a quarter of the volume of water as my last trip there 7/4/2011.
The usually roaring main fall was barely audible from the tent sites. We headed off up the Twin Brook Trail towards Galehead Mtn. (4024 ft.) which was much more enjoyable going up vs. running downhill in the dark like my previous time on it.
The Galehead spur (Frost Trail) was fun although the summit and views were both disappointing. Glad it’s done! We hit Galehead Hut for some pancakes and a water break as it started getting hot out before heading out to Garfield on the Garfield Ridge Trail which I was personally dreading after my last encounter. It proved to be just as tedious as I remembered. Up next was the also brutally steep section which I swore I’d near hike uphill again. So much for that…
This time wasn’t as bad and we cruised on up to the crowded Mt. Garfield (4500 ft.) summit at about lunch time. The views here might be my favorite of all time on a nice day and especially on a loop like this where you can see where you came from and where you are going. In this case, we eventually did the entire range behind me in the below pic after we left this summit.
Unfortunately, we were pressed for time having to get to Liberty Springs Tent site (just to the right of the second peak in the above pic) before dark and still having a long way to go. We decided to skip lunch (bad idea!) and eat a quick Clif Bar and keep moving. About a mile or so later we both started hitting the wall HARD. Our legs were hurting and we started contemplating our bail-out options. We increased the length of breaks and talked to everyone we saw on the trail for way too long to compensate. The climb up Lafayette proved to be ridiculous in our painful state with too many false summits to recall but the weather was perfect and the views were epic. A cool view from this climb is the Greenleaf Lake? and Lonesome Lake reflecting the sky with Franconia Notch in between. It also made me crave doing a Kinsman Ridge Traverse overnight.
Finally we grinded our way to the top of Mt.Lafayette (5260 ft.) where I celebrated with a random shot of whiskey and we chatted with a few cute girls. For some reason there’s always cute girls on Mt. Lafayette. We allowed ourselves to linger on the summits now that our destination was only 3.8 miles away and we wanted to be up high for some of the sunset views. On the summit between Lafayette and Lincoln we met two guys that looked like they needed a shot of whiskey and we partied on down the ridge. Normally after 6k+ vert and a few miles left to go this is a horrible idea but I can’t remember feeling this good in months and I was out of water anyways.
The ridge from Mt.Lincoln (5089 ft.) to Little Haystack (4760 ft) as shown above is amazing. I forgot how much I loved this ridge in general. The views just past Little Haystack deserved another shot and a photo session.
We hung out here enjoying what was the last good views of the day until hunger spurred us onward. The last few miles to Liberty Springs Tent Site were miserable and it’s always stressful wondering whether or not you are going to get a spot to pitch a tent, especially after a long day. We luckily got a secret overflow site from the caretaker hooking us up and were also hooked up with hot dogs by our neighbors. I hate hot dogs but after a long day of not eating a solid meal, it was incredible. (Thanks Abby, Rich, Gabe?, and Ted the Dog!) We traded some whiskey for another hot dog and hung out with our neighbors all night after setting up. Somehow we stayed up pretty late even after the huge day we did. Definitely the most insane day of backpacking I’ve ever had thus far.
Day Three: 7.6 miles & 1100 Feet of vert
We woke up fairly late and said bye to our new friends and took our time getting packed and ready. Thankfully Mt.Liberty (4459 ft.) was only a 0.6 mile hike from camp. While on the summit we met a few people that humbled our trip including a bad ass 3 year old that climbed Flume Slide Trail with his bad ass dad and a dude named Marc and his lady friend that bushwhacked/hike all of the obscure slides which is rad. Also met and saw a ton of runners up here which is insane given the terrain is ridiculous in the Whites.
Finally 1.5 miles to Mt.Flume where we met a day hiking couple eating tons of veggies and cheese that gave us some dirty carrots and yelled at us for eating freeze dried food all weekend. After backpacking 8000 feet of vert with 25+ pounds I wanted to roundhouse kick them off the summit but we gratefully ate our dirty hippie carrots and took some summit shots.
The summit started getting crowded so we made the quick flat trek to the Osseo Trail lookout where we toasted some hot dogs our friends gave us on my MSR stove and ate the last of our dwindling food stash. The rest of Osseo was a long constant downhill and would probably make a pretty rad snowboard run with some pow. After getting back down to the Lincoln Woods Trail we scouted a place to swim but due to 20+ foot erosion cliffs with huge overhangs, we were forced to go all the way back to the suspension bridge where we found a nice little spot. Sitting in the chilly water and rinsing off felt so incredible that I was laughing uncontrollably in joy. When you get that grimey, washing off becomes a spiritual experience. We hung out and made some river cairns before hitting up Woodstock Inn for 4000 Footer Double IPAs and food.
Definitely the most vert and miles I’ve done in a weekend. Although a full Pemi Loop (more vert) is often done as a single 30 mile day trip with far less gear weight, I think backpacking it might be just as hard. Not that 30 miles and 9k vert is easy but after a recent Hancocks day hike I was reminded how easy having no pack weight is compared to backpacking. I’d personally rather stretch the fun out over a day or two but maybe I’ll try a death march day-hike sometime.
Things I Did Right:
– Cancelled an overnight Wapack Trail trip to do this. Epic weather!
– Did this loop counter clockwise. Seemed like Liberty Springs was packed on Friday night from people doing Loops. 13 Falls was full too, we took the last two spots.
– Started Friday afternoon and banged out ~8 flat miles after work.
– Swam in the river before grabbing dinner & beer.
Things I Did Wrong:
– Could have used more food/snacks.
– Miscalculated the large Day 2 vertical.
– Forgot my spare tee shirt.
– Need much bigger breakfasts!
– More water on Day two would have been nice to chase that whiskey down.
– Bad hammock knots and bad choice of pads.
Total Peaks Bagged: 6 this trip. Only 2 new ones for me #18-19.
Total Miles: ~30.0
Total Elevation Gain: 8768 ft (6200 on Day 2)
Total 4ks: 19/48
Total Backpacked: 17/48
Per Peak Average: 1464.6 feet of vert and 5 miles. Both personal highs.
– Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker Asym Zip Hammock: Nice piece of gear @ sub 2lbs. Need to try a different lightweight pad out and possibly use a better bag. Also need the snake skins. Excels in the backcountry where you aren’t guaranteed a tent spot like at Liberty Springs for me, and super lightweight.
More Info on Pemi Loops: