November 5, 2005.
18.3 mi | 11.5 hr
Whitehouse Tr > Liberty Spr > Flume Slide Tr > Franconia Ridge > Garfield Ridge Tr > Garfield Tr
This was a tremendously tough hike for me due to the fact that I was with a group of four very experienced hikers, including one ultramarathoner. These people were in phenomenal shape and they totally kicked my butt.
We moved at such a quick pace that I didn’t take in much of the scenery around me. I was so focused on keeping up that other sensory stimuli were almost entirely blocked out.
Since it was warm and there had been recent snowmelt we decided to leave the snowshoes behind, but took crampons just in case. The Flume Slide Trail was steep and slick but there was really no ice. The crampons got no use today. As the day went on, the group plowed ahead of me and I trailed behind, following footsteps and voices. At some point the group lost the trail and we bushwhacked up Fume for a little while. This was my opportunity to catch up!
After re-joining the trail we steadily moved up the slick rock to the top of Flume. Whew, a break.
We stopped for breaks at each peak, some longer than others. Jamie lost his camera somewhere between Liberty and Little Haystack so we got to hang out for a bit while he ran back to retrieve it.
At least the weather was nice: warm, not too windy, sunny. I enjoyed listening to the goofy conversations among the rest of my teammates while they were in earshot.
On the ridge, we passed the usual crowds of hikers. We also caught up with a couple of VFTTr’s who were scouting ski trails across the Pemi.
Eventually I was really starting to wind down. I had gone through a ton of food and water today. Plus, I had to keep layering and de-layering to maintain my body temperature. It was a challenge to stay warm while stopped and cool enough while moving.
The wind picked up as we descended into the col between Lafayette and Garfield. There was also much more snow here, and some of the steeper parts were scary. I hung in the middle of the pack as long as I could, but ended up letting Jamie and Jeff go ahead of me.
Jeff cracked me up because he gave me mini-motivational speeches along the way. They actually really helped!
Reaching Garfield took forever. I was moving super slow, got winded quickly and needed a ton of water. Thank goodness for my Camelbak. And Frodo, who nicely stayed behind to keep me company and push me along. I felt like my brain was not communicating to my legs and vice versa. They just didn’t have any more to give.
After Frodo took off ahead of me I decided I just needed to keep my own pace. I slowed down even more.
We took one more break on top of Garfield and then took out our headlamps for the inevitable hike out in the dark. The sun was about to set. As soon as we started hiking again, they immediately left me in the dust. I walked the last 5 miles out almost entirely on my own.
The group did wait for me at all river crossings and trail junction, which I greatly appreciated. But I’m glad they didn’t stop more often because I felt like a wreck. Jeff kept by my side for the last mile,, and I could not have been more happy to see the parking lot.
I was in way over my head today but really enjoyed meeting this group of people. I hope I get to hike with them again, and if so, I hope I’ve got a lot more stamina to keep up.