Little Haystack Mountain NH, 02 September 2017

1:39 a.m. on September 3, 2017 (EDT)
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After having made plans to visit a friend outside of Concord NH this weekend, I began searching for a difficult hike since she would be gone Saturday. Several years ago she had half a lung removed after a spot was found on it during an X-ray, so she's limited to easy trails now. At first I had narrowed things down to 4 trails, 2 around Lake Winnipesaukee NH and 2 near Windsor VT. Last night I decided I was going to do a 4K instead, and after a bit of comparisons on my AllTrails app I decided on the Mt. Lafayette-Franconia Ridge loop trail. There are 3 peaks over 4K on this trail - starting out on the Falling Waters Trail you first come to 4760' Little Haystack, then 5089' Mt.  Lincoln across a shallow saddle or col, and lastly 5249' Mt. Lafayette, which is the tallest mountain in NH outside the Presidentials. With a prominence of 3320' it's the second most prominent peak in NH. 

I left around 845 Saturday morning, stopping at the Concord Eastern Mountain Sports to pick up a pair of 3-section trekking poles so I could carry them on my Osprey pack's pole holder. No dice, EMS had sold the last pair of poles in the store yesterday afternoon. So I headed up interstate 93 toward Franconia Notch, and stopped in Lincoln NH to check for poles in the ski shops there. Success! I ended up with a pair of Komperdells, they have twist locks which I'm not a big fan of but they're better than nothing. 

Reaching the trailhead area a little before 1100, I was shocked to see vehicles parked on both sides of the interstate for close to 1/2 mile in both directions. The mountain would be packed! But I wasn't about to turn around and go somewhere else, so I parked the Jeep at the end of the line - about 0.4 mile from the trailhead - and headed down to the trailhead. 

The trail is a loop, so you can go in either direction from the trailhead. Taking the Falling Waters Trail takes you in a CCW direction, hitting Little Haystack, then along the Franconia Ridge Trail to Lincoln and Lafayette, then down the Old Bridle Path to the trailhead. Obviously going CW does this backward. So while there were a lot of people I didn't find the trail crowded because a lot had gone in a CW direction, and a lot had gotten much earlier starts. So off I went, up Falling Waters. 

Falling Waters Trail is named for the series of waterfalls on a stream that runs down a draw on the slope of Little Haystack. There were several crossings but you'd have to be really clumsy to get your feet wet. Partway up the slope the trail turned away from the stream and got steeper. Judging from the map it looks like 2900' of elevation gain over the 2.8 miles to the summit, and there was maybe 200 yards of somewhat level ground in all. The last 1/10 mile or so was very steep and above the treeline, with krummholz all the way to just below the summit proper. There were actually small areas of alpine grasses on the summit, which the USFS "Alpine Warden" had to warn several people not to step on. 

The summit was quite crowded, and unfortunately trail etiquette seemed in short supply. People were sprawled about at the actual highest point, so if you wanted to get a pic standing up there it was full of strangers. Plus, on both the ascent and descent I came upon groups of people who just stopped dead in the middle of the trail to take breaks. More than I expected didn't know that descending hikers are traditionally given the right of way, either. But I didn't let any of this distract from the great time I was having and the sweet burn in my legs & lungs. Pushing past what you thought were your physical limits is one of the most rewarding experiences one can have. It IS mind over matter to a large degree. 

Anyway, after an almost 3 hour ascent and maybe 45 minutes spent resting, eating lunch, changing socks, and clipping a corner off a big toenail, I decided to head back down at around 1430. I would have liked to continue on to Mt Lincoln but even though it looked close the Alpine Warden said it was about an hour away, which probably meant closer to 1.5 hours for me. In a rare instance of exercising good judgment and demonstrating my arithmetical prowess, I determined that 6 hours (at a minimum) would have meant close to 2 hours in darkness before reaching the trailhead. I had a headlamp and spare batteries, and I even had all the clothing I'd need to survive a night on the mountain if something happened (dry merino base layer, down jacket, rain jacket and pants, fleece hat, and gloves), but the mountains weren't going anywhere. I'll do it again sometime when I have more time and am in better shape. 

Reaching the waterfalls I started seeing more people headed in both directions, so I straightened up and walked like I was just out for a stroll. That's a leftover from the army, when we were on a road march and got back in the garrison area you did NOT let people see you dragging ass. Stand up straighter, close your mouth, and greet people you meet without any fatigue in your voice. Usually the platoon sergeant or first sergeant would put us back into quick time so we were in step, and we'd start singing cadences. It actually takes a lot of the fatigue from your body, at least for a short time. Luckily, it lasted long enough for me to travel the extra 0.4 mile to the Jeep, where I pounded a bottle of water (my 2.5l hydration bladder was drained with maybe 3/4 mile to go to the trailhead) and changed out of my sopping wet shirt. A little stretching and walking around to let my legs cool down, and I hit the road for the 1.25-hour or so drive back to my friend's. With a stop at Taco Bell. Where I had a Dew, too. And found that my power steering pump was gushing out fluid. So now I know what I'm doing tomorrow morning!

I saw people of all races, ethnicities, and nationalities on the mountain, heard what had to be at least a dozen languages, and nobody tried to kill anybody else or showed any prejudicial or bigoted tendencies. A love of the outdoors is something we all had in common, and skin color or ancestral origin was the farthest thing from anyone's mind, like it is for the overwhelmingly vast majority of people. 

Oh, and after all the sweat & pain, I found that Little Haystack isn't even an official 4000-footer because its summit is only about 200' higher than the col between it and Lincoln. It doesn't matter, it's still my highest summit yet! Not for long, though. :-)

An impressive cliff on the west side of the interstate. It's across from the trailhead. 

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One of the waterfalls, the largest I believe. 
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Even on a mild day with temps in the mid 60s, I'm soon drenched with sweat. This is the main reason I like the winter so much, I stay much drier!
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Mt. Lincoln. 
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Mt. Washington. 
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More random pics from the summit. 
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The cliff face in the first 2 pics. I don't know what its name is but it's impressive!
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Does this belt make me look fat? Holy cow!
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7:25 a.m. on September 3, 2017 (EDT)
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Can't help but feel a little excited looking at those summit pics Phil. To me, Haystack is the first peak of the ridge when starting day two of a Pemi Loop after spending the night at Liberty Springs. I felt like I should whip out a cheesestick to celebrate the first summit of the day before heading on to Lincoln and Lafayette for more :)

Glad you are getting the chance to see what the world looks like from up there. It really is a neat place, especially if you can manage any time alone and away from the crowds. Was thinking of you yesterday as we were enjoying the blue sky day. Looks like you had a beauty over there too, as I suspected.

9:04 a.m. on September 3, 2017 (EDT)
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My old stomping grounds! I lived in Easton for a while, have done various loops on Franconia Ridge and beyond many times. My first overnight hike as teenager with my dad was a Franconia ridge traverse with many lessons learned. Bad weather the whole time except one shining moment on Little Haystack when the clouds dropped down around our knees and we were angels on a cloud plain. From that moment on there was no looking back.

Glad to see it's still there.

7:24 p.m. on September 3, 2017 (EDT)
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I have a friend who used to live in Woodsville, we spent a lot of time in Easton & Bath. Not hiking or anything, she just had a lot of friends in the area. Plus she snowmobiled all over the place. 

The Whites really are great, you'd probably have to look really hard to find other mountains that are so easily accessible for so many people. I'm turning into a fanatic, I think, though Chocorua will probably always be my "favorite" mountain simply because of how many times I've climbed it. And because it's the only one I've ever attempted in the winter (I stopped maybe a hundred vertical feet from the summit because I didn't trust my boots' footing.)

Yesterday I wore my new Salewa Mountain Trainers, it was the first time I wore them on extremely rough terrain. They did very well, traction was outstanding and my ankles are strong enough that I didn't have any undue fears of rolling an ankle. Today I went to REI to try on boots, I wanted to see if there was anything I liked better than Fugitives. I ended up coming home with a pair of Lowa Camino GTX, they cost $50 more but were more comfortable than Fugitives and felt even more sturdy. So I'll be wearing them on a few training hikes to see how they feel out in the woods. 

8:38 p.m. on September 4, 2017 (EDT)
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Great photos Phil!  With my first trip to the Whites under my belt in June, I plan to be back! 

9:21 p.m. on September 6, 2017 (EDT)
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I'm ready to start climbing now!


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10:30 p.m. on September 6, 2017 (EDT)
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Phil Smith said:

"..The summit was quite crowded, and unfortunately trail etiquette seemed in short supply..."

 

Who has the right of way?

This article describes most of the salient points.

  • Horses always have right of way over whatever else they encounter.  When yielding, get off the trail on the downslope side, don't make sudden moves, don't make eye contact with the animals, and don't present your hand with out stretched fingers (eye contact and a hand resembling a claw are threatening gestures to many animals).  It behoove one to anticipate equine encounters, and select the safest spot for the encounter occur.
  • Hikers have right of way over bikers in all encounters.
  • Up hill traffic has right of way over same kind of downhill traffic (i.e. uphill hiker vs downhill hiker).

The article talks about proper way to pass and overtake others, but I find the terrain often compels one to perform this maneuver with priority given to safety over SOP.

I can't say I have ever heard of etiquette regarding behavior on a summit, other than LNT and not being a distraction to others.  But then I rarely ever find myself among a crowd anywhere in the BC.

Ed

10:46 p.m. on September 6, 2017 (EDT)
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Phil Smith said:

"..The Whites really are great, you'd probably have to look really hard to find other mountains that are so easily accessible for so many people..."

Actually it isn't uncommon.  There are several outdoor venues proximal to large populations in our nation alone.  The San Gabriel Mountains define the northern border of cosmopolitan Los Angeles, with over 20M people living within an hour's drive of the many trails of the range.  Fortunately congestion occurs only on a few of the dozens of trails.  The coastal redwoods near Santa Cruz are surrounded by large urban centers.  Defining the western border of Portland lies (another local) coastal range.  Others can probably add to this list.  But me thinks the mountains that are most crowded are the Alps; it seems impossible at times to get beyond earshot of human activities in those mountains. 

Ed

8:16 p.m. on September 8, 2017 (EDT)
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Well apparently I've been doing it "wrong" all along, from the time I was a Boy Scout about 35 years ago I was taught that uphill traffic should yield to downhill traffic because downhill travel tends to be more treacherous. 

As far as summit etiquette, the only thing I was ever taught not to do was hang out here the elevation sign or highest point is, because people generally want pictures there. Take your pics and make room for the next person was the rule. 

9:26 p.m. on September 8, 2017 (EDT)
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I never knew Miss Manners wrote about hiking...who knew?

For decades I have yielded to downhill folks when climbing. Not due to any teachings or readings...it is an excellent excuse to take a break. I guess I might behave differently or research rules (?) if it happened more often but I am allergic to crowded trails:)

6:04 a.m. on September 9, 2017 (EDT)
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The up hill vs down hill thing is based on momentum. Uphill having the right of way allows them to preserve momentum while downhill yielding encourages them to maintain control of their momentum.

Of course in actual practice the person heading downhill says "come on up, I'll wait" and the person heading uphill says "That's OK, I can use the rest, you go first" quite often, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't follow the rules :)

8:23 p.m. on September 9, 2017 (EDT)
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LS is right about the momentum thing. 

In my old age I find myself yielding my uphill right of way more frequently than ever!  Heck, I'll stop just to talk, I enjoy others POV on life. 

The hikers that gets me are the ones who will plow right through you if you don't clear out of their way, regardless of who has the right of way, and despite dangerous, exposed sections of trail.   If I am the ascending hiker in these encounters I simply stop in the middle of the trail so this git-out-of-my-way stunt is impossible.  An exchange normally results, sometimes with the descending hiker graciously learning manners or apologizing, but every once in a while one will argue the premise of their self-entitled attitude.

Ed      

1:43 a.m. on September 10, 2017 (EDT)
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Well that makes sense. My pace is slow enough that I don't really build up any momentum LOL. But I'm with you, I'm not racing and don't mind taking 10-15 second breaks when meeting & talking with someone in either direction. 

11:44 a.m. on September 10, 2017 (EDT)
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So back to your photos...does the passport mean you plan to climb all the 4000 footers? Met a couple of local guys up there in June doing the same thing. At least one of them was trying to join the club of folks who completed all of them in the 70s! While it's not my cup of tea, I have nothing but respect for the accomplishment of bagging all those mountains.

6:37 p.m. on September 10, 2017 (EDT)
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I got it just to keep track of the ones I do climb. Hiking all 48 sounds good to me, but it wasn't on my mind at the time. After yesterday, though, it's definitely something I'm considering seriously. Not in any order or at any particular pace, and I don't want to ignore all the really nice smaller mountains in NH & Maine, of course. But even if I don't it'll be nice to have a written record of my hikes & some of the details down the road. 

7:25 p.m. on September 10, 2017 (EDT)
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Sounds like a good idea - I keep a notebook in my pocket for all trips.  It's nice to look back on.  Meant to say one of the guys was trying to complete the 4000s in his 70's not the 70s - either one is impressive.

Good luck either way you go - it's definitely good to have goals but also as you said not forget the "little hills".

4:53 p.m. on September 11, 2017 (EDT)
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Lists are fine if they are inspiring you and terrible if they are dictating your life, so it is very personal. I feel sort of bad for the peakbaggers who finally finish grinding out their 48 and then someone tells them about the grid and the madness starts all over again or the ones who lament not being able to find time to climb their favorite mountains any more because they have to go climb some viewless peak instead because it is on their list.

Do what makes you happy and if it stops making you happy, stop doing it.

12:34 p.m. on September 12, 2017 (EDT)
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I know too many people who hike according to a list but if you asked them about their latest hike they couldn't tell you anything. That's not me, I'll sit & wait for clouds to clear out so I can get a good view - or wait for some to move in closer in order to make a better picture - and if that means I don't get as far as I'd wanted, oh well. I can come back any time. 

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