Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mount Lafayette, June 4, 2010

I often do a loop over Mount Lafayette, going up to the hut by the Old Bridle Path (OBP), then to the summit by the upper part of the Greenleaf Trail, and descending by the Greenleaf Trail all the way to the road.  The last 0.6 miles of the Greenleaf Trail to the Cannon Tramway lot are very unpleasant; fortunately there is a shortcut down to the Old Man Viewing lot, which also shortens the road walk between the two trailheads.  Unfortunately the Old Man Viewing site has a ten minute parking limit:

so I parked at the nearby climber's lot, on the southbound side of the Parkway.


This is a fully interactive Google Map. You can zoom in or out, pan, and by clicking on the parking icon you can get directions to the trailhead.

View Lafayette Loop in a larger map

The "climber's lot" actually has many users; climbers going up the Cannon Cliff, paddlers on Profile lake and fishermen.  There are nice views of Eagle Cliff and Eagle Pass to the east,

and of Cannon Cliff to the west

The Bike Path leaves the southern end of the parking lot, and soon there is a choice, either continue on the wide, paved Bike Path

or take the Pemi Trail, a genuine trail that parallels the Bike Path.

Since I had a long day ahead of me I chose the marginally easier Bike Path.  A short distance beyond the Pemi trail are a pair of large boulders that fell off Cannon Cliff on June 19, 1997.  Beside them is a climber's use path to the cliff:

Shortly beyond is a discrete cairn marking another use path:

The rest of the walk down the Bike Path was uneventful until shortly before reaching Lafayette Campground, where an opening gave excellent views both north to Cannon Cliff (note the talus below the cliff)

and south to Little Haystack, with Shining Rock not shining much on a cloudy morning.

To my surprise the southbound parking lot was completely full on a Friday. I crossed under the Parkway to the bigger northbound lot, which was half full.

The Old Bridle path has good footing, as in most areas the rocks are used to make stone stairs and mark the edge of the trail

though there are areas of smooth soil

As soon as the trail leaves Franconia Notch State Park it enters a Forest Protection Area

which is needed to protect such a heavily used trail.

Most of the Old Bridle Path is in the trees, but a short stretch on the crest of the ridge over Walker Ravine has spectacular views.  First Mount Lincoln, with its slides and ridges

Then Mount Lafayette with Walker Ravine

Then the ridge crest higher up along which the trail goes, with the steep Agony Ridge

Beyond that the trail is in the woods once again.  After climbing up the steep agonies I eventually reached the Forest Protection Area sign for the hut

and soon was having a snack in the hut.  After that I slowly climbed to the summit.  It was windy, cold and cloudy up there, and I took no photos this time.  On the way down I saw the hut getting bigger and bigger as I approached it, here is a view from above

and another from below (near Eagle lake)

I had a very late lunch at the hut, then descended by the Greenleaf Trail.  The only really interesting part of that trail is around Eagle Pass.  The trail goes through an area of mossy rocks and trees, hard to photograph well.  I found a couple of patches of snow in holes under the rocks

and mossy rocks and tree trunks

The trail passes under a steep cliff

On the other side of the pass there is a new (fall of 2009) slide

also here from a different angle

Beyond Eagle Pass the trail goes down, with a few switchbacks, to the area of the Old Man Viewing, where I left the trail and bushwhacked through very open woods to the parking area.

View Lafayette Loop in a larger map

From there I took the Bike path back to the climber's lot, where I had a wonderful view of Eagle Cliff and Eagle Pass in the sun, which had finally come out

The trip was about 7 miles on trail, and 2 on the Bike Path, with 3,600 feet of elevation gain.