|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Mt. Garfield, North Lafayette, Mt. Lafayette, NH|
||Garfield Trail, Garfield Ridge Trail, Greenleaf Trail|
|Date of Hike:
||Saturday, October 26, 2019|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||Only a couple other cars in the tramway lot around 6:30am. Not many more when we returned around 7pm. The road into Garfield Trail was open in both directions (we missed the first turn on our way in) but I imagine that will likely change soon. The road was in fine shape. Not room for more than a dozen cars probably less at the small parking area. |
||Dry Trail, Snow - Trace/Minimal Depth, Wet Trail, Snow - Packed Powder/Loose Granular, Wet/Slippery Rock, Ice - Breakable Crust, Standing/Running Water on Trail, Snow/Ice - Frozen Granular, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Mud - Significant, Leaves - Significant/Slippery, Slush, Snow/Ice - Small Patches |
||Light Traction |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||The only crossings were the ones along the lower portion of Garfield Trail. They were higher than normal but doable as a rock hop without wet feet if you’ve got long enough legs and are careful. See “WAUMBEK”’s post from the same day for how to bushwhack around them if you don’t want to cross them. |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||Only two significant blowdowns that I recall both along Garfield Ridge Trail. One was near Garfield Pond and was a partially trimmed straddler. It’s height and other limbs made it a bit difficult to go over. The other was maybe a mile so after along Garfield Trail. It didn’t look to be easily passable so we bushwhacked around it (not an established path around yet) but looking back at it, we could have crawled under.
Garfield Trail is blazed in blue. The blazing seemed to fade out as we gained elevation but the trail was never difficult to follow. Garfield Ridge Trail is blazed in white as it’s part of the AT but we hardly saw any blaze. No problems following it. Cairns above treeline marked the snow-covered trail well enough even in fog. I believe the Greenleaf Trail is blazed in blue but I only recall seeing one or two blazes well below the hut. |
||One seen on the summit of Garfield and Garfield Ridge Trail. It was very well behaved and unleashed. If there’s any chance yours would run up to another human or dog you should have it leashed or on voice command. Garfield Trail is a good trail for dogs but the Garfield Ridge Trail would be tougher including the last 0.2mi to the summit of Garfield due to steep scrambles and little water. Greenleaf Trail is probably doable but had little water below treeline. |
|Lost and Found:
||Found a glove not far from the summit of Garfield on Garfield Ridge Trail. Email me and it’s yours :) We also found a water bottle somewhere in between the Skookumchuck Trail and the summit of Lafayette (I believe it was pretty close to North Lafayette but I’m not certain) but we left it there, sorry :( ||
||Grabbed Garfield for a 3rd time and Lafayette for a 4th time for my grid :) My friend got his 13th and 14th 4000 footers. I also finally got the last section of Garfield Ridge Trail I needed for redlining. This was my first time at the north peak of Lafayette. We didn’t have views there unfortunately but we did have views shortly before north and southeast to the heart of the White Mountains. |
We were socked in at all the summits although we got views briefly along Garfield Ridge in between Skookumchuck and North Lafayette and again coming down off the summit of Lafayette. Seemed a bit unfair as all the other mountains seemed to have cleared :/ To add to our frustration, the summits did finally clear (but much later than anticipated) shortly after we left. At least we got to look back up at the ridge! We’d originally planned the traverse in the other direction to get most of the elevation gain out of the way at the beginning and because it’s 500ft less elevation gain in that direction but due to high winds in the morning, colder temperatures, and supposed clearing in the afternoon we decided to reverse directions. Even though Lafayette was still socked in at 3pm we were happy with our choice.
Temps were in the low 40s at the tramway around 6:30-7am and 37 at the Garfield Trail parking lot around 7:30am. My friend said it was 30 at the summit of Garfield around 11-11:30 but that felt too generous. That said, it still wasn’t nearly as cold of as windy as I’d anticipated. Similar at Lafayette and hiking above treeline was quite comfortable in just a base layer, fleece, and hard shell on my upper body, and long underwear and percolation pants on my legs. No balaclava needed.
All the trails had running water on them at some point with Garfield Trail being the worst but that was perhaps just due to that being there first trail we were on. Not very deep though and a man in sneakers who forgot his hiking boots managed well enough. With a few notable exceptions, the mud wasn’t usually too deep; mostly just puddles of water on the ridge. Rock/ledges were wet but we didn’t find them to be very slippery at all. We only had one fall between us the entire day and I don’t believe that was due to wet rock. We saw ice well before I thought we would on Garfield Trail but it never became real significant. One man a quarter mile before the jct with the GRT had spikes on and told us we’d need them for the summit but almost nobody used them and I didn’t find them necessary either. Although there was consistent snow/ice on and near the summit of Garfield (and shortly before the jct) it seemed like most of the GRT was snow free. I didn’t realize that it went so far below 4000ft though (I think the low point is around 3500ft). By the time we reached treeline there was consistent snow again and we threw on our microspikes to deal with a thin layer of ice immediately after teeeline. We kept them on until below the summit of Lafayette but they probably weren’t necessary and we met people going in the other direction that didn’t use them. We heard there were a couple of knee high drifts on Lafayette that gaiters would have been useful for early in the day but they’d been broken through by the time we got there.
We descend Greenleaf since it’s a wee bit shorter than Old Bride Path and a bit less elevaion gain but after doing it twice now I must say I’m not a big fan. Below the hut, it’s much quieter than Old Bridle Path is but it’s a fairly consistent steep(ish) grade for most of it and is very rocky throughout its entirety. Even down low (where it parallels 93 for what seems like an eternity) when it’s occasionally flat you don’t realize it because of all the damn boulders. Sure, Eagle Pass is cool but it’s the only point of interest/view along the trail other than a nice moss covered spur with a view just below the jct with Old Bridle Path. My friends knee was hurting which made this descent very tedious and we managed just over a 1mph pace. I descended this way about a year ago after nearly trail running the ridge between Lafayette and Lincoln, and even I went pretty slowly down this trail. If you’re looking for an alternative to the masses of people on Old Bridle Path, I recommend Skookumchuck Trail.
We met several nice people yesterday :) Many people headed up Garfield more than a couple of whom were headed to Galehead. Saw many more than I thought we would between Lafayette and Garfield but most were doing a Pemi Loop and I don’t think any were doing what we were. Also one trail runner, one just exploring down to the pond, and one did the loop to the pond and Garfield using the herd path/bushwhack, who, after reading his trail report, I realize is WAUMBEK. Pleasure talking to you and kuddos on completing the 48 10+ years in a row!!
Lastly, I was very concerned by the number of people who were descending the GRT from the summit of Lafayette thinking they were headed towards the hut (most were doing the loop and did not know the name of Old Bridle Path which they were meaning to descend). Between Skookumchuck and Lafayette we saw two separate groups, five people in total going the wrong way. We turned both of them around. One stayed with us to the summit and were grateful. The other got ahead of us and we didn’t see again. Some in each group either had jeans, sneakers, etc. I inquired to folks at the summit about the couple we never caught up with and described how we’d encountered two groups going the wrong way. 2 mins later the large group I was speaking with descends GRT thinking it was the way to the hut and I had to yell after them... please have a map and know what trails you want to be on. It would be very easy to die up there particularly on a day like yesterday with wind chills in the teens. At the very least, read trail signs which the first group we ran into claimed there wasn’t one at the summit. Although it’s important to not be polite, I implore those of you who have a clue to keep an eye out and look after these clueless people out there and say something. I’ve found that so long as you speak kindly and come from a kind place as opposed to a place of condescension, people will be grateful or at least okay with it. The least prepared people we saw all day (not far from the summit and originally attempting the loop) didn’t even have gloves. When I asked about their plans and they said they were doing the loop I asked if they had headlamps since it was only 2 hours till sunset and they were clearly unprepared. The said no and I told them they’d definitely be hiking in the dark and suggested they just go to Lafayette and back. 5 mins later they turned around before he summit and headed down. I was so thankful. We had a nice conversation and they inquired about where they could find maps and such. I mentioned that people die up there and they were totally blown away by that fact. Clueless, unprepared people continuing to hike here won’t change. The only (and best) thing we can do is politely inquire about their plans and suggest they do something differently.
||Liam Cooney |
Disclaimer: Reports are not verified - conditions may vary. Use at own risk. Always be prepared when hiking. Observe all signs. Trail conditions reports are not substitutes for weather reports or common sense.