A Winter Climb of Mt. Lafayette NH

Mt. Lafayette NH

8.2 miles, 5,249 feet
March 13, 2011
By Wes Chapman
Stanwood understands & captures the cold and wildness of Mt. Lafayette
Jill & Gary Rogers enjoying the cold and wildness of Mt. Lafayette on the summit

Mt. Lafayette & Franconia Ridge – One of the Best in NH

William Shakespeare suggested that Julius Caesar might do well to avoid attending the theatre on the ides of March (the “ides” are the 15th or 13th depending on the month). My friends the Rogers and I took his advice, avoided the theatre at all costs near such an inauspicious date, and headed into the mountains instead to test our luck on one of the greatest hills in NH, Mt. Lafayette on Franconia Ridge. Franconia Ridge is one of the great winter climbs in the Northeast, and claims one careless victim every couple of years. We hoped that the lousy weather around the ides of March would not claim us as well.

We were keen to get onto some vertical ice, but the weather around here has been really warm and very wet – resulting in some notable local flooding, and some really rotten ice. As an alternative, we decided to head up onto Franconia Ridge and bag Lafayette, and maybe Lincoln if the weather cooperated.

I had been emailing and texting all of my other climbing buddies to join us, but I fear that all texts and emails containing both my name and Mt. Lafayette have been refused transmission by the NSA. In any event, nobody else answered at all, so we set out as a trio into the rain and storm, sleep deprived by the switch to DST the night before.

We normally head up the Falling Waters Trail, but with the volume of “falling water” recently made this a very shaky proposition, so we headed up the Old Bridal Path to the Greenleaf Hut, and then up the Greenleaf Trail to the summit. The trail up was deep in snow, and the last poor guy down was “post holing” all the way down the hill. Fortunately, we had snow shoes, and the temperature was dropping, along with a fairly robust snowfall.

Jill & Gary headed up the Old Bridal Path

After a brief stop outside the Greenleaf Hut for a snack, we pushed into the windy and cold alpine tundra, and into very poor visibility toward the summit. Despite two or three wrong turns on the way, a 60mph breeze and 10 degree temperatures, we made the summit around 12:00. Our only indisputable piece of good judgment for the day was to turn back to the Greenleaf Hut, and leave a winter climb of Lincoln (along Franconia Ridge) for another day.

The author enjoying the fresh breeze
Blowing snow and bad visibility, but undiminished enthusiasm & vigor

We met 5-6 fellow travelers as we headed down the hill, and were out by 4:00. It was a great day, Mt. Lafayette is as good in the winter as it is in the summer, and the crowds are a lot smaller.

Wes Chapman
Written by Wes Chapman

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