Garfield – 1/9/2016

Approaching the summit of Mt. Garfield, New Hampshire

It hadn’t been long since Rich and I had visited Mt. Garfield – we used the shelter the night after Thanksgiving on our annual backpacking trip – but it was time to go back.

Rich was coming back from a cracked rib and I had been having some pretty nasty foot pain all week.  It would be a 12.4 mile hike, but 2.4 miles of that were on the Gale River Loop Road (closed in winter), and the 4.8 miles of Garfield Trail below the junction with Garfield Ridge Trail… pretty mellow.  We both wanted to cross this one off our winter NH 4000 Footer lists, too.  9 left for me!

Gale River Loop Road, closed in winter, is a 1.2 mile hike to Garfield Ridge Trail
Gale River Loop Rd., an easy 1.2 miles each way

Even more mellow considering winter has arrived in the Whites, as I discovered last weekend on Whiteface and Passaconaway.  The trail was well packed, and the snow was at the magical depth that covers rocks, roots and holes without slowing things down.

Even the notoriously icy .2 miles from the junction with Garfield Ridge Trail to the summit, which often require crampons, were covered in just enough snow to make it a breeze.

Well packed snow on Garfield Ridge Trail makes for very fast hiking, New Hampshire
Perfect pack

Today was a light traction day all the way.  I was using my new(ish) Hillsound Trail Crampons, and they performed well.  You can read about my first day with them here, and watch for updates as I spend more time with them.

It could have safely and easily been barebooted all day as well, but those tiny slips with each step add up over time.

Despite our injuries, we were feeling good and moving fast.  Most of the time we were above 4 mph.

We got quite a bit of sun today, much more than the forecast had us expecting.  The summit was completely socked in, but other than that, it was nice out there.  A socked in summit is fun in its own way anyway, especially with strong wind like we had today.

Near the summit we met a group from the MIT Outing Club who seemed to be having a great time, and at the top we met 2 guys who had come over from a night on Franconia Ridge and were heading… somewhere.  They were pumped to hear about the shelter just a half mile away.  I was jealous of their backpacking trip and their “figure it out as we go” plan.  One of the guys seemed jealous of us, as we’d be sleeping inside buildings with 4 walls tonight.

It was cold on top and the wet wind was forming rime ice on everything, including us.

Cloudy summit of Mt. Garfield, New Hampshire
Socked in summit

I had been testing out my new Patagonia Nano Air Hoody all day, so instead of donning the Fitz Roy on the summit, I decided to see how it held up.  Read my review here.

Testing the Patagonia Nano Air hooded Jacket on the summit of Mt. Garfield, New Hampshire
Nano Air testing

On the way down, we ran about 1.5 miles of the Garfield Trail, mostly just short stretches on the flat spots.  We did this partly because we were surprised and happy to not be in pain, partly because I wanted to thoroughly test the performance of my new jacket, but mostly because the trail was begging us to.  Again, this trail was in fine condition today.

Tip: Don’t wolf down a massive amount of trail mix, chug more water than your body can use, immediately start running down the trail, and then force out a burp (while running) to make your hiking buddy laugh.  You might puke, like I did.

We had started at 10:15, and got back to the car at 4:00, coming in at just under 6 hours.  Not bad for 12.4 miles!  Our mainly high speeds were offset by several long breaks, which were extended in the name of Nano Air testing.

Despite the lack of views from the top, it was a great day to be out there.  It won’t be long until the snowshoes are on… this would be (read: would have been – storms coming) a great time to introduce someone without snowshoes or who is new to winter hiking to this great season.

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