Saturday, August 28, 2021
Start/end: Lincoln Woods trailhead
Elevation gain/loss: 14,800′
Total time: 17:28:38
Moving time: 16:12, 1:16 water/hut stops
GaiaGPS track (pulled from Coros watch)
I was awake at 3:15am, and quickly hit the road by 3:30am. At the trailhead, I paid for my parking, got my gear all sorted, and then headed out right around 4am. I pushed myself to jog the entire Lincoln Woods section, despite the dark. Since it was smooth, I was holding my trekking poles and not paying quite as close attention as I needed to. Less than 2 miles in, I kicked my toe on a rock I didn’t see and only partially caught myself before hitting the ground on my stomach. I belly flopped and slid, and ended up bruising my ribs and ground gravel and dirt into my palms, forearms, and stomach. That tempered my enthusiasm for running a bit, though I did get back to a jog a few minutes later.
Around the turn up Black Brook, I overshot the trail and crossed the creek before realizing that it was a campsite not the trail. I pulled out my GPS track, and bushwhacked my way back across the creek to the trail and pushed onward. I made the summit of Bondcliff right around 6:45am, perhaps 30 minutes after sunrise. It was cold with a 15-20 MPH breeze, making it feel like ~40 degrees. My hands quickly went numb and my sweat-damp shirt felt incredibly chilly. I pushed on quickly, trying to get myself warm again. I passed by a few people who were Pemi looping on my way up Bond. I reached Bond by 7:15am and kept moving forward.
After a few minutes of vigorous downhill, I checked my GPS to make sure I didn’t accidently blast past West Bond. A few packs had been dropped by the spur trail, so it was easy to see. I made West Bond by 7:35am or so, and crossed paths with other Pemi loopers; the two that I chatted with while I refilled my front water bottles from my bladder in the back had started at 1:45am. As soon as I finished up with my water, I pushed on, passing by another handful of people as I went by the Guyot campsite spur and then up over to the turnoff for Zealand. I made quick work of that section, despite stopping for a few minutes to chat with a AT thru-hiker, and arrived at Zealand summit at 8:45am.
I made Zealand hut by 9:45am, where I refilled on water, took a bathroom break, and quickly ate a piece of coffee cake and 2 pieces of bread. Then it was the hike up Hale, which I actually enjoyed, having never taken that route up before. It was some beautiful woods hiking, and I arrived at the summit by 10:45am.
Then I descended Hale by the Fire Warden’s trail. I filtered water at the Little River and then pushed the long climb up North Twin, dodging hikers as I went. It was a long uphill, but I kept it moving, despite some comments from a group of 5 dayhiking guys in their early 20s about how I was “so close, almost there” to the summit of North Twin. I made it from the river to the summit in 70 minutes, arriving at 12:55pm, with 24.2 miles on my watch. Near the North Twin summit, it was nice to look over and see people on South Twin, knowing it wasn’t as far away as it looked. As I went down the trail, I nearly stepped on a grouse; it fluttered around and grumbled at me but didn’t explode up into the trees and spook me so I took that as a win. It took me perhaps half an hour to get over to South Twin, where I refilled my bottles from my bladder and then descended to the hut, arriving around 1:55pm.
I filled up my water in the way past and summited Galehead by 2:10pm. Then I went back to the hut, grabbed a piece of sweet cornbread, topped off my water, packed more snacks into my front pockets, chatted with a few people on the porch, put on my liner gloves, and then headed towards Garfield by 2:40pm. On the climb, I stopped for a quick water refill at Garfield shelter at 3:45pm. From the summit of Garfield, I could see Franconia Ridge and it was starting to enter the clouds. Looking around, I could see areas in the distance with rain clearly falling.
I set out to descend Garfield and climb toward Lafayette as quickly as I could manage, despite my exhaustion, trying to beat the rain. The climb up towards the ridge was long, rocky, and quite technical, and my legs were tired. A soaking mist started as I ascended, and by the time I got to the rock slabs above treeline at North Lafayette at 5:30pm, it was raining in earnest and the ridge was completely socked in.
Everything was wet, rocks included. Thankfully, the wind was quite light and the temperature was in the high 50s, so it wasn’t too cold so long as I kept moving quickly. I summited Lafayette by 5:40pm and Lincoln by 6pm. I dropped below treeline after Little Haystack around 6:25pm and was glad for the added protection from the rain, though the rocky descent was slippery. I quickly passed by a couple who were slowly working their way towards Liberty, on their way to finishing a Pemi Loop. I was able to pick up my pace in the smoother woods and made the summit of Liberty by 7:10pm, after some careful rock hopping along the narrow ledge.
From there, I dropped towards Flume. Partway down, I ran into two hikers heading for Liberty Springs who were worried about completing the Pemi Loop the next day. I walked them through a few bail-out options, and they kindly pulled my headlamp out of my backpack so I didn’t have to take my vest off. I made the summit of Flume by 7:50pm, where I took one last picture of the mountains before bombing down 3,000′ of technical loss on wobbly knees in the pouring rain.
The wet stairs descending Flume were trecherous and my mind kept wanting to wander, rather than stay focused. My headlamp kept reflecting off of the rain, distracting me with sparkles in my peripheral vision and messing with my depth perception. I ate more Skittles and kept myself moving without pushing harder than my feet could keep up. I passed by another couple heading towards Lincoln Woods around 8:45pm, and made it to the Osseo turn-off right around 9:15pm. I looked at my watch, felt my legs, and decided I could definitely run the smooth 1.5 miles to the trailhead. I kept my trekking poles out to help push me along and stablize me, but was able to settle into a nice 10min/mile trot. I arrived at the trailhead right around 9:30pm.
Over all, it was a grand day in the mountains making some big miles. There were a few mental lows, but I was in good spirits all day, and really enjoyed seeing how hard I could push myself. With better weather for Franconia Ridge and the descent down Flume/Osseo trail, I think I could easily have cut 1-1.5 hours off my time, as more running and a faster pace overall would have been possible with dry rocks and better visibility. Perhaps next year!