February 20, 2012 / Comments (6)

Hiking Lincoln and Lafayette in Winter

When I began my quest of hiking the NH 4000-footers, I didn’t plan on hiking in winter. I thought I’d end in October and pick back up in late April. This winter has been very mild so I did some hiking in November which turned into hiking in December and now it’s February. With Lincoln and Lafayette, I have 18 4000’s completed this year with four in winter (according to winter solstice). I’m hooked and have a some more hiking planned before winter ends!

 I was leading a meetup and was accompanied by four others. We decided once we were at the trailhead to go up Falling Waters and descend down Old Bridle Path. I am very happy with this decision as it seemed easier to get the steep sections of Falling Waters out of the way going up rather than trying to go down. We got our gear on and started promptly at 7:15.

 The trail is gorgeous in winter. It would be interesting to visit in warmer weather too as you pass multiple waterfalls. Two are Stairs Falls (80 ft) and Swiftwater Falls (60 ft).
The Falling Waters trail isn’t too steep for the first half. There are a few short, but steep sections around the waterfalls, but does get much steeper in the upper third before reaching the ridge.  We had to take off and put back layers throughout the hike to avoid overheating in winter which can lead to hypothermia. Once you reach the switchbacks you are approaching the Franconia Ridge Trail.  
Franconia Ridge Trail
The most exhilarating part of the hike was the 2+ miles on the ridge to bag Lincoln and Lafayette. This should be avoided in bad weather and should not be attempted without the proper gear. Most of our group wore crampons while two had snowshoes they switched into for parts of the hike. I wore crampons the entire hike (first time wearing them) and loved them. There were only two small sections where I would have benefited from using snowshoes.

We hiked on a fairly level ridge until we got to a section of the ridge with numerous jutting crags and climbed up the cone of Lincoln. This section was difficult to navigate as there wasn’t much visibility. We looked for cairns and had to spend a little time scoping out different options as the trail is snow covered and impossible to follow the entire hike.

Scoping out the best route

 We reached the summit of Lincoln (5089′) with little views and some pretty good wind. It wasn’t a constant wind and didn’t seem as strong as reported in the higher summits forecast. The wind was around thirty miles per hour which made wind chill -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Taking a break on the ridge

 A mile later we reached the summit of Lafayette. I was surprised by the number of people we saw on the ridge. Many were hiking the route up Old Bridle Path and down Falling Waters. They weren’t hiking toward the wind, but I felt safer ascending up the steep sections of Falling Waters.

Skies began to open up; time to get some pictures!
Making our way to Greenleaf Hut

 We stayed at the hut for quite some time. I have no idea how long, but we had lunch, talked to a French Canadian couple, and took lots of pictures. The hut isn’t open in winter, but there are a few benches on either side. While at the hut the sun beamed down at us. I don’t think any of us wanted to leave!

Cannon on the right
The group
The ridge connecting Lincoln and Lafayette
Large group coming down- we packed up and headed on down!
I had an exhilarating hike up my first two 5000-footers. Thanks to Ian, Brian, James, and Dan for the joining me and sharing your pictures!


Quick Facts:
Approach from: Lafayette Place parking area, exit 34B
Height- Lincoln: 5089 feet Lafayette: 5260 feet Little Haystack: 4760 feet
Distance: 9 miles
Hiking time: 7 1/2 hours hike time including lengthy break at hut, gear/layer changes, and all other breaks.

Last modified: February 5, 2015

6 Responses to :
Hiking Lincoln and Lafayette in Winter

  1. Nancy Nadler says:

    What a beautiful hike. I’d love to see the waterfalls in the warmer months too.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Looks like I was up on Franconia Ridge the same day as you. We hiked it in cloud, which only broke as we descended Lafayette. Perhaps we were in that big group you photographed coming down the mountain. I was co -leading an AMC trip with 11 other hikers.

  3. Phillip- that must be your group! There was a lot of people on the mountains that day.

  4. Jesse says:

    What a great blog Allison! I love all the photos with narratives. I’m looking forward to reading more.

  5. Kimball says:

    Great hike Allison. Congrats on your 4th winter peak. That look like a fun day.

    In the picts we can see you use a small day pack. I wonder how that worked for you? Any thoughts of using a larger pack so you can carry back up gear, cloths, and food?

    Love the trip reports. Keep ’em coming.

  6. Kimball,

    Surprisingly I fit a whole first aid kit, extra clothing, gloves, hat, and food. I even have an emergency bivy! It wouldn’t last me days, but in winter, I don’t hike alone. Maybe I’ll give people a peek into my pack soon….

    Thanks for reading!!

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