Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Variety of Trail Conditions on a Hike to Ike

There's been some beautiful Spring weather this week. Today's forecast appeared to be perfect for a hike above treeline and onto the high summits. I would be hiking solo to Mount Eisenhower (4,780') via the Crawford Path. Trail conditions were certain to be interesting as they always are this time of year with bare ground, water, mud, ice and soft snow leading to the occasional postholing.

Daylight comes early and at 4:30 when I awoke the sky was already starting to brighten. I began my drive to the trailhead before the sun came up. The sky was clear and the air was cool. When I drove past Zealand Road I noticed the gate was still closed. I arrived at the Mt. Clinton parking lot and found the gate closed on the road as I went by. There was a few cars in the lot so I wasn't the first one there this morning.

My hike started on bare trail but I soon saw a small section of ice that presented no problem. I crossed the bridge over Gibbs Brook and there was good water flow coming down through. When I got to the Gibbs Falls spur path I dropped down for a look and there was a lot of water flowing over the falls. As I continued up the Crawford Path I came to the beginning of a broken monorail. About halfway to the Mizpah Cutoff junction I found it necessary to put on microspikes.

Past the Mizpah Cutoff I occasionally heard water flowing beneath the frozen monorail. There was unstable snowbridges and many old postholes as I continued up. There is still a lot of snow on the Crawford Path just before the Webster Cliff Trail junction. I was walking on several feet of snow but the monorail was firm and stable and I managed not to posthole. When I got to the junction I took off my microspikes and put on gaiters anticipating soft snow and postholing ahead on my way to Eisenhower.

I've already done Pierce for May so I continued on the Crawford Path and immediately dropped down into soft snow and began the occasional postholing at varying depths. There was sections of snow followed by sections of bare ledge then back to snow and this cycle continued for the next 1.2 miles. I found bare booting was the best way to deal with the intermittent snow and bare ledges. This continued to the Eisenhower Loop and as I started up the summit cone the trail was completely bare all the way to the top.

I arrived at the summit and had it all to myself. There was brilliant sunshine in a cloudless sky with the occasional wisp of a cool breeze. I basked in the sun for awhile but was aware that the warm temps and sunshine would be making the snow below softer creating more oppotunities for postholing. After photos and a video I began my descent. On my way back down the summit cone I saw my first hiker of the day and his dog Pepper. Pepper has done the Grid two times! That's 1,152 summits and thousands of miles of hiking, a phenomenal feat!

I was back in the snow and bare ledge cycle. As I thought, the snow had softened and there was increased postholing. The stretches of bare ledge were a welcome relief along the way. I met one more hiker before reaching the Webster Cliff Trail junction. Once back at the junction I took off the gaiters and put on my microspikes. The monorail was still firm back in the woods and shade as I continued my descent. There were many hikers coming up as I was going down.

I reached the parking lot and it was very warm bordering on hot. The temperature was in the upper 70's. I chose the perfect day this week for hiking. Even the postholing was not as bad as I was expecting. As the trails continue to transition from winter to summer a variety of conditions will remain. The remnants of winter are still out there on the trails and need to be taken into consideration when setting out on a hike over the next couple of weeks.

Enjoy the photos and videos!

Driving to the trailhead just before sunrise

Mount Eisenhower

The cairn on the summit of Mount Eisenhower is my destination

Full sun above the Presidential summits in a cloudless sky

The hike starts here

The gate is still closed on Mt Clinton Road

Crossing Mt Clinton Road to the Crawford Connector

First short section of ice

Gibbs Brook

Crawford Path

Gibbs Brook dam


Gibbs Falls

Unstable snow bridge 

Lots of flowing water in this brook

Snow bridge

Microspikes went on here

Lots of these holes long the way

A took a photo of this fragile snow bridge and a second later it collapsed

The collapsed snow bridge from the above photo

Mizpah Cutoff junction

Brook beneath the snow

Old postholes

Running water and ice and soft snow on the trail

Straddling a brook



First view from the trail

More views

Enjoying the view

Mount Eisenhower

Zooming in on the Eisenhower summit cairn

Webster Cliff Trail junction

Gaiters are on anticipating the postholes ahead in deep snow

Narrow monorail

Very thin monorail

Wall of snow on the trail

Climbing the summit cone

Top of a snowfield 
Arriving at the summit cairn

A view to the north

Mount Franklin

Mount Monroe

Mount Washington

Mount Clay

Mount Jefferson

Franconia Ridge in the distance

Bretton Woods ski area and the Mount Washington Hotel down below

Back at the Eisenhower Loop junction

Mount Carrigain

Last snowfield on Eisenhower

A nice stretch of bare ledge

More deep snow

Another section of postholing

Stepping up onto deep snow for the final descent

A last view of Eisenhower before descending into the woods

A nice solid monorail but stay in the middle of the trail

The bridge over Gibbs Brook

Back at the trailhead

A quick stop on the drive home to enjoy this view

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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