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Trip 2 to Mount Lafayette 5260’ (Winter) 2/24/01

8 Miles 3600’ Elevation gain

Kevin and Bob F.

Despite the full winter sun pounding down on us from from clear skies, it was “see your breath cold” as we started up the Old Bridle Path from the Lafayette Place Campground parking lot on the northbound side of the highway. Needless to say, I was “psyched”. I started out determined to make this a better day than the weekend before on Chocorua, and Bob was of a like mind. Before we left that morning Bob had mentioned a “tweek” in his lower back, but felt it would get better as the day went on and he warmed up from the exercise. I don’t think the two hour ride up to Franconia Notch helped his back, but in the parking lot he was determined to go on as it was a perfect winter climbing day and he didn’t want to miss it. I think at this point he wasn’t in a lot of pain and wasn’t really worried about things, but as it turned out we made a bad decision to go on with the hike. There were plenty of cars in the parking lot and we were sure the trail would be well packed and there would be no postholing like on Chocorua. The trail turned out to be great, hiking up to Greenleaf hut with no crampons. I realized when we stopped at the hut just how cold it was. Even with my “wicking” underwear, shirts and pants I was shivering bad from all the sweating I had done to get me up this far. Time to put on my skibib overalls. Man was I cold. After I got the bib on I was soon feeling warmer , but I had to take my gloves off to put my crampons on and my hands just about froze solid. This was great! There were a lot of people at the hut and I was looking around wondering if they were any where near as cold as I was. One guy didn’t even have a hat on, I couldn’t believe it! I’m sure he had one, he just had it off while he was resting, but I couldn’t see how he could do it. I finally managed to get my crampons on even with frozen hands. I had thin glove liners, but I just couldn’t do it with them on. Finally my body was warming up, my crampons were on and all I had to deal with was warming up my hands. Bob still seemed pretty good at this point so we went down the gully from the hut and across Eagle Lake and began our ascent of the summit cone. The wind was whipping pretty good as we crossed this extremely exposed section of the trail. My hands were warming up now safely back in the glove liners and huge mittens but even with a balaclava and wool hat the exposed parts of my face began to feel like they were freezing, especially on the left side facing into the wind. On the way back down, of course it reversed itself with the right side freezing and the leftside warming against the sun. I imagined myself in outerspace where one side of my body was in danger of being fried by the sun and the other frozen by the cold blackness of space. We climbed over the summit to get out of the wind and ate some frozen sandwiches. The views were outstanding. I was looking across at Mount Lincoln and wondering if we would try to make it across when Bob revealed that he really was in pain now and all he wanted to do was get back down. Not going across to Mount Lincoln did not dissapoint me as I already had both peaks and didn’t want to overdo it on this hike as we had done the week before. We were both tired and cold, and Bob’s back was really bothering him, so the obvious thing to do was head straight back down as quickly as possible. I stopped at the hut again to take my crampons off as I felt they were unnecessary. Bob said he was going to keep going. I thought I could catch him eventually but I never did. I think he skied back down. I finally got back to the parking lot where he was waiting and let him in the car. Laying down on the reclined seat I could see he was in a lot of pain now. We probably shouldn’t have gone as he really had put too much strain on his back and was sidelined in a lot of pain for a very long time afterward, and as I write this twenty months later, he is still not one hundred percent, although he is at least climbing again, albeit mostly small stuff. Having a good day climbing was not worth all the pain and suffering he went through. We later decided that the previous week’s postholing adventure had set him up for trouble on this climb and we probably should have waited longer between winter hikes. I still feel bad about this even though I told him I would turn back at any point he wanted too. I’m sure he would have, but he was pretty much all right until we started back down. It was the getting back down that did him in. It just goes to show that no matter how experienced you are situations can arise that can still get you into trouble. It was no real fault of his own, anybodies back could give out on the way off a mountain. A good lesson might be if you don’t feel one hundred percent, you should probably make different plans.
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Previous trip to Lafayette 10/19/98
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