Weekend Update: Great Circle

Since I just wrote a column about hiking which featured my friend and fellow Dartmouth senior Andrew McCauley, I figured I couldn’t write my second column about the hike we did this weekend. However, it was a really great way to spend my last few days before classes started, so here’s a summary.

Andrew and I had discussed the possibility of doing a Great Circle hike, but things didn’t come together until late Thursday night. When we met up, we realized we didn’t have a map, so we went to Robinson Hall, planned a route, confirmed that I had a tent and he had a stove, and somehow remembered to discuss dinner. We left early on Friday morning to drive up to the Lincoln Woods trailhead.

It quickly became apparent that we had different packing styles. I own one sleeping bag, rated at -5 degrees. I have one sleeping pad, a RidgeRest from elementary school, which is giant and doesn’t really fit in a pack unless you want it to be really tall. I am cold all the time, so I brought a down parka, a fleece, a softshell bike vest, and two long-sleeve shirts. Andrew thought I was crazy, and his pack was smaller and lighter than mine.

We took the Osseo Trail up to Flume, where I was excited to be able to see a view. After being out West, hiking up and up in the trees is relatively unsatisfying. After I looked out over New Hampshire for a little while, Andrew asked, “So, do you want to keep going, or what?” Right. Yes. I need to readjust my expectations back to normal.

Continuing along Franconia Ridge, we passed over Liberty, the Haystacks, and Lincoln before arriving on Lafayette, where we saw two other Dartmouth seniors eating lunch. Sam is a fellow ecology major and Nick had been in my creative writing class. Nick said, “well, you’re a skier, so this must be a piece of cake for you!” Not quite; even though we were making good time, I was worried the whole time that I was slowing Andrew down. Nevertheless, I was flattered by his compliment, because how often does a football player admire someone else’s athletic endeavors? (sorry football players, I know some of you are nice like Nick!)

View from the Lafayette summit towards the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

View from the Lafayette summit towards the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

We continued down the Garfield Ridge Trail and up and over Garfield. “I hate this mountain,” Andrew said. It’s  frustratingly steep on both sides, making a difficult climb up and a slow, sometimes nervous climb down. I’m like a hurdler with a stutter-step on rocky descents like these; even though I know that hesitating will probably increase the risk of falling on my face, I have a hard time committing to my footwork.

After a quick stop at the Galehead Hut to refill water, it was on to the Twinway, 0.8 miles of steep uphill rockwork to get to the South Twin summit. This had been described to me as “a mile of death,” which was good because I expected the worst and it didn’t seem so bad. Hiking along the ridge from South Twin I could sense the alpenglow, but we were in the trees so we couldn’t see it. We headed over the Guyot summit in the last few minutes of light and arrived at the nearby campsite just after the sun went down.

Lucky for us, there was one tent platform left. We made a quick dinner of tortellini and olive oil with side dishes of raw carrots and fig newtons. I was cold, even in my down jacket. Andrew had brought flip-flops and no socks to wear in camp. Maybe he didn’t mind being cold, but I was happy with my extra layers. We had discussed earlier how mountaineers are so soft now and how back in the day people would just hang out in disgusting weather for days and being miserable was part of the job description… Hmmm, maybe I am a wuss…

The bonus of doing a big Day 1 was that Day 2 was easy and we could sleep late. At the leisurely hour of 9, we left Guyot campsite. After climbing up a lot of rock steps to rejoin the trail, we dropped our packs and took the spur out to West Bond. While the weather had been perfect and clear the whole trip, this was the first summit that really took my breath away. It’s in the middle of the Pemi and all you see is wilderness; Franconia Ridge is blocking all the towns and structures on the other side. It has got to be one of the best summits in the state.

We hiked up and over Bond and stopped to have a snack on Bondcliff, the last summit of our trip. Bondcliff was as beautiful as West Bond, or at least close, and the cliffs reminded me of the West a tiny little bit. Except, as we noted when other hikers were afraid of standing out on the rocks, that to get to the edge of the boulders you don’t have to do any class 4 climbing or cross any scree fields.

Andrew McCauley.

Atop Bondcliff (see me?). Photo: Andrew McCauley.

The rest of our hike was downhill along the Bondcliff Trail and then a long flat section along the Wilderness Trail. This was pretty uneventful. We were tired, we’d used up a lot of conversation topics, and the Wilderness Trail has the property of making you just want to get back to the darn car. We did have a great discussion about the merits of hiking and playing ultimate frisbee in kilts and skirts though.

After a stop at Fat Bob’s in Warren to get ice cream, we arrived back on campus. I accomplished nothing that night, and was still tired today; I managed to go to the gym and make an apple pie, but that’s all. Andrew went up to Mount Washington to climb. Shall I say that I admire his energy?

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