Destination: Mt. Lafayette, Mt. Lincoln, Little Haystack
Route: Falling Waters Trail, Franconia Ridge Trail, Greenleaf Trail, Old Bridal Path
Elevation: 5,260′ / 5,089′ / 4,760′
Distance: 8.82 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,508′ (approx.)
Time: 8:22 Hours
Equipment: Snowshoes, Light Traction
Report: Snow was excepted the night before our hike. Anticipating this, we headed up to Littleton Saturday evening. By the morning, about 5-6 inches of snow had fallen at lower elevations. The roads had been plowed, but the Lafayette trailhead parking lot was not yet cleared. The weather report was calling for promising conditions including milder temperates, light wind, and moderate cloud cover. We put on snowshoes and started heading up the Old Bridal Path, planning to ascend to the ridge via the Falling Waters Trail. We were the first people on trail, so I started breaking trail through about 5-6 inches of loose powder. As we ascended, the snow deepened and our pace slowed. Approaching the tree-line, the snow was very deep at 12-18 inches in some places. We finally reached the summit of Little Haystack a bit tired, and without having seen another person. Thick clouds were rolling in reducing visibility significantly as we discussed if we wanted to continue across the ridge, or head back down the Falling Waters Trail. Thankfully however, just as were were deciding on what to do, the cloud cover lifted, and a hiker appeared coming up the Franconia Ridge Trail from the opposite direction. He told us that he had spent the night camping just below the tree-line on Lafayette, and had come across the ridge that morning. We let him know he was completely crazy, but none-the-less, we were inspired and decided to continue across the ridge.
As we made our way from Little Haystack to Lincoln, the ridge was in-and-out of the clouds for a bit. Finally, the clouds vanished and we were treated to fantastic views of Lincoln and Lafayette. Overall the ridge was mostly clear of snow, only small drifts in places. We saw another hiker and her dog pass us making a great pace. We reached Lincoln and stopped for a quick break and photos. We stayed in snowshoes until we decided to switch to microspikes to go down the chimney coming off of Lincoln. The ascent of Lafayette was easy enough and were treated to dramatic views across the ridge. Winds were relatively mild, and the sun was shining.
Descending Lafayette via the Greenleaf Trail we saw several climbers in both spikes and shoes. It was early afternoon by then, and the skies and completely cleared. Despite the the wind, we were almost a little warm in the direct sun (which is very strange to say at 5000′ in the middle of February). We reached the tree line and switched back into snowshoes for the remainder of the trip. By that time, the Greenleaf Trail has been pretty well packed by many hikers heading up. We made it to the hut for another break before making a fairly rapid decent via the Old Bridal Path. The skies remained clear and we were able to get several great views along the Old Bridal Path.
Overall, it was pretty epic hike. The weather turned out better then we could of possibly imagined, making our hard work breaking trail up the falling waters entirely worth it.