Mike Pineault, Fred Knight
We expected to find lots of new snow (pdf) with clear skies on at least the first day. We were surprised to find a trail well packed, without the need for snow shoes most of the way, and clear skies both days! The pics tell the story, and here is a commentary.
Wednesday’s snow brought an end to the icy conditions that Steve Smith and I experienced on Franconia Ridge four weeks earlier. Mike and I wanted to do an overnight and chose Mt Garfield, with a stay at the Garfield Hut. Depending on conditions, we’d do more or less, adding Garfield Ridge like last year’s trip if feasible. With a mid-morning start, the trail was well-packed due to many hikers in front of us (18 cars in the parking lot!). We carried all the gear and took ~4 hours to reach the Garfield/Garfield Ridge junction, with 1.2-mile road walk a total of 6 miles. Dropping our packs (yes!), we took the climb up to the peak and got some clear-sky views of Franconia Ridge to the west and the Twins and Bonds to the east and south. Back down to the packs, we hiked the steep downhill to the hut, to find its trail unbroken so we donned the snowshoes for the short walk to the hut. Once there, we set up Mike’s tent.
The stay was cold but pleasant. Two other gentlemen were in the hut. Mike’s dinner of tomato soup and Ramen with sausage, and my chocolate hit the spot. I got into my sleeping gear (underwear, socks, down booties, and shell of parka with sleeping bag zippered to it) before dinner and was cozy. Wanting to satisfy any after-dinner calls of nature, I stayed up until well after 7pm! Mike was already in his bag. I slept soundly until 2am to satisfy a call of nature, which required significant extraction from the tent. Mike weathered the interruption but got uninterrupted sleep only after 3am. We traded snoring stories in the morning. The night probably reached close to -10 deg F. The tent works well, but I think my bivy might still be my accommodation of choice with its warmth due to surrounding snow in spite of the open mouth at my head. The frost accumulation was not too significant inside the tent, but the open bivy with my parka hat does even better at eliminating moisture build up. The hot water bottles are tremendous! I also kept my mittens and our breakfast inside the out bag. Mike has two sleeping pads, which might be good; my R5 pad is bulky but sufficient. One other attribute of the bivy is its ability to keep the sleeping gear aligned—and to allow an fashioned sleeping pillow of snow underneath. All-in-all a pretty cozy night, although I felt the morning cold slightly.
The stove was somewhat slow, especially in the morning, but I got the egg-bacon-ham-veggy-ginger-tortilla wraps piping hot. Mike stored the tent. We took close to 3 hours to get going, and skies varied from cloudy to clear. By the time we starting heading out on snowshoes for the climb back to the peak, it was unexpectedly clear. We again dropped our packs at the junction, did the ascent back to Mt Garfield, found little wind and sunlit peaks, recorded poses for posterity, met the first arriving Sunday hikers, and got back to the junction for the trip down by 11am. On the early part of the descent, we met a number of groups of hikers. The temperature stayed in the teens I think all the way back. I gave my map to a couple who looked lost at the trail head. The road walk was a trudge. We made it back by 1:45 and drove home happy.
~13.6 miles, 3834′ elevation gain, ~9 hrs (1.5 hrs over book time) hiking over two days with overnight at the Garfield Hut, Mt Garfield summit twice.