Under cloudy but mild conditions, I did the classic hike from the Falling Waters Trailhead, going up Falling Waters Trail, crossing the Franconia Ridge to Mt Lafayette, and then down Old Bridle Path. I started out alone at 7:40. Other similar hikes are here (9 hrs) and here (6 hrs). The Falling Waters Trail was superb, perfect with microspikes. At the treeline, I got ready to add layers for the ridge and discovered that my fleece was missing. Darn! I trudged back down a 100′ or so and found it hooked on a branch. Climbing back to the treeline, I met one guy who had just done the traverse—running! Then I met a couple who turned back because of the wind. I added my layers and started out, but I, too, turned back at the first col due to the wind. Returning to the top of Falling Waters, I met another guy, Richard, who thought the conditions weren’t that bad. Turns out Richard is a regular in the Whites, having hiked here for 30 years. I immediately asked if I could accompany him, and we agreed. Here’s Charlie Abert emerging from the same place on a bright, clear day. We got over the ridge traverse in about an hour, meeting one big group who had started out at 8am and were doing the reverse route. On the traverse, we were mostly in the clouds with some partial clearing. Still mostly foggy with 20-30 mph wind in places. Richard knows the route well.
After a respite at Mt Lafayette in that famous lee behind the summit—looking in the direction of Owl’s Head—we headed down to Greenleaf Hut and then back to the cars. I stayed with Richard all the way back. He’s a fine hiking companion.
Summary: 8.9 miles, 4154′ elevation rise, 6:30 (nominal time), All pics