Lafayette Whiteout

A contrast-less and harsh white world

Peaks
Lafayette (5,260ft)
Trailhead
Lafayette Campground
Trails
Old Bridle Path, Greenleaf Trail, tiny bit of Franconia Ridge Trail
Total Distance
8.22 miles, 3,927ft elevation gain
Time
Start: 9:09am, 4:39 Round Trip
Weather
Low 20s temps, gusty freezing winds above treeline, balled snow and whipping ice crystals
Trail Conditions
Powder, but pretty packed, trails in the trees. Windswept and and powdery trail above.
Gear
Snowshoes
Partners in Crime
Cody, Doug, Rye
Doug and Rye through the whiteness
Doug and Rye through the whiteness

We wanted to hike Franconia Ridge today, but we were glad we made it to Lafayette at least. Conditions above treeline and especially at the summit were incredible. We were in total whiteness. I couldn’t tell the ground a foot in front of me from the horizon, and we certainly couldn’t locate the trail. There was way more snow up on the ridge than we had expected, so there were no exposed rocks to lend some contrast, and any footprints that had been made on the trail must have quickly been swept away in the gusty wind.

Old Bridle Path was beautifully white with fluffy loose powder on top of a firmly packed trail. We would have been ok with microspikes (and Doug wore his for most of the time), but since I had snowshoes anyways, I figured I could enjoy the heel risers on the up, and also pack the trail down a bit more after all the snow we got this week.

I always love taking Old Bridle for the great views as you approach Greenleaf Hut of the ridge and into the valley down below. Because it was so grey and cloudy, we couldn’t see the ridge, but everything still looked very beautiful in the foggy weather. Throughout the hike up to the hut, I had on just my baselayers, no gloves, and it felt pretty comfortable. That changed when we got to the hut.

We ate our sandwiches and layered up for the exposed rocky push to the summit of Lafayette. Here it was pretty difficult to find the trail since everything was covered with snow (and snow feathers), so it was hard to tell if the lump we were eyeing was a cairn. Using the GPS on my watch, and following Rye with her trail finding instincts, we were able to make our way.

The wind was whipping little icy chunks of snow into our faces, but at least it was coming from the north, and we planned to head south from the summit onto Franconia Ridge. We took some summit photos of the ice in our lashes and Cody’s beard, then headed onwards. But where was the trail? Usually, the ridge is super easy to spot, but because of all the snow, it was extremely difficult to find and we ended up heading too far east. After correcting ourselves, we realized the wind had switched directions and was now blowing directly at our faces. As we couldn’t see anything at all, we decided to turn around and call it a day.

The hike down from the summit was pretty painful as more ice and frigid wind hit my nose and cheeks. In a hurry to get down, we made a few “shortcuts”, and I got my snowshoe caught in a spruce trap. We were happy when we reached the treeline, and had even more extreme ice mascara, as shown in the pictures.

All in all, we had a great day, though not as big of a day as we would have hoped.

Map

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