Mounts Galehead, Garfield, and Lafayette
4024, 4500, and 5260 feet respectively

Lounging at the campsite

Hike stats

  • Date: May 24-28, 2011
  • Trail: Gale River Trail, Garfield Ridge Trail, Franconia Ridge Trail, Old Bridle Path
  • Total hiking time: Day 1: 2 hrs, Day 2: 6 hrs, Day 3: 5 hrs, Day 4: 10 hrs, Day 5: 5 hrs.
  • Weather: Varied between rain, clouds, wind, and sun. Temperatures around 70-80 degrees.
"Most intense of all was the final mile, which included hands to the ground scrambling up a waterfall! As such, a wet but elated group reached the Garfield tent platforms with time enough to set gear out to dry in the sun and celebrate."

Read more about Randy's thoughts on this Pemi trip here.

Hike report

Mountain: Galehead 4024 feet
Date: 5/24/2011 & 5/25/2011
Trail: Gale River Trail
Camp: Bivy site & AMC Galehead hut
Day 1 Total hiking time: 2 hours to first night camp.
Day 2 Total hiking time: 6 hours to summit.
Weather: We traveled to the trailhead in rain through Franconia Notch, and then entered some clear sky just north of the notches. The clear sky continued at the Gale River trailhead. We could observe rain clouds to the south, but we kept dry through the night. Day two weather was Sunny, clear, temps in the 70's. Cumulus Nimbus clouds coming from the West.

Rough terrain

The trail began with an assent of the Gale River Trail. This trail was a nice gradual climb heading South into the Pemi. On such trails where the footing is consistent--Quinn leads Randy well on this terrain, the hiking speed is really at the speed of the group, not the speed of Randy. The group spent a lot of time looking for a good bivy site, which was accomplished after a couple of hours, keeping our overall speed slow.

In the morning, the trail crossed the Gale River (aka brook) a few times, and the trail conditions got steeper and more challenging (less stable). Some sections were rock stairs with a water bar to the side, which is my least favorite type of trail for Randy. The narrow trail combined with a drainage drop off (1-2 feet, but sometimes 3 feet) to the side of the trail had Quinn stopping a lot, and if I dare say, worrying. The trail eventually decreased its steep ascent, but we hiked on baby head rocks until the trail junction with the AT (Appalachian Trail). Once on the AT, we hiked the up to Galehead Hut, repeating a section of trail that we would hike the next day.

Once we were at Galehead Hut, we dropped packs and donned fanny packs for the hike up to the Galehead summit. We climb a windy, narrow, rocky path to a south facing lookout with a view into the heart of the Pemi and Owl's Head. Randy was able to describe his trip a week prior on the snow of Owl's Head, then we continued on a mix of trail and ledge rock to the summit cairn. It was tough to get started on this trip up Galehead after making it to the benches at Galehead Hut, but we were on a 2020 mission, and we were rewarded with some great views (before the summit) and the accomplishment of a 4,000 peak.

Mountain: Garfield 4500 ft
Dates: 5/26/2011 & 5/27/2011
Camp: Garfield Ridge campsite
Day 3 total hiking time: 5 hours
Day 4 total hiking time to Garfield: 45 minutes
Weather: Day 3 was clear, temps in 70's-80's. Evening winds from the south at 30-40 knots. Weather day 4 was sunny, strong wind from the south sustained at 40 knots.

The hike to Garfield had really begun the day before, but we talked of the waterfall. Hikers at Galehead Hut discussed a steep section of trail that had become a waterfall due to the snow melt at this time of season. There was no easy way around - you just got wet. Knowing the trail and the steep sections of climbing on the AT heading to Garfield, we looked forward to the challenge. Students took turns guiding Randy up to the waterfall section. The water was running quite fast over the steep rocks. The best route for climbing seemed to go where the water was coming. Much of the ascent consisted of standing upright with a rock in front of you and water gliding between your hands, between your legs, and splashing below. Although it would seem slippery here, the use of hands with sharp rocks as hand holds actually brought a feeling of stability. Once over this section, the trail became a rock staircase all the way to the Garfield Ridge campsite.

Next morning out of camp, it was more steep hiking to the top of Garfield. Randy hiked like a champ. The trail was like a staircase up to the top of the mountain, then it became a smooth piece of ledge rock. We climbed up to the concrete foundation left from a building that had since blown away (or so it seemed). Great views of the Pemi, and a great view of the trail and day to come.

A great view

Mountain: Lafayette 5260 ft
Date: 5/27/2011
Camp: Greenleaf hut
Day 4 total hiking time to Lafayette Summit 8 hours and 14 minutes from the top of Garfield, total hiking ~10 hours.
Weather: Partly cloudy with strong winds from the South.

Leaving Garfield, the group descended a steep trail, which included sitting down to slide down sections of trail. Down, down, down we went until Garfield pond. It was here that we had some lunch and wondered about the snow. A big patch of snow was just north of us on the trail, but we found little snow as we hiked on. The trek from Garfield Pond to the treeline was long. Trail conditions were generally good, but everyone looked forward to getting above treeline and beginning the ascent of Lafayette. Once out of the trees, the wind was howling, but because it was coming from the south (and we were heading south), we were protected by Mt. Lafayette. It was here we hiked over all the false summits until we could finally see the trail junction with the Greenleaf Trail. After a short walk to the summit and some food behind the rocks to protect from the wind, we began our descent down the Greenleaf trail. Now we were in the wind with no protection from Lafayette. The group was getting blown around by gusts, and Randy and his guide (Tadd) were having trouble hearing each other. We spent two hours descending to Greenleaf Hut. We did not know at the time that in a few hours, more than three inches of rain would fall in a thunderstorm. If we had not hiked so far that day, we probably would not have slept, but we all did.

Return home: Old Bridle Path
Date 5/28/2010
Day 5 total hiking time 5 hours
Route Descended Old Bridle Path
Weather: Clear, hot and humid. Summers here.

Descended the Old Bridle path over the agonies. Great views of the peaks. Lots of tough descending, but the views kept spirits up.

View descending Lafayette

Read more

Pre-hike page:

Pre-hike Information

Blog posts about the hike:

"Power of the Pemi" by Randy

Blog posts from before the hike:

"Prepping for the Pemi (again!)" by Randy
"Is Quinn Safe?" by Randy

Photos:

Spot Adventures: "2020 Vision Quest & UNH Pemi Trip" by Tracy