Date of Hike: July 12th, 2014
Nineteen Mile Brook
Old Bridle Path
Total H2H Miles (Guide Book): 49.0 (17,000 feet elevation gained) / GPS: 47.1 (16,150 feet)
Total Miles (Guide Book): 54.6 (19,000 feet elevation gained)
- Two years ago I was lucky enough to complete an under twenty-four hour hut traverse. (click here for that report). Since then I have evolved into half runner / half hiker, balancing my time in the mountains between hiking with friends, to bushwhacking to remote places and trail running solo.
- Over the past two months I have turned up the mileage and completed a series of huge hikes/runs; Grand Canyon R2R2R, a Presi Traverse, Pemi Loop, and Great Range Traverse. So when ultra-runner Jesse Veinotte invited me to attempt a fifteen hour H2H I jumped at the opportunity. (Click here to visit his blog).
- As you can tell from the title, the fifteen hour mark wasn't reached, but it was a helluva night/day/night leading up to, during, and after in the White Mountains!
Before: I woke up Friday at 6:30 a.m. knowing that I probably wouldn't sleep a lick until close to forty hours later. I had to drive to Connecticut for a morning meeting, which, if you've ever driven on I-95 in CT it's very frustrating. Luckily, the drive down wasn't too bad but the early afternoon drive home was a mess because of a bunch of traffic...heading nowhere! I got back to RI around 4 p.m. and worked for two more hours, then I tried to take a nap but only got in about five minutes of sleep. Around 8 p.m. I started the drive up to a place I love, the mountains of New Hampshire.
- I met Jesse at Lafayette Places's Old Bridle Path / Falling Waters Trailhead on the northbound side of Route 93 in Franconia Notch just after 11:30 p.m.. Jesse tossed his gear in the Jeep and we set off for the late night drive up to the Nineteen-Mile Brook Trailhead.
- We started up Nineteen-Mile Brook Trail around 12:30ish. We made it to the hut in about and hour and fifteen minutes, which unfortunately for me was way too fast and I knew I would pay for this. I've realized my style is different from most mountain runners, I start off slow, in fact very slow compared to others. My time to Carter Notch should have been closer to two hours.
- At the hut we filled up with water and took stock in our gear before booking it down the mountain at an official start time of 2:00 a.m.
During: The run down the Nineteen-Mile Brook Trail went ok, I had to use two headlamps because my main one wasn't lighting up as well as it used to, luckily my backup did fine and I held it in my hand while running so I could see better. The other issue that immediately came up was an annoying cut/chaffing issue. I will spare you the gory details but over the next fifty miles this would bring intense pain from time to time, mostly while descending quickly.
- It took us around 45 minutes to reach Route 16 (click here to study the Garmin track), Jesse did a great job of setting a nice pace down to the notch and up the road to the Great Gulf Trailhead.
- Since it was dark out we decided the safest route would be the Great Gulf Trail to the Osgood Trail, bypassing the Madison Gulf Trail. The reason for this is the Madison Gulf Trail has a few water crossings, which even though they'd be low the trail would be a pain to follow in the middle of the night. I've only been on the Mad-Gulf Trail two or three times so I don't know it too well.
- The Great Gulf Trail is relatively gradual to the Osgood junction with very good footing as well. Once again, Jesse set the pace and we were making great time, however I knew once we started to climb I was going to hit a wall. I let him know that I was going to throttle down as we started to climb and told him he could go ahead and not worry about me. I soon realized that I wasn't hitting a wall, I was 'bonking' not a good thing less than ten miles in. It was as bad as I've ever felt, it took me almost forty-five minutes to climb a mile, slowest mile for me in years. I felt dizzy and in slow motion and started to re-assess the rest of the run. At this point I set three bail points if I couldn't snap out of bonking, one - sunrise and Madison Springs Hut, two - the Sphinx Col, three - Lakes of the Clouds.
- Fortunately, as soon as I reached treeline, dawn, and I could turn off my headlamp I felt better, not 100% but knew I was in the clear.
- Meanwhile it was a beautiful sunrise from the Osgood Ridge; orange, pink, purple, and yellow colors rose above Gorham and Maine. The great weather and majestic sunrise made the hike along one of the worst cut trails in the White Mountains, the Parapet Trail, bearable.
- We made it to Madison Springs hut at 5:22 a.m.. One of the hut crew was preparing breakfast and he was nice enough to give us some bread, which really hit the spot. We refilled our water and took a quick break before heading south across the Presidential Range 6.5 miles or so to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut.
- The footing in the northern Presidential Range is taxing, it's home to what hikers refer to as 'knee hammering rocks' the ascent may take your energy away but the descents knock you out. Amazingly, I consider the Presidential Range one of my stronger areas. I've acquired an ability to rock hop through the boulder fields with relative ease and remain unscathed from ankle twists or bloody falls. I did well hiking and running across the ridge past Adams, Jefferson, Clay, and Washington. I was slow going up the shoulder of Clay but was able to turn on the jets along the Westside Trail and down to Lakes. 16.5 miles in and I finally was hitting my stride!
- We reached the hut at 7:20 a.m. where it was more of the same, refill on water, grab a bite, take a moment, then back at it. Jesse went back out in front as we headed around the eastern shoulder of Mount Monroe, past Mount Franklin, and around Eisenhower. Somewhere in the Eisenhower / Pierce Col I passed Jesse and set the pace to Pierce, then down to Mizpah Hut (8:50 a.m.). At the hut they had some left over pancakes so I grabbed one and had a glass of lemonade. From here it was a quick 2.5 miles down to Crawford Notch. I felt really strong descending, the only thing holding me back at this point was the chaffing issue, holy shit, what an unpleasant pain!
- We made it to Crawford Notch in 7 hours 30 minutes! This was an hour and a half faster than my last Hut to Hut. However, I knew that this would not get us to the fifteen hour goal, we should have been here in 6 hours 45 minutes . My bonking on the Osgood Trail and slow climb along Clay probably was the un-doing. But I was still in high spirits and told Jesse that a 16:30 finish would be good goal to shoot for. I knew what lay ahead, the second half gets tougher, it's a gut check. Last Hut to Hut I did the second half in 9 Hours 45 minutes. I figured the best I could do today would be 9 hours.
- First up was the slog up to the Mount Tom / Mount Field col along the A-Z Trail. It's a relatively normal hike with some steep grades, no problem at all usually, but at twenty-four miles in, it presents a whole different sort of dilemma. Basically, it kicked my ass, my pace slowed down considerably, no bonking, just slow as a turtle speed. Jesse held his own and did well but we both suffered equally on the annoying steep burst past the Avalon junction up to the col. Once at the col we descended to Zealand Notch, Jesse went out ahead and was very strong over this stretch, it was impressive to watch him run, I couldn't keep up, I thought he was part machine at this point!
- From Zealand Notch we made the quick half mile trip up to Zealand Falls Hut, arriving 9 hours 30 minutes into our run (11:30 a.m.). Here, I took my longest break at a hut for the day, probably a good ten minute break, or so it seemed. I knew the following section was going to be rough. From the hut to the Zeacliff outlook via the Twinway is steep, then it's a moderate to minor steep climb to Zealand Mountain, from Zealand you drop to the Guyot Col, then slowly make your way up to Guyot, where there is an annoying PUD (pointless up and down) stuck in the middle of this last part. Just to be clear, even though I'm using the word 'annoying' I love all these trails (except for my nemesis the Garfield Ridge Trail!). I find them fun to hike and very pretty, however, when I'm on mile thirty I do feel like I want to claw my eyeballs out!
- Anyway, The climb up from the hut was a slow and steady one, I held my own and watched my speed. I knew the deal breaker laid further ahead along the Garfield Ridge Trail. So I took my time and kept chugging along. Jesse and I leap frogged back and forth, he went out ahead, then I went out ahead, and I kept telling him "If you want to go for fifteen hours, go right ahead, I'll be at sixteen and a half, I'll see you at Lonesome Lake." However, we would still leap frog from time to time. Between Zealand and Guyot I hit a really good stride for about a mile. I ran into Michael Blair and his crew as they were doing a Twins-Zealand-Hale hike. It was good to see Michael, he leads a lot of hikes and is one of the most experienced hikers in the White Mountains. Also, he is one of the few hikers I know that heads out of the Whites and goes and explores the Adirondacks!
- After passing Michael and his group I then slowed down on the final stretch up to treeline at Guyot. Jesse caught up to me and speeded on ahead along the Twinway over to South Twin. I was hoping to pick up some momentum in the woods to South Twin because the footing is really good here and the grades are gradual, however I could not get into a good groove and spent most of it hiking. I was starting to doubt that I could finish in under seventeen hours now. In fact I was hiking at a pace similar to the second half of my last Hut to Hut.
- I finally made it to South Twin and took a few minutes to collect myself for the steep rock hop down to Galehead Hut, it's 0.8 miles and you loose well over 1,000 feet in elevation. Usually, I can bomb down this section but was unable to do so on this day. My pace was fine but I was somewhere between five and ten minutes slower than I wanted to be. Along the descent I finally caught back up to Jesse, he had stopped to take a break and chat with a friend who was doing a Pemi Loop. From here we both hiked the last few tenths of a mile together to the Galehead Hut, about 12 hours 15 minutes in (2:15 p.m.) number six of eight huts on the day!
- We did the usual at the hut, and I began mentally preparing myself for the Garfield Ridge Trail, the crux of the Hut to Hut. It's the rollercoaster of the White Mountains, down, up, down up, down...well you get the point. It is what makes this a heavyweight fight, not the twelve round fight, the old school fifteen round knock down drag out beating.
- Jesse went ahead and we both agreed we'd rally on Lafayette, I told him that was fine with me. I was hoping he wouldn't have to wait too long for me on Lafayette.
- The Garfield Ridge Trail from Galehead Hut to Mount Lafayette is 6.8 miles, it's 3.3 miles from the hut to Mount Garfield, this section has a behemoth of a steep jumbled boulder mess the last mile up to the summit. The 3.3 miles hit me hard, however I still was holding my own and didn't bonk, my mile times were just under thirty minutes and even though that wasn't going to cut it to get to the new goal of 16 hours and 30 minutes, if by some miracle I snapped out of it and picked up speed I could come close. On my way up the steep section I ran into my friend Dion, who was doing a Semi Pemi Loop (Liberty through Garfield, and out the Franconia Brook Trail). After seeing Dion, I waddled up to the summit of Garfield, I had made it to Mount Garfield's summit from the Galehead Hut in about 1 hour and 30 minutes, it was now 3:48 p.m. and time was ticking away. At the summit I took a picture, took a deep breath, and decided to see what I had left in the tank.
- From Garfield to Mount Lafayette is 3.5 miles, first there is a steep descent down to Garfield Pond, followed by some PUD's, then there is the long steep climb out of the woods to the north shoulder of Lafayette. The last mile is above treeline over slab, boulders, dirt, small rocks. The worst part is, it was warm and humid with only a light breeze so it was going to be a tough climb.
- As I started my descent I pushed my chips into the middle of the table and went all in and started to run, I hit my stride and felt great. I kept pushing myself and was able to make great time descending and held a decent pace ascending to Lafayette. Along the way I caught up to Jesse, he was having some issues and we both agreed to ditch the meet up on Lafayette and just meet at Lonesome Lake.
- I hit Mount Lafayette at the 15 hour mark, 5 p.m.. I hade only five and a half miles to go, sixteen and a half hours was in sight again! I made it to Greenleaf Hut at 5:23 p.m., 15 hours and 23 minutes into the run. Unfortunately, the descent from here down the Old Bridle Path was hampered by the chaffing issue again. By the time I reached the outlooks along the 'Agonies' I was in agony, I noticed I was bleeding out so I had to ditch into the woods and take a few minutes to try and fix up my wounds as best as a could. I was able to stop the bleeding but the damage was done, it was just time to put my head down and battle on and deal with the consequences later.
- I reached Lafayette Place around 6:15 p.m. and slowly made my way under route 93, across the grassy field, through the tentsites, and up the dirt ramp that is the Lonesome Lake Trail. I had barely anything left in the tank, I was very tired but kept a decent two and a half mile pace up to Lonesome Lake where I made my way half jogging and half walking the last half mile to the hut. I thought about my last Hut to Hut adventure, that one I finished up much stronger and fresher, mostly because I only ran about six miles of it where as this one I ran as much as I could. Oddly enough on my last Hut to Hut I finished at 6:47 p.m., 18:47 minutes after starting. This Hut to Hut, I finished at 6:47 p.m. 16:47 after starting.
- There was no celebrating at Lonesome Lake Hut. As soon as I arrived and checked my phone I saw I had texts from Jesse, he decided to play it safe and stop at his car at Lafayette Place. He wasn't feeling well. So I just started descending, I've still have yet to run off the dock at the edge of Lonesome Lake and jump into the water to celebrate, hopefully next time!
- The descent was as bad as it gets, my adrenaline stopped and I became dizzy and tired. Every few minutes I had to lean against a tree. I was sick of drinking water, but I kept drinking, and I had no appetite. Hours and hours of caffeine energy gels and non-caffeine gummies took its toll. You'd think I'd be starving for real food but I wasn't.
After: I made it to Jesse's minivan at the trailhead somewhere around 7:30 p.m. where I needed a few minutes to gather myself. I actually felt worse as the seconds ticked by, I had to sit on the ground, my body did not feel right, I felt nauseous which never happens, I could barely balance myself when standing. I was over-exhausted and worse, a little over-heated. I felt better sitting down in his van as we drove up to Echo Lake for a dip in the cool water, which helped tremendously. We stopped at Foster's and I got a vitamin water which really hit the spot, I also bought some ice cream pop just for the cold feeling, still I wasn't hungry.
- As we headed past Twin Mountain on our way to Gorham I started to bounce back, I was physically beat up but felt fine, the ride back to Nineteen-Mile Brook Trail went well, Jesse and I talked about the run and all things mountains in general which helped pass the time. We made it to the trailhead just after 9 p.m. I slowly got changed into clean clothes and Jesse soon headed off to Maine where he was vacationing with his wife and two children. I thanked him for setting this run up and looked forward to attempting it next year. I also thanked him for letting me go on ahead to Lonesome Lake Hut when he knew he was 50/50 on making it. That was really nice of him.
- After finally getting changed my appetite came storming back, I craved fast food, which is a rarity for me. So I headed to Gorham, went to McDonalds and got a chicken sandwich, fries, and a Diet Coke. It was the first Diet Coke I've had in a dozen years and it hit the spot.
- After my late night dinner, I drove by the no-vacancy hotels and realized it was going to be a sleep in the back of the Jeep kind of night! It didn't matter since I was actively dying, a few miles down the road I pulled into Wal-Mart and passed out for the best six hours of sleep I've ever had!
Heading up to Carter Notch Hut in the 1 a.m. hour
Jesse trail running along the Nineteen-Mile Brook Trail
Carter Notch Lake, the moon shining high above
Breaking above treeline on the Osgood Trail. Looking to the north into Maine as dawn breaks
Jesse's headlamp lighting the way along the Osgood Ridge
The moon setting below Mount Adams
Hiking along the Parapet Trail, what a gnarly mess of boulder hopping!
Dawn in the Madison / J.Q. Adams Col
Star Lake, J.Q. Adams and Mount Adams
Star Lake at dawn
Madison Springs Hut
Looking back at the hut and Mount Madison's summit cone
The sun breaks above Mount Madison
Jesse heading along the Gulfside Trail, high above the ravine fit for a king in a golden morning glow.
Our route heads to the east of Mount Jefferson, and west of Mount Clay and Washington
Heading south on the Gulfside Trail. Castellated Ridge on lower right
Jesse trail running by the Six Husnands Trail junction
Jesse running towards Mount Clay
Mount Clay and Washington
The Sphinx Col!
Looking back at Mount Jefferson and Adams
Next stop, Lakes of the Clouds Hut and Mount Monroe
Mount Clay alpine meadow
Jesse approaching Mount Washington
Westside Trail approaching the Cog Railway
Jesse with the northern Presidential Range behind him
Southern Predidential Range
Jesse on the Westside Trail
Lakes of the Clouds Hut and Mount Monroe
Descending the Crawford Path to Lakes of the Clouds Hut
Looking back up to the summit of Mount Washington
Approaching Lakes of the Clouds
Lakes of the Clouds and Mount Washington
Lakes of the Clouds Hut
Jesse leaving the hut
Jesse sets the pace on the Crawford Path below Mount Monroe
Jesse heads across the Franklin Flats
Heading to Mount Eisenhower
The Crawford Path in the scrub
The Presidential Range from Mount Pierce
Webster-Cliff Trail above Mizpah Spring Hut
Mizpah Spring Hut
Crawford Path southern terminus
Top of Crawford Notch, Route 302
Crawford Scenic Railroad
Jesse on the A-Z Trail
Zealand Falls Hut
Upper Zealand Falls
The Twinway to Zealand Mountain
The Franconia Ridge
The Twinway below South Twin
Mount Garfield and the Franconia Ridge from South Twin
The Garfield Ridge Trail!
Looking back to Galehead Mountain, the hut, and South Twin
The Garfield Ridge Trail is a mess of a trail in spots!
Looking at Mount Lafayette and the Franconia Ridge from Mount Garfield
The last two huts of the day are in view, Greenleaf and Lonesome Lake
The Garfield Ridge Trail up and over North Lafayette
Approaching the summit of Mount Lafayette
Mount Lafayette Summit
Descending the Greenleaf Trail
Lonesome Lake from the Greenleaf Trail
Approaching Greenleaf Hut
Greenleaf Hut and Mount Lafayette
Descending the Old Bridle Path
Old Bridle Path
Lafayette Place Trailhead
Lonesome Lake Trail
Lonesome Lake Hut!
Last view of the day, Franconia Ridge from Lonesome Lake Hut
My LaSportiva Bushidos felt great but they started falling apart!