Winter Readiness: Shakedown Cruise

With winter fast approaching, Ziehl and I figured it was about time for a pre-ski season shakedown cruise on Franconia Ridge. In light of our lofty backcountry skiing ambitions, we felt compelled to benchmark our conditioning on familiar grounds. I also was interested to see how my new shell pants and jacket would perform in alpine conditions. And, with little else to do besides take in the view one step at a time, mountains make the ideal place to get fired up for the upcoming ski season by endlessly speculating as to the snow conditions of various aspects, potential challenges on the approach, estimated ratio of fun to effort…you get the idea. Any way, here’s the map:

View Franconia Ridge November 2011 in a larger map

The forecast was for a high in the mid 40s, mostly sunny, and light breeze.  When we rolled into the parking lot at 9:30, it was mostly cloudy and very windy.  We threw on our shell jackets, packed our bags and hit the trail eagerly.  

A few weeks ago we switched our work out from mostly simple lifts like flat bench and squats to a more dynamic workout with things like split leg squats and kettle swings and also to work more sprints and stairs.  Our thought was that we’d get as strong as possible and then right before ski season we’d cut over to a high intensity workout to build endurance hopefully without loosing much strength.  

We informally agreed to ‘just go as fast as possible’ on the way up Little Haystack to gauge whether or not our ski season conditioning scheme was coming together and if not, how much work might be remaining between now and Christmas.  After a while of hiking, we stopped to take off our shell jackets and take a drink.  After maybe another hour, we stopped for a breather-snack combo.  We were slowed down by about a half mile of hard-pack and water ice.  Shortly thereafter we broke treeline and hit the summit of Haystack at 11:30 AM.  We speculated that the only adjustment to our conditioning scheme should be to go forward full steam ahead – it seemed to be paying off.  We threw our jackets back on, had a Cliff bar and went after Lincoln.

Ziehl near the Haystack treeline.
Me at the summit of Little Haystack.
Photo Credit: Ziehl

We spent most of the walk from Haystack to Lincoln discussing our plans to try and ski every single chute slide and gully on either side of the ridge.  Between the newly wintery conditions found above treeline, the outstanding offering of ski films this year, and encouraged by our sturdy pace, we could hardly contain our excitement for the ski season.

Ziehl, and the road ahead.
The ridge, and it’s numerous exciting-looking descents.
Photo Credit: Ziehl
Mt. Washington and the Presidentials.  The Bonds are in the foreground.
Before we knew it, we’d cruised over Lincoln and made it to Lafayette.  According to the tracklogs we summit-ted in just under 3 hours (including packing at the car).  Mission success!  We quickly scoped out the old hotel foundation at the summit (a potential ski-touring camp) and made our way down from the ridge toward Greenleaf.
On our way down from Lafayette.
Facing south on our way to Greenleaf.

As we made the dogleg toward the south back to the parking area we got plenty of great views of the Southern Whites, and the Ridge we’d just come down from.  I think that one of the hallmarks of this hike are the opportunities to look back at the terrain you’ve just traveled from a new perspective.

Southern White Mountains.
Rays of light from Greenleaf.
Ziehl with Franconia Ridge in the background.
Nearly sunset.
Left gully: I have no clue; Right gully: Lincolns’ throat.  If anyone knows
the name of the lines in the left gully, please comment!
More sunset.
Detail of Lincoln’s Throat.  Gnarly.

In just under 5 hours we arrived back at the car.  We changed and went straight for the Tilton Diner for a post hike feast.

Gear List (click links for more product info):
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3 thoughts on “Winter Readiness: Shakedown Cruise

  1. Brian Sweeney

    Dude, thanks for the tip! After checking our your TR I really want to see if I can get in there. Any idea what state it’s in right now? I’m guessing bony and terrible given the conditions of everything else right now.

  2. Adrian Kostrubiak

    When I was in there, it was a good west side year… This isn’t a good… anything year on the EC, so I’m bettin’ it’s pretty rough right now. Can’t say I actually know, but hearing that even the bottom of the cog is still dicey, I’d stay away for now… And start sending some serious prayers Ullr’s way..


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