Once Upon a Time on Lafayette
It is very hard to believe that it has been five long years since the day I did my trip up Mount Lafayette. I don’t know what has stalled me this long to write up the trip report but my husband EastKing has been after me for years to write up my hike up Mount Lafayette. It has been very interesting to see the hiking progression of both of us since that day going up Mount Lafayette though.
I guess tonight is the proper night to finally write up my trip report on this special time up Mount Lafayette. Seeing my husband advance to almost beyond his dreams probably was the biggest motivator of writing this trip report. It is strange to think that I was almost on even hiking level with him considering that now he has climbed both Rainier and Hood and is now in the mist of making plans for South America. In the meantime I have struggled through terrible and continuous health problems ranging from fibromyalgia to pseudo-tumor and have gained tremendous weight from this special trip. As a result I have barely climbed a dozen peaks since and none anywhere near the difficulty of Mount Lafayette.
But there was once a time when his highest and most difficult mountain was my highest and most difficult mountain and we were getting close to being on an even hiking level. My pace going up mountains was always a little slower than his but I had developed a good enough pace to beat book times. I had just come off of losing nearly a hundred pounds the year before and I was staying stable through this time in the weight area. The week before we had hiked up to the summit of North Pack Monadnock and though my knee was aching a little as we were coming down, I had talked my husband into sending me up his then beloved peak, the treeless Mount Lafayette. I felt confident in my hiking abilities, especially after hiking up Hunter Mountain so easily with my father and EastKing the autumn before. Now I wanted to try them now on my husband’s then ultimate peak, Mount Lafayette.
The Climb Up
I remember the day very well at the day. It was a nice cool start with a brisk breeze in the morning of May 30th, 2004. I remember being at the trailhead staring at the summit of Mount Lafayette thinking to myself “I hope I know what I am getting myself into”. EastKing was very excited at the possibility of bringing me up this mountain and was even making plans for us to go after Mount Washington the week after. As for me I wanted to do this peak after hearing EastKing talking about this mountain ever since I met him. It was now my turn to head up this mountain and have my own adventure here.
We started up the Old Bridle Path from the parking area at Franconia Notch. I remember the trail starting out somewhat rocky as many New England trails. EastKing let me set a comfortable pace for myself and as always he either set a very slow pace for us so I did not burn myself out or let me set the pace and walk closely behind me. We headed up at a slow but steady pace, passing some while being passed by others. There was a nice creek early on this run but after the creek the trail wasn’t all that special until hitting the Agonies. All of the sudden the trail went up a series of trail scrambles, one that required use of hands up one of the steeper Agonies. Though there was no massive drop off here I used caution here because I had little experience with these on trail scrambles. EastKing though stayed right behind me and pointed out the best way up some of the at times wetter rock.
Soon past the steeper section I was at Greenleaf Hut where we took a little break here. This spot is where I got my first close-up of the summit of Mount Lafayette. The temperature had dropped from the beginning and it was slightly windy but I was feeling strong so we proceeded on. Up we went to the summit on the Greenleaf trail. It was a little disheartening to drop a quick hundred or so to the lake but quickly we headed back up to the summit. I remember seeing the trees getting smaller and smaller until around 4500 feet they just disappeared into tundra. By this time the wind was really beginning to pick up. I was now finally feeling like I was climbing a real mountain. That wind was pretty darn cold as well. I still to this day could feel it in my bone. I remember at about 5000 feet looking back at my husband and saying I didn’t know if I could continue, but he encouraged me to press on slowly and that the summit was near. I was a little discouraged from a little ice on the now cairned rocky route to the summit, and the pounding wind on the summit. But I stayed with it and to this day I am thankful I did because for what turned out to be only time in my life, my husband and I were on an even level.
I remember at the summit how cold and windy it was and can still hear my husband saying that I was getting the true mountain feel. As I looked to the east I could Mount Washington with a fresh dusting of snow while looking across the Pemigwasset Wilderness and seeing North and South Twin Mountain. EastKing whispered in my ear about those being my future destinations and how he looked forward to taking me there. Sadly neither of us had made it to the Twins or Bonds yet to this day. I was cold and a little irritable but I was enjoying the views of Greenleaf Hut and Cannon Mountain from that summit. It was very beautiful and a view I will never forget. After about thirty minutes it was time for us to head down. It was windy, cold and the summit was crowded.
The Painful Trip Down
The minute we started down, I knew the momentum was changing on or hike. EastKing’s favorite Kennywood Park hat had blown off his head and had completely disappeared. The picture of him on the summit with that hat was the last time he would ever have that hat again. But that was the least of our problems. About two hundred feet into the decent my left knee was beginning to have problems. It had problems on North Pack Monadnock but the pain was much worse now. It was in pain and every step down was painful but I knew I had to continue on. It was a long mile back to the Greenleaf Hut. When I got the Greenleaf Hut, EastKing and I took a break at the Hut.
I was in pain and very irritable. EastKing tried to get me some food they sold at the Hut but they were out. I was unusually upset and threw a fit about it. EastKing calmed me down. I am still embarrassed about it today, but I was really hiding my concern about going down the mountain. I realized I had a long way down and I was going to have taken some serious care with myself if I was going to escape off this mountain in one piece.
After the Hut we continued down the mountain slowly. EastKing stayed very close by and offered encouragement as we went down the mountain. I though was going much slower on the way down than up. EastKing though stayed very close by my side and even when I told in to proceed on he stayed back and kept a close eye on me. Getting down though was very painful and I took frequent breaks. Ironically the only place that was easier was on the steepest of the Agonies where I actually took a butt slide down the little scramble section. Still I was going slow and once I past the last viewpoint both knees began to act up. I knew though I had to continue though slowly down this mountain. Though it took less than three hours up, it was already four hours into the climb down and I was really feeling it. EastKing was concerned on the way down and was kept his eye on me as I now limped myself down the trail.
It felt like forever going down but I could now hear the water and the highway very clearly again. This was encouraging but I was moving very slow and it was frustrating being so close yet so far. I can still feel that pain going down and inside I was sad because in my heart of hearts I knew this one was going to be the last hike for a while. I continued though down at a snail’s pace. Though it took forever, finally hit that creek below. But that last little but to the car I remember like yesterday. I was really tearing up inside from the pain. I faced the pain though and finished the hike. EastKing was there throughout the entire way back and stayed by my side the whole way down. I was happy to survive the day and we headed on back.
After the Trip
That night we headed back to a restaurant in Bedford that we always went to. Food never felt so good like that night. I was so happy that I finished that mountain and I was now in a tie with EastKing in summit height. But it was apparent that night as we were eating that this was going to be very short lived. EastKing had his sights on Mount Washington and my knees were in pain from this hike. We had a great time that dinner and it was the last major hike we did for well over two years and at least to this point the most difficult hike we ever did together.
EastKing the next week knocked off Mount Washington, Mount Monroe and Mount Clay. He never looked back after that. The year after that came Mount Wrightson in Arizona. Now he has finished of so many others like Mount Rainier and has his sights set for 20000 footers and beyond. With a little cash and continued drive and support, the sky is the limit for him and I will stand by his side to watch him continue his growth through the field of mountaineering. I hear from his now many friends he is still that same way with people he hikes with in that he stays by their side even when there is a possible injury. Everyday I am with him, he truly is an inspiration to me.
As for me I never got to hike again due to knee problems with except to Rock Rimmon for two years. By then I had gain forty of the pounds back and was much slower again. I did do Mount Cardigan again and Mount Israel but I clearly not as strong as before. I have proceeded on doing more smaller hikes in Washington state where I reached my highest elevation to date with Dege Peak at around 7000 feet. But that mountain was only six hundred feet of elevation gain from the trailhead and most of the other mountains have been far smaller. But I have to end on this, there was once a time when my husband EastKing. I will give a better fight to my body and health so that one day will come again.