FKT: Gwenn Stratton - Pemigewasset Loop (NH) - 2021-01-09

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Total time
16h 35m 1s

Clear skies, temps in the 20's on the high summits, and minimal winds were forecasted for the day.  No new significant snow since I was on the Garfield Ridge Trail (GRT) last weekend, which (I thought) meant most of the loop would be well packed out (right?).  So, I decided it was a perfect day for an extended winter Pemi loop.  Well....the weather gods decided to throw a curve ball as well as the trail gods....The trail was well packed out from the Lincoln Woods trail all the way to Bondcliff.  As I broke out of treeline, onto the Bondcliff summit, I realized fairly quickly that the wind was much stronger and the temps were much lower than predicted.   It was still before dawn so I was hoping once the sun rose, the winds would die down and the temps would go up...I was going to be disappointed....I continued on to Bond then over to West Bond.  I caught a beautiful undercast on West Bond as the sun started rising higher in the sky.  It was breathtaking.  From West Bond I headed over to South Twin.  The winds were not dying down.  In fact, they were becoming more intense.  The Twinway from Guyot to South Twin was not as packed out as I expected.  Snow drifts and light powdery snow made each step feel like we were walking in beach sand.  It took far more energy to move with each and every step.  After I reached the summit I headed down to the Galehead Hut and ran into Ryan Mitchell who gave me the lowdown on the condition of the GRT.  It didn't sound good....I ate a little at the Hut, ran up Galehead, then set off on the GRT over to Garfield.   The GRT had been packed but the snow was so light and fluffy that it didn't make a difference.   More walking in beach sand...all the way to Garfield and all the way to Lafayette before you break out of treeline.  It was a major energy drain to walk through and slowed momentum down quite substantially.  Once I broke treeline, heading towards North Lafayette, I was met with intense powerful winds and subzero temps.  The wind was so strong, at times I was knocked sideways.  Just one more challenge to test strength and resilience.  I pushed through the wind moving at a snails pace.  Doing everything I could to stay warm and moving forward, the ridge seemed to go on forever.  However, the sky was doing some amazing things so I couldn't help but stop a few times to capture it's beauty (my hands were not happy about my choices).  Once I got past Little Haystack and into the trees I was able to start moving at a decent pace.  I made it over Liberty and Flume with no issues.  The trek from Flume to the car seemed endless but I finally made it back in 16.5 hours.