New HampshireSeptember 10, 2007 at 1:50 amPost count: 168
Last year I participated in my first Flgas event. From the start I knew the place I wanted to be was with Bill (Pucknuts) and Jeff (Brownie) on Garfield. We gathered a mighty team then, and I enjpyed it so much that it was a no-brainer that 2007 I would find myself with these two again, no matter what the peak. Sign-ups looked good with, at one point, 13 people set to attend and one more who might. This is no surprise considering that these two had chosen Lafayette as the target destination for the largest flag in the fleet. With the event looming it looked like I might have been tasked to another peak not yet covered, but with last minute switches, changes, cancellations and such it got to where I was told that things were going to stand as is……OH YEAH! LAFAYETTE HERE I COME!
But Murphy’s Law states that anything that CAN go wrong WILL go wrong. Jen fell ill the night before the event. I got a PM from Doug saying he had hurt his back at work and could not make it either. QUint and Di would not be able to make it because Quint has been having knee problems. Ok, we still had a good number of people to lend us a hand….or so we thought.
I pulled into Lafayette Place seconds behind Bill and Brownie. Along for the trip was 13 year old James, out to climb not only his first Flags on the 48 peak, but his first 4000 foorter ever! We started to get ready and wait for our group to gather. I broke the bad news Doug and Jen would not be with us, and the flag, pole and rigging came out ready for divvying up. The problem was…..except for us three adults and one teenager there WAS no one else. A start time of 7:30 had been clearly established, but not a single other registered member of our group materialized. We met the Monroe team that stopped for a bathroom break, wished them luck, and set ourselves up to go. I had the honor of bearing the massive 8×12 flag again this year as well as some of the ropes nd webbing, Brownie, James and Bill carried flag pole sections and split the rest of the rope, webbing and rack gear between them. With heavily overcast skies giving brief glimpses of blue sky above we set out hoping to be on the better end of the poor forecast for the day…..boy would we be surprised in the end!
Brownie took sweep behind James as Bill and I moved along a few paces ahead. Brownie regaled young James with tales of his and Bill’s years of climbing the Whites and out west. Bill and I did some catching up as we get to hike with each other way to little. Coming to the junction for Falling waters and Old Bridal Path we stayed left and began the mellow warm up near the bottom of the age old OBP. James did a great job troopering on for a kid wearing new hiking boots on his first trip to a 4000 footer (actually 5000 footer!) and keepong pace with 3 experienced hikers. We kept to a very moderate and easy pace so as not to push James too hard, and all in all it seemed to work great. We were all feeling good, we had plenty of time to get to our destination, and we were in great spirits. James got his first taste to come when we hit the rocky viewpoints just below the Agonies when the ridgeline poked its head in and out of clouds, and the sun gave brief warming to the valley around.
As we hit the first of the steep Agonies we let James take the lead and set the pace up to the hut. The hut came into view at the perfect moment for us as we were all feeling it was time for a nice break. Dropping packs on the porch we headed inside to fill up water bottles and so James could get his first taste of hut life. We decided to take stock here on what we intended for the day. Brownie wanted to do the ridge if possible, but his outlook on the weather at that oint was bleak. He decided we were probably going to just go up and back, so he and James filled up enough water for expecting a return trip to the hut, but Bill and I decided what was the extra little weight and we topped off all our bottles. With packs back on we set out for the last assault to the summit cone.
The clouds had really gripped the summit as the whipping wind blew them in and out. We followed cairn after cairn, stopping frequently for quick breather breaks. James said he was feeling a bit light headed, but was overall in great spirits, and the prospect of a long break at the summit spurred him onwards and upwards. Just below the summit cone we decided to let James lead the final charge to this his first 48 peak. The four of us stepped on the socked in plateau at 11:45 exactly and quickly began the set-up process. Things went quickly from here as the poles were joined into one and all the guy lines were unraveled and tied off. Brownie, the master of the pole, ran around like the true sailor he is laying out where each line would go and be abchored. He moved swiftly and adeptly as bill, James and I too corners to prepare for the raising. By now we were starting to gather a crowd (Bill noted quite correctly there could be a hurricane hitting this ridge and hundreds of people would STILL be there hiking it) which was good since we really needed an extra hand or two, so a few gentlemen jumped in to help. The pole went up, Brownie did a tweak here and there, shimmied the pole a bit there, and after a couple minutes he proclaimed this set up was right on the moeny and ready for flying. With that a ran and grabbed Old Glory. The clips were attatched to the lines and a tug by Brownie brought the American Flag 20 feet up into the sky to wave proud and true in the heavy and gusty winds…….the time was now 12:10! It was a sight to behold, and high fives went round as this team of four rejoiced in pride. Now it was time for well deserved lunch.
We idled about as the weather steadily improved, eating, talking, reveilling in our accomplishment and enjoying the company. Pictures were abundantly taken as people milled about. At one point Lincoln poked out of the clouds for good and we saw that they had 2 flags flying. Garfield was also in the clear, though with the naked eye no flag could be seen. The sun got brighter and brighter, and the poor day we expected progressivly got so much better, and it was then we decided if things held we would do the ridge. At 2:00 we brought the flag down and started packing up. Just as we got the pole down we saw a guy walking up from below (coming from Lincoln) with poles. Brownie asked if he was Darwin, who was registered for Lincoln, but it turned out he was part of a SECOND group called “Nurses on top” who decided they wanted to fly on Lincoln as well. He informed us another guy had wanted to do Lincoln or Lafayette, but seeing them taken he flew it on Little Haystack instead. So this ridge was well covered!
With gear packed we set off under a beautiflluy sunny sky headed for Lincoln. We ambled along like little children, having a blast and taking advantage of this days wonderful offering. James summited his second 48 peak of the day, a treat it was and most excited he seemed to be! This kid is one well mannered and polite person, and it was a great pleasure to share this experience with him. As the day was growing old we made haste to Little Haystack and started the long 3.2 mile run down the Falling Waters trail. By now Brownie and James were greatful Bill and I had topped off the water stores as the had both run out and were noe swigging down the reserves Bill and I had. Thankfully we knew there would be water a bit lower, so we stopped at the closest water source and filled up for the last time. It was now starting to get dark and we knew we needed to get out as we hoped to avoid needing headlamps. We hit the first of the water crossings as the sun dipped behind the Kinsman Ridge, and now the rush was on. But we had pushed our luck for the day and the rain started to drip…and drip….and by 7:15 we were in an all out downpour. At one pint James took a bad spill cracking both his knes and cutting one of the up. But he showed he was made of steel and sucked it up and kept moving. It got dark enough Bill dug out his headlamp, but I refused to get mine because my cell phone was in the same pocket, and the last thing I wanted was to get that sopping wet in the torrential downpour. So while Bill waited for Brownie and James I sped off in the dim light, sloshing through the huge puddles forming. I crossed the footbridge and shouted for joy as the parking lot poked into view. The other three came along not soon after.
Even though the weather was not pristine, I think we were lucky to have gotten what we did. Despite the not too great turn out we made the best of it all and came out with a memorable trip, one James will surely take with him to his old age. Thanks again to my boys Bill, Jeff and James for one helluva trip. I could not have asked for anything better!
BriangramParticipantSeptember 10, 2007 at 5:11 pmPost count: 59
You had a really big flag – we were impressed over on Cannon! Any chance you saw ours?New HampshireSeptember 10, 2007 at 6:05 pmPost count: 168
unfortunately we all forgot binoculars, and it was too hazy with the naked eye to see yours. But don’t feel too bad. Garfield had a sizeable rig too, from what I can tell, and we could not see theirs either. Next year we will remember to bring the spotting scope again! 😀
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