Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Pemi Loop

The Pemi Loop
This past weekend I got out and completed my second major traverse of the year, the Pemigewasset loop, or better known as the Pemi loop.  This has been on my radar for a while and serves almost as a right of passage for New England based ultra runners.  In NE we don't have the highest of the mountains or the longest of the climbs, but we do have some really gnarly rooty rocky terrain.

The Pemi loop is somewhere around 31.5 miles with over 9000' of climbing.  It starts in the Lincoln Woods right off the Kancamagus highway in NH.  In 2005, Backpacker magazine named it the second hardest day hike in America.  The loop summits 10 peaks of which 8 are over 4000': Flume, Liberty, Little Haystack, Lincoln, Lafayette, Garfield, South Twin, Guyot, Bond, and Bondcliff.  For more details checkout

I ran the loop with a couple of other ultra runners, Patrick, a 20 year fenom, who probably could have done two or three loops if inclined, and Chris, a very experienced hiker who is somewhat new to ultra running.

Mnt Flume
You start on an old dirt rail road trail before turing off about 1.25 miles in.  The next couple of miles you climb up to the Franconia ridge trail where it gets a little steeper with each step.  By the fourth mile, you are literally going straight up (I clocked it at 1,073' of gain). Just after the 5th mile you hit your first peak, Flume (~4300'), and at this point you have already knocked 3000' of 9000' for the day.

We had a perfect weather (70's with a breeze) and once we got up about the tree line you could probably see for a 100 miles.  After a couple of pics and quick break we kept on moving.

Over the next 4 miles you drop in and out of the tree line a few times before reaching the summit of Mt Lafayette, the highest point on the loop at 5249'.  After a painful technical descent for 2.2 miles and over 1500' of drop, you go straight back up 800' / .9 miles as you ascend Garfield.

At this point you are not even half way through the loop but have already done over 75% of the
Mnt Lafayette
climbing.  But don't let it fool you as technical descents are just as hard as the climbs.  While I knew I had the endurance to get through the loop, my speed was really starting to suffer.  My inability to move quickly on technical terrain was becoming more apparent as Patrick and Chris would put a gap on me the more rocky it got.

At mile 16ish, we reached the Galehead hut and took our first prolonged break of the day.  We were also able to refill out packs / bottles.  I don't think cold water and PB & J sandwich ever tasted so good.

From here, you have the nastiest climb of the whole loop as you ascend South Twin.  You climb about 1000' / 0.8 miles on some of the steepest rockiest terrain I have ever seen.

After a few more summits you reach Bond Cliff and then begin your descent back down to civilization (with about 8 miles remaining).  As we bombed by hikers they laughed at us wondering how on earth we were able to move that fast.  We laughed even more to ourselves as we were moving around 16 minute / mile, a far cry from our normal running pace.

With just under 5 miles to go, we hit the eastern end of the railroad trail and our pace immediately went back down under 9s.  With about 2 miles to go I decided to drop the hammer and sprint it in.  As the bridge to cross the Pemigewasset river came into view I pushed it into one final gear and flew by one last set of hikers to the finish.

End of the Loop
East Side of the Pemigewasset River

Talking with a few other runners and hikers afterwards, we all agreed that is one hell of a run / hike.  In my years of ultra running, I have only ever covered that much climbing in a day once before (Virgil Crest) and that was spread out over 20 more miles.

All and all had a great day and looking forward to tackling other events like this in the future.

- Scot

For more details checkout my Strava activity at:

1 comment:

Greg Soutiea said...

Good write up and awesome trip! Such fun!