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  1. #1
    illabelle's Avatar
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    Default Kinsman Notch to Franconia Notch, slack or pack?

    A while back I was advised to slack the 16.3 mile section from Kinsman to Franconia because of some very steep climbs up S Kinsman. For us, 16 miles is a long day even on an easy trail. To manage 16 miles on a steep rocky beastly trail will require some preparation/conditioning. I expect we'll be doing this hike in August/Sept of 2020, so we have time to work on it, but that's still going to be a long long day.

    There is the Eliza Brook Shelter about halfway in this section. If we backpack, we could stay there and break it up into two 8-mile days. But of course, we'd have to carry our full packs up that steep rocky beastly trail.

    Seems like either way is going to be tough. Is one option clearly better?

  2. #2

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    Slackpacking helps a bunch in NH and ME. Itís not just that itís steep, but the rocks and boulders require deep knee bends. Going light sure is nice. I slackpacked that section.

    If thatís a long section for you then just make a long day out of it. Start early. An hour or two before sunrise with a headlamp works well. Bring food. Take however many breaks you need. Youíll be passing hidden pond hut (I think thatís the name), so stop by and get soup and bread with some lemonade.

  3. #3

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    It's sort of a toss up. Do you want to do a 8 hour day or a 16 hour day? Chances are your not going to be moving much faster then 1 MPH on average and there are a lot of places to stop and take in the view.

    If you did this in August, you can still go reasonably light for an overnight hike, probably not much more then a well prepared day hiker should carry (but often doesn't).

    We start to see a significant reduction in daylight hours by early September although the hiking weather is typically better and there is less of a crowd. The middle of August can get real busy as everyone suddenly realizes summer is almost over and the kids go back to school soon.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by FreeGoldRush View Post
    You’ll be passing hidden pond hut (I think that’s the name), so stop by and get soup and bread with some lemonade.
    I believe you mean Lonesome Lake
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  5. #5

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    The issue with that section is not just South Kinsman its the cumulative effort. Lot of not so insignificant PUDS between the notch and Eliza Brook. Many thruhikers are accustomed to far longer daily mileage prior to Glencliff and Moosiluakee tends to get them in panic when they dont make the expected miles. They then think they can make it up on the stretch between Kinsman Notch and Franconia Notch and are sadly surprised. Unless you have a typical section hiker trying to get in 10 days of hiking in 7 days, split it up into 2 days with a stop at Eliza Brook. The problem with doing a long 16 miler one day is the next day its up Liberty and over Lafayette ridge another long day unless you spring for a stay at Greenleaf Hut. Otherwise its all the way to Garfield hut.

  6. #6
    illabelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    The issue with that section is not just South Kinsman its the cumulative effort. Lot of not so insignificant PUDS between the notch and Eliza Brook. Many thruhikers are accustomed to far longer daily mileage prior to Glencliff and Moosiluakee tends to get them in panic when they dont make the expected miles. They then think they can make it up on the stretch between Kinsman Notch and Franconia Notch and are sadly surprised. Unless you have a typical section hiker trying to get in 10 days of hiking in 7 days, split it up into 2 days with a stop at Eliza Brook. The problem with doing a long 16 miler one day is the next day its up Liberty and over Lafayette ridge another long day unless you spring for a stay at Greenleaf Hut. Otherwise its all the way to Garfield hut.
    In our case, we've already done the Whites (hut to hut). This trip is about filling in the gaps. It will start with the Wildcats (3 days) because we'll have a reservation at Carter Notch. With a rental car we'll have flexibility to do the Kinsmans (pack or slack) and 2 other slacks (1. Moosilauke 2. Mt W to Madison - taking the cog up to Mt W) in whatever order best responds to weather/weariness. So for example, we might do a 16-mile Kinsman slack and follow it up with the relatively easy slack from Mt W to Madison (and then down Valley Way).

  7. #7
    illabelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    It's sort of a toss up. Do you want to do a 8 hour day or a 16 hour day? Chances are your not going to be moving much faster then 1 MPH on average and there are a lot of places to stop and take in the view.

    If you did this in August, you can still go reasonably light for an overnight hike, probably not much more then a well prepared day hiker should carry (but often doesn't).

    We start to see a significant reduction in daylight hours by early September although the hiking weather is typically better and there is less of a crowd. The middle of August can get real busy as everyone suddenly realizes summer is almost over and the kids go back to school soon.
    Good point. If we slack, we'll still need to carry a lot of our gear, except tent and sleeping bags. We'd still need food and rain gear and warm clothes.

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    illabelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FreeGoldRush View Post
    Slackpacking helps a bunch in NH and ME. It’s not just that it’s steep, but the rocks and boulders require deep knee bends. Going light sure is nice. I slackpacked that section.

    If that’s a long section for you then just make a long day out of it. Start early. An hour or two before sunrise with a headlamp works well. Bring food. Take however many breaks you need. You’ll be passing hidden pond hut (I think that’s the name), so stop by and get soup and bread with some lemonade.
    This really is tempting!

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    We covered this section SOBO this past August on our thru hike, but camped in different locations than you are planning for. In my journal I remarked that after looking at our elevation maps, "The hard sections were more difficult than expected and the "easy" sections were WAY more difficult." Lots of mud and bogs as well as tough climbs/descents. We were carrying full packs. I can't imagine covering this ground in one day slacking or otherwise. We had rain and lots of fog, though. Weather can make a big difference.

  10. #10
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    I've done that section camping out at Eliza Brook Shelter. It's a fairly new shelter and was a real nice spot to camp. South Kinsman is steep but I didn't find it that difficult. YMMV.

  11. #11

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    Washington to Madison and down the Valley way isn't an easy day either. Just hope your not fighting the wind, that can really wear you down.

    Instead of the Cog, take the auto road hiker shuttle at 9 AM. It's only $20 as opposed to $75 for the Cog.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  12. #12
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    I did that section last year. That climb out of Kinsman Notch is a little misleading. When I got to the Eliza Brook shelter, I said to myself, "That wasn't bad. I think I'll go for the next shelter." The next four miles going up a steep rocky climb took me almost six hours. Yes, I'm a slow, deliberate hiker and anyone out there can go faster than me, but that doesn't take away the fact that it's a tough climb. If I were you, I'd get the section past the Eliza Brook shelter out of the way and then stay at the Kinsman Pond shelter overnight. The next morning sleep in and get to the Lonesome Lake Hut just after their breakfast and have some free breakfast. I never stopped at a hut in the Whites where there wasn't leftovers from breakfast.
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  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    A while back I was advised to slack the 16.3 mile section from Kinsman to Franconia because of some very steep climbs up S Kinsman. For us, 16 miles is a long day even on an easy trail. To manage 16 miles on a steep rocky beastly trail will require some preparation/conditioning. I expect we'll be doing this hike in August/Sept of 2020, so we have time to work on it, but that's still going to be a long long day.

    There is the Eliza Brook Shelter about halfway in this section. If we backpack, we could stay there and break it up into two 8-mile days. But of course, we'd have to carry our full packs up that steep rocky beastly trail.

    Seems like either way is going to be tough. Is one option clearly better?
    I Did Hanover to Franconia starting sept 1st. I have to say I didnt really head the warnings i was givin and NH really broke me down. I am used to doing 20's no problem and up in NH I ate my humble pie at a hard 9 miles a day, every day. 6 days we did 54 miles. The last 2 days we did slack packing starting just south of Moosilauke all the way to Franconia and I will say, slack pack it. Even if you have to start before daylight to get up and over wolf early, it is worth it. I would rather do a long 16 mile day slacking rather then 2 8's with full pack.

    The hiker hostel in north woodstock will shuttle you for free if you stay at their place, right off i93. But if you wanna start early, you would have to arrange the taxi in town to take you up there.

    FYI We took the hiker hostel shuttle at around 7 i think. And we missed the free pickup by 10 minutes and we pushed hard all day to get there in time for the pickup. We started at 7:15am and ended in the pickup parking lot (1 mile off trail on flat bicycle path) at 6:55pm.
    AT Shuttle List
    Trail Miles: 3,715.9
    AT Trips: 67
    AT Map 1 Completion: 1818.9 Springer, GA - Franconia Notch, NH
    AT Map 2 Completion: 263.8 Gaps From GA - PA

  14. #14
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    Last July, I slackpacked the Kinsmans. I was one of my best days ever on the trail. It took me 10 hours and I had to rush a bit at the end to meet my ride. You will need to factor in a 3/4 mile walk on the bike path back to the parking lot, this cannot be avoided without missing some of the AT.

    I would say that if you aren't comfortable doing a 16 miler in easy terrain then you should definitely plan on not slacking, and staying at Eliza Brook. IMO, that is an gorgeous location and makes a good point to break up the trip. You can keep the weight down and just bring what you need for one night. The views from the Kinsmans are top notch. Don't miss the short side trail to a view off of North Kinsman. Be super careful if the rocks are wet heading down North Kinsman. You should determine your direction based on the weather if possible. For example, if the rain chance is higher on your second day, then head southbound.

  15. #15

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    You also can break it into two dayhikes using Reel Brook Trail but it requires spotting cars. I did the entire AT over the whites that way.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 11-05-2019 at 14:08.

  16. #16

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    Having also done this as a section hiker I would recommend spending the night at Eliza Brook Shelter. I would try to reduce your weight as much as possible with just enough food and sleeping bag to stay in the shelter.
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  17. #17
    illabelle's Avatar
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    I appreciate the good information and advice.

    Whether we slack or pack this section, we will need to increase our fitness/conditioning anyway. Two 8-mile days backpacking here can't be much harder than three 7-mile days in the Wildcats. So we'll put our focus on getting ready for the Wildcats. I envision a summer of hiking the steepest trails we can find in the Smokies.

    A few weeks after this trip, we'll be back up to NH/ME for a final time to hike the Mahoosucs. We're almost done with this Trail!!

  18. #18
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    I had to look at my notes to remember some of this one. I carried a pack through here and stayed at Eliza Brook Shelter. My recollection is that the shelter area is pretty neat.

    Anyway, this section can be broken into two distinct pieces, the half from Kinsman Notch to Eliza Brook Shelter, and the half from that point to Franconia Notch. The first half from a terrain standpoint isn't too horrible, but the second half is very strenuous and rough going on the climbs, descents and in the boggy area between South and North Kinsman peaks (which is really neat by the way). I would agree with the advice given by others that if you hit this in good shape you could probably do a real early start and try to knock the whole thing out in one day. If you were going to do it that way you might want to consider going SOBO and get the harder stuff over with first.

    If you decide to carry a pack, I don't think it would make a huge difference and you can take it slower and enjoy the Eliza Brook shelter area. There's a shelter there and a few nice dirt tent pads. Just make sure to roll in there at a decent time as I think this area is fairly heavily used, and I had that it filled up quick in my notes.
    AT: 2007-2019 (45 sections)
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  19. #19
    illabelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berserker View Post
    I had to look at my notes to remember some of this one. I carried a pack through here and stayed at Eliza Brook Shelter. My recollection is that the shelter area is pretty neat.

    Anyway, this section can be broken into two distinct pieces, the half from Kinsman Notch to Eliza Brook Shelter, and the half from that point to Franconia Notch. The first half from a terrain standpoint isn't too horrible, but the second half is very strenuous and rough going on the climbs, descents and in the boggy area between South and North Kinsman peaks (which is really neat by the way). I would agree with the advice given by others that if you hit this in good shape you could probably do a real early start and try to knock the whole thing out in one day. If you were going to do it that way you might want to consider going SOBO and get the harder stuff over with first.

    If you decide to carry a pack, I don't think it would make a huge difference and you can take it slower and enjoy the Eliza Brook shelter area. There's a shelter there and a few nice dirt tent pads. Just make sure to roll in there at a decent time as I think this area is fairly heavily used, and I had that it filled up quick in my notes.
    I had heard that S Kinsman was so steep it was better/safer to go up than down. If it's not so terrible, it would be nice to go SOBO.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    I had heard that S Kinsman was so steep it was better/safer to go up than down. If it's not so terrible, it would be nice to go SOBO.
    Well, it's funny that you should mention this. Of all the climbs on the AT, South Kinsman sticks out in my mind as one of the top 3 toughest ones (for me at least). So yeah, I agree with what you have heard. It's basically a 2000' very hard rock scramble. So if you don't want to go down that, then NOBO is the way to go.
    AT: 2007-2019 (45 sections)
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