Double Pemi Loop


By Rob Lalus

The Pemi Loop is a rugged 31.5 mile ridge top route in New Hampshire's White Mountains. It gains close to 10,000 feet of elevation as it crosses the summits of eight of New Hampshire's  four thousand footers: Bondcliff, Bond, South Twin, Garfield, Lincoln, Lafayette, Flume and Liberty. The thing I love about this route is that along the way one experiences everything our mountains have to offer. Low down in the forest on an old logging road, the Wilderness Trail connects both ends of the loop. It's a nice warm up and prepares you to begin the 

long climb up to your first peak. There are several alpine areas along the way, punctuated by Bondcliff and the Franconia Ridge. It's hard to keep your eyes on the trail with the sweeping vistas all around you. The rest of the time the trail runs through the evergreens on the ridge with occasional outlooks. The one constant is the rocks, which coupled with the elevation gain, are what make the Pemi Loop so challenging. Strong hiking skills are necessary to maintain a consistent pace and although it is “runnable,” rock-hopping would be a more appropriate term.

For several years now I have wanted to attempt a double Pemi. I have done the single loop many times over the years, and as someone who enjoys ultras in the mountains, I couldn’t help but daydream about doing a Pemi “out-and-back.” The Wilderness Trail is going to be closed soon for reconstruction due to a severe washout during Hurricane Irene. Moreover, with Cascade Crest and Grindstone coming up, I knew the timing was right for my training.

I started at 3am under the beam of my Fenix headlamp and ran the first 1.3 miles on the Wilderness Trail to the junction with the Osseo Trail. There begins the climb up to the first summit, Mt Flume. The initial section of the Osseo is a very moderate uphill with some flats mixed in, and is quite runnable all the way to the first of a series of switchbacks. There are several ladders near the top of the climb to assist you up the steepest parts, where you then you hit a much more runnable section which marks the beginning of the ridge top journey. Flume and Liberty came quickly, although descending the rocky trails was tough in the dark. On the next section of ridge between Liberty and Little Haystack, the sun began to rise, and my spirits were lifted knowing I would hit the alpine zone just after sunup and the views would be incredible.

Soon enough, I was passing several tents in the last patch of trees that signaled the beginning of the alpine zone. Just as I had hoped, the views were inspiring and bolstered my energy up and over Lincoln and Lafayette. 

Before I knew it, I hit the steep descent into the trees off North Lafayette and the rocks were slick. This section is up and down with a couple of ledges and mixed footing until you hit the beautiful Garfield Pond which signals the start of the rocky climb up Garfield. I had been conserving energy and pacing myself, trying to keep a low heart rate and taking a VFuel every 45 minutes. My energy was solid as I made it up and over rocky Garfield.  Next up is 2.6 runnable, rolling, miles to Galehead Hut. After filling my empty bladder at the hut, I began the steep, rocky climb up South Twin, where the scale of what I was attempting to do quickly sunk in. I realized that later in the day, I would be descending this staircase of rock. That was a long way away, and I still had a long way to go. Though there were a few hikers about, I did feel a bit lonely for a few minutes, but once I hit the summit of South Twin the awesome views invigorated me. Before I knew it I had covered the next very runnable section of trail to the alpine zone on Guyot, then Bond.

Descending Mt Bond is always tricky due to the technical nature of the trail, so I took care here not to fall. Entering the alpine zone, the stunning Bondcliff suddenly comes into view. It is one of the most iconic places in the Whites. Back into the trees, it becomes increasingly hot as I descend the Bondcliff Trail and run the 4.6 flat miles back to Lincoln Woods. I was excited because Larisa would be there with supplies, and I'd be picking up my pacer, Toby "Steelpawz" the mountain Brittany.

Seeing Larisa lifted my spirits and I took a 20 minute break. She had made me a mixture of almond milk, StrongerFasterHealthier Endurance Whey and VFuel. Boy was that good! I got great energy from it as I returned back the way I had come. I made sure to keep a conservative pace up and over the Bonds, all the way to South Twin, where I finally started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It bolstered my energy to – and eventually up – the steep ascent of Mt Garfield. I was surprised that my legs felt pretty good just under 50 miles into the day’s adventure. They felt even better after some kind words from Larisa, who had hiked in to meet me on the summit with another VFuel “power” shake. The next section flew by as I had great energy and tackled the steep ascent of Lafayette in good spirits, which continued over most of Franconia Ridge. Although running strong, I felt a bit of a tweak in my right knee on the climb up Liberty and realized I needed to be very cautious the rest of the way. I shortened up the stride and carefully made my way over Flume and down the Osseo Trail. About a half mile from the suspension bridge, I saw a headlamp coming at me and it was a welcome sight. I knew it was Larisa, and that I had succeeded. Completing the double loop in 18 hours and 22 minutes felt incredible, and I owe a lot to VFuel for keeping my energy consistent the whole way.


It should be noted that Rob is the only person to complete a double Pemi Loop, although several have tried. This is also a FKT (fastet known time).

To see more adventures in the White Mountains, you can head over to Rob's girlfriends (and VFuel Blog Contributor) site: 



Tags: new hampshire, pemi loop, race report, ultra running, ultramarathon, white mountains

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