Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Traverse Hike Over Flume and Liberty

Strong winds were forecast for the high summits today so plans for hiking Mount Jefferson changed to a hike over Mount Flume (4,328') and Mount Liberty (4,459'). I would be hiking today with fellow hikers Brian, Jill, Melanie and Mark. The plan was to spot a vehicle at the Whitehouse trailhead and start our hike from Lincoln Woods. Our route would take us on the Lincoln Woods Trail to the Osseo Trail over Mount Flume and Mount Liberty on the Franconia Ridge Trail then descend on the Liberty Springs Trail to the bike path and finally the Whitehouse Trail to the parking lot on Route 3.

An icy start

Crossing the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River

Melanie and Brian cross the suspension bridge leading to the Lincoln Woods Trail

We all met at the Whitehouse trailhead parking lot and piled into Mark's vehicle with our gear for the ride to Lincoln Woods. We arrived to an almost empty parking lot, surprising for a Sunday morning late start. Today's weather included warmer than usual temps for the month of February and it would be a day of constantly changing layers to adjust for the temperature. I was starting with a couple of thin layers and a fleece along with a thin layer under my Endo pants. I already knew at the start of the hike that I would soon be changing.

Hiking on almost bare ground along the Osseo Trail

Snow starts here

First ladder with more to come

A great view from the Downlook

Swapping microspikes for crampons

With everyone geared up and ready we were off! While crossing the suspension bridge over the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River I noticed the water was slightly higher than normal due to the heavy rain this past week. On the other side of the bridge we all put on our microspikes. There was a layer of ice on the Lincoln Woods Trail and the light traction helped move us along at a good pace.

Melanie starts up a steep icy section of trail

It's safer walking beside the ladder

Mark and Brian going up

At 1.4 miles we turned onto the Osseo Trail. There was a variety of conditions on this trail including ice, bare ground and loose snow. We continued with the microspikes until reaching the ladders. Just before climbing the ladder below the downlook it was time to change to crampons. It was a quick stop for a photo at the viewpoint then more climbing. The wooden ladders were unusable and we climbed beside them with the aid of trees along the trailside.  The trail leveled out at the top of the ladders.

We're about to get some spectacular views

Mount Liberty from Mount Flume

Jill waits on the edge

Flume slide

There were a few more steep pitches in the trail before reaching the Flume Slide and Franconia Ridge Trail junction. We stopped for a brief break before climbing the 0.1 mile to the summit of Mount Flume. This was slow going only because of the views we were enjoying on the way up. Any earlier clouds had lifted and the summits were in the clear. It was a hard-packed icy trail right to the summit, a very exhilarating climb considering there were steep dropoffs right beside the trail.

A look back

Mount Liberty...our next destination

Mount Washington in the distance

Jill and Mark changing back to microspikes

This is not the place for wandering off the trail

Finally getting some decent snow

When we arrived at the summit there were other hikers already there. There is a small summit area on Flume and doesn't take too many hikers before it's crowded. We took a break here. I got some more photos and something to eat. Some in our group changed back into microspikes from crampons, I kept my crampons on. The weather was cooperating and there was only a slight wind blowing but it was very comfortable. Time to move on to our next summit of the day.

Looking back at Mount Flume

Mount Lincoln

Mount Garfield

On the summit of Mount Liberty

Loon Mountain ski area

Cannon Mountain

The trail dips down into a col on the way to Mount Liberty. There was loose snow along the way. Another 1.2 miles and we were on the summit. Once again we were met by spectacular views and a very tolerable wind blowing. The sun was peering out from behind a thin cloud cover. We all scurried around taking photos in every direction. Even Mount Washington could be seen in the far distance. It was here that I swapped the crampons for microspikes. There was talk of maybe doing a little butt-sliding on the way down. Getting a crampon dug in during a butt-slide was not something that anyone wanted to experience!

Mount Flume

Mount Garfield

Mount Lincoln

Photo shooting on Liberty

Starting our descent

After a nice break we started our descent, it was all downhill from here. Right away I heard hooting and hollering, the butt-sliding had commenced with Jill in the lead followed by Mark, Melanie, me and Brian. It was a nice quick ride but short. We were soon at the Liberty Spring Trail junction and turned left to continue down. There were a few more butt-sliding sections before reaching some serious ice in the trail. With a painful calf cramp my butt-sliding was over for today.

A look back at the summit of Mount Liberty

Brian and Melanie having some butt-sliding fun

A very icy section of Liberty Spring Trail

There was some concern about a possible difficult water crossing at the bottom of the trail. While it might have been difficult in the past couple of days due to the heavy rain last week it was no problem today. We crossed with dry feet on the other side. It was getting very warm at this point so it was time to delayer and remove gaiters, hats and gloves for the remainder of the hike. We reached the end of the Liberty Spring Trail and turned onto the bike path to Whitehouse Trail that would take us to the parking lot and complete the 10.8 miles traverse from Lincoln Woods.

Easy water crossing

A leisurely walk through the woods

It's difficult to plan a hike based on a mountain weather forecast due to constantly changing conditions. This mild winter has been especially troublesome. The only thing we all left behind today was our snowshoes. That decision was based on hiking last week and not needing them as well as no significant snowfall but lots of rain since. Traction was definitely needed. It also helped to read some trail reports. Today's weather turned out to be better than expected in addition to good trail conditions, spectacular views and a fun group of hikers to share this adventure with! And these are two more summits that I can now add to my completed list of winter 48 4,000 footers!

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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