Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Wet and Windy on the Osceolas

I was looking to do a twofer this weekend. I had several in mind and decided to hike Mount Osceola (4,340') and East Osceola (4,156') from the Kancamagus Highway. This would be my first winter hike of these summits and I would be doing them solo today.

After watching the weather this past week I took one last look at the forecast before leaving. It looked like a cloudy day with some early morning drizzle and temps in the 30's. I've learned to take mountain weather forecasts with a grain of salt and today would be no exception.

It was cloudy and dark when I left the house. It started to brighten up as I was passing the northern Presidential summits. Mount Madison made a brief appearance through the clouds as I was passing by. Adams and Madison were one of my hiking choices but I was glad I chose the Osceolas when I saw the cloud cover over the Presidentials.

The weather was really looking lousy on my drive to Franconia Notch and it was only when I got to the other side of the notch before it looked like it might be clearing up. I reached the trailhead parking lot and it was nearly full. I managed to wedge myself into a spot and leave a few more open spots for other hikers. The weather was actually not looking too bad and I was hoping it would get better over the course of the day.

I left the snowshoes in the car and started out with microspikes, my crampons were in the pack. It was a beautiful hike along the Greeley Ponds Trail. The trail was well packed with some recent new loose snow on top. There was a lot of snow in the woods and hanging on the trees. The snow on the trees would become a major issue on today's hike. The water crossings were easily crossed.

At the trail junction I made the turn onto the Mount Osceola Trail. It was soon after I started climbing up that I noticed the microspikes starting to develop snow buildup also know as snowballing. This makes for very uncomfortable walking. It was a good indication that the temperature was rising. I changed into my crampons and that took care of the snowballing problem as well as gave me some added traction that I would need on the steep upper section of the trail.

As the temperature got warmer the snow on the trees started melting and it felt as though it was raining. This would only get worse and continue throughout the hike. I had hiked this before but forgot how steep and relentless it was. I was given a reminder, even with the crampons I found it challenging. The slide was easy but there was more steep trail beyond.

As the trail got steeper I found it necessary to start using the trees beside the trail to pull myself up. The really tricky parts of the trail had nothing to hold onto and I had to put my faith in the crampons and just go for it. I made it to the top of the steep portion of this trail but reminded myself that I would have to go back down on the way back. Often times the descent is just as difficult as the ascent. I knew there would be one more challenging section of trail up ahead and that would be the chimney.

It was along this ridgeline that the wind picked up and the clouds were thick and low. I added a layer as the snow melt from the trees felt like it was raining. When I got to the summit of East Osceola I noticed there were no footprints going out to the viewpoint and for good reason, there was no view. I also did not see any footprints going to the summit cairn nor could I see the cairn from the trail. I met two hikers here on the summit that told me they were turning around and would not be going to Mount Osceola. That would make six hikers I had seen that turned back from East Osceola. I continued on.

I dipped down into the col and got to the chimney, my nemesis. No one had been up the chimney but the by-pass was being used. I found the lower part of the by-pass to be a little bit too challenging and I made my own by-pass around a previous by-pass. I pulled myself up with the aid of some small trees and branches finally reaching the main by-pass.

I still had a couple of tricky sections of trail before reaching the summit. The top of Mount Osceola was gray and gloomy without views. I took a few photos of the gray scenery then started my return trip. I made a safe descent and ascent back to East Osceola. Made a brief stop on the summit for something to eat before my final descent of the day. It was all downhill from here.

As I knew it would be, the descent on the steep sections of trail were very challenging. Using trees, trekking poles and crampons I safely navigated my way down the steep slippery trail. Between the snow from the trees raining down on me and sweating I was wet inside and out. When I got back down to the trail junction I removed the crampons and bare booted to the parking lot.

It was a day of no views, challenging trail conditions and wet, emphasis on wet! I was not expecting such a wet hike. Even with the adverse conditions I was glad to have gotten out on the trail today. These two summits were #23 and #24 of my winter 48 4,000 footers. I look forward to hiking the other half of my W48!

Enjoy the photos!

At the trailhead

On my way

Easy water crossing

Making the turn onto the Mount Osceola Trail

Nicely packed trail with a few inches of recent snow on top

Starting the uphill climb

Crossing the slide

Looking down the slide

Wind picks up here on the ridgeline

Looking back down the trail but it's steeper than it looks

"View" from East Osceola

No views

Mount Osceola summit up ahead

A gray and gloomy Mount Osceola summit

Descending Mount Osceola

Standing just above the chimney

Unbroken trail leading down to the chimney

The chimney

Back on East Osceola

Beginning the steep descent on East Osceola with a look back up the trail

About to cross the slide again

I noticed a lot less snow on the trees than there was earlier

Ice on the Osceola cliffs

Peeling bark

Wet and glad to be back at the trailhead after a successful hike

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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