Monday, September 19, 2011

The Osceola's 9/18/11

"The Steep Trail, That's How We Roll!" (pictures)

Scott and I now equal with 4000 footer completions we wanted to complete a couple more before winter set in. I had been wanting to hike the Osceola's for some time now, particularly the ridge between the two peeks. After viewing some recent photo's from the 9/11 FOT48 hike and checking the weather and seeing that the Kanc' had re-opened, we decided to go for it! We decided we would take the steeper ascent from the Kancamaugus via Greeley Ponds Trail. This side was apt to be quieter and no doubt more interesting. As we made our way through Lincoln and past Loon where the Highland Scottish Games were being held, we couldn't help but notice the damage that the Irene floods left behind. The river bank was heavily eroded and littered with tree trunks and other wood and rock debris. New tar, culverts and guard rails marked sections of road that had been washed away.

We parked at the Greeley Ponds trail head and began our hike at 8:30am. The air was cool and brisk and the sun was hidden behind a thin layer of clouds. The trail follows a wet section past dozens of downed trees from the storm and crosses the river. Here too was the storm damage present. Tree trunks along the banking, sand and rocks washed up into the forest and what looked like the remains of a foot bridge. The trail was a little tough to find in this section of washout but as we continued straight across the river and a sub-stream and headed slightly to the right we found the trail.

You now cross more wet sections were the Trail Adopter has spent a great deal of time building foot bridges over the wet, muddy sections. Several had been replaced and yellow marker tape hung from trees at washed out spots where work needed to be done. Thank you to the trail adopter putting all the effort into repairing a heavily damaged trail! We soon came to the Mt. Osceola trail sign and began up this trail. It starts off gradual as you climb through a boulder field containing some small caves. You cross below and impressive rock face above you marking the Southern point of the Osceola Ridge. The trail now begins a long, steep climb over broken rock.

The trail crosses a small rock slide where views are excellent towards the Hancocks, Carrigain and the Tripyramids. Continuing on the trail remains steep for most of the way before climbing through a rock "trough" and leveling off on a ridge where there is a side trail on the right with views up to both Osceola peaks, the Franconia range and the others mentioned above. The East Peak close by we finished the last gradual section up to the rock cairn marking the view less summit just before 11am. We took a small break here and chatted with a couple people who had come from the main peak. Then we began the journey across the ridge to tag the main peak ourselves.

It was at the East Peak and all the way to the Main peak and back that almost every hiker asked if we had come up from the Kanc' side. Each time we answered yes the reply was always....isn't that side steeper? Our was very steep! It was really funny how many people asked, and their reaction to us taking the more difficult side up. But that is how we generally roll! The longer, steeper, less used trails are usually quiter and more exciting. Which is what we hike for! Too many times (including today) we see hikers just rushing on by to get to the top and "bag" a mountain. I just don't see the point or excitement in this. We hike to enjoy every aspect of the trails. To enjoy the natural beauty around us.

The ridge was fairly easy. I had read that it was a rugged, difficult ridge traverse but it was nothing worse than others we had done. One section poses some difficulty where you must climb a section called the "chimney". There is a side trail that is still difficult but a little easier. I took the chimney up while Scott took the bypass trail. On our way back we both descended the chimney. After some steep climbing with alternating moderate pitches we came out onto the rock topped Osceola peak in no time at all at 11:40am!

The peak was relatively quite. Just a handful of people! Views were pretty impressive! Mt. Washington, the Hancocks, Carrigain, Chocorua, Passaconaway, and the Tripyramids just to name the higher and most visible peaks. We found a spot somewhat out of the wind and ate our lunch. The sun hadn't yet broke threw the clouds and the wind was cold, so we put our long sleeve shirts and hats and gloves on to stay warm. After some pictures and viewing we decided to head back and warm back up.

So we made our way back across the ridge, removing our extra clothing below the chimney. We passed the same people we had passed earlier in the opposite direction and made the climb back up to the East Peak.
Once past the East Peak we were once again by ourselves passing only a couple people. It was a steep, careful hike down. The sun was now out and views were beautiful at the various outlooks. We reached the parking lot at 2:30pm. Two 4000 footers in 6 hours...#27&28...nice!

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