Member Trip report
Trip Report/Photos from shep5
Saturday was forecast to be another mild, clear day in the White Mountains, so I headed up to hike the Osceola Mountains from the Kancamagus Highway (Rte. 112). I arrived at the trailhead parking lot at about 7:15AM and there wasn't much space left since it hadn't been plowed well. There were 5 cars already here and I was able to just fit in without obstructing anyone. They usually plow a siding lower down the road, but this wasn't open and there was no space along the road (the snow came pretty much up to the yellow lines). Anyway, I felt lucky...It's gotten difficult to get a space unless you're there really early.
I got ready and headed up the Greeley Ponds Trail at 7:40. The trail was well-broken out and hard packed, so I wore microspikes (carrying snowshoes in case conditions changed). This portion of the trail meandered through the woods will only modest elevation gain, so I made pretty good time...reaching the Osceola Trail junction by 8:10. I immediately turned onto the Osceola Trail as it began to climb towards the cliffs. The trail became progressively steeper until it almost joined the the slide. This was where it became really steep as it paralleled the slide. With all the butt sliding this part of the trail was smooth and packed, and at times difficult to get good traction. At 9:30 I reached the top of the slide and crossed it. The opening on the slide provided great views over the Mad River Notch, the Greeley Ponds and of Mt. Kancamagus. The trail continued steeply up until it reached the top of the ridge, the last small section being particularly challenging to climb. I made it here by 9:50 and took the short spur trail out to the view. It was very windy out on this ledge, but it gave me wonderful views of the Osceolas as well the Franconia Ridge. I ducked back into the woods (and out of the wind) and made my way up to the summit of East Osceola (4156'). This was aggresive, but wasn't as steep and I reached the summit by 10:10 after taking in the eastward views just before it.
As the summit was in the trees I just continued on. The trail began a fairly steep descent into the col with a couple of openings with great views towards Mt. Osceola and the Pemigewasset Wilderness. In the col the trail flattened out only briefly before I reached the base of the "Chimney". This steep section of trail was covered in ice and hadn't been used. The bypass trail was relatively easy, but there were times, where it was difficult to get a firm footing. I had to occasionally pulled myself up using the trees and by stepping into the softer snow along the trail. I reached the top of the steeper section by 10:55 and the trail moderated as it climbed up a subpeak before the final push for the summit. I finally emerged out of the woods and onto the summit opening at 11:10AM. The skies were crystal clear with great views over Waterville Valley. Initially, I had the summit to myself. I headed back into the woods to tag the actual summit. The broken out path kinda meadered around alot until it finally reached the top of Mt. Osceola (4340'). There was a short spur trail to a northward view. All the peaks in the Pemigewasset Wilderness, as well as Mt. Washington and Carrigain were all surprisingly clear. I continued to follow the Osceola Trail a little further as it was broken out. I reached an opening with nice views over to Mt. Mooselauki (the trail continued, so it appeared that someone had broken it out from Tripoli Road). I returned to the summit ledges and took a break. There was almost no wind here and it wasn't long before a few other hikers appeared. We chatted a bit.
At 11:40, I started by return by retracing my steps back across the ridge. The descent was much easier and I re-summited East Osceola in about 40 minutes. There was a small group of hikers here taking a break, but further on near the view, there were over a dozen hikers taking their lunch break. I was surprised to see so many people up here given the limited parking at the trailhead. I started the descent off of the peak and reached the point where the steep descent off the ridge began. In the winter this has always been a great slide, so I just sat myself down and began a very long butt slide! I was able to slide all the way to the point where the trail turned sharply before crossing the top of the rock slide. It was 12:40 and after I re-entering the woods, I slide down this section as well...being somewhat controlled as there was an area where it would be easy to slide off the trail and into the woods. I hoofed it for a bit across this area and then slide down a third long section. This took me all the way to the more moderate section of trail and from here it was easy hiking back to the Greeley Ponds Trail, which I reached at 1:05PM. It had taken me a little less than 2 hours to climb this section in the morning and only 35 minutes to slide/hike down it. The hike out on the Greeley Ponds Trail was very easy and I made it back to my car by 1:40. Back at the road, I was surprised to see quite a few cars parked along Rte. 112, as they were partly in the driving lane.
With the clear skies and moderate temperatures, this was an awesome hike. The Osceolas provided great views during the climb and across the ridge. What this hike lacks in distance, it makes up for in a steep challenging climb. It also has one of the best butt slides off the mountain!
Total mileage and elevation gain: 7.8 miles with approximately 3040 feet in cumulative elevation gain.
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