Monday, August 24, 2015
Not willing to give up on the streak of doing a big hike every weekend, on a whim I headed to the Whites on Sunday. I wasn't fully sure what I was going to do. Had an hour on the highway to think about it before the first potential exit.
While it was misty and wet at home, there was lots of blue sky showing up north. Not quite clear enough for a Franconia Ridge hike, so I decided to give Mt Osceola a whirl. Didn't know anything about it, other than I vaguely remember a friend recently taunting me to try the east side. I like loops, so I thought an up and over, coming back on Tripoli Rd would make a great ~13 mile loop.
Heading out from the Livermore trail head, I found Greeley Ponds path to have been fully reconstructed since storms destroyed it several years ago. Would be awesome if Waterville groomed that for skate skiing. In no time I reached the ponds. That meant the real climbing would begin.
The east approach was wicked steep. I like it when you go up almost as much as you go laterally. Puts a lot of vertical under you in a hurry. Was fair amount of hands and feet, and being cool but quite humid out, I sweat profusely. So profusely in fact, that sweat plugged the barometric sensor port on my wrist-worn GPS and I stopped getting credit for my vertical.
Elevation can actually be an important navigational aid. Say a storm is moving in. If you are near the peak, you may have time to bag it and get back down. But if you have 1000ft of vertical to go, best bet is to cut your losses and head back. With tree or cloud cover, you can't always tell visually how much further to the summit. The GPS fills in that gap. Since I had never done Osceola before, I had no idea what lie ahead, just that the summit was around 4200ft. But I didn't know right away my GPS was stuck on 3100ft and I though dang, I still have 1000+ feet to go? Then I started going down. I had already crested the east peak. Silly to rely on electronics that much...
Then I came up to this crevice that a young couple was coming down. You gotta be shitting me! They're doing that without ropes? I later learned that feature is call "The Chimney." Almost felt like climbing up a chimney. Just don't look down! It actually wasn't that scary once on it. The hand and foot holds where quite good.
There was some very nice hiking along the ridgeline to the main peak. Views were limited through the scrubby fir trees. Before I knew it, I heard voices and the trail opened up to a bare ledge with a grand view. The cloud deck was getting lower, many peaks in all directions were now socked in. I made it up just in time. A few photos and I was on my way down the west side.
The gradient on the west side was much less severe. Rocks all the way down though. I brought poles which help prevent ankle rolls, so I did not put on my ankle braces. Total elapsed hike time was about 4.8hrs. I finished the hike with an ice soak in Osceola Brook. Doesn't matter what time of year or how warm it's been, mountain streams are always frigid. Wonder if I should hit Hyndman Peak in Idaho in a couple weeks...