A cold night after several warm days promised to set up some firm snow for good bushwhacking conditions. I figured it would be a fine time to bushwhack to 4114-ft. West Osceola, one of three "Trailwrights 72" summits that I hadn't yet visited. The forecast was for midwinter cold on the summits, with gusty west winds. This trip would be in the woods all the way except for a viewpoint on the east side of West Osceola.
I set off on the East Pond Trail mid-morning and found good Microspiking conditions on a solid if choppy and somewhat postholed track. The snow off-trail in the woods was crusty and firm. The crossing of Pine Brook at 0.8 mi. was an easy rock-hop with low water levels.
At the Cheney Brook crossing two miles in, I put on my snowshoes to make sure I didn't punch through this snow bridge. I kept the 'shoes on as at this higher elevation as the track was getting softer with a layer of mealy snow on top.
Above this crossing the East Pond Trail makes a long moderate climb along an old logging road.
Through a break in the trees I had a glimpse of a sub-peak of West Osceola. It looked pretty steep and thick up there.
The snowshoe track disappeared in the windswept Osceola-Scar Ridge col, with open woods and a number of blowdowns. Here I began my bushwhack, heading ESE up the ridge. The initial climb was steep with pretty thick, prickly woods, and the snow was much less consolidated than I had planned on. Rather than waltz up over hardpack, I would have to break trail for the 1000-ft. climb. At a spot where the ridge briefly leveled, I stumbled upon an old snowshoe track and followed it for a ways, grateful for the firmness under the top layer of snow.
A couple hundred feet farther up the ridge, I left the old track and made my way out along the north edge of the crest, hoping to find a view in the area above the western slides. After a brief search I found an opening with a dramatic down-look into the Pine Brook drainage and out to the mountains beyond. The peaks to the north were mostly obscured by flurries and "wind fog," but they occasionally revealed themselves.
A slide track leads out towards Mt. Huntington.
The Hancocks seen up the North Fork of Hancock Branch valley.
Looking down to the spot where the two westernmost slides join. I was at that spot back in January, looking up.
East Osceola seen beyond one of the western slides.
A profile of East Osceola.
After enjoying these views for a while, I climbed to the top of the sub-peak of West Osceola, and soon emerged in more open woods along a nearly level section of the ridge. There was deep powder in here and I was breaking trail through nearly a foot of it. I occasionally saw a trace of the old snowshoe track, but it was mostly buried under more recent snow.
Wonderfully open woods through here!
The woods remained open as I began the climb up the sharp cone of West Osceola.
Near the summit I climbed through a belt of dense scrub to an open area with a view back to Scar Ridge...
...and NW to the Franconia Range and the Pemi Wilderness, which were unfortunately mostly obscured by flurries.
I added my entry to the logbook. I assume the old tracks I came upon were from the 3/24 snowshoers.
I knew from looking at West Osceola from Middle Osceola and other vantages that there was a cliff on the east/SE side with a ledge perch on top. A short push through the scrub brought me to what is unofficially named "Peggy's Perch" after Peggy Graham of the Trailwrights. Peggy and her husband Hal have worked tirelessly for many years improving trails all over New Hampshire. (For more on the Trailwrights, visit www.trailwrights.org.) An unusual view from here!
The ragged face of Mt. Osceola's Split Cliff, with East Osceola behind.
A profile of Middle Osceola, another Trailwrights bushwhack peak.
A side view of Peggy's Perch.
I wrestled through some thickets to another perch with a more southerly view, looking over Breadtray Ridge to Mt. Tecumseh.
Sandwich Dome between Tecumseh and Middle Osceola. The west wind was roaring at this spot, and with temperatures in the low teens, I'm guessing, I could only stay here a minute or two. Peggy's Perch, however, was protected from the wind, and I took a long break there.
An "underwater" view of the Bonds.
On the way down, I stopped at the viewpoint near the top of the slides for another look.
Looking back up at West Osceola.
The lower part of the bushwhack was the opposite of the nice open woods on the level shoulder. I was happy to get back to the trail and take my goggles off!
This photo taken from the Hancock Overlook on the Kanc Highway shows the route I took.