Saturday, March 16, 2013


A rainstorm followed by a hard freeze set up some firm snow for ideal bushwhacking conditions. Friend and master bushwhacker J.R. Stockwell had a Friday off, so we got together for a bushwhack up the long northern spur ridge of East Osceola, aiming for an open ledge above the long line of inaccessible cliffs that promised an unusual view of Mad River Notch and the Greeley Ponds. The ledge we were aiming for can be seen in the photo below, taken from Lower Greeley Pond.

From the Kanc Highway we snowshoed a short way in on the Greeley Ponds X-C Trail, then bushwhacked through open hardwoods up towards the crest of the long northern ridge. 

 We passed this interesting tree-atop-boulder combination.

The snow was perfect for bushwhacking - very firm but with just enough give for a good grip with snowshoe crampons.

Typical woods along the crest of the northern ridge - not real open, but not real thick either.

Higher up on the ridge there were some nice open  stretches of forest.

The last pitch up to the 3200-ft. knob at the southern end of the ridge.

It didn't take long to find the ledge we were seeking - and it turned out to be a gem, with bare granite to sit on and some wonderful views. Mt. Kancamagus and its "K2 Cliff" are in the background.

The wide-screen view looking south over the Greeley Ponds and down through Mad River Notch was even better than expected. No sign of civilization out there.

Lower Greeley Pond at the southern gateway of the Notch.

A zoom on Mt. Tripyramid.

Looking up at East Osceola. The day was so fine that we discussed the option of continuing our bushwhack up the ridge behind the cliffs and then angling up and across the steep slope to the Mt. Osceola Trail somewhere below the spot where it crosses the old slide (seen in this photo at the top of the white streak on the right).

We basked here in the warm March sun for an hour and a half, admiring the views and watching ravens cavort out over the valley. A sweet spot!

We decided to continue on towards East Osceola. Surprisingly, the woods on the ridge behind the cliffs weren't overly thick, and were reasonably open in some spots.

Towards the upper end of the ridge we passed through an interesting fir wave area. With the solid snow, there was no concern with falling into spruce traps.

From the upper end of the ridge we made a traverse up and across a steep slope, aiming for the Mt. Osceola Trail. J.R. had made an even steeper variation on this route on a previous East Osceola bushwhack. He has made at least three different bushwhack ascents to every NH 4000-footer. He is an expert at "tree-pulling"!

We hit the trail at about 3600 ft. and switched snowshoes for traction footwear for the steep climb on the hard-packed trail to East Osceola.

A few minutes of climbing brought us to the slide crossing, the only exposed part of the trail.

View from the slide:  Passaconaway and Chocorua can be seen to the left of Tripyramid.

The final steep gully pitch leading up to the shoulder of East Osceola.

View to Mt. Osceola from the outlook on the shoulder.

Zoom on Osceola, a rugged peak that would be at home in the Adirondacks.

Looking up the ridge towards East Osceola.

Looking west to Scar Ridge and the Cheney Brook beaver pond; flurries moving in.

Mt. Carrigain rising beyond the windings of the Kancamagus Highway.

At the outlook we met Jeb Bradley and his friend Karen. Jeb has climbed more than 390 peaks on his 4000-footer grid list. A few minutes later two Plymouth State University kids came up, having ascended bareboot with no traction, in blue jeans (!) They apparently buttslid their way back down the steep trail.

Continuing on to the summit. Pretty good snowpack up here.

Just before the summit an opening on the left provides an easterly view, much improved in winter.

Mt. Chocorua glimpsed through the flurries. Potash and Hedgehog in front.

The summit cairn was hidden under the snow.

Starting down the steep descent.

Looking down through a snow squall at the cliffs and northern spur.

It was a slow, careful descent down the steep section, with a short side trip to look at the big icy slab next to the trail at 3300 ft. We took the sidewalk-like Greeley Ponds Trail back out to the Kanc and completed our interesting day with a short road walk back to our vehicles.


  1. Steve, that wide-screen view looking south over the Greeley Ponds and down through Mad River Notch is phenomenal! You've had so many outstanding off-trail adventures over the years. Can't help but feel that this one will have a high ranking on your list of most memorable!


    1. Thanks, John. You're right, that viewpoint and the whole trip rank among the best I've enjoyed! Plus it was a real treat to go with J.R. and hear about some of his many adventures.


  2. Great photos Steve! I was up there yesterday (March 16) getting the two peaks for my Over 70 list. David Ross

    1. Thanks, David - good luck on your Over 70 quest!


  3. I have to get up to the Osceolas... week after week of beautiful views!