Thursday, July 25, 2019

Across the Osceolas: 7/24/19

A traverse across the four peaks of Mt. Osceola: up the East Pond Trail from the Kanc Highway to the height-of-land; bushwhack up the ridge to West Osceola with a side trip down to the top of a slide; herd path/bushwhack combo over Middle Osceola to the Mt. Osceola Trail; Mt. Osceola Trail over the main summit and East Osceola; and exit via Greeley Ponds Trail. A most interesting day!

Pine Brook at the East Pond Trail crossing. The several branches of this brook drain the vast north slopes of Osceola, scarred by a series of slides.

Trailside artifact from the early days (1890s) of J.E. Henry's East Branch & Lincoln Railroad.

Other than one wet, rocky section on a plateau halfway up, the East Pond Trail is a very pleasant path with good footing as it climbs to the 3100-ft. height-of-land between Mt. Osceola and Scar Ridge.


In the ferny col.

The hardest part of the whack was the rather steep 650-ft. climb to the NW shoulder of West Osceola. I picked a poor line at the start and ended up in rough terrain with thick woods, rocks and holes. This necessitated a course correction to the south.

Plenty of blowdown in places.

There was better going higher up on the slope.

No bushwhack is complete without finding a birthday balloon.

An old moss-grown blowdown.

One of the trek's objectives was to try to access the tops of both forks of the westernmost slide on the north slope of Osceola - the V-shaped slide on the right.

I worked my way through dense scrub out to the north edge of the ridge and the day's first views. 

Looking across to West Osceola on the right and flat-topped East Osceola on the left.

A zoom on the eastern fork of the next slide in that direction (the left fork of the Y-shaped slide on the left in the overview photo above). It appears that this slide fork fell in 1995, probably during the same storm that triggered the Dogleg Slide on the central branch of Pine Brook, which fell directly under the main summit of Osceola. 

It was too precipitous to get down to the top of the western fork of the western slide I was investigating. My guess is that this fork fell during the Hurricane of 1938.

I could see down to the lower part of this fork, to the point where it joins the other fork of this slide, and then merges with the bottom of the eastern Y-shaped slide.

A wider view from this vantage, with the drainage below the slides twisting away to the NE.

I went back up a bit, cut across to the south, then dropped down through steep, gnarly terrain in search of the top of the eastern fork of the western, V-shaped slide.

For the second time on this side excursion, the dense cripplebrush worked open a side zipper on my pack. A precious water bottle went tumbling down into this rock cut, sort of a miniature flume. I dropped my pack and slithered down to retrieve the water bottle. 

As luck would have it, the rock cut offered the best access down to the edge of the east fork of the western slide, which fell during Hurricane Carol in 1954. This steep slide was dubbed the “Steaming Gift Slide” by alpine climber Jack Dorsey, in honor of a fresh pile of moose scat he encountered near the top of the slide during a winter ascent in 2007:!i=253873786&k=fPM37SX

Hardcore bushwhackers Leah Haynes Lawry and Adam Kateri Mooshian climbed this slide in July 2018 and deemed it "not for the faint of heart."

Another great vantage point here.

Heading back up through the rock cut.

This GPS track on a satellite photo, created on CalTopo, shows the four forks of the western slides. 

After a strenuous tussle with the scrub I regained the ridge and headed towards West Osceola. The first time I approached West Osceola via this ridge was in early April 2013, on snowshoes with deep cover. On that trip this section was a delightful ramble through open woods. On today's summer trip I discovered that there were many shin-banging blowdowns concealed by the low undergrowth.

On the ascent of the summit cone the woods became wonderfully open.

Unusually sweet whacking at 4000 ft.

I had seen some traces of a nascent herd path on the shoulder, and on the final steep and thick ascent to West Osceola the path became well-defined.

Some well-known whackers had been here on the 4th.

A sweeping view to the peaks around the western Pemi Wilderness a few steps from the summit jar. Classic summer skies!

Owl's Head, Mt. Garfield, the Franconia Brook valley, Galehead Mtn., South Twin and the Bonds.

View of Mt. Tecumseh and Breadtray Ridge from a ledge on the SE side of the summit.

The best view is from a ledge called  "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. Both West and Middle Osceola are on the "Trailwrights 72" list of 4000-footers. (For more on the Trailwrights and the fine work they do, visit Here you look across at Middle Osceola and the Split Cliff with East Osceola behind.

Middle Osceola with Sandwich Dome in the distance.

Osceola's Split Cliff, once reached by a side trail but now a gnarly bushwhack.

The wide northeastern view from Peggy's Perch.

The Presidentials behind the Hancocks. I spent more than an hour here lounging in the sun. I then decided to continue across the other three Osceola peaks rather than negotiate the return bushwhack westward along the ridge.

An obvious herd path is seen below the steep drop off the view ledge.

Prickly woods en route to Middle Osceola. It's true that there is a somewhat intermittent  herd path from West Osceola to Middle Osceola and the Mt. Osceola Trail, but it is tight, prickly, and easily lost. I was on and off it several times. This should be considered a bushwhack route.

Looking back at West Osceola, the Kinsmans and the Franconia Range from a ledge on Middle Osceola.

Zoom on West Osceola.

Vast view south over trailless Breadtray Basin. From about 1915 into the 1950s the Breadtray Basin Trail ascended Mt. Osceola through this valley, following the firewarden's phone line.

A peek at the upper Dogleg Slide under the main summit of Osceola.

Side view of the Split Cliff.

The herd path/bushwhack combo brought me to the Mt. Osceola Trail, and after a short climb I reached the great view ledge at the main summit. The easterly vista was enhanced by slanting late day sun.

The summit area was quiet, with only two couples there for a short time, allowing a Common Junco and a White-throated Sparrow - two of the typical high-elevation bird species - to forage around the ledge.

The White-throat is a handsome bird, and a fine songster.

Waves of mountains to the north, beyond a nearby nubble and East Osceola.

 Cliffs down by the Osceola-East Osceola col.

Great walking along the ridgecrest.

East Osceola looms from a viewpoint just above the col and the famous "chimney."

Two paths diverged, both of them rocky and precipitous: the chimney on the R and the bypass on the L.

Looking down the tricky lower part of the bypass, where, at least for this tramper, the butt comes into play.

Looking up at the bypass.

Looking up the chimney.

The sweeping NW view from the viewpoints halfway up the climb to East Osceola.

East Osceola, the day's fourth Osceola peak.

Backlit ridges sweep down from the Osceolas and Scar Ridge at the western outlook, by the top of the steep descent.

Evening light illuminates the view from the old slide patch crossed by the Mt. Osceola Trail.

Mt. Kancamagus and the K2 Cliff.

Upper Greeley Pond in the shadow of East Osceola.

Mts. Chocorua, Paugus, Passaconaway and Tripyramid.

I must be a glutton for punishment - my second time on this brutal descent within a week.

The great slab beside the trail, still exposed from the old 1892 slide.

Last view of the day, looking up at the cliffs on the NE spur of East Osceola. Thanks to Carol for picking me up at the Greeley Ponds trailhead and saving me a mile-long road walk in the dark!

The next morning, looking at the route across the Osceola peaks from the Hancock Overlook.

No comments:

Post a Comment