Friday, June 26, 2009
Peaks Bagged: Middle Osceola, West Osceola, Osceola, East Osceola, North Tripyramid, MIddle Tripyramid, South Tripyramid
Miles: 25 (+/-)
Elevation Gain: 9,600' (+/-)
This list known as The Trailwrights 72 has become my white whale of sorts. For the last 2 or so years I've hiked, crawled, scrathed and whacked my way through the White Mountains of New Hampshire with the final goal of completing the list of 72 peaks above 4,000 feet in elevation. The trick to this list is that you can only count one peak per hike. I guess you can say this journey started back in 1992 along the slopes of Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch. And today, 17 years after my first peak, I was hunting down number 71 and the final bushwhack on my list. Not only that, but the Vermont 100 is coming awfully close and a few mountain adventures which include mild torture to my legs are on tap. Today was one of those days.
Adam and I parked at the Livermore Road trailhead, threw our ultra-light packs on and started walking up Tripoli Road. Tripoli Road connects Waterville Valley with Woodstock, NH for its entirety it is paved though I think there still may be a few short sections of dirt. We climbed the road briskly with a long day ahead of us passing by numerous roadside camping sites. The local streams were running full and fast after the last month of rain we've had. It was all ready a rather humid and muggy morning. The forecast called for scattered sever thunderstorms. We definitely were in the mood to take our chances. A few cars drove by us, rather early in the morning as well seeing as we had a 7:30 start from the car. One of the vehicles was a pick-up truck that came out of the Osceola Campground. After the truck went by, the scent of Mary-Jane wafted freely through the air for quite some time.
We came upon the Osceola Trailhead parking lot and immediately took to the trail. We speed-hiked up the mountain while still maintaining decent conversation about this and that. You never know what it is that we'll end up talking about, I think one of the more memorable conversations was about how much of an idiot Rush Limbagh is (more on this later). The trail was rather muddy in places and the rocks were slick. All of the tiny streams, many of which typically lie dormant were flowing. Its been a very wet June in New Hampshire indeed. As we reached the ridge crest of the mountain, We came to a switchback where a small herd-path headed off into the woods. It wasn't long before I questioned whether or not I we had taken the right path. Regardless, we came to an end and I pointed Adam off into the trees... the swallowed him whole. The bushwhack began.
(The right herd path?)
(Into The Wild)
We pushed our way through some early areas of thick evergreens. They scratched and clawed at our legs and arms, ripping the skin open and spewing a little blood. It didn't take long for Adam to find us the herd path which we followed all the way to Middle Osceola (4,200'). I'd all ready been to this peak but it was Adam's first time. He opened the glass jar to take the register out from inside. We made a short video of the event since it was too wet to sign our names into and I snapped a pic of my joy at returning to the middle peak.
(The Saturated Video)
(All Smiles On The Return To Middle O)
After wringing out the trail register that was sitting in a glass jar half filled with water, we tried to write our names with very little luck and simply stuffed the notebook back into the jar and gave up. We left Middle Osceola and headed further west through the thick coniferous forest towards the rocky nubble known as West Osceola. It was easy going as far as bushwhacks go from Middle to West as a well trodden herd path has been worn into the soil here as well. There were very few places where we needed to squeeze through our walk around... in fact I know a few busier summits that require more effort to get to then this. Regardless, after walking down quite aways along the ridge, we finally climbed again and came to a rock. We climbed to the top of the rocky outcrop and here we were treated to some of the finest views in the Whites, at a place seldom visited but by only a hearty few.
(Adam tops out on the rocky top)
(The View Back to Middle O and The Ridge To Big O)
(The Hancocks From West O)
After taking in the views and snapping a few shots, we ducked back into the woods for the very short jaunt the rest of the way to the summit canister. The summit area (4,114') is very small and the top of this peak reminded me of one of the mountains you drew as a young kid. The sharp triangle with a stick figure barely keeping his balance on the top. Through the trees once more and we saw a one foot section of PVC pipe tied to a tree. We popped off one of the plastic ends and watched as the water poured out from inside once again. This time, the ledger had been stuffed inside a ziplock baggy. And even the baggy was saturated, a true testament to the amount of rain we've experienced this June. Adam took out his wallet and retrieved a receipt from Lowes Hardware. We used the pencil from inside to scratch our names and date on the paper with Adam's credit information (hehe) and I took out my camera to try shooting another video to show you folks (who don't know) what this peak-bagging thing is all about. Of course, I wasn't very good at the multi-tasking and the PVC pipe fell from the tree while filming.. woops!
(Adam Enjoys The Sweet Success)
(West Osceola Peak-Baggers)
After fixing the tube and hanging it back in the tree, we headed back through the thick, not so thick, woods to Middle Peak and continued to follow the well trod herd path towards the main trail we left less then 2 hours ago. Along the herd path we found the old wire that ran communications from the old Osceola Fire Tower to the valley below. We followed this until we popped out back on the main trail and realized that we did indeed enter at the wrong location earlier and we were a tad too low on the main trail. Either way, we completed our whack for the day and the party was on!
We made quick work of the rest of the trail and soon came out of the woods and out onto the summit cliff of Mount Osceola (4,315'). We took our packs off and enjoyed what sun had FINALLY poked out of the clouds in this dreary rain filled place known as New Hampshire. We enjoyed views off to the West at peaks like The Tripyramids, Chocorua, Passaconaway, Whiteface... Waterville Valley Down Below, Tecumseh and East Osceola. We still had many miles to cover. As we reviewed our plan from this high vantage point, it was easy to see that we were feeling as if our eyes were a bit bigger then our legs. There was only one way to find out and after much goofing around... we decided to move on.
(No! Don't Jump!)
(The View of The Tri's - Check out the slide on the left.. we go up that later!)
(Enjoying the Sunshine with East O behind me)
We headed off of the main summit of Osceola and headed East on the Osecola Trail for the East peak. And so it began, our rather tedious trip along the ridge picking our way through the rock garden. Rocks were once again strewn about this way and that. And where there were no rocks there was shoe sucking mud. It was quite the slow going event, but we were eventually able to get some fleet out of our feet along the way. That is until we came to the chimney. About 50-75' straight down, a nice little rock scramble. We made quick work of it (lucky I didn't fall on my face) and we began the steep steady climb to the top of East Osceola where we spotted a white sea shell amongst the rocks that made up the summit cairn.
(Adam Descending the Chimney)
We didn't stop long as the journey down off of East Peak is even more time consuming as the trail follows along an old rock slide. The footing was very loose and granular in many places and we were forced to sit on our butts and scoot our way down off of some of the more peculiar places. It had been some time since I'd been here and it's always steeper then I remember. Regardless, we picked our way through the rocks and down to a more manageable level below the East Osceola Slabs. Soon the trail leveled out entirely and we were on the Greely Ponds trail. We took a hard right and began our run back for the car at Livermore Road. We quickly came upon the Mud Ponds settled within Mad River Notch, we stopped to soak our hats in the cool water before carrying on. From here, the trail follows the headwaters of the Mad River, crosses many of the tributaries that feed into it and dumps us out all the way back down onto the Livermore Trail which led us to the car. It took us 6 Hours (+/-) and we had made a successful loop of all 4 of the Osceola's.
(The View Down East O)
Upon reaching the car we noticed the sky getting darker as a thick layer of grey had settled in over the whites. The sun was now gone and the winds had shifted. It was muggy and humid and we even thought we heard a few rumbles of thunder. But being the reckless two that we are, we simply refilled our bottles, dumped off our trash and un-needed items, threw the packs back on our backs and headed off down the trail once more. This time... we were off to get the 3 Tripyramids as well with a loop up and down the North and South Slides. We headed up the Livermore Road which seems to go on forever! Its only actually 3 or so miles, but after the first flat mile and a half, it goes up and up and up. And when you get to the end, you take a right into the woods and onto the North Tri Slide Trail. We came to a small stream that was flowing high. Adam decided to balance along a log, me? I just walked right through the frigid water that was so cold it hurt my feet. From here, you guessed it, the trail goes up and up and up some more. You travel maybe a mile into the true base of the North Tripyramid slide. The slide starts out as a jumble of moss covered rocks with water trickling down from above, and it eventually turns into an all out rock climb. The upper portions of the slide are at a 50-60 degree angle and requires you to pretty much rock climb some of the way if you choose to not crab onto local growth. Its a fun experience, and I'll freely admit that at times its even a bit hair raising. What I like the best about it is that when you pop out onto the trail it's all of 50' from the top.
(Adam heads up the moss covered remains)
(View of the upper "mess")
We reached the top of North Tri and ran right over it after touching the high spot (like true peak-baggers do... and on the TRUE highest point). We continued down off the top and ran the ridge rather quickly over to Middle, over the top of that and off to South. We reached the top of South Peak and then immediately started to head down the South Slide. This slide is vastly different then the North Slide where as the south slide is comprised of the decaying pink conway granite. The felspar inside the granite (I could be wrong on this) reacts with water in that water causes it to decay and disintegrate. This is also how the Old Man of the Mountains fell from his cliffside perch. Its a real mess to run down, yes RUN down as the tiny rocks began to fill our shoes. We ran past a few hikers on their way up who asked us where the slide was. "You're on it"... "Oh... how far to the top?" Yes... the classic questions of a sweaty tired hiker. We gave them the good word and continued our run down off the mountain. Once you reach the base of the slide, the trail is actually a very fun downhill run through a great hardwood forest, along another raging brook with numerous cascades. We trudged through some of the water crossings getting our feet soaked. We quickly came back out onto the Livermore Road and we blazed our way back to the car. We only stopped along the way to soak our bodies in the frigid waters of the Mad River, which we had run through and around its tributaries all day long. There is no more fitting way to end an amazing journey. We ran all the peaks we had planned and when we got to the car, we only wished our ladies would allow us to play a little longer as we had plenty of gas to summit Tecumseh... just not enough time. Regardless, we completed the tri's in around 3.5 hours, our entire day in under 10 and even made it home for dinner.
(Adam pauses on South Slide with Sandwhich Mountain and Lost Pass in the distance)
(Through the River - Movie)
(The cold soak... he even LOOKS cold for the cam!)
To many more adventures... happy trails