Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Doubling Down in Waterville Valley - July 1, 2012

The goal for day 2 of this weekend was to hike the Osceolas from the Kancamangus Highway, which meant going up the very steep ascent to East Osceola. However, with Tripoli Road closed in winter, this approach is what almost everyone takes to hike the Osceolas in that season, and I wanted to do it to know what I was in for this winter. However, as I constantly seem to do, I changed plans.

After being pretty fast on the Hancocks the day before, I figured I would be roughly the same time to complete the Osceolas from either direction (Tripoli Road being the common summer route). I had a half-day 4000-footer left on my 2012 list in Mount Tecumseh, which is a mere handful of miles down the road from the Mount Osceola Trailhead on Tripoli Road. If I completed the Osceolas in good order, there was no reason I could not add Tecumseh afterwards and still get home at a decent hour. This would also accomplish giving me a longer, harder day, as I have a very long, hard hike upcoming in Maine in a couple weeks (roughly 18 miles, and 5-6000 feet elevation gain!) - Abraham, Sugarloaf, and Spaulding.

So with that in mind I struck out on the Mount Osceola Trail at the "early" hour of 8:45. This approach does not have any steep spots, just poor footing in the lower mile or so with a lot of jumbled rocks. However, I was feeling good again on this day and made short work of the 3.2-mile, 2050-foot climb, hitting the summit of Osceola in a mere 1.5 hours!

I made sure to check out the Northern overlook, which is found via a beaten herd path from the old fire tower ledge at what most think is the summit. The actual summit seems to be at this Northern overlook, which has wonderful views of the Hancocks, Bonds, Franconia Ridge, basically all of the Pemi Wilderness.

Hancocks (left) and Carrigain (dead center)

Up the valley I hiked through the day before towards the Hancocks

The Bonds off in the distance behind Mount Hitchcock

Franconia Ridge, Owl's Head, Garfield, South Twin, Bonds

Franconia Ridge with the Kinsmans and Cannon off to the left partially behind the trees
Then I continued on to the massive East-facing ledge just past the summit along the trail that has awesome views of Waterville Valley.

East Osceola - next destination


Sandwich Dome behind the base of the Waterville Ski Area
A short refuel break here, with only a couple of people up here yet. A few more came in from East Osceola during my break, but I kept it short with the day I had planned. Plus I planned to stay a little when I got back anyway.

Beginning the approach to East Osceola

A little closer to East Osceola
Right before you reach the col between the 2 main Osceola peaks, there is a chimney, a near-vertical rock cleft in the trail. There is a rocky bypass around it that I used to descend, but on the way back I made sure to climb up the chimney itself. It's not hard, there is an abundance of good hand-and-footholds to use to get up, and it's pretty fun honestly. No roping needed.

The bottom approach to the chimney - bypass to the right
The summit of East Osceola is in the woods and pretty boring. The only thing of note was I remembered the carin being smaller there, it's a couple feet tall now which makes it hard to miss. Upon returning to the ledges on Osceola, I snacked and chatted with several people that were there trying to ID peaks (a game I am slowly getting better at). 30 minutes later I finally excused myself and began my descent. You have to spend some time on that ledge on a nice day.

I made good time out, and arrived at the car around 1:45, for a 5 hour time, which I was happy with. I was still feeling OK, though the humidity was building and I only had about 1 Liter of water left. I knew I could fill a bottle up on-trail on Tecumseh, so cruised down the road to the Waterville Valley Ski Area, where the Mount Tecumseh Trail departs.

The weather was getting dark to the North, but there were still plenty of blue skies, so after a call home to get the radar picture (which said I ought to be OK for a few hours), I hit the trail, at 2:25...a bit later than I wanted, but I was going.

The first ~mile of the trail is moderate in grade and with clear footing overall. Shortly before the second major stream crossing that begins the hard climbing, I came across Sue and Earl, bailing on their own double-hike attempt (Waumbek in the morning). Good to see them again, getting close to their grid finish!

After a brief visit, I was off to that stream crossing to fill up a water bottle and drop some Aqua Mira in to purify it. Good excuse for a snack break too! Then the climbing began. The stretch after the upper crossing isn't horribly steep, but it is steepish and it just goes on and on. I passed a lot of people heading down of course, and I wasn't going up particularly fast. But along the way is some of the most impressive rock work I have ever seen on a trail.

Rock-lined drainage bars (even the bottoms), a beautiful, tall rock staircase, there was a little of everything! Huge kudos to the trail adopter Rocket21 (Jeremy Clark) who has been doing this work this year.

Near the top, you meet the Sosman Trail, and shortly thereafter the trail splits with 2 ways to the summit.

I went to the left, which I believe is the Sosman Trail portion, which gets there a little quicker, albeit over some rather rough footing. Soon I was at the summit though, completing the 2.5-mile, 2200-fdoot climb in 2 hours. At the top was a father and son who had come up from the other end of this trail, from Tripoli Road. Someday I plan to take that approach to this peak, it is a little longer with a little more elevation gain, but is far less traveled.

Tecumseh is always bashed for its poor views, which could be expected for the shortest 4000-footer (4003'), but there was actually a nice view towards the Tripyramids that I did not remember from my 2004 visit.

Tripyramids, Sleepers

Whiteface behind the Sleepers
Summit carin
I headed down after a short break. Just above the upper stream crossing there is a short side trail to the ski slopes which offers some nice, if limited, views.

Tripyramids from the ski slopes

Rather not walk down this!
Shortly after crossing the stream, I began to hear some thunder in the distance, which quickened what had been a slow descent to this point (knees were pretty tired). I made it back to the car, got the trunk opened, and it began to pour. Perfect timing! It was 6:00, and my day was done, and the cold rain felt good to stand under for a minute or so before finishing the packing and heading home.

Down to 10 peaks (7 days of hiking) for a 2012 4000-footer finish!

Peaks: Mount Osceola (4340', NH4K), East Osceola (4156', NH4K), Mount Tecumseh (4003', NH4K)
Mileage: 8.4 miles (Osceolas), 5.0 miles (Tecumseh), 13.4 miles total
Elevation gain: 2950 feet (Osceolas), 2250 feet (Tecumseh),  5200 feet total

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