Right around 7, Ian, his dog Marlie, Theresa, Patrick, and a hiker from Views From the Top (Deb? I'm terrible with names...) and her dog Harley (yea, Marlie and Harley meant confusion time!) met at the trailhead for the Greeley Ponds Trail off the Kancamagus Highway. With trailhead temperatures around 7-8 degrees, it was quite a bit warmer than the -10 of the day before, and we took our sweet time getting going. Marlie and Harley were not getting along great, so Deb and Harley took off 10-15 minutes ahead of us, figuring that the dogs would do better together once on the trail. Also leaving ahead of us was a solo fellow on skis, who is trying to ski all of the 48 4000-Footers this winter!
The first 1.3 miles on the Greeley Ponds Trail is a gentle warmup, though it was welcome as I was trying to loosen up a tight muscle in one of my legs (which never did totally loosen up, but it was good enough that I didn't end up having to turn around as I initially feared I might have to). Snowshoes went on at the car, and with the nice snowshoe trough from all the traffic the day before, it was a really pleasant hike to the top of Mad River Notch, where the Northern terminus of the Greeley Ponds Trail resides.
A short snack break later and we began the climb. This trail starts off steady, but after a short stretch of traversing, gets to climbing in a hurry. In total it is only 1.5 miles from the junction to the summit of East Osceola, with 1800 feet of elevation gain, but the bulk of that climbing is done in roughly 1 mile. Shortly into the actual climbing section we ran into the skier on his way down. There wasn't enough snow cover for him to ski down, so he was off to find somewhere else to go for the day.
This trail frequently requires crampons in winter, but the snow was pretty grippy and aside from a few short stretches that took some care, the ascent wasn't too tricky. The slide crossing near the top of East Osceola, which is a definite no-fall zone and was extremely icy last winter when I went up this trail with an AMC group, was actually nicely filled with snow and was one of the easier spots to ascend in fact. Still, none of us was looking forward to the descent later in the day. We also still hadn't run into Deb and Harley, they were apparently making good time.
|Pano from the East Osceola slide crossing|
|Mount Carrigain with the fire tower platform visible on top|
|Across the Kancamagus Highway toward Carrigain (C) and the Hancocks (L)|
|The Mount Osceola Trail ascends from near the pond, under the cliff to the left, then gets climbing fast!|
|Mount Kancamagus across Mad River Notch - a completely trailless New Hampshire 100-Highest Peak|
|Franconia Ridge (R) and the Kinsmans (L) from the viewpoint below East Osceola|
|Mount Osceola from below East Osceola|
|The Tripyramids from the viewpoint right near the summit of East Osceola|
|Non-descript summit of East Osceola|
Many people assume this is the summit when coming from the Kancamagus Highway, but in fact it is a couple hundred feet away up the trail and on a short side path. When you hit a big rock with a great view of the Bonds and Franconia Ridge, you've found the summit.
|Looking towards Owl's Head (wooded lump in center), nestled between Franconia Ridge and the Bonds. The snow-capped peak of Garfield is dead center behind Owl's Head.|
|Mount Osceola from partway down to the col between the Osceolas|
|Pano Northward from the true summit of Mount Osceola|
|Franconia Ridge from Mount Osceola's summit|
|Mount Washington (with a cloud...) between the Hancocks and Carrigain|
|The Bonds, with South Twin in the background from Mount Osceola|
|Pano from the Mount Osceola ledges|
|Mount Washington from the Osceola ledges|
|The ridge back to East Osceola|
|The Tripyramids, with the North slide abundantly visible|
|The gang on Mount Osceola|
|Blue skies, low winds, warm temps. A wonderful day!|
Route: Greeley Ponds Trail, Mount Osceola Trail (out-and-back to Mount Osceola)
Peaks: East Osceola (4156', NH4K), Osceola (4340', NH4K)
Mileage: 7.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 3100 feet
Book Time: 5hr 20min (actual time 6hr 50min)