Mount Osceola and East Osceola
November 27, 2004

by Papa Bear

(Photo of East Oscola)
East Osceola as seen from Mount Osceola
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Saturday November 27:
The Osceolas

(Photo of Tecumseh)
Mount Tecumseh and the Waterville Valley Ski Slopes as seen from the Mount Osceola Trail
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Like most of us, I had a bit more calories on Thanksgiving day than I needed. I had a great visit with my son and his in-laws and my two young grandchildren. But the calories were weighing on me. So I talked to Steve and Liz, some friends who lived nearby in the Boston area and we decided to drive up to the Whites and do some hiking on Saturday. Steve and Liz had completed the 48 White Mountains 4000-Footers years ago, so they just asked what was on my plate, and after some discussion in the car we decided to head to Osceola and East Osceola and then complete a loop down to Greeley Pond returning to the car via a road walk along Tripoli road (which I was told, is pronounced Trip-o-LIE). Osceola was a good choice for me since it's one of the 4000-footers in the White Mountains that I had not yet climbed (as is East Osceola), and is also on the the New England Fifty Finest List (mountains with the highest prominence). See Aaron Maizlish's site on Topographic Prominence for an explanation of this term. So I would get to check it off on both lists I am working on.

We were off around 8:00 AM and after getting briefly lost among the condominiums in Waterville Valley, we got to the trail head off of Tripoli Road about 10:15. Our route would take longer than just an out-and-back, but would be more interesting, especially as the Greeley Ponds area was supposed to be very pretty. The sky stayed blue for much of our drive on Route 93, but clouds started to move in as predicted by the time we got our boots on. We were not too worried since rain was not expected till late that night. Although we expected it to get dark sometime by the time we got to our road walk, we all had headlamps and the route after Greeley Ponds (the Greeley Pond Trail and the road walk) would be wide, flat and easy.

We got off about 10:35 with temperatures around 30 and the ground dry. The trail up is rather easy and if it were dry and clear we could easily beat book time. But today there was a lot of ice starting about a mile in and eventually Steve and Liz put on crampons and I put on my Stabilicers which I hoped to give a good test today. We saw one lone hiker coming down and he said it was rather icy up high, but not enough to need crampons. When we got to the ice, and it got worse, we decided either he had not come this far, or he just didn't like crampons. It wasn't that we couldn't bypass or struggle over or around the ice, it was just that we could move much faster and easier with them on. To each his own.

(Photo of trail head
Easy conditions at the trail head
(Photo of ice on trail
But serious ice conditions further up
When we were putting on the crampons and Stabilicers we were passed by a lone woman hiker who was moving fairly well with bare boots. There was also a group of 6 or 7 young people who were struggling along and were just within sight coming up. They looked a bit unprepared for these conditions. Once we had the traction on our feet, we moved along rather nicely and soon passed the woman who had passed us.
(Photo of East Osceola)
View of East Osceola
She also had stopped to put her crampons on. We reached the Osceola summit about 1:00 PM and were soon joined by the woman who introduced herself as Cath. I found out later that Cath is also a member of the VFTT forums which I belong to, and is well known to a number of area hikers. It was nice to unexpectedly meet someone you know from the internet in person (although I didn't realize who she was till later after we exchanged an email after I had put a Trail Conditions report up).

Anyway, we moved on to the view point a little past the summit, and enjoyed the views of the mountains, both near and far. I was especially impressed by the beauty of East Osceola and the connecting ridge line as seen from this close vantage point. There was no ice, to speak of, on the top of the mountain but we kept the crampons and Stabilicers on since we knew there would be more on the steep sections below the summit. And there was. Both on the ledges leading down to the col and again on the far side of East Osceola we encountered nasty sections of ice.

(Photo of Trail to East Osceola)
The Trail to East Osceola
The ridge line over to East Osceola is a beautiful narrow snaking ridge. This time of year when the evergreens have a touch of white highlighting their shapes, and the dusting along the trail made for a "Christmas Card" type of scene. We got to the East Peak fairly easily. The best views were from along the ridge, and again on the trail down to Greeley Ponds. Once past the wooded east peak, the trail has several steep sections and we could see a series of cliffs ahead of us on this side of the ridge. Luckily we would be off the ridge before this very steep section. Our progress was rather slow going down since we took great care to avoid the kinds of falls that are so easy when descending over icy rocks and ledges, particularly where the trail crosses the East Osceola Slide.

We reached the bottom of Mad River Notch about 3:40 and got onto the Greeley Ponds Trail heading back south towards Waterville Valley. We took a break at Upper Greeley Pond and had a late lunch. The ice was now behind us and our crampons and Stabilicers were packed away. We got moving again at 4:00 PM and we knew it would be dark before we could make it to Livermore Road, nearly 4 miles away. But we also knew that the trail had become quite wide and level, and except for a stream crossing we hit just below the ponds, it would be a very fast and easy stretch of trail. The trail seemed to be groomed for skiing and all the water crossings had substantial bridges,
(Photo of Cliffs)
Cliffs on the ridge
above Mad River Notch
Steve thought that the Waterville Valley Ski Resort groomed this trail, although it was completely on USFS land. In any case, we were glad for the way it was, and we made the 3.5 miles or so from the Upper Pond to the road in just 1 hour and 15 minutes. We managed to use just one head lamp and once on the road we turned that out. There was enough ambient light to follow the road rather easily. The road walk was long and tiring, although we made very good time. As we were making our way up through Thornton Notch along Tripoli Road, what do we see peaking over the ridge but the moon, just a day past full! So even tired and in the dark, we enjoyed this sight. We reached the car at 6:20. Yes, it was a great day to be out and the weather gods and even the moon had cooperated. I had completed two new peaks on the White Mountains 4000-Footers List, one of which is also on the New England Fifty Finest List and all of our Thanksgiving caloric guilt was now behind us.

Mount Osceola, elevation 4340', prominence 2040', #41 of the NE Fifty Finest
Mount Osceola East Peak, elevation 4156'

Distance on trails: Mt. Osceola trail: 5.7 miles, Greeley Ponds Trail: 3.8 miles. Total trails: 9.5 miles.
Distance on road walk: Livermore Road: .3 miles, Tripoli Road: 3.0 miles. Total roads: 3.3 miles
Total distance: 12.8 miles

Elevation gain: 3360'

Total time: 7:45

Photo album: Oscolas Album

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