Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mounts Flume & Liberty - Solo Hiking


Mt Flume (4,328ft)
Mt. Liberty (4,459ft)

Total Elevation Gain: 3,900ft
Trails: Bike Path, Whitehouse, Flume Slide, Franconia Ridge, Liberty Springs Trail/Appalachian Trail
Distance: 10.4 miles roundtrip
Duration: 9.0 hrs (includes stops for breaks along the trail, and at both summits)

My 4000+ Peaks #18 & #19 respectively
Listed 4000+: #25 & 18 respectively
The Terrifying 25 List: Flume Slide Trail
Difficulty: Strenuous
Danger: Medium to High (exposed/steep sections, rock scrambling)
Rock Scrambles: Parts of Flume Slide - Class II+

Oh my heck! Oh my heck! Oh.My.Heck! What a funtastic day for hiking and rock scrambling. I had no idea how fun this would be. I thought the Caps Ridge Trail to Mt. Jefferson and the White Dot Trail to Monadnock Mountain was a blast. But this scramble to the summit to Mt. Flume, this was epic! Let me back up a bit.......

I was the second person parked near the bike path entrance of the Flume Gorge parking lot. I quickly geared up and slung my 20lb backpack on. I packed the usual emergency shelter, extra (winter) clothing, survival kit, first aid kit, camera, food, water, sports drinks. And I had left my itinerary of trails I would hike with  my immediate family. I extended my trekking poles knowing full well that on the steep ledges I would put them away. I rechecked my map once more and started up the bike path. 

At 0.9 mile is the start of the Liberty Springs Trail. This trail is part of the Appalachian Trail and is wide and well traveled. For the most part it was dry with just a few spots of muddy areas. The trail climbs moderately and at the junction of the Flume Slide Trail, a young father and son passed me. All week I had been checking the weather reports and it was sunny all week leading into the weekend. So with all that dry weather, I was really counting on the Flume Slide Trail being dry. I turned right onto the Flume Slide Trail.......


The Flume Slide Trail starts off easy with several water crossings and good footing. Also, some parts of the trail was narrow. I was excited as I knew I was getting closer to the base of the ledges when there was alot of loose gravel on the trail...much like the bottom portion of the White Dot Trail to Monadnock Mountain. 



At the base of the very first ledge I rested for a bit. A couple came up behind me and I commented to her about her cool skirt. She told me she loved hiking in it and pulled her skirt up to reveal a connected pant.  I started up the trail behind the couple and the trail was easy, but my trekking poles were annoying me. They got in the way when I tried to climb hand over hand. I rock climb (Class 5), so I stopped off to the side of the trail, retracted my poles and packed them in my backpack. Ah, much better...I was able to climb faster!

I didn't see any but according to the White Mountain Guide, 'there are beaten paths through the woods alongside the ledges that bypass some worst spots'...not that I needed to get off the trail or anything...just sayin'. I found the ascent on this portion of the trail to be fun. This type of climbing is rated as a Class 3, but this is what I came for. I gotta get my climb on and I was stoked even if it was only rock scrambling. For me, scrambling is another way of enjoying the freedom of climbing without any rope and gear. Warning, this last portion of the trail is indeed steep, 1,400 feet of elevation gain and all in a distance of 0.7 mile. How fun is that?! LOL!  





Overall, this section is pure rock scrambling and there are plenty of good foot and hand holds. In addition to large holds, I found plenty of holds in smaller sizes to pinch, surfaces to push off of, and even smeared a couple of times! I also took a couple of photos from the sides of the trail to show the grade.



At the main ridge crest are a couple more signs where Osseo Trail leads to the right and Franconia Ridge Trail leads to the left with the Flume summit just 0.1 mile. I quickly headed up a smaller, steep path and came to a small crag where a couple and their dog were lunching. The views were spectacular!



The slides were AMAZING and I just  had to get a photograph! Imagine ascending this slide! 


There were two dozen folks at the summit with more sitting along the edges of the ridge. I spoke with a father with his 13 yr old son who were making their last hike along Franconia Ridge before his son had to go back to school. More hikers showed up, they had hiked to the summit via the Liberty Springs and Osseo Trails. And a boy scout troupe of 6 boys and two leaders showed up-they packed stoves and lunched on hot ramen noodles. I spent 30 minutes at the summit eating my lunch, taking photos and chatting with other hikers.There are no signs, cairns or benchmarks to distinguish the summit of Mt. Flume. :-(

Mt. Liberty from Mt. Flume summit



I hiked onto Mt. Liberty in just under an hour, it was an easy descent from Flume and I was relieved to finally get to the Liberty summit. My hiking boots didn't give me any problems on the ascent, but I wondered if they'd give me problems on my descent. Btw, this portion of the trail was extremely busy, lots of folks hiking both directions of this trail, many with dogs. I finally summited Liberty and like the Flume summit, checked into Facebook. But I couldn't get a connection for my Peaks app on both summits. So I just took as many photos as I could. 

 Looking back at Mt. Flume




I spent another 30 minutes at the Liberty summit eating, chatting with other hikers and taking photos. The wind started to pick up and it started to get cloudy. I reluctantly made my way down to the Franconia Ridge trail. Soon I would be at the Tentsite on Liberty Springs Trail. I couldn't wait to see that as I had never, ever seen a Tentsite along a trail in my life! 

Mt. Liberty summit from the Franconia Ridge Trail

Franconia Notch from the Franconia Ridge Trail

The Liberty Springs Trail Tentsite - waaaay cool!! There are wooden tent platforms on the right side of the trail, and a spring on the left. I noted that there was a "caretaker" to check in campers and made my way down the trail a bit more until I got to the Caretaker Tent. 


The Caretaker was sitting out on her deck and I chatted with her about camping at the tentsite. She said that the Outhouse is only for solid waste (you peed in the woods) and it was recommended that the spring water be treated/filtered before drinking. You could tell she loves her job. She said that she spent a couple months as the Tentsite Caretaker.....alternating 12 days on and 12 days off. And she let me take her photo!


Other than foot pain, the rest of my descent down the Liberty Springs trail went without any incident. There were folks still coming up the trail, many to camp at the tentsite. And many other hikers making their way down the trail as well.

On my descent my feet were starting to hurt. I had remembered to put my knee brace on at the start of my hike so my left knee wasn't bothering me at all. But my feet started to bother me. Last week I brought my Keen hiking boots into EMS and Ritchie showed me a way to tie the laces so that my toes weren't smashing up against the front of the boot on my descents. That actually helped but I had to re-tie as the laces would loosen every several hours. What I didn't like about these boots was that I could feel every single small rock I stepped on, and it hurt! To relieve some of my foot pain I walked so that I transferred my weight to my quads. By the end of my hike the bottoms of my feet ached and so did my thighs! These Keens are my second pair of hiking boots, my first pair were Merrill's and they were too narrow and I felt every small rock stepped on. Back at the trailhead I couldn't wait to take my hiking boots off. I have to look for new hiking boots, perhaps backpacking ones. And if they don't work, then maybe mountaineering boots. Trial and error....

Overall, this hike was amazing! I would recommend the loop to everyone hiking Flume/Liberty. But make certain you hike it during the dry months. The Flume Slide Trail is very dangerous when wet or icy.

**Photos along the trail were taken with an iPhone camera. The photos taken at the summits were taken with a Canon DSLR.
 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Crow Hills - Rock Climbing

Some rock climbing photos I took while out climbing with the Rock & Ice Climbing meetup group! Besides climbing a couple of routes on the Practice Face, I also got to rappel one of the routes! Crow Hills is located in the Leominster State Forest, MA. Photos taken on the Main Face (80ft) and the Practice Face (70ft).