Sunday, July 3, 2011

#23 Mt. Flume (and Liberty) July 4, 2009

Mts. Flume (4,328') and Liberty (4,459') via Osseo, Franconia Ridge and Liberty Springs Trails, July 4, 2009.  
Mileage: 10.7 (point-to-point)
Elevation gain: 3800'
Trailhead: The hike begins at Lincoln Woods trailhead on the Kancamagus (Route 112), four miles east of I-93. There is a fee to park and restrooms are available. The hike ends at the Liberty Springs trailhead, off I-93 in Lincoln (take the exit for the Flume Visitor Center and it's .2 miles north of the Visitor Center on the right). 
How fitting to plan a Mt. Liberty hike on the fourth of July!  Today I hiked with Rich, Sandy, Eileen, Art, David, Marie, Norm and his crew (Barb, Stacy, Barb and Peter). 
Eileen had planned this hike the year before but the weather did not cooperate. We all eagerly awaited the rescheduling.
The forecast called for showers and thunderstorms which wound up being very accurate.  We spotted a car, leaving Sandy's car at the Liberty Springs trailhead for the return trip to Lincoln Woods trailhead parking area.
The Osseo trail is gradual and comfortable until the last third of it, where it steepens and there are switchbacks and stairs.  We hiked an hour or two under gray skies and then it started to rain (enough to put on jackets). 

A series of stairs on the Osseo trail.

The rain stopped by the time we reached Franconia Ridge trail.

Here we stopped and had lunch.  As we were chatting, we heard thunder, closer than we'd expected - the storm was coming.  We gathered our stuff and pressed on; we had to reach the summit before the storm hit. 

We hiked up a little nub, turned a corner and directly in front of us was a steep cliff of rock with an incredible drop off. 

Our group hiking the cliff trail.

As dramatic as the scene was, we wasted no time sightseeing and quickly reached the summit, very rocky with scary cliff edges. 

Eileen planned our hike.  Note the thunderheads directly behind her.

Luckily we were able to summit Mt. Flume before the storm came.  The view was spectacular, particularly with the dark thunderheads barreling toward us. 
After a few quick photos, we descended into the woods and walked the ridge toward Mt. Liberty while the thunder and rain hammered the region (no lightning that we could see). 

Wooded area of the ridge sheltered us from the storm.

Just before the Mt. Libery summit, there's one steeply pitched area of rock slab (pitching outward) that was tricky negotiating.  I grabbed the upper lip of the slab and "crab-walked" to the end.

Liberty's summit is a series of huge rock slabs and another angry craggy cliff; not as pretty as Flume’s. To write that though is not really fair considering we were so socked in with fog from the storm that we could see no view, nor could we see the cliff's edge. 

Marie and David on a foggy Liberty summit.

I found the USGS marker, took some pictures and headed toward the Liberty Spring trail.  As we descended the storm cleared and we could see magnificent views of the mountains with mist, clouds and more thunderheads.  Over to the North and South were patches of blue sky. 
The Liberty Spring trail was a never ending journey, steep and uneven.  Rocks were slippery making the going very slow.  No one was at the campground by the time we got there, even the caretaker had left. 
In spite of the thunderstorm, we figured we were no worse for wear on the trip, though a dry trail down would have made things more pleasant.  Our feet and legs were soaked.  But the rain had all but stopped so we took our jackets off about a half mile before the parking lot.
Toward the end of the hike when our sights were set on getting our wet boots off, the sky let go bringing a torrent of water upon our heads.  We were soaked and cold and that was the last straw.  We stopped fighting it and just accepted it. At this point everything was soaking wet so we didn't bother to put on our raincoats but we did pick up our pace.  When we got to Sandy's car we changed but not before totally drenching the inside of the car, fogging up the windows.
The Flume/Liberty hike was beautiful and a lot of fun and continues to have the distinction of being the "wettest hike ever."

Be sure to check out my solo Mt. Liberty trip report.

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