Mount Flume 4328’
11.2 miles 3150’ Elevation gain
Kevin Judy and Emma
A Tale of Two Flumes Part 1
We weren't sure we were going to hike this weekend, maybe take it off so I could go do something else. The something else I had planned turned from a Sunday/Monday plan to a Monday plan. This freed up Sunday for a hike. Jude worked Saturday and had to work again Monday so we wanted an "easier" hike, and planned to climb Mount Flume on the Osseo Trail. We have climbed this way twice before, the most recent being last June. It's amazing how different the winter hikes are. The Osseo Trail is a nice gradual trail, long, but gradual eventually coming to where it begins getting steep, then beginning a number of switchbacks until it reaches the steep sections where there are ladders. Above the ladders is another gentle hike through the woods, gradually getting steeper, then there is a short steep section before the junction with the Flume Slide Trail. From there it is a short climb to the summit. In June, when it is warm and the spring flowers are still blooming, this seems like one of the nicest "strolls" to a summit in the White Mountains. In February we found it to be long and arduous, even treacherous in spots. After the boring mile and a half slog along the Wilderness Trail to the start of the Osseo, we found the trail sort of packed, but recent snow made snowshoes necessary. Someone had been along the trail in snowshoes and packed it recently, and even with my poor tracking skill, I could tell there were two people ahead of us bare-booting, probably a man and a woman, judging by the tracks. At the first switchback the snowshoer had turned around. At the second switchback the bare-booters donned their snowshoes and the trail was once again broken out before us. Life is Good! Honestly, I don't think we'd make too many winter summits if the trails weren't broken for us. Even so, there was five or six inches of "sugar" snow over crusty, packed snow. This made the going tough, especially in steep places where the loose powdery snow would slide away under our snowshoes and we would slip down on the icy under layer of crusty stuff. At the ladders, this was particularly difficult to deal with, and we almost gave up, but managed to trudge on. This was our maiden voyage in new MSR Lightning Ascents. We had read good reviews and wanting a more aggressive shoe for climbing, we each picked up a pair. We have mixed reviews. While mine worked out OK, Jude didn't like hers. She seemed to be walking on her ankles. I'm not sure that they were strapped down properly, or if they were just not fitting around her winter boot snugly. I'm not sure what the problem was, but they didn't work out for her. I think the snow conditions had a lot to do with our having a tough time with this hike. The under layer was causing us to slip a lot. Eventually we were above the ladders and on our way up the steep section before the trail junction when we saw the hikers who were in front of us coming down. In the realm of "small world" occurrences, we had met this couple a few weeks earlier on the Bunnell Notch Trail. "Yellow Dog" and partner had picked up a water bottle we had lost and returned it by mail to us. I owe him for that, and at least I had the opportunity to thank him in person. Right after this, I spotted a fisher on the trail. He checked me out for a few seconds, then disappeared into the trees. First time for this. Soon we came to that spot above the junction where you suddenly break out of the trees and you're standing on a cliff. The summit is just above, and normally you can look north along the Franconia Ridge. Today it was obscured by clouds. We got up and tagged the summit, having a quick lunch and heading back down in an effort to get home for the Superbowl. We made it back down to the car in roughly half the time it took to hike up.
The next day, Monday, Jude was off to work, and I was off, back to Franconia Notch to meet up with a friend who was willing to teach an old guy about ice climbing. It so happened to be my birthday, and continuing in my tradition of refusing to get old, I was about to embark on a new adventure. I had been looking forward to this for a while now. We had plans and back up plans in place, and as conditions were not the best in the other places we had considered, we chose The Flume. I was so intent on getting the gear together to take the short hike into the gully that I forgot my camera. Just as well, this allowed me to concentrate on what was being taught instead of snapping pictures. Well, in my usual style, I started out with disaterous results and the lesson nearly ended before it started. After getting me into the harness and going over some basics, we went over to an ice column and discussed how to "read" the ice, and how to choose a spot to "take purchase" with the ice tools, or "Cobras". He took one, and swinging it like a hammer back behind his head, he stuck it into the ice perfectly on the first try. He then put his full weight on it to show me that it didn't have to be in far to hold. OK, my turn. I swung it and it stuck in pretty good. I grabbed it with both hands and put my weight on it. I wanted to feel it hold me. I wanted to trust it. It popped out of the ice and smacked me right on the bridge of the nose. Blood ran down my nose and all over the place. The poor guy, he was horrified. Thankfully he was an EMT among other things, and new exactly what to do, and within minutes had dug plenty of first aid gear out of his pack and had me bandaged up and the bleeding under control. He wanted me to go for stitches, but I was like, "Bullsh_t, I want to learn to ice climb. " So, we continued, me with my head wrapped like a mummy and he with more than one sideway glance at this nutty city boy who doesn't know when to give up. Honestly, I wasn't hurt bad. The nose wasn't broken, and except for the blood, I was fine. So, up he went on a short column. He looped the rope and rapelled back down as I did the belay. Then it was my turn. I did OK. My crampons are for hiking, not ice climbing, but they worked out OK. I've got to work on my movements while climbing, though. I'm constantly having more than one appendage free. You go on the three point system where at least three things are secured to the ice, either two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand before you make the next move. I got somewhat better as the day went on and we moved to a taller column. On my last climb I fell, but the belay caught me, so I got to feel that and learned to trust the rope and harness. I had a lot of fun, and learned that I wasn't afraid to do this, which I thought I might be. I thanked him and said I hoped I didn't scare him enough to give up on me. Hopefully, we'll get out and do this again!