So there I was, by myself, heading down a completely unbroken trail. It had been an hour or so since I left my father and his friend Mike behind on the way up East Osceola. I met a bunch of other people along the way but no one was heading down the way I was. Most of the year the Osceola Trail heading down Mt. Osceola to Tripoli Rd. is a very popular route. Come winter Tripoli Rd. gets shut down and the trail sees very few humans.
We started at the Kancamagus Highway and headed up along the Greeley Ponds trail. This portion of the trip was fairly easy. All three of us donned snowshoes but the trail was packed enough that they weren’t yet necessary. All too soon it would be obvious that having good snowshoes would make the day much more enjoyable. When there isn’t snow the Osceola Trail heading up East is described as steep and rough. Snow takes away the roughness but can’t do much about the steepness. If you don’t have good snowshoes you will actually start sliding backwards while trying to head up. I’m not going to name any names but 1 of our threesome had snowshoes that were more suitable for flats and rolling hills. For every step forward he slid back about a half a step. It didn’t take long for our companion to see the benefits of having snowshoes like my MSR EVO Ascents with tip to tail crampons and Televators.
My dad and Mike were just planning on doing East Osceola. If for some reason the sky cleared up they would consider heading over to get the view from Osceola. I on the other hand had Osceola in my sights and East was just along the way. I have hiked up all of the New Hampshire 4000footers and was now working on doing them in different seasons or by different routes. In the case of Osceola I had been on the summit in the spring, summer, and fall but never winter. This was my chance to finally get a 4000footer in all four seasons.
As I was heading along the col between the two summits I encountered some people that were having a ton of fun coming back and sliding down the steeper sections. In the back of my mind I thought how fun that would be, but that wasn’t my full plan. When I got to the top of Osceola I came out to no view. This wasn’t a big surprise; the mountain had been in the clouds most of the day. A few times the clouds parted a little bit and there were brief views of Waterville Valley. The summit made a nice place to relax a little and chat with other hikers. I also took this opportunity to have my bagel sandwich. That sandwich sure hit the spot after a few hours of snowshoeing. Lingering too long would only mean that I would be getting cold so I headed off the path less traveled.
At first it appeared that someone had thought of heading down toward Tripoli Rd. It didn’t take long before they realized this was not the way to go and turned around. Soon the trail was all mine. Well me and some small animal whose tracks I kept seeing. There were no signs that any humans had been there in quite some time. No indent in snow to show that there was a path that had been covered. The powder seemed so fresh and untouched. I really could have used my tails to add length to my snowshoes at this point but I didn’t think to bring them. This wasn’t a problem; it just meant I had to work harder as I sunk into the white, fluffy snow. A few times I felt a little sad that I wasn’t able to slide down the steeper slopes of East Osceola. That would have been a lot quicker and easier, but I wouldn’t have this chance to be on a trail all to myself.
Once I made it to Tripoli Rd. I was treated to the groomed cross country skiing trails for the trip back into town. At this point, I have to admit, I was trying to beat my dad back. He was just doing East, then had to head back to the car, and had a 30min. drive back to Waterville. I on the other hand was walking all the way back to the condo. This made me go a little bit faster then I may have normally gone. I knew my mother would be beside herself with worry when she found out I had gone off on my own. The sooner I got back the less anxious she would be. I didn’t know if I had a realistic chance of beating dad but I’m always up for a good challenge. As it turned out me beat me back to the condo, but only by 30min. He offered to come and pick me up once I got off the snow, but I wanted to walk the whole way back. Walking along the blacktop with mountaineering boots can be a little awkward, but it gave me an extra mile and a half on my feet.
Osceola is one of my favorite mountains to climb in New Hampshire. When Tripoli Rd. is open it is a non-technically hike to a summit with pretty cool views. I highly recommend it to anyone starting out with climbing the 4000footers. It is not the shortest hike or the easiest but it gives a great bang for the buck. On a clear day it will give you the views that last forever in your mind and keep you wanting to go back for more.