Sometimes the best adventures are found without a plan or a trail. My friends and I recently bushwhacked through a thick White Mountains forest to climb an unnamed slide near Mount Osceola. We didn’t reach a summit but we did experience an ascent that few, if any, people have climbed this winter.
Our original goal was to spend the weekend climbing a variety of routes in Huntington Ravine but our plan changed once we saw a forecast with subzero wind chills and wind speeds that made standing a challenge. Plan B was to set up camp at Greeley Pond and see what happened from there. We knew there were plenty of slides in the area along with Mount Osceola but we headed to the trail head with just an open mind and no specific goals.
The tiny Greeley Ponds trail head off the Kancamangus Highways was packed with cars which we sort of expected for the last weekend of winter. It was pleasantly surprising to see how healthy the snow-pack looked after seeing bare ground just a few miles down the road in Lincoln, NH.
We had no idea what we would be doing that weekend so we packed shovels, ropes, snow pickets, ice axes and set out to find a suitable base camp.
The hike into Greeley Ponds was a flat example of White Mountains awesomeness with plenty of snow and a light snow falling. It was one of those days when tree branches are full of snow and everything looks like a perfect winter scene from a postcard. The trail was well packed and we probably didn’t need snowshoes but we wore them anyways since it was better than carrying them.
The first 1.3 miles flew by and we reached the junction with Mount Osceola looming in the background. From here we decided to set up camp and then plot our next move.
It was not hard to find a perfect tent site. We quickly made camp and stowed our overnight gear in the tents to lighten our packs.
Now we faced the tough choice of deciding what to do next. The weather was stable with occasional wind gusts. We had Mount Osceola a few miles away and several interesting slides that were visible from camp.
We all agreed that we wanted to climb something steep so we picked the closest slide and went for it.
This slide was at least a mile off of the trail so we had to pick a line and bushwhack uphill through a dense pine forest.
The tree cover got progressively thicker and steeper.
Then we suddenly emerged right at the base of the open slide we had viewed from camp; our line was perfect. The slide looked about as steep as the Tripyramid Slide so we decided to climb as two rope teams. This might not have been necessary but it was great practice.
As we moved onto the climb the wind gusts became sustained strong winds with blowing snow which certainly added to the fun. We climbed in a zig-zag pattern with frequent breaks to evaluate our situation.
Climbing on the snowfield felt like being on Mount Rainier or in Tuckerman’s Ravine and it was even more awesome because we had it all to ourselves. Who knows who the last person to climb here was? Seriously though let me know if you know the answer to that!
Finally we reached a cliff that we were not prepared to climb and we knew it was time to turn back.
The trip down was even more intense than the ascent since it required complete focus to avoid falling but we found ourselves at the base of the slide very quickly.
From there we followed our footsteps back through the dense forest and back to the trail. We got an awesome view of the slide we had just climbed as we passed Greeley Pond on the way back to camp.
It was only 5 pm at that point but we settled into camp, had a hot meal and went to bed super early.
The next morning we woke up, packed up camp and made the easy trek back to the cars.
This adventure certainly was not what we had in mind for the weekend but now that it is done I wouldn’t have wanted it to work out any other way!
I should note that if you do plan to seek an off trail adventure please know what you are doing! Have a map, a compass and know how to use them. Hiking off trail is only awesome if you can safely navigate your way back.