Are you willing to step off the marked trails and bushwhack through a wall of trees? If so then the East Osceola Slide may be one of the most rewarding climbs in the Whites. It has ice bulges, snowy pitches, breathtaking views and everything else you expect from an alpine climb except for other climbers.
The East Osceola Slide rises from Greeley Pond parallel to the old Mt. Osceola Trail. It has two branches and almost looks like a ski trail. According to Steve, from Mountain Wandering, this slide was formed in 1892 and was used as a descent route from Mt. Osceola before the trail was built. These days it is occasionally descended by backcountry skiers. Beyond that it is hard to find much information about this slide which leads me to think that is rarely climbed. We first saw it last year while climbing a slide on the other side of Greeley Pond last year. We have wanted to go back ever since and now was the time.
Our plan was to start at the Greeley Pond trailhead, hike 1.5 miles to the pond and set up camp close to the base of the slide. From there we would find a route to the slide, climb it and return to camp.
The hike to Greeley Pond from the trailhead is 1.5 miles of easy going through a beautiful forest. Before long we found ourselves at the pond with the East Osceola Slide looming above us. The trees around Greeley Pond are dense and the ground is rarely level which made it challenging to find a suitable campsite so we ended up setting up camp in the exact same spot we used last year.
We quickly set up camp and stowed any gear that was not essential for climbing. We knew the slide was near our camp so we planned to bushwhack through the densely packed pine trees until we hit the slide. Once we climbed the slide we knew that we were facing another bushwhack that would lead us to the current Mt. Osceola trail and back to camp. Beyond that we didn’t know what to expect.
Moving through the trees with packs was extremely difficult. We tripped, got stuck between trees and even had to take our packs off to squeeze between narrow openings but we kept moving forward and there it was.
Somehow we emerged onto the slide in the perfect spot. To our left was a dense thicket of trees and to our right was the slide; we went right.There were no boot tracks in front of us; it had been awhile since anyone had climbed here.
After the first pitch we were greeted with a gentle snow climb which reminded me a lot of Shoestring Gully. The East Osceola slide looked like it would be a series of steep pitches separated by snowy sections; just like Shoestring. At some point the slide separates into a left branch and a right branch. The separation is hard to spot but we chose the left branch because it looked like a better route.
There is no guidebook for this climb so we didn’t know when it would end. Eventually the trees got smaller and the route narrowed which meant we were getting near the top and the climb would probably soon come to an end.
The end of the slide is not a glorious summit; instead it is a wall of trees that we would need to bushwhack through. On this climb the journey really is the destination. We reached the top of slide just as darkness was setting in. We took a minute to have a snack, put on headlamps and change out of our frozen gloves; then we headed into the trees.
Our plan was to bushwhack to our right until we met up with the Mt. Osceola Trail. By this point we were tired, it was dark and temps were in single digits and the narrowly spaced trees were unforgiving. We had to zig zag around thickets of pines to find passable routes. I had to take my pack off to get through narrow spots several times.
The next day we packed up camp and hiked the easy 1.5 miles back to the car. The East Osceola Slide is one of the most exciting routes that we have ever climbed. I am almost hesitant to write this report as I feel I am sharing one of the best kept climbing secrets in the Whites. However if you are looking for a technical ascent in the Whites that is off the beaten path; this is it!