An Ascent of East Osceola Slide

grantascentAre 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.

routeThe 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had no way to know what the conditions on the slide would be so we packed ice and snow climbing gear. It felt good to be prepared but it also felt heavy!

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMoving 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.

slidestartSomehow 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.

prepA 30ft-ish ice bulge lay in front of us so we put on crampons, double backed harnesses and readied ice axes since they would surely be needed.

climb4The first pitch had an ice route and a snow route. I chose to avoid the ice and snow climb around the ice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe began to set up a belay but soon realized it was not necessary and everyone in our group picked and ascended their line.

climb1After 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.

climb6We encountered pitch after pitch and each one was unique. Sometimes we had to front point, sometime we had to kick steps and we even had to climb a few rocks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe view behind us kept getting better and better. We couldn’t believe we had this climb all to ourselves. We managed to safely climb the whole thing without ropes and without setting protection.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe snowdrifts on the slide were waist and even chest deep at times which is amazing since snowfall is low this year. I can’t imagine what the snow is like on a year with big snowfalls!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere 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.

nightgrant30 minutes later we victoriously emerged onto the Mt. Osceola Trail! It felt great to be able to stand and walk without having to navigate through trees or a wall of ice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe joyfully descended the steep 1.5 miles back to camp under the light of an almost full moon.

downWe arrived back at the camp feeling tired and hungry but thankful for the adventure we just had. We ate some food, changed into dry clothes and had no problem falling asleep.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 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!

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3 thoughts on “An Ascent of East Osceola Slide

  1. Pingback: What to do this weekend: 2/14/14

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