Almost a year had passed since I reached the summit of a 4,000 foot peak in the White Mountains. All of my recent climbs had been focused on technical ascents of ravines and gullies instead of mountains but it was time to reach the top again. We recently did a loop hike of Mount Flume and Liberty that finished the winter season in epic fashion with a front row view of spring’s emergence.
We chose Liberty and Flume because they have some of the best hiking that the Whites have to offer. Our plan was to take the Liberty Springs Trail to the Flume Slide Trail. The slide would steeply take us to the Franconia Ridge Trail where we would summit Flume then Liberty. Finally we would take the Liberty Springs Trail back to the parking lot. This all adds up to a 9.8 mile loop with around 3,700 feet of elevation gain.
We did not know what kind of conditions to expect as we pulled into the trail head. Temperatures were in the 40s at the parking lot with no snow in sight but this can be deceiving when it is the middle of April in the White Mountains. We knew we could encounter snow, mud, ice, dirt, wind and rain which made it challenging to choose footwear. Mountaineering boots and crampons would be ideal when we encountered steep and icy pitches but they would be painful on bare ground. Leather hiking boots and microspikes would be great for traversing miles of muddy trails but the lack of front points would make steep ice difficult. Two of us went with mountaineering boots and crampons while two of us chose leather hiking boots with microspikes.
The slide is the payoff for a trip that had been uneventful until this point. The pitches were about as exciting as it gets without needing a rope and we were finally seeing the first views behind us. I would not recommend descending this route in any season; especially if conditions are wet. We worked our way up the slide until we emerged on the Franconia Ridge Trail just .1 miles from the summit of Mount Flume.
Temperatures had dipped into the 30s, a light snow was falling and wind was thrashing clouds as we began the above tree line approach to the summit. The conditions here were a lot different from the ones at the parking lot.
We could see the clouds briefly parting as we began our traverse to Mount Liberty. We dipped back into the trees and hiked what felt like a short distance with a moderate amount of elevation gain; it felt great to be hiking above tree line again.
We reached the parking lot feeling slightly tired after all those miles. If you are looking for a hike in the Whites, and you are comfortable with the conditions, then Mount Liberty and Flume is one of the best choices!