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Mountaineering Liberty and Flume in February

Hiking Liberty and Flume in February

Mt Liberty and Mt Flume are two 4000 footers on the south finish of Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.  They’re often climbed on the identical day as a result of their summits are solely a couple of mile aside and related by a ridge. In winter, the preferred route is to climb Liberty first after which do an out and again to Flume. Hikers typically check with this hike as climbing “Fliberty” since these two mountains are hiked collectively so typically.

The principle route up Mt Liberty is the Liberty Spring Path, named after the spring that’s adjoining to the Liberty Springs Tent Web site on the west face of the height. There are low-cost tent platforms right here in-season which are overseen by a campsite steward. This path begins on the backside of Franconia Notch and climbs 2.9 miles to the Franconia Ridge Path with 2850′ of elevation acquire. Whereas that’s fairly regular for the White Mountains, it’s a difficult climb as a result of the gradient isn’t fixed, however alternates between straightforward sections and fairly steep and sustained climbs.

Franconia Ridge in Winter, with Mt Garfield to the north
Franconia Ridge in Winter, with Mt Garfield to the north

I climbed Fliberty this previous week with three associates, Beth, Ken, and Wanda, who typically come alongside on my winter hikes. All of us benefit from the train and the views simply can’t be beat. That was very true on this hike, the place we skilled brilliantly clear climate, cheap temperatures, and low wind. We additionally met a number of associates who have been additionally out climbing the peaks which made the journey doubly fulfilling. That’s one of many joys of climbing within the White Mountains for me, coming throughout previous associates I haven’t seen shortly or assembly individuals in particular person, that I do know “on-line.” I actually get pleasure from being part of this group of hikers.

On this hike, the primary half-mile of the path was loosely consolidated snow and naked bootable, however we quickly switched to snowshoes for the climb, utilizing our televators for a lot of the hike. There are wire bails built-in into the again of mountaineering snowshoes that elevate your heels and scale back calf fatigue when snowshoeing up an incline. In the event you attempt to use televators when strolling throughout stage floor, it feels such as you’re strolling on excessive heels.

The frost-blasted summit ledges on Mt Liberty
The frost-blasted summit ledges of Mt Liberty

We turned south after we reached the Franconia Ridge Path and climbed a brief distance to the summit of Mt Liberty, the place we loved incredible views of Mt Cannon, Franconia Ridge, the remainder of the peaks on the Pemigewasset Loop, and plenty of extra to the east and west. The day was heat and the sky was a brilliant blue, often called a “bluebird day” amongst White Mountain hikers.

We dropped down the east aspect of Liberty to the underside of the col between Liberty and Flume earlier than climbing again as much as the Flume Summit. Flume has a slim knife-edge ridge alongside its summit on the prime of the avalanche slides that scar its west face. You may climb that west face in heat climate on the Flume Slide Path, but it surely’s finest averted when lined in ice or snow. It’s additionally a type of trails you solely need to climb up, not down, any time of the yr. It’s simply too harmful to down-climb because the path and ledges on it are all the time moist.

The summit of Mt Flume is at the top of an avalanche slide
The summit of Mt Flume is on the prime of an avalanche slide

It was just a little windier on Flume than Liberty so we didn’t hang around as lengthy however ducked again down into the close by bushes for a fast sandwich and drink. Then it was again down into the col and a climb again as much as the summit of Liberty for one closing view session. There we bumped into Steve Smith, the editor of the White Mountain Information, which describes all 650+ climbing trails within the Whites in huge element and is taken into account the climbing bible for the area. I run into Steve each few years on the paths and it’s all the time good to meet up with him. He additionally owns the Mountain Wanderer Bookstore in close by Lincoln, NH, which has a incredible collection of maps and historical past books about New Hampshire that’s completely value a go to.

Ken, Philip, and Wanda on Liberty - Mt Lincoln behind
Ken, Philip, and Wanda on Liberty – Mt Lincoln behind

Our descent again down the Liberty Spring Path was fairly quick, however the snow had grown gentle within the heat temperatures and started to stay to the underside of our snowshoes, a phenomenon often called snowballing. A very good whack with the trekking poles is often sufficient to dislodge it, but it surely makes your snowshoes noticeably heavier and awkward to stroll on. We shed our snowshoes close to the underside of the path the place the path was agency sufficient to stroll with out them and hoofed down the Franconia Notch Bike Path to the Basin and our vehicles.

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