Working title: "Throwing down the proverbial gauntlet"
Peaks: East Osceola, Mt. Osceola
Trails: Greeley Ponds Trail, Mt. Osceola Trail
Mileage/time: 7.6 miles, 3200 feet of gain, book time of 5:25, actual time of 4:53
Fifteen days. Fifteen days since I last summited, anything. That's a problem, and I'm not going to lie, there was a bit of summit fever going on today. Thankfully, conditions today permitted the summit fever to go off without issue. Lately, hikes have been starting before the sun comes up. Today was a nice change, waking up in my bed, with the sun already up. It was a nice leisurely drive up to the mountains, and it looked like the weather wouldn't be too bad. As I came along the Kanc, I caught a glimpse of Passaconaway, wreathed in clouds, looking majestic as always. Looks like I may have to climb it soon.
I arrived at Greeley Ponds trailhead, to a nearly full lot, and managed to squeeze into a spot next to the snowbank. After gearing up, I started up the trail at 8:55, with clouds in the sky, wearing base layers. Nice temperatures to start the month! Shortly, I passed a lady I'd seen heading up the trail as I was getting ready, she was making a trip to the ponds. The trail was solidly packed, and I knew the trail would be broken the whole way. This was somehow comforting, mostly because I wanted nothing to do with trail breaking. I must have been excited by that fact, because I reached the junction in a mere 28 minutes.
Now comes the fun! Mt. Osceola Trail doesn't muck around when ascending from this side, it basically just gets steep and stays that way. The broken track was nice and grippy though, and made ascending a breeze, very little slipping and sliding. I was passed by one lady already on her way down, early riser, and ran into two guys just below the first really steep section, they told me there were at least three people ahead of them. Up, up, up, relentlessly steep, into the clouds. By the time I reached the slide, I was enveloped, and there were no views to be had.
The outlook just before East Osceola provided a bit of a rime spectacle on the trees, I stood for a minute, cooling down, looking out into the vast white nothing.
As to not cool down too much, I pushed on, over the summit of East Osceola, and just kept going. I didn't even see the cairn. Quickly down to the col, I ran into the group of three that I had been told about earlier, as they were starting to ascend the chimney bypass. The bypass was in good shape, and we made it no problem. These three would follow me to the summit.
Beyond here, it was a lot of rime coated trees, and harsh light, as the sun tried its damnedest to make an appearance. I soon crested the summit, and was greeted with a veil of white, and some snow covered rock ledges. We went to the true summit, just to the west of the ledges, and then returned. They had asked my name, and I now feel ashamed to not remember theirs, but recognized it from the conditions reports I post. Even went so far as to call me a celebrity! They started down, and I put on my shell, had a snack, and took in what little there was to see.
For the descent, it was a simple reversal. I ran back into the group of three just above the chimney bypass, and then ran into several other groups on their way up. The guys I ran into down below the steeps made it to East Osceola just as I was returning to it, they're from my area come to find out, and by the looks of it, they had a rough time coming up the steeps with just bareboots and traction. Snowshoe skiing was the name of the game, and I made crazy time down to the junction. I ran into a couple more groups coming down from the ponds, and one pair of cross country skiers coming up, then before I knew it, I was back at the lot.
It was a quick hike, but it was good to have check marks instead of blanks!