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Mt Flume And Liberty Via Flume Slide

June 18th, 2016

Due to some work obligations, a knee injury, and travel It’s been a while since I’ve been back in the White Mountains of NH. Today Conan and I returned! I decided to head into Franconia Notch and hike up Mt. Flume and Liberty. I’ve been on these mountains several times before but this would be a first for Conan!

There’s a few different ways to hike these mountains. The easier route would be to take the Osseo or Liberty Springs trail as an “in and out”. Today I was looking for a bit of a challenge and decided to take Flume Slide Trail. I’m still recovering from a knee injury from December, but I was feeling strong and ambitious today.

Flume Slide trail is known for its notoriously steep wet slab climb to the summit of Mt. Flume. I was apprehensive to take Conan up this trail since it’s not very dog friendly, but he’s done some steep climbs with me before so we went for it.

The weather forecast for the day looked great, mid-high 80’s, sunny, dry, low wind! 

The Pemi Trail

At the trail head! Conan was so stoked... Don't let his face deceive you.

At the trail head! Conan was so stoked… Don’t let his face deceive you.

We parked at the Liberty Springs parking lot off of 93N. From here we took the short Pemi Trail. This trail is very tame and only 1/2 mile long. It winds through some relatively flat areas and leads you down to the paved recreational bike path. 

The Bike Path

Crossing the river on the Bike Path

Crossing the river on the Bike Path

The Pemi Trail ends at the bike path. Once  on the bike path we took a left and continued on the paved road. I put Conan on a leash here to keep him close by and prevent any accidents with cyclists speeding by. We continued on the bike path for 1/4 mile. We crossed over the Pemigewasset River over the Whitehouse bridge. 

Liberty Springs Trail

Finally, onto a real trail… The Liberty Springs trail starts out pretty easy but has a few ups and downs. There are several water crossings along the way, today all of them were fairly easy to rock hop over.

Flume Slide Trail

About 3/4 of a mile after getting on the Liberty Springs trail is the junction with Flume Slide trail. We turned right and continued on.

Conan stops to smell the roses... or something gross. Who knows.

Conan stops to smell the roses… or something gross. Who knows.

Flume Slide trail starts out deceivingly easy. It’s a pleasant walk through beautiful lush forest this time of year. We had set a nice brisk pace in this section.

Along the first 1-1/2 miles of trail are several water crossings, all are pretty easy. The last two are larger and could result in a foot dunk, not the end of the world today… it was already about 80 degrees out!

Getting steeper

Getting steeper

After about 2 miles in the trail steepens dramatically and becomes a loose pile of gravel and rock. Our pace began to slow and I started to focus on foot placement to keep my bad knee in check.

As we moved further up the trail became increasingly steeper and at some points felt more like a rock climb than a hike!

Some hikers ascending the first large slab scramble

Some hikers ascending the first large slab scramble

This guy!

This guy!

I let Conan do his thing while keeping a close eye on him. He managed to navigate around large obstacles off-trail and scurry up the wet slabs of rock. Really impressive to watch him here!

Further up the rock became wet and incredibly slippery, the steep grade continued on for another mile.

Dramatic action shot!

Dramatic action shot!

2 hours after staring this hike we popped out at the top of the trail at the Osseo trail Junction. This part of the trail seemed so easy and gradual compared to what we had just experienced.

Stair master

Stair master

Turning around the final corner we were rewarded with an incredible view of Mt Flumes Summit just a few feet away.

Topping out on Flume Slide.

Topping out on Flume Slide.

Mt. Flume Summit!

Approaching the top!

Approaching the top!

We climbed up the ledges to the summit of Mt Flume. This makes #31 for Conans NH 4000 footers list! It was beautiful up at the summit. Blue sky, high visibility, warm temperatures and low wind… can’t be beat!

We didn’t hang around long. We started down Franconia Ridge Trail towards Mt. Liberty.

Franconia Ridge Trail

The section of Franconia Ridge Trail between Mt. Flume and Liberty is very gradual and easy on the knees. There’s some long stretches of soft spongy ground which is a nice change after dealing with harsh rocks. We hustled along the Franconia Ridge Trail and made conversation with some other hikers as we passed by. 

Scramble before Liberty's Summit

Scramble before Liberty’s Summit

The last stretch before the summit turned into a bit of a scramble, but it’s not very long.

Mt. Liberty Summit!

About a mile later, and 3 hours after starting this hike we reached the summit of Mt. Liberty. This makes #32 for Conan’s NH 4000 footers!

Liberty's Summit... Conan was hot.

Liberty’s Summit… Conan was hot.

Looking towards Owl's Head and the Pemigewasset wilderness

Looking towards Owl’s Head and the Pemigewasset wilderness

The summit was a little crowded, but we managed to find a spot to sit for a few minutes and enjoy the views. I fed Conan some pepperoni and his lunch. I gave him a little more time than I usually would as he was panting a lot and seemed very hot. 

Looking over at Cannon

Looking over at Cannon

Last view of Liberty's rocky summit

Last view of Liberty’s rocky summit

Franconia Ridge Trail

Looking up towards Little Haystack

Looking up towards Little Haystack

Now back on the Franconia Ridge Trail heading towards Liberty Springs. I felt like I wanted to add more mileage to the day but wasn’t sure what to do.

As we approached the intersection of our route back down Liberty Springs I made a game time decision to keep on trucking towards Little Haystack Mountain on Franconia Ridge. Not an official 4000 footer but a beautiful view none the less! Not to mention it would push our mileage up for the day… which was exactly what I was looking for.

As we progressed towards Little Haystack Conans pace started to slow and he was clearly tired. The heat, and strenuous climb up Flume Slide was getting to him. 

We were about 1/4 of a mile from the summit of Little Haystack when I ran out of water. If I was alone I’d probably push forward and tag the summit, then turn back. But I had Conan, and he was hot and tired. 

That’s when we turned around. We had covered 1.6 miles. We were close, but it wasn’t worth it. There’s no water source anywhere near the summit of Little Haystack and I knew Conan needed to cool off and hydrate. We headed back in the direction we came from towards the intersection we had previously passed. This added diversion added 3.2 miles to the trip and I enjoyed the walk.

Liberty Springs trail

We got back to the Liberty Springs junction pretty quick. We turned down and started our decent.

Shortly later we arrived at the Liberty Springs tent site which has a fresh water spring nearby. I refilled my camelbak and Conan drank some ice cold fresh mountain water… he instantly bounced back to life! We took a short break here so Conan could cool off a bit. Once he stopped panting we moved on.

The descent down Liberty Springs trail is gradual but very rocky. We moved at a casual pace.

Final stream crossing

Final stream crossing

There are two larger stream crossings near the base of Liberty Springs trail… today they were fairly easy. Conan took an accidental dip, but he didn’t seem too upset by it!

About 2.9 Miles later we arrived at the Liberty Springs trailhead on the bike path, we walked back through the Pemi trail and back up to the parking lot we had parked at.

Summary

At the end of the day we had covered 12.3 miles and 4100 feet in elevation gain/loss. This included our little added adventure down Franconia Ridge Trail and back. It took us 5 hours 45 minutes to complete including breaks. It was a great day in the mountains! The rocky exposed summits of Liberty and Flume are always a memorable experience and today was no exception. Conan only has 16 mountains left before he completes his 4000 footers of NH!

Hiker, climber, father, and husband. The mountains have become a tremendous source of inspiration, physical challenge, fitness, motivation, and enrichment for me. I love the gear, and technical aspects of climbing. I also enjoy sharing this other type of lifestyle with people who haven't experienced it!

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