I needed to summit a mountain on Sunday and I wasn’t going to let physical exhaustion stand in my way. Starting a new job with a steep learning curve has been emotionally challenging. I wanted to reaffirm that I can still accomplish anything I set my mind to by sheer force of will.
I’d heard that Mt Flume (4,378 ft) was a tough climb and this Sunday’s hike was no exception. Despite fair trail conditions (soft, but broken out), it was a very tiring ascent and only myself and another climber summited, the third member of our group being too exhausted to climb the last 50 meters.
I was bonking towards the end myself. There are a series of ladders which steeply ascend the final section of the Osseo Trail, about 400 feet below the summit of Mt Flume. These were buried under snow and we had to ascend this section using ice axes and crampons. We climbed each pitch one at a time to prevent a pile-up if one of us slipped and fell. It was slow work and we were already very tired from climbing 3,000 feet and 5.4 miles up to this point.
Our persistence paid off and we were rewarded with spectacular views.
The east side of Flume faces Owls Head, the Twinway, and the Bonds, with Mt Washington and Mt Jefferson visible to the northeast.
To the southeast, lie Mt Carrigan and the Hancocks along the Kancamagus Highway.
To the northwest, snow-capped Mt Lincoln and Mt Lafayette are visible along Franconia Ridge.
To the north is the distinctive anvil of Mt Garfield.
And to the northwest, the massif of Mt Liberty and the Kinsman’ on the other side of Franconia Notch.
Despite the surrounding grandeur, you really need to watch your footwork on Mt Flume as you traverse the summit ridge. One false step and you can fall hundreds of feet. Wind speed is also a factor. When we crested the final ridge the wind was rather mild and only blowing about 20 miles an hour. Under worse conditions, there is a very real danger of being blown off Flume in high winds or suffering an exposure injury.
After a 5 hour and 30 minute climb, we summited Flume at 1:15 pm. Despite our exhaustion, descending was considerably easier and we made the return trip to our cars in 3:30, just as the sun was setting. Total distance was 11 miles in 9 hours with 3,100 feet of elevation gain. It had been a very long day carrying full winter gear with few breaks.
This was my first 4,000 footer of 2010. Weather permitting, I hope to get back up to New Hampshire this weekend.