Mt Liberty and Mt Flume are two 4000 footers at the south end of Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. They’re usually climbed on the same day because their summits are only about a mile apart and connected by a ridge. In winter, the most popular route is to climb Liberty first and then do an out and back to Flume. Hikers often refer to this hike as climbing “Fliberty” since these two mountains are hiked together so often.
The main route up Mt Liberty is the Liberty Spring Trail, named after the spring that’s adjacent to the Liberty Springs Tent Site on the west face of the peak. There are low-cost tent platforms here in-season that are overseen by a campsite steward. This trail starts at the bottom of Franconia Notch and climbs 2.9 miles to the Franconia Ridge Trail with 2850′ of elevation gain. While that’s pretty normal for the White Mountains, it’s a challenging climb because the gradient isn’t constant, but alternates between easy sections and quite steep and sustained climbs.
I climbed Fliberty this past week with three friends, Beth, Ken, and Wanda, who often come along on my winter hikes. We all enjoy the exercise and the views just can’t be beat. That was especially true on this hike, where we experienced brilliantly clear weather, reasonable temperatures, and low wind. We also met several friends who were also out climbing the peaks which made the trip doubly enjoyable. That’s one of the joys of hiking in the White Mountains for me, coming across old friends I haven’t seen in a while or meeting people in person, that I know “online.” I really enjoy being a part of this community of hikers.
On this hike, the first half-mile of the trail was loosely consolidated snow and bare bootable, but we soon switched to snowshoes for the climb, using our televators for most of the hike. There are wire bails integrated into the back of mountaineering snowshoes that raise your heels and reduce calf fatigue when snowshoeing up an incline. If you try to use televators when walking across level ground, it feels like you’re walking on high heels.
We turned south when we reached the Franconia Ridge Trail and climbed a short distance to the summit of Mt Liberty, where we enjoyed fantastic views of Mt Cannon, Franconia Ridge, the rest of the peaks on the Pemigewasset Loop, and many more to the east and west. The day was warm and the sky was a bright blue, known as a “bluebird day” amongst White Mountain hikers.
We dropped down the east side of Liberty to the bottom of the col between Liberty and Flume before climbing back up to the Flume Summit. Flume has a narrow knife-edge ridge along its summit at the top of the avalanche slides that scar its west face. You can climb that west face in warm weather on the Flume Slide Trail, but it’s best avoided when covered in ice or snow. It’s also one of those trails you only want to climb up, not down, any time of the year. It’s just too dangerous to down-climb since the trail and ledges on it are always wet.
It was a little windier on Flume than Liberty so we didn’t hang out as long but ducked back down into the nearby trees for a quick sandwich and drink. Then it was back down into the col and a climb back up to the summit of Liberty for one final view session. There we ran into Steve Smith, the editor of the White Mountain Guide, which describes all 650+ hiking trails in the Whites in enormous detail and is considered the hiking bible for the region. I run into Steve every few years on the trails and it’s always nice to catch up with him. He also owns the Mountain Wanderer Bookstore in nearby Lincoln, NH, which has a fantastic selection of maps and history books about New Hampshire that is totally worth a visit.
Our descent back down the Liberty Spring Trail was quite fast, but the snow had grown soft in the warm temperatures and began to stick to the bottom of our snowshoes, a phenomenon known as snowballing. A good whack with the trekking poles is usually enough to dislodge it, but it makes your snowshoes noticeably heavier and awkward to walk on. We shed our snowshoes near the bottom of the trail where the trail was firm enough to walk without them and hoofed down the Franconia Notch Bike Trail to the Basin and our cars.
Love the site https://mountainwandering.blogspot.com/
Steve’s website is a real inspiration.
Did this hike solo on January 24th of 2022 and had a similar bluebird day. What a gorgeous view from both summits. Interesting how Lincoln obscures Lafayette when you’re on Liberty. Franconia Ridge is properly revealed from Flume summit. My climb was virtually windless and that meant it was plenty warm from the sun on the summits. I was really surprised with how many people came up the Flume Slide that day! One was decked out in full ice climbing gear, crampons, dual ice tools, but others were in your typical winter hiking getup. This is a great moderate hike, relentless ascent up the Liberty Springs trail, but nothing you can’t handle.
I like your jaunty pose in the last photo!