July 31, 2011

Liberty and Flume

libertyflume1After a very busy July, Katy and I thought it would be nice to take a weekend off from scheduled activities, and just leave one open for a change. We had already been hiking, swimming, kayaking or some combination of the aforementioned every single weekend in July so far. So yesterday we laid low, caught up on chores and to-do's around the house, and just generally relaxed. However, a funny thing happened: "I'm kind of craving hiking" Katy said. The weather for both yesterday and today was perfect. Warm, in the 80's, not a cloud in the sky. So on a whim we decided that today we would continue our 4000 footers and finish off the Franconia Ridge, hiking Mounts Liberty and Flume.

libertyflume2We got up around 6:00AM this morning and managed to quickly pack up our day packs and be out the door before 7:00AM. The weather was perfect as predicted, and we arrived at the trailhead in Franconia Notch around 9:00AM with completely clear skies, temperatures in the 70's and warming, and calm conditions. We were on the trail at 9:15AM to begin the 10 mile loop hike over Mounts Liberty and Flume. There are a couple of options when hiking Liberty and Flume. I had never done them before but most guide books and trip reports indicate that the Flume Slide Trail up Flume is a class 3 trail, has an unbelievably steep section that rises over 1800 feet of elevation in about 0.7 miles. Most suggest that you should only ever ascend the Flume Slide Trail and if conditions are wet or slippery, consider skipping it altogether by ascending Liberty via the Liberty Spring Trail and doing an out and back to the top of Flume. It was a perfect day and we didn't really think conditions could get any better, so we opted for the loop option up the Flume Slide Trail.

libertyflume3The descriptions of the Flume Slide, generally, were accurate. I would not say any part of it was "fear for your life" steep, but there were many sections in that final 0.7 miles that were difficult to navigate, and pretty much all of it was hand over hand relentless rock scrambling. There were several sections where Katy decided to forgo the actual trail and forged left or right into the bush. She found that she often had better luck with the denser roots and branches to grab onto and power her way up rather than the sometimes steep and sporadic foot and hand holds of the rocks. We eventually made it to the top, though, and it was certainly worth it. The summit of Flume opened up into an expansive cliff outlook looking down into the southern edge of Franconia Notch and also back down to the Kancamagus Highway. On a perfectly clear day there were a lot of views to soak in.

libertyflume4We ate our lunch on top of Flume and then continued on with an easy mile between peaks to the summit of Mount Liberty. Out of all the peaks we have visited so far, this is easily one of the best if not the best in the bunch. Liberty is completely exposed with a large rocky summit peaking out barely above the treeline. From the roomy peak, you can see the large and intimidating Lincoln and Lafayette peaks to the north. You can see the rocky cliff walls of the Cannonballs. You can see the unassuming ridge of Owl's Head and the larger, scarred slopes of the Bonds in behind it. You can see down to the Kancamagus Highway and over to the ski slopes of Loon Mountain. You can see Washington and the high Presidentials peaking out from a distance behind the Bonds. You can see a lot more, but those are the highlights, and the pictures don't really do it justice. On a day like today with warm temperatures at the summits and calm, clear skies, I feel like I should've brought up a grill, some lawn chairs and a cooler of beer. Maybe next time.

Our descent was simple and straightforward in comparison to the Flume Slide. We passed by a large group of backpackers and some folks staying at the Liberty Spring tent site down the trail and made it back to the car around 3:30PM. A great hike on a perfect day, we grabbed some food on the way back home. Numbers 22 and 23 done!

1 comment :

  1. An amazing hike with my favorite person! Definitely the best views so far - and we totally need to get up there again with some lawn chairs and a cooler full of ICE COLD beverages! Not sure if all those things will fit in my pack though!?! :)