Liberty, Flume & The Hancocks – Winter Climbs

Liberty(2X) 4,459 & Mt. Flume 4,328
10.2Miles, February 18,2012
SouthHancock 4,329 & Hancock 4,420
9.8Miles, February 19, 2012
The Prouty Mountaineering Program
(the first Prouty Challenge Event benefitting Dartmouth-HitchcockNorris Cotton Cancer Center)
Liberty& Flume at Sunset from Moosilauke
President’sWeekend – Four Peaks in Two Days
I had intended to climb the Presidential Ridge thisweekend, but: 1) demands at work, 2) the reluctance of all of my climbingbuddies to join me (Rick Morse felt so strongly about this that he fled toAfrica), and 3) the arrival of daughter Emily with three other “20 somethings”,opened up the possibility of day-climbing with some new people. Joining Emilywere her friends Ben, Tye and CC. Tye and Ben recently climbed Cotopaxitogether, and are aspiring mountaineering “Hammerheads” – working in thefinance industry by day, suppressing desires to get up and into the Hills untilweekends or vacations afford a temporal escape hatch to higher ground. CC alsoworks in the finance industry, and can give the guys a run-for-the-money in themountains – she is really fast and loves to climb. Emily kept up with a smileand a laugh all day, and looked fabulous in her Ecuadorian hat.
Tye,CC Emily Chapman and Ben preparing for the hike up The Hancocks
AQuick trip up the Hancocks
My climbing partners had just endured a terribleafternoon skiing in southern Vermont – Hills more brown than white, and coveredby a thin glaze of man-made ice. They were dispirited and really needed to seeWhite Mountains – and then climb them. Fortunately, the Hills of thePemigewasset Wilderness had just gotten 4-6 inches the day before, and weheaded up to climb the Hancocks.
The Hancocks lie well off the Kancamagus Highway, upan old railway bed that was used for timber extraction at the end of the 19thCentury. The Hancocks are massive hunks of Osceola granite, and hosted amountain glacial cirque well after the last ice age. The parking lot is at2,100 feet, so the actual vertical climb is around 2,400 feet. We went in theHancock Notch Trail, and headed up South Hancock first. This is a direct andshort climb, and my young friends basically jogged up to the top – such is thevigor of youth. The summit of South Hancock normally affords a view of over 30of the 48 4,000 footers, but was clouded in and was occupied by three guys anda blue-eyed dog when we got there – so we headed the 1.4 miles over to Hancockfor lunch.
SouthHancock from Hancock
TheSlide on Hancock
ClimbingSouth Hancock
Emily Chapman & theTeam at the Summit of Hancock
Lunch was brief, and was crashed by a group offellow travelers from Boston. We descended at flank speed – climbing down thesehills in the winter is a lot of fun – more skiing than walking. When we got tothe trail junction we were joined by three Swedish Hammerheads, including oneValkyrie waving an ice ax – which she then stored in a belt-loop – absolutelyfabulous. It is a long walk out from the Hancocks, but we made good time, andheaded directly to a pizza parlor in Lincoln for some emergency rations.
Libertyand Flume with Mrs. Baby
The weekend started out with a quick trip up Libertyand Flume with my constant companion – Mrs. Baby. Liberty and Flume lie at thesouthern end of Franconia Ridge, and are part of the same highly glaciatedgranite. These are archetypical climbs in the White Mountains, with spectacularviews. In the summer these Hills are mobbed, so the winter in a blessed relief– once you get by the snowmobiles on the Whitehouse Trail. We headed up theLiberty Springs Trail in an out-and-back day which required climbing Libertytwice.
TheSummit of Liberty
Mrs.Baby on Liberty
CannonMt. from the Summit of Liberty
The trip over to Flume was fast, but the col is 450feet deep, and the climb back up Liberty quite steep. Mt. Flume was named forthe 700 foot granite flume that lies at its base, and was reportedly discoveredin 1808 by the 93 year old “Aunt Jessie” Guernsey while trout fishing. Thesummit affords views of 33 of the 4,000 foot mountains, and is really a lotbetter in winter.
Flumefrom the Summit of Liberty
Snowin the col between Liberty and Flume
This was a great weekend, and climbing with these“20 somethings” was a lot of fun. This has been a great winter for climbing,and it somehow makes the snow drought bearable.
Wes Chapman
Written by Wes Chapman

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