Liberty and Flume in Winter
Hike Date: January 3, 2021
As we approached Mt. Liberty, we couldn’t contain our excitement as we caught glimpses of an incredible undercast stretching across the horizon.
|0 mi||0 mi||Start at Liberty Spring Trailhead|
|0.7 mi||0.7 mi||Pemi Trail to Liberty Spring Trail (some of this is on a paved bike path)|
|0.6 mi||1.3 mi||Liberty Spring Trail to the junction with Flume Slide Trail|
|2.3 mi||3.6 mi||Liberty Spring Trail to Franconia Ridge Trail|
|0.3 mi||3.9 mi||Franconia Ridge Trail to summit of Mt. Liberty|
|1.2 mi||5.1 mi||Franconia Ridge Trail to summit of Mt. Flume|
|1.2 mi||6.3 mi||Franconia Ridge Trail back to summit of Mt. Liberty|
|0.3 mi||6.6 mi||Franconia Ridge Trail back to Liberty Spring Trail|
|2.9 mi||9.5 mi||Liberty Spring Trail back to Pemi Trail|
|0.7 mi||10.2 mi||Pemi Trail back to parking lot|
Notes: GPS died in the winter cold, so this recorded track is of the same route in spring. Map mileage does not match stats because Gaia GPS tends to undercount it. Mileage stats were calculated using the White Mountain Guide and Trail Maps.
Three years ago, we hiked Mt. Liberty in the winter, but we were not in the physical condition to add the extra two miles and elevation gain of continuing to Mt. Flume. After a couple of years of hiking and more hiking experience under our belts, we felt more than capable of reaching both peaks on a single hike. So, on a January day, we decided to do an out and back of Liberty Springs Trail to hike over Liberty and Flume.
Although going up the Flume slide is technically shorter, it isn’t advisable in the winter. It is steep and dangerous without technical climbing gear so we didn’t want to tackle that.
We parked at Liberty Springs Trailhead and started off on the Pemi Trail toward Liberty Springs Trail. Just an FYI, there are outhouses at this parking lot that are definitely open in the summer, but were locked when we were there in winter. The route stays pretty flat through the woods then shoots you on a wider road, used for snowmobiles in the winter. The road crosses over a bridge and quickly meets Liberty Springs Trail which led us back into the woods. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. The weather was in the 20s, so the snow was not too sticky and microspikes were sufficient for most of the way up.
Liberty Springs Trail climbs relatively steadily throughout, but really starts getting steep in the last mile. We passed a few other hikers and the Liberty Springs Tentsite.
Once we got to the ridgeline, we turned right on Franconia Ridge Trail and started up the 0.4 mile stretch to Mt. Liberty. As we popped up above the treeline we looked around and saw that we were standing above the clouds! This was our first “real” undercast and we could not believe how magical it was to see clouds stretching as far as we could see with mountains popping up through them like islands in the sky. We took too many pictures and sat at the summit to take in the views. We watched the clouds roll over Mount Flume, our next peak, like waves.
We descended the brief and steep section just off Mt. Liberty towards Mt. Flume very carefully. In the middle of the col we decided to put on snowshoes because the trail was a little less packed down there. It was much easier to float on the snow and climb Flume with the heel lift helping our feet stay flat to save energy and get better traction. A couple years ago we invested in snow shoes (Tubbs and MSRs) and they could not have been more worth it. We would highly recommend either brand and would urge people to get a model with a heel lift if you plan on hiking mountainous terrain.
Once we got to Mt. Flume, we looked back at the sharp peak we just came from with the higher peaks of Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Lafayette along Franconia Ridge stretching into the distance. On our return to Mt. Liberty, the fatigue of a tough hike started catching up with us. Our ascent to Liberty was much slower than usual, but slow and steady wins the race. We kept one foot in front of the other.
When we got back to Liberty, we were relieved that all of the climbing was behind us. We put on a couple of more layers, enjoyed a quick lunch, replaced our snowshoes with microspikes, and made our way back to Liberty Springs Trail to return to the parking lot. What a great day to check off #19 and #20 of our NH48 winter list!