Friday, January 22, 2021

Mad River Notch Snow Globe: 1/21/21

With snow in the forecast, stayed close to home and snowshoed into Mad River Notch to visit the Greeley Ponds and the lowest open slabs on two East Osceola slides. It snowed from late morning on, accumulating 4" of fluffy powder by day's end.

It was already snowing by the time I reached Upper Greeley Pond.

Parallel tracks.


It's a tough life in Mad River Notch.

I followed the open track 0.2 mile up to the base of the open part of the 1892 East Osceola slide - the slide that the Mount Osceola Trail crosses on ledges high above, at 3700 ft.. There were ski tracks from a few days earlier, when two adventurers must have skied down from one of the two upper south forks of the slide. The upper forks, which are visible from Upper Greeley Pond, likely fell in the mid-1900s, perhaps during Hurricane Carol in 1954.

I snowshoed up the first pitch, which is a cascade in summer.

The slide gets quite steep just above; this is my usual turnaround point.

A veiled view of the K2 Cliff on the west knob of Mt. Kancamagus.

The track below the open slide is a wonderful snowy highway with adequate cover.

On to Lower Greeley Pond.

From the south end of the pond, looking north into Mad River Notch.

East Osceola was veiled in a snow cloud, but I could see the snowy open slab on the lower part of the 1897 slide, which I have visited a number of times. It looks close, but is not easy to get to. This slide reportedly overran the Greeley Ponds Trail and partly filled Lower Greeley Pond.

Deep powder on the track leading up to the slide.

Winter has arrived!

I hadn't really planned on whacking up to the open slab, but the snowy swath lured me onward.


Picturesque corridor.

Looking back.

This slab was too steep to snowshoe up.

Made a detour through the dense woods, popping out for a side view of the slab.

Back onto the slide, approaching the big open slab.

Another pitch too steep to climb.

Another bypass through the conifers.

Emerging partway up the big slab.

With a foot of powder atop crust, and another layer beneath, not a good time to venture out there.

View of the SW ridge of Mt. Kancamagus, including the K1 Cliff and the talus slope below.

There's a nice shelf above this little headwall, but this was far enough for today.

Heading back down, with a glimpse of Lower Greeley Pond below.

Clearest view of the day, the K2 Cliff from Upper Greeley Pond.

Somehow this view reminded me of the famed Glencoe pass in Scotland.

Snowy tunnel on the Greeley Ponds Trail.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

West Sleeper Slide: 1/19/21

A trek deep into the Sabbaday Brook valley with Cath Goodwin to visit the big slide on the northeastern flank of West Sleeper, unleashed by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. This was my fourth journey out there to view this impressive display of nature's power, a scene of both desolation and beauty.

We opted to avoid the three big stream crossings on Sabbaday Brook Trail by using a bushwhack route Ray "Jazzbo" Caron and I had followed last winter on a trip in to the slide. The key to this route is a century-old logging road that Ray spotted on a Lidar hillshade image. This road dates back at least to the days of the Swift River Railroad (1906-1916) and was noted in the 1916 edition of the AMC White Mountain Guide. The section shown here slabs the lower slope of Potash Mountain through conifer forest, high above Sabbaday Brook.

Farther along, the road breaks out into open hardwood forest. There was a surprising amount of granular snow - at least a foot - in the lower part of the valley, making for slow going.

We joined the Sabbaday Brook Trail more than a mile up the valley and soon entered the Sandwich Range Wilderness. There was a nice well-packed snowshoe track on the trail - thanks go to those who broke it out.

Wintry beauty abounded, thanks to recent snowfalls.

One of the larger beech trees in the valley.

We left the trail about three miles up the valley, at the site of the Monahan logging camp of the Swift River Railroad. This bent sled runner is on display beside the trail.

We started out following another old logging road, with West Sleeper seen in the distance.

Open woods as we traverse towards the drainage of the major tributary that hosts the slide.

Christmas card trees surround a hobblebush dance team.

The low January sun peeks through an inviting glade.

Snow depths had increased dramatically during the previous week.

Cath, who floats over the snow like Legolas the elf, leads the way through an open yellow birch glade.

Picture-perfect valley.

The first sign of the slide is the tangle of trees it swept down the brookbed a decade ago.

Moose sign!

Beyond the tree carnage, the brookbed is a wide open slide track, a marvelous route for approaching the slide itself.

Looking ahead to snow-crusted Sleeper Ridge.

There's no snow drought out here!

Our guess was bobcat.

Cath ascending the open bank across from the base of the slide, which slammed into the streambed at a right angle.

First view of the slide!

Spruce traps told a tale of revegetation underway at the base of the slide.

Head-on view.

The Fool Killer in sight downstream.

In the gully at the base of the slide.

Climbing to a shelf below the widest expanse of the slide.

A tiny figure in a massive slidescape. 

We climbed a short way up for the view, which is widest on the lower part of the slide. The snow was not nearly as deep on the slide itself. Cath assessed the snow conditions as safe for our partial ascent. It would be a different story if a heavy layer of new snow were deposited atop the surface crust. Slides can avalanche - last weekend a hiker on a slide on Saddleback Mountain in the Adirondacks was knocked over by a small avalanche that buried his gear under four feet of snow.  

View out to the northeast.

Taking it in.

Zoom on distant Carter Dome.

Potash Mountain (left) and "South Potash" (right).

The Baldfaces beyond Potash.

Sleeper Ridge, close at hand, in the heart of the Sandwich Range.

Swooping down.

Heading back down the valley below the slide. The lower bushwhack back to the Kanc Highway was accomplished by headlamp, easy enough with our snowshoe tracks to follow.