Tuesday, August 14, 2018


A morning hike into Upper Greeley Pond from the Kanc and then a bushwhack partway up alongside the old (1892) slide on the steep slope of East Osceola.

Upper Greeley Pond from the Greeley Ponds Trail.

Looking across the pond to the wide eastern front of East Osceola.

The cliffs on the NE spur of East Osceola.

From the trail I followed the rubbly runout/brookbed to the base of the slide proper.

A cascade at the base of the slide. No way I was going to try and climb those greasy ledges - time to take to the woods beside the slide.

Looking up at the widest part of the slide. This slide was triggered on an undetermined date in 1892 (or possibly 1891). Probably the first person to climb it was William Morse Cole, who scaled it in 1893 and wrote an article about it, "Alone on Osceola," for New England Monthly magazine in 1895.

The new slide presented an enticing challenge for Cole: “…The fact that human foot had never trod those newly bared ledges served as an invitation.” One October day he hiked in to Upper Greeley Pond and scouted his route from a log raft out on the water, noting “the white line of the slide.”

Cole started up the track of the slide, clambering over torn and twisted trees and then loose debris and disintegrated rock. On the slide proper he found “bed rock nearly as smooth and washed as clean as a marble floor.”

Higher up the going became quite treacherous. Cole had several narrow escapes from starting his own new slide. He tried taking to the edge of the slide, but eventually was obliged to make his way up the stream channel in the center. The very steep and smooth upper ledges were especially challenging: “Now and then I came to a pitch so sharp and smooth that I could not cling, even though I lay flat and pressed hard with both feet and hands.”

I thought of Cole's long-ago adventure as I pushed through the dense woods beside the slide. From this spot I could see a distant profile of the K1 Cliff on the SW side of Mt. Kancamagus. The Tripyramids, visible from this spot, were socked in.

I was only out for the morning, so this was as high as I went, to a turn in the slide at 2600 ft. I've been here in winter also, but have never gone higher. The full ascent of the slide is a classic winter mountaineering route, with a mix of ice bulges and snow, and in good snow years the slide is skied by backcountry aficionados. From 3000 ft. up the Mt. Osceola Trail parallels the upper right fork of the slide. It passes close by a huge rock slab on it at 3350 ft. and crosses it near its top.at 3700 ft., where you get the view down to Upper Greeley Pond. The left fork of the slide fell anew in the 1950s and started higher up,  with two additional forks near the top, both of them reaching 3900 ft. The left fork of the main slide -the one farther from the trail - is the one that is occasionally skied.

The same spot in a lean snow winter.

The slope levels briefly at this spot, permitting safe access to the ledges in the middle of the slide. Here there's a vista across to the western knob of Mt. Kancamagus and the K2 Cliff.

Another winter comparison.

Meadowsweet blooming on the slide.

Interesting pattern on the ledges. As for William Morse Cole in 1893, inspired by the expanding mountain views, he pushed on to the top of the slide and continued in rough terrain to the East Peak (then trailless), and then along the ridgecrest to the ledgy summit of Osceola, where he spent a moonlit night before descending by trail the next morning to Waterville Valley.

A snapshot from the 1925 revision of the Arthur L. Goodrich map of Waterville Valley, showing the 1892 slide near Upper Greeley Pond, and also the 1897 slide that come down to Lower Greeley Pond. Note also a short-lived trail to the K2 Cliff on Mt. Kancamagus.

Sunday, August 12, 2018


On a glorious summer day I enjoyed a leisurely bushwhack up the ravine on the north side of North Tripyramid, exploring remnants of a series of slides that fell in 1885 - during the same August storm that triggered the huge and famous North Slide. A total of 8 smaller slides fell in the ravine, and it became known as Avalanche Ravine, or the Ravine of Avalanches. Thanks to Carol for watching the store on its 20th anniversary!

Goldenrod was blooming in profusion at the Depot Camp clearing near the start of the Livermore Trail.

I made a short side trip to see the pretty Norway Rapids on Slide Brook. This brook was originally called Norway Brook, after a type of bedrock, but was renamed after the first Tripyramid South Slide fell in 1869.

Long corridor on the Livermore Trail, which provided an easy 3.6 mile approach to the north end of the Mount Tripyramid Trail.

This is the trail that leads to the steep, slabby North Slide.

Where the trail turns right away from Avalanche Brook and starts climbing to the base of the North Slide, I headed off trail and continued up along the floor of the ravine through lush forest.

This little weedy meadow marks the runout of the eastern fork of the North Slide.

The same spot in winter.

A small stream runs down the lower slabs of the eastern fork of the North Slide. This fork is almost completely revegetated 133 years later.

Mossy bed on Avalanche Brook.

I brook-whacked slowly up the ravine, stepping carefully to protect both me and the streambed moss and plants.

Turtlehead blooming in the brookbed.

One of many pretty scenes along the nearly-dry brookbed.

I climbed up to a remaining open patch of an 1885 slide on the south side of the ravine. This was my third visit to this spot, most recently on snowshoes.

Beyond the SW ridge of Scaur Peak I could see Mt. Osceola, Breadtray Ridge and Mt. Moosilauke.

Another open patch nearby, separated by a band of dense spruces.

Mt. Moosilauke seen through Thornton Gap.

Farther up the ravine I visited this open gravel patch from an old slide on the north side.

The top of North Tripyramid peers down above the trees.

This spot has a nicely framed view of Mt. Tecumseh down the Avalanche Brook valley.

Above here the brookbed was too gnarly and choked with blowdown to provide passage, so I took to the slopes on the north wall of the ravine.

Next came a traverse across the head of the ravine, where a large area of the slope looked like the vestiges of a big old slide.

I emerged on the largest remaining open strip of the slide that fell at the head of the ravine in 1885. A fascinating article, "The Tripyramid Slides of 1885," was written by Alford A. Butler for the March 1886 issue of "Appalachia." Butler paid four visits to the Ravine of Avalanches and wrote about the North Slide and the eight smaller slides in great detail. This article can be read on Google Books.

This partly-revegetated slide provided a fine open view and a comfortable place to lounge in the sun.

The Osceolas front and center, with Mt. Moosilauke on the left and the Kinsmans on the right.

Steep but open woods heading up to a higher slide patch.

The uppermost part of the old slide on the headwall. Based on the descriptions in the 1886 article by Alford A. Butler, I thought there might be smooth bedrock up here, but instead there was soft gravel.

Distant summits could be seen on either side of Tripyramid's Scaur Peak.

West Bond over Bondcliff, South Twin, and a head-on view of the Hancocks.

The full spread of Hancock, with Mt. Carrigain on the right.

The mighty Carrigain.

Parting shot from the very top of the slide.

From the top of the old slide I continued up to the Pine Bend Brook Trail.

View north to the Presidentials and Nancy Range from an open glade near the Scaur Ridge/Pine Bend Brook junction.

Lushness along the Scaur Ridge Trail.

Farther down the Scaur Ridge Trail I bushwhacked down to the floor of the little valley to visit this fine open glade of sugar maples, then followed an overgrown old logging road out to the Livermore Trail.

Artifacts at the site of Avalanche Camp, the second and later of two camps by that name along Avalanche Brook. This one is a large clearing beside the Livermore Trail.

A stop at White Cascade on Slide Brook breaks up the long walk out on Livermore Trail.

An archival photo of the North Slide and Ravine of Avalanches shows the extent of these vast slides shortly after they fell. (Photo courtesy of the Waterville Valley Athletic & Improvement Association.) — in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.

This 1993 Google Earth image/aerial photo shows how much the slides had revegetated in a little more than a century. Who knows if renewed slide activity will take place on these steep slopes in a future rainstorm.

This 1925 version of Arthur L. Goodrich's map of Waterville Valley shows the approximate location of the slides in the Ravine of Avalanches.