Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Sandwich Dome: 2/19/19

Great snowshoeing conditions and 100-mile views on a bright and chilly day. I had been thinking of checking out Sandwich Dome, and Jazzbo's NETC report of a good snowshoe track on Sunday sealed the deal. Had the mountain to myself on this Tuesday.

The first 0.4 mi. of Drakes Brook Trail is a groomed Waterville Valley X-C ski trail; no fee required for hikers.

Looking upstream at the crossing of Drakes Brook on a solid snow bridge.

Where I spent the day.

Drakes Brook Trail, opened in the early 1920s, is a great snowshoeing route, following an old logging road at mostly mellow grades up a beautiful valley. In the 1930s the lower two miles doubled as a ski trail. There was a solid snowshoe track under 3-4 inches of fluffy new snow that looked like it had been lightly tracked partway through the snowfall.

Good snow depth on the floor of the valley.

Snow sculptures on the brook.

A nice open section on the gentle, broad floor in the upper valley.

The track winds along the buried brook as it approaches the steeper climb up the headwall of the valley.

A faded blaze, almost at snow level.

Reaching the top of the ridge at 3.2 miles.

From the Jennings Peak spur to the summit of the Dome, I had the pleasure of making first tracks in the new snow.

The half-mile between the Jennings spur and Smarts Brook Trail is a wonderful meander through open woods along a broad ridge.

Inviting corridor.

Open sun-streaked fir woods on the moderate ascent to the summit.

There was lots of branch-banging on some sections of the trail.

Higher up, the track disappeared under new wind-drifted snow.

The top of the pole is six inches under the surface.

Some good trail-breaking was required through here.

Had to bust through one monster drift.

Algonquin Trail junction just below the summit. On the return trip I tried to follow this trail down to a southern viewpoint, but the route of the trail was impossible to discern in the open woods and I gave up after descending 100 yards.

I wanted a big view today, and with a deep snowpack this almost-4000-footer provided it. In his 19th century guidebook, Moses Sweetser called this “one of the grandest and most fascinating panoramas in New England.” From here, the summits of 35 White Mountain 4000-footers can be seen, plus 4 more in Vermont. The only problem today was the biting wind with single-digit temps, limiting northward viewing to short sessions.

Holy cow!

Looking through Mad River Notch to South Twin, the Bonds, Zealand and the Hancocks.

The Osceolas, with Noon Peak below, overlooking the village of Waterville Valley.


 Every few minutes I sought respite in a sunny, sheltered opening on the south side of the summit.

From here there was a southward view to Lake Winnipesaukee above Mt. Israel, with Squam Lake to the R.

Looking NW to Mt. Tecumseh with Mt. Moosilauke on the far L.

Franconia Range.

The Presys above Scaur Peak.

The Tripyramids and the Sleepers. The South Slides are well-displayed. Carter Dome peeks over between North and Middle Tripyramid. The extensive blowdown from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 is seen as whitish patches on the flank of East Sleeper.

Mts. Whiteface and Passaconaway peer over the NE summit knob of Sandwich.

Parting shot after an hour's stay at the summit.

Rippled drifts above the Algonquin Trail junction.

Back down through the monster drift.

Super snowshoeing.

Homeward bound. More reading on Sandwich Dome.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Breaking Trail to The Scaur: 2/14/19

Snowshoeing delight in fresh powder on a bluebird afternoon.

I had originally planned to climb Mt. Tecumseh. There was a single set of snowshoe tracks heading up the Mt. Tecumseh Trail, so I figured I would help break the trail out through the new snow. Just as I was about to start up, a bareboot hiker came over the snowbank, lamenting that he hadn't brought his Microspikes (for 8-10" of fresh snow!) and hoping he could make it. I've climbed Tecumseh often enough that I had no desire for snowshoeing 5 miles of rototilled snow, so I headed back to the car and drove to the Livermore trailhead, trying to understand the "Microspike mindset." I recently received an email from a very accomplished winter hiker who "rued the day Micropsikes were invented." Breaking trail on snowshoes is an essential part of the winter hiking experience, and I was glad to see that the Kettles Path to The Scaur was unbroken, as seen in this photo.

Making tracks on a nice sidecut section constructed a few years ago by the Waterville Valley Athletic & Improvement Association.

Looking over the rim of one of the glacially-formed hollows known as The Kettles.

A snowshoe hare had broken the trail for about three feet.

The third Kettle is deep.

The Big Pine.

It was slow going breaking trail through generally 8-10" of heavy powder. To borrow a quote from an article I wrote long ago, "with the labor of Hercules, you advance at the ponderous pace of a dinosaur." But it was a gorgeous day to move slowly through the sunlit forest on one of my favorite trails.

Looking back at the Waterville ski trails.

The Kettles Path ends with a bit of a kick, making a steep climb through conifers on the back side of The Scaur.

Trail junction just below The Scaur.

The short, steep side trail to the ledge.

A throwback WVAIA sign.

This sometimes-tricky ledgy slot was a wonderful snow ramp today.

Final approach.

Untouched snow on the viewing perch.


The double summit of Sandwich Dome, with Noon Peak and Jennings Peak to the R.

Long view out towards Lost Pass.

East Osceola and the Painted Cliff.

Mt. Tecumseh.

Thornton Gap, the route of Tripoli Road.

Mt. Osceola.

Middle and South Tripyramid, with part of West Sleeper behind.

I went a short way along Irene's Path to the "Rock of Gibraltar."

I made a meandering bushwhack around the base of The Scaur for the first part of the descent. Pure hardwood joy.

Looked like an old black cherry.

Nearly four feet of snow in here.

Sweet snowshoeing.

The cliffs of The Scaur viewed through a haze of branches.

Last sunlight on the Kettles Path.