Sunday, August 21, 2011
WEBSTER-JACKSON TRAVERSE: 8/17/11
A perfect summer day: temp around 70, low humidity, sunny skies, endless views. The Webster Cliff Trail, one of the classic routes in the Whites, was calling.
A little way in from the trailhead on US 302 in Crawford Notch, the trail comes to this plaque honoring two of the founders and longtime leaders of the AMC Four Thousand Footer Club.
The Robertson Bridge over the Saco River.
A stillwater stretch of the Saco.
The lower part of the Webster Cliff Trail leads through a fine hardwood forest.
At 1.4 mi. the trail crosses a small landslide that fell in 2009.
Trail workers have stabilized the crossing with rock steps.
Just above the slide there's a tricky ledge scramble. This spot is really nasty when it's icy.
It was a good stiff climb - 1,750 ft. of elevation in 1.8 mi. - to the first of the Webster Cliff's many outlook ledges.
On a day like this, it's worth every huff and puff when you stare down to the floor of Crawford Notch.
The great wall of Mt. Willey towers above the Notch. What an ominous mountain!
Bondcliff, Mt. Bond and Mt. Guyot rise beyond the plateau south of Mt. Willey.
Webster Cliff is an entertaining trail, ducking back into conifer corridors in between the viewpoints.
Looking up the ridge towards the summit.
At 2.4 mi. you cross this big open ledge with a large cairn.
This spot offers a glimpse north to Boott Spur and Mt. Washington.
Whilke relaxing here, I heard the toot of the Conway Scenic Railroad train climbing up through the Notch, and caught a look as it passed below the slab that ice climbers call the Willey Slide (not to be confused with the famous Willey Slide that fell in 1826 and is now fully revegetated.)
Beyond a col, the trail climbs to another great outlook. This is the view south.
This is the best spot along the Webster Cliffs for a clear look at Montalban Ridge. Here you can see (L to R) Stairs Mtn., Mt. Resolution, Mt. Crawford and Mt. Hope.
The Webster Cliff Trail surprises with an occasional very steep scramble. Overall, it's a more strenuous and tiring trail than the stats would seem to indicate.
A boulder perched on yet another great vantage point.
A vista into the eastern Pemi Wilderness.
Looking back down another steep pitch.
It's fun to look back down the ridge with ever-changing perspectives.
A down-look at Willey Pond and the Willey House Site.
Yet another ledge scramble.
The ridge now stretches far off to the south. Chocorua is at the center of the horizon.
I watched the train again on its way back down the Notch, as it crossed the Willey Brook Trestle.
One last scramble before the summit of Mt. Webster.
Open ledges at the 3910-ft. summit offer a fine view north to the higher Presidential peaks.
Mt. Washington rises impressively behind the rocky little cone of Mt. Jackson.
Looking NW to the Dartmouth Range and Cherry Mtn.
The Gray Jay is a frequent companion during a summit stay in the Crawford Notch area.
The day was so fine, I decided to continue across to Mt. Jackson, then descend the Webster-Jackson Trail and take my chances hitchhiking back to my car. The Webster Cliff Trail cuts through conifer woods across the ridge, with several ups and downs.
The cone of Mt. Jackson is a steep scramble no matter which side you approach it from.
Near the top, a great view back to the SW.
Looking back at Mt. Webster, with Carrigain, Hancock and Willey beyond.
Big cairn at the summit.
Looking up the range to Pierce, Eisenhower, Monroe and Washington.
The great expanse of the Dry River valley spreads below Washington and Boott Spur. Closer in is the spur valley followed by the Mt. Clinton Trail.
It doesn't get much clearer than this in the summer.
Looking across the Dry River valley at Mt. Isolation.
Looking west. Because I arrived here late in the afternoon, I had the summit to myself for an hour.
The top of the steep, ledgy descent off Jackson on the Webster-Jackson Trail.
This is a rugged stretch of trail.
Looking back up at the summit from a fir wave. From here the trail is less steep, but the footing is consistently rough and wet. For me, it's a pretty slow 2.6 mi. to descend.
At the Webster-Jackson trail fork, I made a short, steep descent on the Webster Branch to see this lovely waterfall on Silver Cascade Brook.
Farther down I made the short side trip out to Bugle Cliff, where the sun had already set on Saco Lake and the Highland Center. As this photo shows, it was a late exit, and I had no luck hitching a ride during the half-hour of daylight I had left. So I ended up walking down Rt. 302 through the Notch in the dark, clambering over the guardrail when vehicles came by. At least it was all downhill.
At the Willey House site I left the road, opting to hike the Sam Willey Trail and Saco River Trail by headlamp back to the lower end of the Webster Cliff Trail. I took a break at the Willey Pond dam, where I could see stars in profusion when my headlamp was off. The Big Dipper hung high over Mt. Willard.
The walk along the trails was very pleasant by headlamp, especially compared to the road walk. It was spiced up when some coyotes yipped and howled. Thankfully they were behind me, not in the direction I was going. A 10 pm exit is late even for me, a notorious late finisher, but it certainly was a long and rewarding day in the mountains.