Friday, February 21, 2014

MOUNT CUBE: 2/20/14

Rising in isolation SW of Mt. Moosilauke, Mount Cube (2909 ft.) is one of the best "small" mountains in the Whites, with views surpassing those from many a 4000-footer. I'd never been up the Cross-Rivendell Trail in winter, and when I saw on that the trail had been broken out last weekend, I decided to give it a shot - knowing that I would probably have to break trail through 6" or more from the two snowfalls since then. As noted in the reports, there was ample space to park at the end of plowing on Baker Rd. (off NH 25A). A 0.1 mi. snowshoe up the road brought me to the trailhead kiosk, where I was greeted by the expected 5-6" of unbroken snow atop the old track. I knew it would be a long, slow ascent, especially with temperatures rising into the upper 30s, assuring a wet heavy snowpack. And surely the new snow would be deeper at higher elevations.

While the western side of the mountains had sparse snowfall earlier in the winter, recent weeks have  made up for that!

Deer had been wandering on and off the trail at lower elevations.

A bit farther up, the trail winds up through a fine hardwood forest. Built about 10 years ago, this section of the Cross-Rivendell Trail is well laid out with moderate grades and many switchbacks, replacing the old steep and eroded South Cube Trail.

At 2100 ft. it traverses upward through a beautiful spruce grove.

Thanks to the trail angel who cut through this blowdown - would have been a pain to get around it.

View of Sunday Mountain from the first outlook, 1.3 mi. up. This interesting small peak is traversed by the Cross-Rivendell Trail.

Picturesque winter scenes abounded along the trail.

Steep pitch heading up towards the second outlook, part of a fun zig-zag section.

Coming up to the outlook.

Looking NW from the outlook; deep drifted snow here.

Nice woods beyond the outlook.

A snowshoe hare leads the way.

This spot is called "Birch Meadow" in the Cross-Rivendell Trail guidebook.

Some heavy breaking through here. The half-mile above the outlook was a slow slog.

The final steep pitch up open ledges to Cube's South Peak. No trace of the old snowshoe track here. An alpine experience at 2900 ft.!

Some of Cube's distinctive quartzite ledges poked through the snow cover.

Drifts by the summit signs on South Peak.

Cube's classic southern view, taking in the route of the Appalachian Trail towards Hanover.

The massive bulk of Smarts Mountain, with its fire tower visible towards the R end of its summit ridge. The AT ascends the long curving ridge in the R foreground.

A sign points the way towards the northbound AT. The old track was pretty obscure and in places nonexistent heading across here towards North Peak

A Dartmouth Outing Club sign marks the side trail.

It was quite a workout snowshoeing a mere 0.3 mi. to the North Peak ledges. In some of the drifts I was sinking in knee deep and more.

But the views were worth it - a completely different perspective than you get from South Peak.

Most prominent is Mt. Moosilauke and its long spur ridges extending southward. The Kinsmans peek over on the L, through Tunnel Brook Notch. Below is Upper Baker Pond.

Off to the east, the Hancocks, Mt. Carrigain, and Scar Ridge.

Mt. Osceola.

Cube has a nice view of the Benton Range: (L to R) Black Mountain, Sugarloaf, The Hogsback, Jeffers Mountain, Blueberry Mountain and a bit of Owl's Head (behind the cliffs of Webster Slide Mountain).

Zoom on the Moose, striped with the snowy slides in Slide Brook Ravine.

After glorious morning sunshine, in the afternoon the sun faded behind an advancing gray blanket of cloud.

My winding track along the North Peak Side Trail.

Back on South Peak, a closer look at Holts Ledge/Dartmouth Skiway with Moose Mountain behind. Both these peaks are traversed by the AT.

Descending off the South Peak.

A forlorn paper birch along the ridge.

From the outlook along the trail, the four western satellites of Smarts Mountain: (L to R): Mousley Mountain, Moody Mountain, Stonehouse Mountain and Bundy Mountain.

An oldster of the hardwood forest.

Snow-and-rock sculpture on the lower trail. Follow the link for much more on Mount Cube, including trail descriptions, historical timeline, and view descriptions.


  1. Steve, that was quite a snowshoe workout by breaking trail all the way to the North Peak ledges!! I'm sure other hikers will be thankful for your efforts, just as you were thankful for the 'trail angel' who cut through the huge blowdown near the beginning of your trek

    As you know, about 3 months ago, Marty and I followed the same route as you did, but there was no trace of snow on that late Autumn day. It was very interesting to see a deep covering of snow at the same landmarks and views that we experienced on our snow-free trek.

    As always, thanks for sharing your experiences with the hiking community.


  2. Thanks, John - I remember when you and Mary went up there. Cube is a great "little" peak! I'd only been up it in winter once before, via the AT from the north on a foggy viewless day. It was nice to see it in full winter mode.