POTASH MOUNTAIN: 4/1/14
There was no sign of winter foolin' with the weather today: bright sunny skies with temps into the mid to upper 40s. This kind of a day has been a long time coming with the winter that never seems to end. It would be too warm for any extended snowshoe bushwhacking, so a packed-out trail hike was in order. I considered the Tripyramids, but weekend reports of postholes and butt-slid steeps, and the thought of the 2,000 stream crossings on Pine Bend Brook Trail with softening snow, nixed that idea.
Little 2700-ft. Potash Mountain seemed like a good choice for the day. It has one of the best views of the Sandwich Range, and at 4 1/2 miles round trip would be manageable if the snow conditions became punky. When I was heading to Hedgehog Mountain last Thursday, I saw a snowshoe track heading up the Downes Brook Trail. I hoped that the track would be intact, and that the snow bridge over Downes Brook was still solid. Spring conditions are unpredictable, which makes choosing a hike tricky at times, but I lucked out on both counts this day.
Before heading across the Kanc Highway I stopped at the Loon Mountain bridge for a look at snow-capped Mt. Moosilauke rising beyond the East Branch.
The snowshoe track leading along the Downes Brook Trail and onto the Mount Potash Trail (for some reason it's Potash Mountain but Mount Potash Trail) was in great shape with minimal postholing from barebooters. Phew!
And Downes Brook was still deeply buried in snow, with a solid track leading across.
But it won't be long before openings like this start to expand.
As I climbed into hemlock and spruce forest, I was sprinkled with "rain" from the melting of ice that had coated the trees during a recent storm.
I could see it was a special view day upon emerging at the first outlook - Passaconaway and the north shoulder of Whiteface, their upper slopes shimmering from the recent icing.
The northern spur of Whiteface and the remote head of the Downes Brook valley - five miles in by trail.
Hedgehog Mountain nearby to the east, with Square Ledge peeking over the R side of the Hedgehog-Passaconaway col.
Nice spruce woods on the shoulder beyond the outlook.
The trail makes a traversing climb along the SE side of the summit cone.
A big open slab at 2550 ft. opens a view across to Chocorua, Hedgehog and Paugus.
The trail then swings right for a steep ledgy climb up the south face of the summit - a fun
stretch of snowshoeing.
An intimate view of Mt. Passaconaway, with the Downes Brook Slide well-displayed.
A zoom on two great slides on the north ridge of Whiteface, plunging into the Downes Brook valley.
The sun was pouring down on the summit, and there was no wind. I dropped down over deep, windpacked spring snow to my favorite Potash perch on the SW side. This spot has a unique perspective looking up both the Downes and Sabbaday valleys, ringed by the high peaks of the Sandwich Range Wilderness. Rising in a sweeping arc around you are nine peaks higher than 3500 ft. It's one of my favorite places in the Whites.
I love this view of The Sleepers rising above the Sabbaday Brook valley. Potash is the best place to see the 2011 Tropical Storm Irene slide on West Sleeper.
The complex ridges of the Tripyramids are close by to the west.
The bulk of the Fool Killer blocks much of Tripyramid itself.
South and Middle Tripyramid - a great example of mountain architecture.
A zoom on the headwall of the Downes Brook valley.
Mt. Carrigain rises impressively to the north.
Today's summit stay was measured in hours, with a snooze and an ample dose of Vitamin D.
Not a bad spot to hang out!
I interrupted my reverie for a bushwhack exploration across the broad summit area, looking for views in other directions. The deep snow in the shady spruces was surprisingly firm and held up under my snowshoes with a few exceptions. I made my way down and across to a perch with a wide view to the NE.
Church Pond and Church Pond Bog in front, Mt. Tremont in the middle, Presys on the left, Wildcats and Carter Dome on the right.
Zoom on the Wildcats and Carter Dome.
The Baldface Range and the Doubleheads through Bear Notch.
Washington and Tremont.
From another spot I enjoyed a view across the Albany Intervale to the Moats.
Leaving the summit mid-afternoon, I descended through soft spring snow in the sun.
From one of the outlooks, a zoom on Chocorua and Hedgehog.
Parting shot from the lower outlook.
The spring snowshoe track held up admirably down through the conifers. It was mushier in the hardwoods, but I only slid off the side a handful of times. And the snow bridge across Downes Brook was still sound, even at 48 degrees! All in all, a great early spring day on Potash.