Friday, February 21, 2020

Scaur Ridge: 2/20/20

Had been thinking about heading up to Tripyramid's Scaur Ridge, but with nearly a foot of new snow that wasn't going to happen...until that evening when Rick Simmons posted a report on the New England Trail Conditions site that his group of four had taken that route to the Tripyramids the day after the storm. A big thanks to the group for breaking out that long route above the groomed part of Livermore Trail.

I expected the Livermore Trail would be swarming with XC skiers after fresh snow during vacation week...and was amazed when I arrived at 9:00 am to a completely empty parking lot. The first 2.2 miles of Livermore were beautifully groomed. Snowshoes are mandatory here - they barely dent the snow, but bare boots leave lines of divots that hinder and frustrate skating XC skiers. Also, note that per the USFS, during ski season dogs are not allowed on Livermore Trail beyond the Greeley Ponds Trail junction.

Per the NETC report, on Livermore Trail beyond the groomed section the trail-breaking group had both skiers and snowshoers. The snowshoe track was softly packed and unconsolidated.

Snowpack at 2000 feet.

Livermore winds its way up through expansive hardwood forest.

The clearing at Avalanche Camp, used by Parker-Young Co. loggers in the 1930s and 1940s.

This mellow trail high in the mountains is a longtime favorite of mine. It is well-maintained by volunteer adopter Dennis Follensbee, Jr.

Entering the Sandwich Range Wilderness with North Tripyramid looming ahead.

For nearly a mile the trail follows a straight old logging road contouring the slope on the north side of Avalanche Ravine.

This LIDAR hillshade image from the NH Stone Wall Mapper on the NH Granit website reveals the series of logging roads striping the slope, probably dating back to 1940s Parker-Young Co. cuttings. The Scaur Ridge Trail, which was opened in the mid-1950s, follows the prominent road about 1/3 of the way up the slope.

In winter, with the leaves down, Tripyramid's North Slide is a constant companion as the trail angles up through hardwoods in its lower half.

Snowpack at 3000 ft.

Climbing to the top of the Scaur Ridge.

The Scaur Ridge Trail sign was under the snow, with the Pine Bend Brook Trail sign still poking up.


 Pine Bend Brook Trail below the junction, waiting to be broken out.

North of the junction I passed through the portal leading to a winter glade of wonder. I snowshoed right over the hobblebush that gates this place in summer.

The trees here have a special quality.

In this snowfield you wander through a fantasyland of frosted softwoods.

Cold beauty.

Widely spaced.

Snowpack here was nearly four feet deep.

The flat-topped Fool Killer glimpsed to the east.

Tracks and trees.

And there are views here, too..though fuzzy today due to wind fog clinging to the peaks.

Completing a circuit around the glade.

Fresh moose sign along Pine Bend Brook Trail.

A favorite section where the trail traverses the narrow spine between Scaur Peak and North Tripyramid.

My next objective was a remnant open slide patch at the head of Avalanche Ravine, also known as the Ravine of Avalanches. When the huge North Slide fell during a great rainstorm in August 1885, several additional slides came crashing down farther up the ravine. I was heading for the top of the one that almost reaches the ridgeline in this photo taken in 1910 by Edward H. Lorenz. (Courtesy of WVAIA and Waterville historian Preston Conklin)

The woods were mostly open on the bushwhack to the slide patch...

...and the snow was deep and unconsolidated.

I had whacked up this old slide a couple of summers ago, and knew there were some good views. All I could see upon arrival today was nearby Scaur Peak.

I layered up and waited a while, hoping for some clearing, and eventually Hancock and Carrigain made a veiled appearance.

I dropped down for a view of the Osceolas behind a phalanx of tapered spruces.

The filtered sun highlighted the gaping gouge of the Painted Cliff.

I opted not to continue up the steep cone to the summit of North Tripyramid. Being alone on the mountain, mid-afternoon on a cold day, with a subzero night on the way, I was wary of the steep sliding descent. Instead, I returned to the glade, where the views had cleared somewhat, though the Presidentials remained smothered in a bitter fog.

Potash Mountain's ledgy knob, with northern spurs of Chocorua and Maine's Pleasant Mountain beyond.

Huddling together for warmth?

Sunshine brightened the descent of Scaur Ridge Trail.

Looking down a picturesque drainage crossed by the trail.

I like this spot showing both the North Slide and the gorgeous hardwoods down on the valley floor.

Top of the North Slide.

Shadows in the hardwoods.

Late afternoon on Livermore Trail. The mountains were not crowded today - in eleven miles I saw not one other person.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Greeley Ponds & East Osceola 1897 Slide: 2/17/20

Took a half-day plus off for a snowshoe wander in Mad River Notch. The Greeley Ponds were in their winter glory, and the bushwhack halfway up the old slide provided views and abundant snowy beauty.

The South Fork of Hancock Branch was smothered in snow and ice at the Greeley Ponds Trail crossing.

The snowpack is getting there.

The snow-caked sprawl of East Osceola guards Upper Greeley Pond.

Side view of the Painted Cliff.

The northern East Osceola slides. The large white slab on the right is part of the 1892 slide, which the Mt. Osceola Trail crosses farther up. The two-pronged slide on the left fell sometime in the mid-1900s, possibly during Hurricane Carol in 1954.

 These forks occasionally serve as a playground for backcountry skiers.

Upper Greeley offers a clear view of the K2 Cliff on Mt. Kancamagus.

Heading south down wide, windswept Lower Greeley Pond.

Looking back at the long line of cliffs on the NE spur of East Osceola.

Mad River Notch in profile.

The west knob of Mt. Kancamagus.

 View across to the 1897 slide (in center of photo), which half-filled Lower Greeley Pond.

This big slab at 2550 ft. was the primary bushwhack objective. This would be my fifth or sixth visit there. It's harder to get to than it would appear - a fairly short but challenging bushwhack.

 My plan was to follow the slide track as far as possible, then take to the dense woods to reach the top of the slab. The track started out nice and easy in hardwoods.

Inviting corridor.

Into the conifers.

Looking back.

Had to work a way around and up this ledge step.

Spectacular day.

Sentinels of the slide.

Skier's view.

This ledge face was too steep for my liking. Time to hit the woods.

This part of the whack was steep, thick and slow going.

Emerging on the edge of the snowy slab, near the top.

Lower Greeley Pond and the west knob of Mt. Kancamagus.

Peering down to the pond.

Expanding the view to the K1 Cliff and Mt. Tripyramid.

North Tripyramid and the North Slide.

Continuing up the slide above the slab.

Plenty o' powder.

East Osceola's snowy crest looms far above.

Looks like a ski trail.

The crags and crevices of K1 Cliff.

Pure winter.

Another skier's view.

This open part of the slide ends in a mini-headwall at 2770 ft.

Bushwhacking nightmare beside the mini-headwall.

View near top of mini-headwall.

Heading down, immersed in the joy of snowshoeing...

Sit-down lunch break back down on the big slab.


Worth the whack.

Could see two visitors down on Lower Greeley Pond.

Back down through the fun stuff.

Return to Lower Greeley.

Looking back at the slide.

The arrow points to the mini-headwall on the 1897 slide. Photo taken from a talus slope on Mt. Kancamagus. The slide doesn't open up again until about 3500 ft. In late December the entire slide was climbed by "timbercamp" en route to East Osceola, as reported on