Thursday, February 6, 2020

Downes Brook (Passaconaway) Slide: 2/5/20

Snow conditions were good for a snowshoe ramble with Ray "Jazzbo" Caron up Downes Brook Trail and the open slabs of the Downes Brook Slide on the north flank of Mt. Passaconaway.

We weren't sure what the four large crossings on Downes Brook Trail would be like. It turns out there were good snow bridges with an occasional sketchy step. Here Ray steps softly over the first crossing.

The only tracks afer the first half-mile were from a small group of backcountry skiers who had gone sometime recently in to ski the slide. Their surprisingly wide packed track made the trail approach and the climb up the slide itself much easier. Snow conditions off-track were fairly difficult, with breakable crust over a foot of sugary snow.

At another crossing, one of the sketchy spots.

Sunny hardwood glade.

After the fourth crossing, we head into the Wilderness.

For comparison, the same sign in March 2019.

 The Downes Brook Slide, also known as the Passaconaway Slide, fell in the early 1890s and for many years was the route from Albany Intervale to the summit of Passaconaway, becoming known as the Downes Brook Slide Trail or Passaconaway Slide Trail. The ledges of the slide are very slippery in summer. A warning was added in the 1940 edition of the AMC White Mountain Guide: “This trail is dangerous, especially after a rain, and is not recommended to amateur climbers. It is not signed for this reason.” Because of this danger, and also due to the very steep, mossy, erodible section in the woods above the slide, the trail was abandoned in the late 1950s. About 1990 unknown parties attempted to unofficially reopen the trail, painting blazes on the ledges of the slide and posting signs at both ends. Subsequently the USFS, in cooperation with the Wonalancet Out Door Club, obscured the unauthorized blazes and posted signs noting that while public use of the area was welcome, unauthorized maintenance of this closed trail was illegal and subject to fines. With the right conditions, the ledges of the slide are fun for experienced snowshoers, and there is virtually no impact on the area.

Heading up the frozen brookbed towards the open slabs of the slide.

Onto the wide lower slabs.

The skiers had some fun here.

Side view, showing the moderate pitch of the lower slabs.

Ray takes in the view.

Looking back at Potash Mountain (R) and its neighbor, "South Potash" (L).

One of several ledge steps that must be bypassed.

Up into the woods to get around it.

Steep in the spruces.

Jumping across the small stream that runs down the slide.

Dropping into a canyon-like section approaching the "turn of the slide."

Up the canyon.

Another ledge step, with a bit of exposure.

View back to Mt. Hancock with Mt. Huntington on the L.

At about 2570 ft. we reached the "turn of the slide." Here the slide forks, with the upper, eastern fork, seen here, continuing ahead. This branch of the slide fell later, perhaps during the 1938 hurricane.

We turned right and ascended the lower (western) fork, which the old trail followed alongside.

The climbing is steeper here.

We scaled the first of the two large, steep slabs, which has a flat perch on top.

We looked up at the second, higher slab.....

...but due to time constraints we decided to just hang out for a while on the perch atop the lower slab.

A pretty nice view to the north here.

The Presys behind Mt. Tremont.

Potash Mountain, Green's Cliff and Mt. Carrigain, with Mts. Lowell and Anderson in the distance.

The massiveness of Carrigain.

Descending the slab.

Open area just below the "turn of the slide."

Gouging in the canyon.

Looking back at the high, wild northern spur of Mt. Passaconaway.

The fabulous north outlook is atop those crags.

Back down to the lower slabs.

Mid-afternoon sun.

Ray takes a video of the sliding stream.

Pools on the brook below the slide.

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