Friday, June 18, 2021

Flume Brook Valley: 6/16/21

Spent a cool, partly sunny day wandering in the quiet and beautiful Flume Brook valley under the west side of Mt. Flume. Hiked up the Flume Slide Trail to the first ledge scramble, then dropped back down to the valley floor and whacked up the steep south ridge of Mt. Liberty to a series of three granite crags with good views.

AMC trail signs at the Liberty Spring/Flume Slide split.

The lower 2+ miles of the Flume Slide Trail is a very enjoyable, easy walk through a fine mature northern hardwood forest. Grades are slight to moderate and the footing is mostly good.

As I hiked deeper into the valley, the distant rumble of motorcycles was replaced by sweet birdsong.

One of several tributaries of Flume Brook crossed along the way.

An arrow points the way at a confusing spot on the second crossing of Flume Brook.

A great old yellow birch.

A nice feeling of remoteness in the upper valley.

The trail climbs rubble and outwash from the old slide for quite a distance before it reaches the tricky ledges.

The first ledge scramble appears at about 3100 ft. Though dry, the polished rock was as smooth and slippery as I remembered from a long-ago ascent. I tested my boots on it and they were slipping off.  Approach shoes would be better. There are, of course, beaten paths through the woods around the trickiest spots. From here, I descended 450 ft. back to the valley floor for my planned bushwhack to the "Liberty Crags."

Heading up through some beautiful open birch woods, legacy of a 1908 forest fire.

The terrain soon turned steep and rocky.

One of several old sled roads that cut across this slope.

There are many crags hidden in the forest.

After a very steep, circling approach, I emerged on the first of the set of three crags on this ridge.

Vista out towards Mt. Wolf, Mt. Moosilauke and the Cushman-Kineo-Carr group.

A peek at Mt. Flume and its col with Hardwood Ridge.

Nice birch glade en route to the next crag, 200 ft. higher in elevation. Some of the woods on this ridge were not so nice.

A wider SW view from the second crag.

Zoom on Mt. Moosilauke and Mt. Wolf. The Flume Visitor Center can be seen down below.

I climbed another 200 ft. to the third crag, the prize spot of the day, hanging high above the upper Flume Brook valley. It took a while to find it.

Mt. Flume is seen directly across the valley, from base to summit.

An excellent perspective on the great slides on Flume's west face.

The lower slabs of the slides look ominously steep and slippery.

Hikers enjoying the view on the craggy summit of Flume.

Quite a perch.

The ledge is well-guarded.

Glimpse of yet another crag higher on the ridge. Maybe another time.

For part of the descent back to the trail I followed a steep old sled road.

Then just back down through the woods to the trail, and a mellow walk out.


Friday, June 11, 2021

Enjoying the Views on Mt. Hale: 6/10/21

Huh? Yes, there are several excellent viewpoints on Mt. Hale. Unfortunately, the summit is not one of them. On a bluebird June day, I hiked the Hale Brook/Lend-a-Hand/Zealand loop over Mt. Hale and took in magnificent views from two off-trail viewpoints, one a significant bushwhack and the other quite short.
I ascended via the standard route, which makes a steady climb of 2300 ft. in 2.2 miles.

The lower part of the trail is quite pleasant in a fine northern hardwood forest.

There aren't many scenic highlights along HBT, but it does pass some nice small cascades at the first crossing of Hale Brook.

Between the two brook crossings is the birch forest sidehill traverse, infamous for its difficulty in winter.

On the switchbacks above the second crossing.

High on the mountain I left the trail for a bushwhack to the expansive bare ledges near the summit of East Hale (3513 ft. by Lidar measurement). At first the woods were friendly, as they often are on the slopes of Hale.

But I guess I picked the wrong route, as the whack was scrappy most of the rest of the way. I didn't remember this from previous visits, but those were decades ago and the memories of claustrophobic forests tend to fade with time.

Even where the woods were more open, long, bony, prickly spruce branches inflicted a number of scratches.

After thrashing over some bumps and through some saddles, I emerged on the open ledges - staying on rock to avoid trampling vegetation - and it was all worthwhile.

Looking back at the main summit of Hale...

...and the cliffs on its North Peak.

The Presidentials come into view. Like the lower, nearby Sugarloaves, this peak was burned over in the great Zealand fire of 1903.

The prize vista looks south up the Zealand Valley to Zealand Notch and the mighty Mt. Carrigain beyond.

Zealand Notch is framed by Whitewall Mountain and Zeacliff.



The Willey Range with the Nancy Range in the distance.

To the SW, the long wooded crests of Zealand Ridge and the Guyot-South Twin ridge.

Nice spread of the Presys.

The view NE to Cherry Mountain, Mt. Waumbek and the Dartmouth Range. The ledges of Mt. Oscar in the Rosebrook Range are in the foreground. All told, 21 NH 4000-footer summits could be seen from the East Hale ledges.

Zoom on Zealand Pond.

Back into the thick of it.


Once I started climbing up the main ridge, the woods opened up beautifully.

Back on Hale Brook Trail, a glimpse of Field and Willey.

The final approach to the  summit.

When I first climbed Hale in 1978, it was an excellent viewpoint, as shown in a photo in early editions of Daniel Doan's Fifty More Hikes in New Hampshire. It is now safe to say that the summit is completely viewless, even standing atop the cairn.

Too bad the fire tower is long gone.

Doing the loop using Lend-a-Hand Trail makes a hike to Hale much more rewarding.

Beautiful fir forest in the first section.

Blowdown patch that I believe is from the October 2017 storm.

An enjoyable level section on the long south shoulder.

As the trail drops off the end of the shoulder, an obscure spur path leads 30 yards left to a humble but pleasant vista....

...taking in Carrigain Notch and the peaks around it.

From here I made a short but thick whack to a ledge hidden amidst the scrub, needle-in-haystack style, with a sweeping view.

Classic view of Zealand Notch and Carrigain Notch, the two great portals of the eastern Pemigewasset Wilderness. When Lend-a-Hand Trail was opened in 1934 as a route to connect Zealand Falls Hut with Mt. Hale, this area was more open and Harland Sisk, the AMC Councillor of Trails, wrote in Appalachia, "At the top of the cliffs the tramper has one of the finest views in the mountains."

Mt. Chocorua pops up between Mt. Anderson and Mt. Lowell.

Wild view towards the flat humps of South Hale with the long Zealand-Guyot-South Twin ridge beyond.

These slides in a drainage of the Little River valley, between Guyot and South Twin, are among the most remote in the Whites. Someday, maybe.

Nice angle on the Willey Range.

Down-look before heading back to the trail.

At ~3400 ft. Lend-a-Hand Trail passes through an interesting boggy and ledgy area.

A shoulder of South Hale looms darkly behind the bog.

Looking ahead to Zealand Ridge.

Bunchberry growing right on the trail.

Rocky footing abounds on parts of Lend-a-Hand Trail.

Bog bridges lead across a flat area of boggy spruce forest.

Ledges on Whitewall Brook, next to AMC's Zealand Falls Hut.

Zealand Pond and Zealand Ridge.

View from Zealand Trail across the beaver pond near the A-Z Trail junction, with Mt. Tom in the distance.

Evening light on the long Zealand Ridge.