Wednesday, January 16, 2013


One good thing to emerge from the dreaded January thaw was the setting up of some good snowshoe bushwhacking conditions, once the temperature dropped and the snow firmed up. Today's objective was a huge granite ledge on the SW shoulder of Green's Cliff, the remote rock-faced mountain north of the Kancamagus Highway that is well-seen from the Sugar Hill Overlook. I'd been to this ledge a few times before, but not for quite a few years. It was time to pay another visit and savor the wide views of the Albany Intervale and the Sandwich Range.

I set off on the Sawyer River Trail a little before noon on a fine sunny day. The trail was a frozen trench of boot and snowshoe postholes left over from the thaw. I managed to maneuver along this with my snowshoes on, descending past some fine cascades in the Swift River.

There were only partial snow bridges left where the trail crosses the Swift. One of these partly collapsed under me but I was able to make it across OK.

Snowshoe postholes on the Sawyer River Trail as it follows the old Sawyer River logging railroad grade.

I turned east onto the Nanamocomuck Ski Trail, which here is also a snowmobile trail. A major benefit of this was a bridge over Meadow Brook.

Looking upstream along Meadow Brook.

I soon headed into the woods, up the SW ridge of Green's Cliff. The snow conditions were excellent for bushwhacking, sinking in only a few inches at most. A week ago the whacking was much more arduous in the soft snow.

On the lower part of the whack there was some nice open hardwood forest.

Higher up I had to weave around quite a bit of blowdown, and from here on the whack seemed thicker and more difficult than it was in the 90s.

Moose postholes pockmarked the snow. Despite the thaw, there was still cover up to two feet deep on this shoulder.

More blowdown.

But it was well worth it when I emerged  on the sun-soaked ledges.

 I soon reached the main SW ledge, with its wide view across the Albany Intervale to Mt. Chocorua and Mt. Paugus. I've never been to the top of the main cliff face of Green's Cliff, but studying it from afar, it looks like this SW ledge, called the Meadow Brook Slab by rock climbers, is the most open viewing spot on the mountain.

In 1927-28, the Passaconaway Mountain Club (based at the Swift River Inn in Albany Intervale) partly laid out, but never fully cleared, a trail leading from the Sawyer Pond Trail to an outlook at the west end of the main cliff of Green's, along with a branch leading to the base of the east end of the cliff. The cliffs were explored by climbers at that time, but were not fully ascended by rock climbers until 1975. In recent years many more routes have been developed on these remote rock faces.

It was warm enough for a boot shot - in January!

A zoom on Chocorua rising beyond Little Church Pond, one of the wildest backcountry ponds in the Whites. In his 1916 Passaconaway in the White Mountains, Charles Edward Beals, Jr. wrote of this pond, "A sense of utter loneliness and desolation sweeps over one as he gazes upon this tiny sheet of water so completely buried in the great wilderness." I've visited this pond in winter only, and it offers a stunning view back at Green's Cliff.

Of the view from the larger Church Pond, Beals wrote: "Green’s Cliff defiantly raises its oblong redoubt far above us, and, from here, is a mountain worthy of respect and admiration – a truly magnificent and imposing rampart.”

Mt. Passaconaway and Mt. Whiteface seen beyond Sugar Hill.

In summer this natural amphitheatre beckons the bushwhacker to lounge in the sun.

Looking east to Bear Mountain.

High peaks of the Sandwich Range: Passaconaway, Whiteface, East Sleeper, Middle & North Tripyramid.

Hedgehog, Potash & Passaconaway.

Cath Goodwin wasn't able to start up til well into the afternoon, but she made fast time following my tracks and I ran into her just a few minutes down from the ledge. I went back up with her so she could catch some late afternoon views.

With the sun swinging around more, we could now get a good look at the impressive sphinx-like spread of the Tripyramid ridges.

Dusk came on as we snowshoed down through the lower hardwoods, and we made the crossing of the Swift River by the light of a crescent moon. Another outstanding snowshoe trip!


  1. Beautiful photos on a beautiful day! And, as always, I admire and enjoy the historical content that you incorporate into your Blog reports.

    Have been to locations on Green's Cliff on a number of occasions, but always via a bushwhack launched from the Sawyer POND Trail on the east side of Green's Cliff. But, these have all been summer season hikes. Your route from the Sawyer RIVER Trail is the obvious route of choice for a winter season trek.


  2. Thanks, John! Someday I want to follow your route in from Sawyer Pond Trail to some of those eastern ledges.


  3. Lovely mountain shots and snowy landscapes :)

  4. Steve

    And I took the middle road from the south stopping by Church Pond where I had the view and same impressions Beals records. I ascended to east of the Meadowbrook Ledges and reached the summit bottle. Views there were disapointing. I will go back to visit those western cliffs. I descended down the back side and terminated the whack thru nasty heavy spruce thickets before popping out at Meadowbrook. I should have gone back via west ridge. That would have made it a nice loop. The woods to east of Meadowbrook Ledges were steep but very open hardwoods. I enjoyed those a lot. Plus there's a nice boulder field at the bottom where I started off from another product of glacial plucking.

    1. Hi Ray,

      Sounds like you had quite a traverse of Green's Cliff! I had heard it was pretty nasty down the back side towards Sawyer River Trail. It looks like you'd have to drop down quite a ways to get open views in the vicinity of the summit. It appears the most promising viewspot atop the main cliff face is about 0.15 mile east of the summit and 100 ft. lower. Someday, hopefully, I'll make it up there. Never seem to be able to get past the great SW ledge.


  5. Very nice report and photos Steve. Sounds pretty much like the same route I took to those ledges in May. I climbed to the summit 2 more times this past summer searching for views and there are none better than those SW ledges. Once out of the hardwoods it's a pretty scrappy little mountain.

    Thanks for sharing,

  6. Thanks, Joe - I remember your trip from last spring. Wow, you've been to the summit twice! The last half-mile up looks steep, dark and univiting. I've always suspected that this was the best viewpoint on the mountain.


  7. Looks like you got some spectacular views, Steve. Yet another spot I'll have to add to my list of "must do" hikes. (The list is always getting longer as a result of your trip reports!)