Saturday, March 30, 2013


This was a day when the weather turned out a lot better than expected. The clouds were low and things were looking gloomy in Lincoln, but the Ossipee Lake webcam showed blue skies and sun over the eastern Sandwich Range. Sure enough, things were much brighter on the other side of the Kanc. I wasn't sure they would stay that way, but there were breaks of sun throughout the day, mixed with wandering snow flurries sweeping across from the NW. I decided to head up the Champney Falls Trail and see how the day progressed.

I'd heard that the bridge over Twin Brook at the start of the trail had been wiped out by an ice jam. It certainly had!

I was able to cross on an old ice bridge just upstream, but that won't hold up for long. The first 1.4 mi. of the trail, up to the lower junction with the Champney Falls Loop, was packed solid, and was ideal for Microspike strolling. Most of this section leads through a nice hardwood forest.

There's one detour up on a high bank through fine hemlocks.

The sound of Champney Brook put a touch of spring into the air.

Above the first junction, the snowpack on the trail was softer, and I put my snowshoes on after punching in a couple of times. I could see through the trees that the Sisters were still free from the incoming clouds, and hoped I could get up there in time for some views.

After a series of switchbacks, I veered left on the lightly-used Champney Falls Cutoff (aka Middle Sister Cutoff). Following some miserable-looking postholes, I followed this sidehilly trail 0.1 mi. to a great outlook ledge.

Looking back at the Sandwich Range across the snowy, side-sloping ledge.

A zoom on Mt. Passaconaway, displaying its great eastern slide.

I could never understand why anyone would willingly hike like this.

I looped back up along the Middle Sister Trail onto First Sister, with a view back to Middle Sister.

There were some nice wind-packed snowfields up on the broad dome of First Sister.

View north to Mt. Carrigain and the Nancy Range. The higher peaks to the north were in and out of flurries all day.

I took my snowshoes off and had lunch on some bare ledges, admiring the impressive view of Chocorua's rocky cone.

The east side of the cone is precipitous!

I spotted a couple of hikers on the summit ledge.

Haven't been able to do a boot shot for a while.

A portal leading out to the Sandwich Range, between the two summit knobs of First Sister. I was able to snowshoe down the steep south face of this peak through deep soft snow. Then I headed up the Piper Trail towards Chocorua, having studied the trail route and seeing not much visible ice and lots of bare rock.

I took my snowshoes off shortly after breaking above treeline, and was able to bare-boot it the rest of the way to the summit on a mix of well-packed but forgiving snow and bare rock, with just a few minor icy spots to skirt or tiptoe across. Never felt I needed to put the 'spikes on. At the first left turn on the climb, I went a few yards right for this neat view down into the secluded. hardwood-filled valley traversed by the Bee Line Trail.

Around the corner was a striking down-look into the Chocorua River valley.

The granite face of Carter Ledge, a spur of Chocorua that is a fine half-day hike objective in its own right.

A side view of the steeply-sloping cone from the Piper Trail.

Looking back at the Three Sisters and beyond.

Bare, dry granite ledges for scrambling!

Approaching the summit cone ahead.

Trail sign peeking out at the junction just below the summit.

The final scramble up a gully filled with soft, wet snow.

The view back north along the ridge.

From the summit ledge, looking south to the Ossipee Range. This lofty perch is flat and "about the shape and size of a large, wide dining table," in the words of Frank Bolles, late 19th century naturalist, author and passionate Chocorua enthusiast. This spot spins out a dramatic 360-degree vista. In his 1912 book, White Mountain Trails, Winthrop Packard noted that “…its splendid isolation and the sharpness of its pinnacle give one on its summit a sense of height and exaltation far greater than that to be obtained from many a summit that is in reality far higher.”

A SE view of Cow Rock, the Hammond Trail ridge, and Chocorua, Silver and Ossipee Lakes.

A closer look at Cow Rock, from which Chief Chocorua allegedly jumped to his doom after placing a curse on the white man.

Summit boot shot, with the wild, twisting Sandwich Range as a backdrop. I spent a glorious hour-and-a-half at the summit in late afternoon, and had the place to myself.

Following the Piper Trail back along a little shelf on the west side of the summit cone.

On the way back down the Champney Falls Trail, I made a side bushwhack excursion to a favorite outlook ledge. The route to this spot follows a gentle ridge through open birch glades. The snow was pretty good for whacking - a solid base underneath about 8 inches of wet snow.

The very best in whackin'!

The secluded outlook ledge, 0.4 mi. from the trail.

A snowshoe shot - why not?

Following my tracks back from the ledge.

Evening sun in the birches - a splendid finish to a fine early spring day on Chocorua.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


It promised to be a fine late winter/early spring day, with temps near 40 in the valleys and partial sunshine.  I hadn't been up Mt. Liberty in a few years, and though I'm not overly fond of the long slog up the Liberty Spring Trail, the terrific views from that open rock summit were calling.

I parked at the northbound Basin area and followed the snowmobile-packed bike path and the tramped-out "Basin bushwhack" route to the first sharp corner on the Liberty Spring Trail. This approach saves a bit of distance and elevation gain compared to the usual route via the Whitehouse Trail. Before long I was at the junction where the Flume Slide Trail branches off.

This is the only significant brook crossing on the climb of Liberty. It was still snow-bridged today.

The first 1.4 mi. of Liberty Spring Trail is mostly through open hardwoods.

After turns to the left and right, the trail begins a long, grinding climb to the ridge, gaining about 1700 ft. in 1.3 mi. On this section I met one hiker descending from an overnight at Liberty Spring Tentsite - the only other hiker I would see all day.

Snowy woods above the Liberty Spring Tentsite.

Good snow cover at the junction with Franconia Ridge Trail.

An easy section along the ridge heading towards Mt. Liberty.

Scrambling to the sky. At the top of this pitch is an open ledgy shoulder.

Looking back at Little Haystack and Mt. Lincoln.

The summit crags rise ahead like a rock fortress. Blue sky and puffy clouds - what a day!

Looking north up the Lincoln Brook valley.

Mt. Garfield and its south cliffs.

Looking across at the slide-streaked face of Mt. Flume. I hadn't originally planned to go over there, but the day was too fine to resist.

Always a cool-looking mountain!

Osceola, another mountain with a rugged character.

Looking down the Pemigewasset River valley and I-93. Vast horizons today; I could see peaks as far away as Monadnock in New Hampshire and Stratton in Vermont.

Nice angle on Cannon and the Cannon Cliffs.

The Cannon Balls rise behind Lonesome Lake. Snowy Mt. Mansfield can be seen on the left horizon.

The Kinsmans across the valley.

Mt. Moosilauke dominates to the SW.

Gazing east into the Pemigewasset Wilderness, with Mt. Carrigain and the Nancy Range overlooking the long valley of the East Branch.

The Twin-Bond Range rises beyond Owl's Head in the heart of the Pemi.

North and South Twin.

Mt. Guyot and the huge slides in the Redrock Brook cirques, with the Presidentials beyond.

The Bonds, featuring the creased crags of Bondcliff.

View up the Franconia Range from the summit rocks.

USGS benchmark on west side of summit.

After an hour and a half stay soaking up the views on Liberty, it was time to head over to Flume. After an initial steep drop, the partly packed trail passed through a fir wave with restricted views.

The deep snowpack of late March.

Open woods in the Liberty-Flume col.

A short bushwhack on a shoulder below the summit of Flume provided a unique angle on the route of the Osseo Trail down to the valley. It runs down the crest of the slide-scarred ridge in the foreground, then eventually drops to the right into the long valley at the left-center of the picture.

A view out over the Birch Island Brook valley to Black Pond, Carrigain and Hancock.

Scrub and wind-packed snow approaching the summit of Flume.

Someone took a plunge into a spruce trap.

Looking back at Little Haystack, Lincoln and Lafayette.

Peering north from the summit of Flume.

The Lincoln Brook valley and Mt. Garfield.

Prayer flags at the summit of Flume.

Looking down the steep west face of the mountain into the Flume Brook valley. Lots of birch down there from a 1908 forest fire.

The summit crest - a unique spot in the Whites. Quite different from the rocky crown of Liberty. Two distinctive peaks.

The steep profile of Liberty, with the Kinsmans behind.

Heading down the crest on the Franconia Ridge Trail. Having left a message for Carol for a ride, I now planned to descend the Osseo Trail - a longtime favorite - to Lincoln Woods.

This steep scramble was a little tricky on the descent, but doable with the soft deep snow.

Looking down one of the Flume slides.

Wild and ragged on the south side of Flume.

The start of the Osseo Trail, which Thom Davis had traversed the day before and reported in fine shape.

Great snowshoeing down the softly-packed track.

Heading down the scrubby ridge above the ladders.

A SE view from a spot at the top of the ladders.

Nice view of Owl's Head from the "Down-Look" viewpoint.

Mt. Flume from the "Down-Look."

As Thom reported, the ladders were completely buried in soft snow, making these steep pitches fairly easy to negotiate on snowshoes.

After a long, pleasant switchbacking descent off the ridge, I started the two-mile section that runs at easy grades down the valley of Osseo Brook. After plowing through powder on the ridge, here the snow was wet and spring-like where it had been in the sun all day.

Looking back at the wild spur that guards the south side of the valley.

Spring is coming at the lower elevations!

The last flat section winding along Osseo Brook to the Lincoln Woods Trail, the finale to a great day on the southern Franconia Range.