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.

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