Wednesday, January 21, 2015


On a spectacular bluebird day I teamed up with new bushwhacking convert Linda Moore for an exploration of Walker Ravine, the great valley carved into the southwestern flank of Mt. Lafayette. It was cold and windy in the Old Bridle Path parking lot, but conditions were great in the woods, with a well-packed track and a thin layer of new snow on top.

A great morning to be out in the winter woods.

At 1.2 miles we left the trail and made a steep 150-ft. drop to the floor of the ravine.

At the bottom we followed an ancient logging road, which was shown as a dashed line on the AMC Franconia map in the 1920s. There was a faint old snowshoe track along the first section, perhaps made by ice climbers or backcountry skiers venturing up the open streambed of the south fork of Walker Brook, which eventually climbs to "Lincoln's Throat."

A beautiful route up the valley.

Where the valley wall closed in, we made a sketchy crossing of Walker Brook.

At 2700 ft. we reached the forks of the brook.

We started up the open south fork, with the intention of following it up several hundred feet in elevation for some views.

A snowy pathway carved into the ravine.

We climbed up a small frozen cascade.

There were unpredictable holes and weak spots along the open brookbed, making for slow and cautious progress. We decided to bail on this option and cross over to the north fork of the brook and head through the woods for an open slide patch farther up the valley.

We had to climb a steep pitch to exit the south fork ravine.

Once up on the broad ridge between the forks, we found good going in fine open woods. I had been partway up this ridge back in 2011.

We had several nifty views of the cliffs below Old Bridle Path, looming under the deep blue sky.

This was a particularly gorgeous glade. The snow was pretty deep in here, Sunday's rain and thaw a distant memory.

Farther up the valley we dropped down nearer the north fork of the brook, making our way through a neat pole forest.

The north fork of Walker Brook, well-buried.

The slide patch, our destination, in sight across the brook. Elevation 3150 ft.

This is the only remaining open patch on a slide that fell down off Agony Ridge at least a half-century ago. The length of the slide can be seen in a 1964 aerial photo.

Climbing the steep snowfield, firmed up by the sun.

The view out near the top. Tough lighting for photos, but the sun was downright balmy here while the wind was howling up on the ridge. We were able to take a nice sit-on-pack break at the top of the slide patch.

Mt. Waternomee, Mt. Jim and part of Mt. Moosilauke could be seen to the left of Agony Ridge.

Distant peaks in the SW view, including Carr Mountain on the center horizon, with Mt. Pemigewasset beneath.

This spot offered a unique perspective on the Old Bridle Path cliffs.

The slide patch we visited is seen in the center of this photo taken from the Old Bridle Path.

Slip-sliding our way back down.

A peek at Franconia Ridge.

Great woods for whacking, especially with a nice broken snowshoe track to follow on the return trip.

More views up to the cliffs.

This old yellow birch is a tree with character.

From the top of a small slide near the forks of the brook, I leaned out for a look up at Mt. Lincoln and its west spur, Carpenter Ridge, named by Guy Waterman for early 1900s Franconia Notch trail-builder Frank Carpenter.

We dropped back down to the south fork, now bathed in late afternoon sun.

Descending the brookbed into the sun.

A cool open highway approaching the fork.

Walker Brook just below the fork.

Climbing back up out of the ravine to Old Bridle Path, capping a memorable snowshoe adventure.

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