Thursday, March 17, 2016

"THE BEAK": 3/16/16

The trek on this 50-degree, sunny-to-cloudy day included a three-mile walk up the Mad River valley from Waterville and a bushwhack from the Greeley Ponds Trail to a unique rock formation with an excellent view on the west side of Mt. Kancamagus.

There was a bit of new wet snow atop the old ice on the trail, good for animal tracks. These looked like coyote. With the warm temperatures, the ice softened up and Stabilicers were sufficient for traction.

The Mad River, running free.

A hardwood draw along the section of Greeley Ponds Trail that follows a former part of the Timber Camp Trail.

A welcome stretch of bare ground, with the western spurs of Mt. Kancamagus seen through the trees.

The new bridge over the Mad River on the relocated Greeley Ponds Trail.

A peek up at the impressive Painted Cliff on East Osceola.

The bushwhack started out steep and fairly thick, then segued into some pleasant going.

There were a number of interesting rocks along the way.

Pretty good whacking.

Mushroom tree.

An inviting forest scene with rocks and an old leaning maple.

The terrain got a lot rougher as I approached my objective - boulders, dark woods, and treacherous patches of ice. I carefully worked my way up and across to the base of the towering rock formation that I call "The Beak" for the way it juts above the trees like the bill of a gargantuan bird.

Another angle from below.

The narrow and airy final approach to the top of The Beak. The hardest part was getting around the branches of the spruce out at the end.

Rugged terrain up here!

Big dropoffs on three sides.

The open viewing perch is out at the end of the prow-shaped crest of the rock. One part of the view looks south down the Mad River valley to Sandwich Dome and neighbors.

The Dome and Jennings Peak, with a good look into the Drakes Brook ravine.

The Greeley Brook basin on East Osceola is striped with old logging roads from a hurricane blowdown salvage operation. I'm trying to determine whether it was 1938 or 1954. The gravel bank viewpoint on the Timber Camp Trail can be seen left of center.

Franconia Ridge through Mad River Notch.

A broadside view of East Osceola. The Painted Cliff is on the left, the stripe of the 1897 slide is in the middle, and the cliff-faced arm above the Greeley Ponds is on the right.

The Painted Cliff. In the 1930s a trail was roughed out to the base of the cliff by Waterville Valley trampers, but it was obliterated by the 1938 hurricane.

This is quite a perch, with room for only one hiker.

Looking up at the K1 Cliff. (K is for Kancamagus.) Somehow a trail was roughly blazed up there, presumably by Nathaniel Goodrich, around 1910, but it didn't last long.

A zoom on K1, showing its many sharp clefts.

There was just enough flat space to recline for a while.

Lots of interesting rocks in the area, this one seen on the way down.

On the way back I followed a decommissioned section of the Greeley Ponds Trail south to the new bridge. Here the trail was washed out by Tropical Storm Irene.

This stretch did provide some nice views of the Mad  River.

For a quarter-mile there was a stream running down the former trail route.

On the way back I took a side trip up the Timber Camp Trail for the view from the gravel bank.

Spring snow on an old hurricane salvage logging road followed by the Timber Camp Trail.

The gravel bank viewpoint.

This spot has a unique view of the Waterville backcountry, including Scaur Peak, Flume Peak and the Tripyramids.

Zoom on the Tripyramids. The white spot under Middle/South Peaks is a huge icy slab that rises above the Old Skidder Trail.

The long southern ridge of the western spur of Mt. Kancamagus.

The K1 Cliff from a distance. I first spotted The Beak from here in 2005 and paid it a visit that spring. With a careful look it can be spotted under the talus slope beneath the cliff.

The K2 Cliff overlooking the Greeley Ponds.

The Painted Cliff looms. Fine views are available from the talus at the base of the cliff, but the bushwhack approach is very gnarly with large rocks and dangerous holes.

Heading down, a long stretch of trail had melted off during the day. Yay for spring!


  1. I love seeing these pictures and reading your descriptions of your wanderings. I have recently taken to hiking in the Blue Hills to contribute to weight loss and am addicted to hiking now 😀. Working my way up to a level of fitness that will allow me to venture into the mountains of NH. Thanks for your posts here!

    1. Thanks for reading, and for your comment. There is some good hiking on the Blue Hills. Good luck on working your way up to the Whites. By the time you get up here hopefully the ice will be gone from the trails!