Tuesday, January 10, 2017


It was a cold (-1 F at the start) but nearly windless day for a snowshoe trek to one of the most interesting mountains in the Whites. The views were stunning today. I went up and back via the Drakes Brook Trail and the upper Sandwich Mountain Trail. There was no one else on the mountain today (though four crazy bushwhackers climbed Flat Mountain from the same trailhead) and the woods were quiet. The only wildlife I encountered was a Boreal Chickadee near the top of the Drakes Brook Trail.

Drakes Brook was crossed on  a solid snow bridge.

There was a good, solid smooth snowshoe track for the first mile or so.

Morning sun on the brook.

Farther up the trail, another look at the brook.

For more than two miles the trail, originally opened as the "Drake Valley Trail" in 1921, mostly follows an old tote road up this quiet valley. This also served as a ski trail in the 1930s.

Icicles on a streamside boulder.

After the first mile or so, boot divots began to pepper the trail, and on the upper half of the trail the snowshoe track had been trashed by "barebooters," perhaps over the weekend. This is hard to understand sometimes. Aside from the courtesy of leaving the trail as good as you found it, travel is much easier on snowshoes when the snow is soft.

High up in the valley, the brook was mostly buried.

A nice feeling of remoteness in here, tucked within a deep fold on the flank of Sandwich Dome.

The upper half-mile of the Drakes Brook Trail climbs rather steeply from the brook up to the ridgecrest. The trail originally continued up the ravine and emerged almost at the summit of Sandwich Dome. But it was soon closed by logging, and around 1930 the upper part was relocated to its current route. Today, unfortunately, the section of trail climbing from the brook to the ridge was a minefield of postholes and divots frozen in place. Pretty miserable 'shoeing both up and down.

Nice woods approaching the ridge.

The gentle section of the Sandwich Mountain Trail between the Jennings Peak Spur and Smarts Brook Trail is a wonderful woods walk. This trail had a good crusty snowshoe track with just a few (deep) postholes here and there.

Ooh, that must have hurt...


Open firs along the trail as it ascends the cone of Sandwich Dome.

Winter wonderland material.

This reminded me of the summit area on Mount Cabot.

Great snowshoeing here!

A little after 1:00 pm I arrived at the partly open 3980-ft. summit of Sandwich Dome. The snowpack gave an extra lift for the views. There was no wind here (contrary to NWS forecasts), so even with temps not much above zero I was able to bundle up, have lunch, and admire the peaks for 45 minutes. I counted 36 NH 4000-footers visible, plus several more in Vermont.

Northwest view.

Jennings Peak, the Kinsmans and Mt. Tecumseh.

Mt. Carrigain and the Presidentials.

The Presys, zoomed.

The Osceolas, beyond the town of Waterville Valley.

The Bonds, Zealand and Hancock beyond Mad River Notch.

Mt. Moosilauke with Dickey Mountain in front on the left.

The Franconia Range.

Great look at Tripyramid and the South Slides.

Hoodoo trees and a wan sun.

On the way back I made the short side trip (steep at the end) to ledgy Jennings Peak for more great views. This snowy ledge looks out to the Sandwich Range beyond the Drakes Brook valley.

Whiteface and Passaconaway beyond Flat Mountain and the wild Flat/Sandwich col.

The double-domed summit of Sandwich.

The Presidentials shone like a beacon.

Another fine angle on the Tripyramids.

It was so clear that distant Mt. Monadnock was easily visible - left of center in this photo, to the left of Mt. Kearsarge.

The ski trails could be seen on Killington in Vermont.

Jennings Peak overlooks the broad Smarts Brook valley, with Black Mountain on the left and Sachem Peak on the right.

From here there is a dramatic profile of Sachem Peak, which we visited last month. After admiring the Jennings vistas for 25 minutes, I headed back down Drakes Brook Trail and its postholes, choosing that over the unknown condition of the very steep section of the Sandwich Mountain Trail below Noon Peak. The last mile by moonlight was pleasant on a pin-drop quiet evening.

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