Thursday, March 22, 2018


On Monday while en route to a hike to First Sister I saw a snowshoe track leading off from the parking spot for Oliverian Brook Trail. On Wednesday I decided to follow the track as far as it went, hoping to at least check out the Passaconaway Cutoff, one of the trails I work on as an adopter, for winter blowdowns. Turns out the track led up to Mount Passaconaway by the northern route, which is seldom used in winter. Thanks to those who broke it out!

Frozen beaver pond along Oliverian Brook Trail.

Along the grade of the Oliverian Brook spur line of the Conway Lumber Company's Swift River Railroad, used to log the valley a century ago.

Oliverian Brook.

Marshmallow rocks.

Into the Wilderness.

The softly-packed snowshoe track continued up the Passaconaway Cutoff. I found only two partly-buried blowdowns to take care of in the spring, and removed a third.

Creative crossing of the west branch of Oliverian Brook.

Long corridor through the hardwoods.

Snow patterns on the west branch.

As the Cutoff climbs above the brook, Mount Passaconaway looms large across the valley. The east slide, which fell during the 1938 hurricane, shows well when snow-covered.

Ascending the slope on the Cutoff.

At the top of the Cutoff you've come 3.6 miles, but the summit is still a daunting 1500 feet higher. Especially in winter, this approach gives you the feeling of a long, remote journey.

This birchy spot along the Square Ledge Trail was the site of a Conway Lumber Company logging camp.

My goal was to at least get up to this slide along the Square Ledge Trail, on the steep side of Nanamocomuck Peak, and take in a view.

I made a short bushwhack through the woods to the edge of the slide, which provides a nice vista to the north from this little nook in the Sandwich Range Wilderness.

Beyond ledgy Hedgehog Mountain you see Mt. Tremont, Mt. Washington, Bartlett Haystack, the Wildcats and the Carters.

Zoom on Washington.

I was able to fashion a seat with my pack and relax for a while.

Side view of the slide. According to a dissertation by Edward Flaccus, "Landslides and Their Revegetation in the White Mountains of New Hampshire" (Duke University, 1958), this slide fell during the 1938 hurricane. It is 250 yards long, has a maximum slope of 39 degrees, and when it fell 5,399 tons of debris were moved.

After a rest I decided to keep heading up on the soft track. Above the slide the Square Ledge Trail makes a long, stiff climb of 600 ft. in 0.4 mile.

I was happy to reach the Walden Trail.

A peek down at Mt. Wonalancet and the eastern valley of the Wonalancet River, drained by Passaconaway Brook.

I wanted to avoid the very steep climb on the upper Walden Trail, so I headed across the East Loop along the south side of Passaconaway's summit cone.

Only one snowshoer had been through here, so it was slow going for 0.2 mile.

As expected, Dicey's Mill Trail - by far the most popular winter route to Passaconaway - had a superb well-packed snowshoe track leading up its mellow switchbacks and steep upper pitch.

The scramble just below the summit had a good snow ramp.

Despite the gray skies, views were phenomenal from the snow-enhanced NW viewpoint just below the summit.

The Sleepers, with Killington easily visible on the horizon.

One of the best views of the Tripyramids, rising impressively from the Sabbaday Brook valley. The top of the 2011 Irene slide on West Sleeper can be seen to the left.

Long view out to the Franconia Range. I could see 35 NH 4000-footers from this spot and 5 more over at the eastern viewpoint.

Garfield, Hancocks, Bonds, Twins, Zealand and Carrigain.

Deep snow on the Walden Trail between the viewpoints.

The 0.3 mile side trail down to the fabulous North View was unbroken, and it was late in the day, so no go.

The east outlook was also expansive today.

North to the Presys.

Wildcats/Carters, Baldfaces etc. beyond Hedgehog, the Albany Intervale, and clearcut-scarred Bear Mountain. With binoculars I could see snowy Saddleback Mountain near Rangeley, Maine.

Good view of the wild Paugus Pass area.

Peering down at Square Ledge.

Mount Chocorua and the Sisters.

Leaving the east viewpoint, which was originally cleared by the naturalist/author Frank Bolles in 1891.

Deep soft snow heading back across the East Loop. The 11-mile journey ended under the dim light of a crescent moon.

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