Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Late November Snowshoeing

Two shorter snowshoe hikes presented contrasting snow conditions - the first featured midwinter-type powder, the second was like spring snowshoeing.

1) NE Slide on East Osceola

I took advantage of beautiful midwinter-type powder conditions before a predicted rainstorm. I snowshoed a mile up the Greeley Ponds XC ski trail, which had been tracked out by a snowshoer on Wednesday, then made a short, steep bushwhack to the base of a Tropical Storm Irene slide on the NE flank of East Osceola.

Beech leaves in the track - a quirk of November snowshoeing.

Split rock.

The slide in sight.

Off-trail, steep and deep.

View of Mt. Huntington from an open spot at the base of the slide runout.

The cliffs of West Huntington, which overlook the Kanc Highway above the hairpin turn. Years ago, I made two unsuccessful attempts to reach the top of these cliffs for views. Both times I started in the afternoon, in winter - too late, as it turned out, to navigate the dense conifers and blowdowns up on that shoulder.

Today I made it up almost to the bottom of the wider open part of the Irene slide, but ran out of time as there was a store that needed to be opened on a Saturday morning!

Hard to believe this was Thanksgiving weekend!

2) Fletcher's Cascade Trail

I made the most of a gloomy afternoon on the way back from an appointment down south. Spring-like snowshoeing conditions prevailed in Waterville Valley at 37 degrees.

Most of the Fletcher's Cascade Trail is in the Sandwich Range Wilderness. There was one set of old snowshoe tracks on the trail.

Partly frozen cascade on Drakes Brook (off-trail).

View down Drakes Brook from the top of the cascade.

"The Three Bowlders" mark the location where Bowlder Brook (on which Fletcher's Cascades are located) merges with Drakes Brook.

A jumbo hemlock leaner. There are some very large old hemlocks in this ravine.

The step-like lower drop of Fletcher's Cascades.They were named for Arthur Fletcher of Concord, NH, a frequent guest at Waterville in the late 1800s. The trail continues another 0.1 mile, steeply, to the upper cascades, but I had reached my turnaround time for this visit.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Snowy Day at Greeley Ponds: 11/21/18

Snowshoeing in the Mad River Notch snow globe on the day before Thanksgiving.

Midwinter condix on Greeley Ponds Trail.

Snow bridges were forming on the South Fork of Hancock Branch. Step lightly!

Upper Greeley Pond from the trail.

The K2 Cliff on the west knob of Mt. Kancamagus.

A foot of snow out here.

Breaking trail out to the SE shore of Upper Greeley.

Snow squall view of East Osceola cliffs and slides.

Guardian of Mad River Notch.


Looked like a beaver trough, at the north end of Lower Greeley Pond. The water level was way up at this pond in 2018, probably raised by a refurbished beaver dam.

More beaver sign.

Fuzzy view of Lower Greeley.

Trail corridor.

View of Mad River Notch from the south end of Lower Greeley.

Dim profile of the K1 Cliff.

The Mad River is a sizeable stream as it flows out of Lower Greeley.

On the way back I snowshoed up the lower track of the northeastern slides on East Osceola, the first of which fell in 1892. Additional forks of the slides probably came down in the 1950s. The tracks of the older slide (which is crossed by the Mt. Osceola Trail) and newer slides join at 2700 ft. The lower end of the combined track comes down beside the Greeley Ponds Trail south of Upper Greeley Pond. In good snow years the 1950s forks are occasionally skied.

I made it up to the base of the steeper, ledgy part of the slide at 2400 ft. It was tempting to continue up, but water could be heard running under the snow!

Following my tracks back down the slide bed.

Overhanging boulder on the edge of the slide.

The only hiker I met snowshoes down Greeley Ponds Trail after ascending the Osceolas. Back at the parking lot there was a two-inch accumulation of new snow on the car.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Scar Ridge Slide: 11/19/18

A snowshoe bushwhack into the basin between Scar Ridge and Black Mountain, out to the lower part of the eastern slide on the north face of Scar Ridge. In January 2004 I had been out to this location while taking part in a nighttime rescue of an injured bushwhacker. I finally returned to see what the area looks like in daylight.

The approach to the whack was made on the Serendipity XC ski trail, part of Loon's modest nordic network. The trail was not yet open for the skiing season.

Morning flurries obscured this view of the East Branch and Potash Knob.

Along the Hancock Branch.

These abutments were part of a truck bridge over the Hancock Branch built in the early 1950s by the Franconia Paper Co. to service a large logging operation on Black Mountain. This was originally the site of a trestle used in the1890s by J.E. Henry's East Branch & Lincoln Railroad to access the first Camp 13.

The nameless brook that drains the basin between Scar Ridge and Black Mountain.I would follow this stream up into the valley.

An old logging road provided a route partway up into the basin.

At a stream confluence I scrambled up a steep spruce-clad hogback, where I could see down to the main branch of the brook.

Several stretches of the bushwhack were bedeviled by hobblebush.

Farther up the valley was an area of fine open hardwoods that I remembered from the nighttime journey.

Beech saplings along a trace of another old road.

A nice wide section of the brook.

Farther up the valley the brook divided again. The left fork would lead up to the base of the slides.

More hobblebush.

This is mid-November? In the upper valley there was a good foot of snow, making for slow going.

 Luckily the terrain was fairly gentle until the final approach, with only a minimum of steep sidehilling.

An inner sanctum, approaching the point where the tracks from the eastern and western slides meet.

Starting to look "slidey."

Following the track from the eastern slide.

Some slide debris blocked the way, necessitating a bit of delicate snowshoe maneuvering.

Looking back down the long corridor.

Approaching the base of the slide proper, and the open area that was my destination. Thanks to the trail-breaking, it took about four hours to get here.

Heavy breaking along the edge of the slide.

Reaching the target open area.

This would be a nice cascade in summer.

A long view up the slide track. Today it was a mix of snow, ice and running water. The large upper ice flows of the east slide could just be glimpsed through the treetops. In deep winter the Scar Ridge slides are very occasionally ascended by ice climbers willing to undertake the two-mile bushwhack to the base - a true winter mountaineering adventure.

After a gloomy, foggy morning, there was some clearing in the afternoon, revealing the long ridgecrest of Black Mountain.

Hidden seemingly inaccessible crags on the flank of the ridge.

The summit of Black Mountain, made somewhat more famous by the Black Mountain Burger eatery in Lincoln.

 View from the middle of the slide.

Looking up from the west edge.

Close by to the west were high, wild crags on a shoulder of Scar Ridge.

Wonder if anyone's been up there recently, if ever.

On the descent, looking back at the upper amphitheater of the valley, with the icy tops of the eastern and western slides seen on the left and right, respectively.

Following my tracks.

The major western branch of the brook, which flows down from the Scar Ridge/Loon Mountain col.

On the middle part of the descent I took a different route through open hardwoods, avoiding a bad area of spruce and hobblebush I encountered on the way up.

A random massive boulder in the woods.

Google Earth screenshot of the valley between Scar Ridge and Black Mountain.

Google Earth screenshot of the Scar Ridge slides. I went to the bottom of the left, or eastern slide. Many years ago two friends and I dropped down off the ridgecrest to the top of the right, or western slide after coming up the Mack Brook slide on the south side of Scar Ridge. There we found phenomenal views down into the valley and out to the Pemi Wilderness. The western slide seems to be the one that is occasionally ice-climbed. Last summer uber-hiker Jason Beaupre and friends ascended both the western and eastern slides on separate treks to the summit of Scar Ridge. These slides are fairly old, as they were mentioned in a report by AMC explorer Warren Upham in 1877. Upham lost a hammer while collecting rock specimens from the top of one of the slides in 1871. The slides are prominent, especially in winter, when looking south along the East Branch in the Lincoln Woods area.