Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Scar Ridge via 1877 AMC Route: 8/20/19

In August 1877, AMC explorers F.W. Clarke and Gaetano Lanza ascended "a large mountain conspicuously marked with a scar" as seen from the Pemigewasset River valley to the south. The slide scarred the mountain "near its right hand end almost from the summit to the base." The duo climbed the slide starting from the road in Thornton Gore. At that time the track of the slide was bare from 2250 ft. to just below the summit.
The track is mostly grown over today, but there is still one large open slab at 3100-3200 ft., and a few small open patches above. This remnant slide is located in the drainage between Little East Pond and the more recent, still-prominent slide on Mack Brook. It was a fun and challenging trip retracing the 1877 route, with descent via the standard route across to Loon Mountain.

Pleasant morning walking along the Little East Pond Trail, following the grade of the Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad (1909-1914).

Piping from a gravity-fed water system for the Clear Brook logging camp.

I left the trail at ~2200 ft. and followed the NW branch of Little East Pond Brook - the stream that drains the old slide.In 1877 Clarke and Lanza wrote: "Around bend after bend, and curve after curve, we followed up the gravelly bed of the slide," with only one detour into the woods. After 142 years of storms and blowdowns, the track is no longer an open highway.

For a short distance I followed what appeared to be an old sled road from the Woodstock & Thornton Gore Railroad.

This weedy clearing had the look of a logging camp, but a quick search revealed no artifacts.

I took to the brookbed/old slide track where possible, but it was clogged with blowdown much of the way.

As expected, the woods soon took a turn for the worse, in an extensive area of tall spruce with young trees and blowdown beneath.

As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a moose path that led through the worst of it.

The path was particularly well-beaten where it climbed the bank on the east side of the brookbed.

Wild spot along the brookbed.

Blowdown-ducking was easier than pushing through the adjacent woods.

A nice open stretch of the old slide track.

A slope with more open spruce woods.

Approaching a spot where I had seen a massive blowdown blocking the slide track on Google Earth. Back to the woods.

The final steep approach to the open slab featured better woods.

And even a fern glade.

Bottom of the slab. It was fringed with fragile moss, so I detoured around through the woods.

Looking down and across the slab. In 1877, Clarke and Lanza wrote: "Upward we toiled over smooth and slippery sheets of gneiss, which sometimes overlapped like shingles upon a steep roof, and were completely washed bare of soil."

Mt. Tecumseh from the upper edge.

More slabs above.

Nice place to hang out in the sun for a while.

The upper end of the open slabs.

View from the top.

Above here the old slide track was in various stages of revegetation.

A peek back.

Scar Ridge woods.

Beautiful moss, I went around so as not to leave footprints.

A moss-blanketed ledge step.

Still a patch of bare ledge here and there.

This rock was very loose.

More loose rock.

Open enough for a view south.

It was...up.

The old slide track is still in there.

Neat overhang.

Uppermost remnant of the slide track. In 1877, Clarke and Lanza "reached its apex,, scrambled through a few intervening rods of mossy evergreen woods and underbrush, and stood upon the summit of the mountain." The slide led them to the east summit knob of Scar Ridge. In their Appalachia article, they concluded: "Of course, having climbed and measured the mountain, we felt bound to give it a name. Accordingly, we propose for it the descriptive title of Scar Ridge. It is a long narrow ridge, and it has numerous scars in adition to the great slide." It had previously been labeled Black Mountain. Theirs was not the first ascent, as in 1871, while working for the NH Geological Survey, Warren Upham had dropped a hammer while collecting rock specimens on one of the northern slides.

Oh boy.

A short detour provided a view to the SW.

Looking down on a whaleback southern spur of Scar Ridge.


Glad I didn't try to come up through there.

Interesting ledge formation.

Not going that way.

Type 2 fun.

At last, the east knob, which had been considered the true summit in the past as it has a more defined "peak" than the west knob. I couldn't get this traditional NEHH canister open.

The woods are pretty miserable on the east knob.

Better on the west knob.

The orange canister shows up well at the blowdown-ravaged high point of the west knob.

A welcome sight.

First entry in the older logbook.

Eye-popping devastation from the October 2017 storm. It rivals that seen on East Sleeper (Hurricane Sandy in 2012).

Parting shot.

If coming from Loon to the west, a herd path leads you to the canister. There is no continuous herd 
path on this route, only bits and pieces here and there. Still a true bushwhack.

Overall, the woods aren't bad coming from Loon... long as you stay to the north of more blowdown areas.

Descending to the col.

Moss field in the col.

I found the most trying part of the whack to Loon was the knob between Scar Ridge and the North Peak of Loon. Thick, hummocky and rough. I did happen upon a ledge on this knob...

...with a look back up to Scar Ridge.

I was very happy to reach the well-beaten backcountry ski trail to Black Mountain that forms the western leg of the route from Loon.

These signs give away the entrance to the backcountry ski trail

Gorgeous evening views from the Walking Boss ski trail. Black Mountain is the prominent peak in the foreground.

Pearly Everlasting.

Twins and Bonds.

Franconia Range.

Mt. Washington can be seen way in the back. Loon is an excellent viewpoint.

Top of the lift.

Sunset ski trail living up to its name. Thanks to Carol for picking me up at the base!

Google Earth image of the south side of Scar Ridge, with parts of the old slide track visible.


  1. "After 142 years of storms and blowdowns, the track is no longer an open highway"-well put!

  2. Oh for Pete's sake, I just saw this after I commented on your other Scar Ridge adventure. This was another route I've always eyed. :-)

    That's the first shot of the west summit I've seen that shows the damage clearly, and it's mind blowing to see the change. It was a lovely moss covered open area with a nice canopy when I was there.

    1. Yes, I remember nice open ferny woods on that west knob. Still is that way on the north side of the blowdown area. The east knob was less friendly...