Thursday, January 30, 2020

West Sleeper Slide: 1/29/20

A bushwhack/trail/bushwhack trek into a remote corner of the Sabbaday Brook valley with Ray "Jazzbo" Caron. Our objective was the huge slide on the NE flank of West Sleeper unleashed by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. It was a scene of desolate winter beauty.

Due to the recent thaw and a NETC report from 1/25 of breaking through into knee deep water, we opted to bushwhack to avoid the lower three large crossings on Sabbaday Brook. Ray, a skilled reader of maps and terrain, spotted the line of an old logging road on a LIDAR hillshade image,curving into the valley along the east side of the brook. After a 0.2 mile bushwhack from the Kanc Highway we found it.

For a mile southward we followed this historic tote road, which we believe dates back at least to the days of the Swift River Railroad (1906-1916). The breaking was fairly strenuous with a foot or more of mealy snow beneath a thin crust.

One area showed much sign of moose activity.

Frozen moose bed and outhouse.

This section of the old road, contouring across a steep slope high above the brook, fit the description of the "old Sabba Day Brook tote road" from the 1916 AMC White Mountain Guide: "The old road slabs the side of Mt. Potash, high above the stream."

On gentler terrain, Ray scouts the route of the road ahead.

The old road brought us to the Sabbaday Brook Trail at the point where it turns right onto its continuation up the east side of the valley. A short distance beyond we reached the Wilderness boundary.

This delicate bird's nest had fallen onto the trail.

Easy cruising up the valley, with 2-3" of crunchy newer snow atop a solid snowshoe track. There was one set of boot tracks ahead of us, perhaps from the previous day.

A bent sled runner at the site of the Swift River Railroad's Monahan Camp, just before the trail's fourth crossing of Sabbaday Brook.

We began our bushwhack to the slide along an old sled road that led away from the camp location, but soon petered out.

Snow-frosted Middle Tripyramid looms at the head of the valley.

For a generally light snow winter, there was a respectable snowpack out here.

Contouring around into the side valley that leads up to the slide, and eventually to the col between the Sleepers.

Open yellow birch glade.

Ray comes up through the glade.


Looking across the valley.

The first sign of the slide is a tangle of tree trunks deposited well downstream.

Beyond the tree carnage, we dropped down to the open rubbly runout of the slide.

A nifty open route up the track.

Snowshoeing into the sun.

A bank gouged out by the slide.

Ray climbs onto the open bank across from the base of the slide.

There it is!

Looking north to the Fool Killer.

View from the shelf at the base of the slide.

Ray coming up.

Side view along the shelf.

We climbed a short way up the south edge of the slide, where the widest distant view is obtained. Had we more time, we might have ascended farther up; the thin, grippy snow cover was favorable for snowshoeing.

Good views on this fine sunny day.

In the distance (L to R): Mt. Tremont, Carter Dome and Rainbow Ridge, Bartlett Haystack and the Baldfaces.

Carter Dome was nicely frosted.

Ledgy Potash Mountain, which has a good view of the slide, and its trailless neighbor, "South Potash."

Looking across the slide.

Ray takes in the view while enjoying a late lunch.

Time to head out.

Looking back at the broad crest of East Sleeper.

Following our tracks back to the trail.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Sandwich Dome: 1/23/20

Didn't have time for the summit of the Dome after climbing Jennings Peak two weeks ago, so I returned to Drakes Brook Trail for some unfinished business. Excellent snowshoeing despite some "bareboot blues" on the ridge, and the 100-mile views were phenomenal.

Obligatory sign shot.

Drakes Brook.

Someone had skied high into the valley a day or two before. The lower two miles of Drakes Brook Trail was actually a designated ski trail in the 1930s.

Wonderful 'shoeing. Thanks to those who packed this out after the previous week's snowstorms.

Snowshoe hare.

High in the valley I made a short bushwhack to find a small opening I'd spotted on Google Earth.

I had faint hope it might be a logging camp site I've been looking for, but as I suspected it was a tiny wetland along a small meandering stream.

Making tracks in the Wilderness.

Drakes Brook at the turn in the trail, where steeper climbing begins.

The gentle wooded ridge walk between the Jennings Peak and Smarts Brook junctions is one of the nicest in the Whites.

Snowy tunnel.

Unfortunately what must have been a nice softly-packed snowshoe track had been badly chewed up by barebooters, making for tedious travel. I don't like doing it, but when I encountered the trio of young men descending near the summit, I asked the one who was carrying snowshoes if he would put them on, pointing out the difference between the churned up track above them and the smoothed out track behind me. I discovered on the way down that he did put his 'shoes on - thank you! - and the descent was much more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise.

It doesn't look like much here, but because this massive mountain rises in lofty isolation, it is a commanding viewpoint. It was once much more open; now you have to stand to see the sweeping northward view.

In the 1870s, geologist Joshua H. Huntington - for whon Huntington Ravine and Mt. Huntington were named - listed Sandwich Dome as one of his top six viewpoints in the Whites, along with Mt. Prospect in Holderness, Washington, Lafayette, Moosilauke, and Kearsarge North. Guidebook editor Moses Sweetser, who climbed the Dome with Huntington around 1875, called the view "one of the grandest and most fascinating panoramas in New England."

Here are a few snippets of the view. South Twin, the Bonds, and Zealand through Mad River Notch, with the Hancocks to the R above the K1 Cliff on Mt. Kancamagus. All told, 35 of the White Mountain 48 can be seen from here.

The Osceolas and Franconia Range beyond Waterville Valley.

The four Franconias.

Sandwich Range neighbors Passaconaway & Whiteface behind the NE summit of the Dome.

Tripyramids, with Carter Dome peeking over the North/Middle col.

Mt. Carrigain and the Presidentials beyond Mt. Kancamagus, Livermore Pass and Scaur Peak.

Zoom on the Presys.

Mt. Moosilauke, showing the slides in Gorge Brook ravine and the ice cliffs on the Jobildunc Ravine headwall.

Close-up of the South Slides on Tripyramid.

The southern slides on Osceola, which fell during Hurricane Carol in 1954.

 The vast blowdown on East Sleeper, from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, shows as a large patch of gray.

Hancocks and the Arrow Slide.

Before heading home, I made a short side trip down the Algonquin Trail for the southern part of the view.

The Algonquin Trail is rarely used in winter.

About 0.1 mile and 100 ft. in elevation down from the junction, the scrub parts for a Lakes Region view.

Squam Lake behind the north end of the Squam Range and the eastern Sandwich Notch area.

Mt. Israel, Red Hill, Lake Winnipesaukee and the Belknaps.

Looking down at Black Mountain, the SW shoulder of Sandwich Dome, over which the Algonquin Trail passes.

Crystal clear viewing revealed Mt. Monadnock (L) and Mt. Kearsarge (R) beyond the southern half of the Squam Range. It was clear enough to see (with binoculars) the ski trails on Mt. Wachusett in Massachusetts, 99 miles away.

With the track smoothed out, sweet snowshoeing along the ridge on Sandwich Mountain Trail.