Monday, June 1, 2020

Osceola Brook Slides: 5/31/20

A cool and windy day provided good conditions for a strenuous bushwhack to the two slides on the headwall of the Osceola Brook valley: a large rock slab slide on the west, and a narrow gravelly slide on the east. Both fell during Hurricane Carol in 1954. I had visited these several winters ago on a snowshoe bushwhack with Mark Klim, but snow conditions weren't safe for getting the best views of the bigger rock slab slide. A return visit was in order.

I scouted the bigger slide the day before when Carol and I did a geocaching hike over the top of the old Snows Mountain Ski Area in Waterville Valley.

A long, enticing series of cascades was spilling down the slabs.

Setting out the next morning, I enjoyed the spring greenery along the Waterville X-C ski trails.

To approach the slides, I used an old logging sled road from the 1940s that I had checked out twelve days earlier. The lower part of the road was mostly filled with feathery beech saplings.

A brief open stretch of the road through fine hardwood forest.

Most of the road is populated with prickly conifers.

Local residents travel this way, too.

It's a long and tedious walk with countless branches in the face and blowdowns to step over, but the level footbed of the road, dug into the mountainside, makes for an easier approach than a whack up the steep-sided drainage below.

High in the valley the road crosses a steep tributary brook, with a spur of East Osceola seen across.

Eventually I descended into the valley and made my way to the fork in Osceola Brook, where the tracks of the two slides meet.

As we had on our snowshoe trip, I headed up the steep ridge betwen the slides. The woods here are kinda ugly. I wondered if the old Ravine Path, opened by Arthur L. Goodrich in 1900, used this ridge for part of its route. It led up the valley headwall to the Osceola-East Osceola col. It was later called the Osceola Brook Trail, and was abandoned in the 1940s, before the Hurricane Carol slides fell. Descriptions of this steep and rough trail suggest that it partly followed an older slide.

I climbed partway up the ridge, then dropped steeply to the base of the western, rock slab slide.

A fine cascade spilled over the lower part of the slab.

Good flow of water.

Cliffs on the ridgecrest of Mt. Osceola loomed high above.

The lower slab had enough dry, grippy rock to safely climb.

Bluets were blooming along the edge.

I was careful to step only on dry ledge. The wet slabs are slippery as ice.

A narrow dry strip here and then into the woods, to avoid trampling fragile vegetation along the edge. The cascades on the big upper slab visible above.


I popped back out on a dry and comfortable ledge perch at the top of the lower slab.

Labrador Tea is among the plant life along the fringe of the slide.

A cascade and pool behind the perch.

From the top of the cascade, a view up more cascades on the lower part of the big slab.

The woods are very dense on the steep slope alongside the big slab.

This part of the slide is essentially unclimbable when wet.

Emerging at a view spot higher up, looking out to Flat Mountain North and Sandwich Dome beyond the village of Waterville Valley.

An impressive scene of ledge and falling water.

After more tussling with the scrub, I found a little dry ledge perch high on the slide.

Many shelves of granite.

Step out here at your peril.

Beautiful tufts of grass or sedge adorn the center of the slide.

Zoom on Sandwich Dome and Waterville Valley.

Looking across near the top of the slide.

Type 2 fun descending the ridge between the slides.

Slow going with uncertain footing.

It took a while to get across to the eastern slide, a narrow gravelly gouge.

A powerful surge came through here during Hurricane Carol.

Descending this open corridor was heavenly compared to the thick growth and treacherous turf on the adjacent ridge.

More gouging down near the bottom. Once at the confluence of the slide tracks, I whacked back up to the old sled road for the long prickly walk out.

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