Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Mount Prospect (Holderness): 9/27/22

Over more than four decades of hiking in the White Mountains, I had never climbed Mt. Prospect (2064 ft.), a once -renowned little peak in Holderness, just  west of the south end of the Squam Range. It took the placement of two relatively new geocaches there by "barefoot gal" (thank you!)  to pique Carol's interest in climbing this peak. I readily signed on to the idea. The mountain is located on private land, some of which is under conservation easement, and the trail up it is not officially maintained and is not included in guidebooks; it is primarily a "local's hike." It turned out to be a very enjoyable trek on a well-used and well cared for trail, with some nice views near the top.

From roadside parking on Mt. Prospect Road in Holderness, we found the trailhead cache and then followed the main trail as it climbs moderately for the first mile on an old woods road with unusually good footing. There is much beautiful hemlock forest along this section. Various side paths intersected along the way. They  had the look of mountain bike paths, but recent signage at the trailhead prohibits the use of bikes.

Higher up, the route becomes more of a foot trail, and the woods transition to open spruce forest that has the look of old pastureland, similar to that found in some areas of Sandwich Notch, though we saw no stone walls.


Partway along the right hand fork of a loop over the summit, a side path leads to this nice open ledge with a view southeast over the Lakes Region. From here, beyond the south end of the Squam Range one can see the Ossipee Range, Red Hill, parts of Squam Lake, a spread of Lake Winnispesuakee, the Belknap Range, and assorted hills in southern New Hampshire.


Along the summit crest the loop passes through this attractive red maple and fern glade.


The trail crosses another ledge with a more restricted view.

After reaching the wooded summit, where there is a U.S, Coast & Geodetic Survey benchmark, Carol dashed off and quickly found the summit geocache.

We then followed a ~0.1 mile spur path downhill to the north to a limited view north to several White Mountain peaks; this photo takes in Scar Ridge, North Twin, South Twin, West Bond and West Tecumseh. Also visible from here are the Franconia Range peaks, Mt. Garfield and Owl's Head. In the late 1800s, the summit area of Mount Prospect was open, presumably cleared for pastureland, and the view was accounted one of the best in the region. Moses Sweetser's classic guidebook, The White Mountains: A Handbook for Travellers, first published in 1876, included a 1 1/2 page description of the view from Prospect, plus a fold-out panoramic sketch identifying the visible peaks. Professor Joshua H. Huntington, a key contributor to Sweetser's guide, listed Mt. Prospect as one of his choices for the six best viewpoints in the Whites.

From here I followed a steep and narrow continuation of the spur path down to an excellent open eastern and northeastern view ledge.

The Squam Range rises beyond a spur of Prospect known as "The Button."

The broad mass of Sandwich Dome rises to the northeast. Mt. Whiteface, wreathed in cloud, is seen in the distance.

We then headed back to the southeastern view ledge along the summit loop, and relaxed for a long time in the sun on this fine early fall afternoon.


Parting shot before an easy 1.6 mile descent back to the trailhead.


Saturday, September 24, 2022

Kettles Path: 9/23/22

On a windy, cloudy afternoon Carol and I enjoyed a hike up the Livermore Trail and Kettles Path to The Scaur, a favorite viewpoint of ours in Waterville Valley. Along the way I did some maintenance work on the Kettles Path, which I adopted this year. Some trail work seemed appropriate on the day before National Public Lands Day.

We passed by some good axe work performed by the OBP Trailworks crew earlier this year, taking out two blowdowns that were too large for my Silky saw.

Did some brushing along a section where beech saplings have been creeping into the trail corridor. Before...

...and after.


A WVAIA sign marks the short, steep spur that ascends to The Scaur.

The south-facing ledges of The Scaur were largely protected from the strong NW winds. The summit of Sandwich Dome was socked in, though the nubble of Jennings Peak was in the clear. A nice spot to hang out for a while.

A hint of early fall color, looking out towards Lost Pass.

Leaving The Scaur.

On the way down I cut up a yellow birch blowdown.

Cleared. I did some more brushing on the way down, but soon the wind gusts ramped up and we heard the cra-a-a-ck of a tree falling in the forest. The rest of the brushing can wait - time to hustle back to the car!


Thursday, September 22, 2022

Scenes from the SW Slide, Mt. Osceola: 9/21/22

 The massive slide unleashed by Hurricane Carol in 1954 on the south side of Mt. Osceola is one of the most impressive in the Whites. I've been here several times in the last few years. A visit always provides a visual feast.

Trees flattened by a small avalanche that scoured the base of the slide last winter.

Recent rains created a cascade on the massive footwall ledge.

Looking up the larger left fork of the slide, the part that fell in 1954.

Pothole pool above the footwall.


Another cascade on the very steep footwall of the older east fork of the slide, which may date back to the late 1800s.

Wet slabs are slick as ice, a no-go for climbing. The slide was wetter then usual after the recent rains, requiring me to stick to areas of gravel and broken rock and patches of dry ledge.

View of Sandwich Dome.

View across where the two forks of the slide meet.


Crumbling granite known as rottenstone.


Looking up to the top of the slide from the point where I stopped, two-thirds of the way up.

I lounged in the sun for more than an hour, taking in the view across Waterville Valley to the Tripyramids, the Sleepers, Flat Mountain and Sandwich Dome.

The Tripyramids, which I had looped over the week before.


The great North Slide on North Tripyramid.

The ledge-dotted crest of Mt. Osceola looms above.


On the slow and careful descent, looking back up.

Looking down.

Smooth slabs.

Fall is coming.


Friday, September 16, 2022

Tripyramid Slides Loop: 9/15/22

It was a spectacular cool, sunny, breezy day for hiking the classic Tripyramid Slides loop - up the North Slide, across the North, Middle and South Peaks, and down the South Slide.

White Cascade on Slide Brook is always worth a stop when hiking up the Livermore Trail.


Sun-dappled strolling through the hardwoods.

Early hobblebush color at the junction with the section of Mount Tripyramid Trail that leads to the South Slide.


The section leading to the North Slide is a mile farther along Livermore Trail.

The trail makes a moderate half-mile climb up Avalanche Ravine, following Avalanche Brook, and passes through lush hardwood forest featuring some large yellow birches.



 The trail then turns up to begin the ascent of the North Slide, which is moderate at first, soon reaching the first ledge slabs, which are at a fairly steep angle. Due to the extensive scrambling up steeper ledges above this point, the North Slide is considered one of the most difficult trail sections in the Whites, and merits its inclusion on the "Terrifying 25" list. It can be dangerous if wet, and descent on this route is not recommended at any time. For readers who have not climbed this section and are curious about it, I've included a number of photos of the route up the slide. 

Next is a section of boulder scrambling up a gully.

At ~3100 ft. you encounter the start of the steep ledge slabs. From here to the top of the slide at ~3900 ft. the slope of the slide is 33 to 34 degrees. The next 300-400 ft. of elevation is the most difficult part of the climb. Time to stash the poles - you'll be using your hands frequently.

There is nearly continuous friction climbing on slabs of monzonite, an igneous rock. The rock is grippy when dry. There are only a very few faded yellow blazes marking the route, which stays to the left side in this section. You have to look up and plan your moves up through the ledges, and you have to trust your boots.


This photo doesn't really capture it, but I've found this to be the trickiest spot all three times I've climbed this in summer.

A side perspective reveals the pitch of these ledges.

A boot wedging maneuver was used to ascend this crack.

The beauty of the North Slide is that once you get partway up these ledges, views appear behind you, first looking at the Osceolas with Mt. Moosilauke seen through Thornton Gap.

One of the rare blazes still remaining.

A tricky boulder scramble.

At ~3500 ft. you break out onto the open upper part of the slide - still very steep, but with broken ledges providing more handholds and footholds, and a variety of routes to choose from. A colony of feathery ferns marks the spot.

Fractured slabs make for fun friction climbing.

More slab scrambling.

Steep enough.

Huge vistas unfold to the north.

Mt. Washington and its Presidential neighbors, undoubtedly buffeted by strong winds this day.

Tecumseh, Moosilauke and the Osceolas.

The ledges go ever upwards. All told, the slide ascends 1200 ft. in 0.5 mile.

The upper part of the slide is expansive. After the North Slide fell during a tremendous rainstorm in August 1885, its entire length was as wide or wider than this. A party that visited the slide just a couple of weeks after it fell marveled at “the vast proportions of the first land-slip. It was a magnificent sight. The lower half has since been mostly revegetated, but the openness persists up high,

Looking down.

A patch of Labrador tea struggles for survival.

Near the top of the slide I took a long break to savor the marvelous crystal-clear views, which took in 31 NH 4000-footers.

Here the vista extends out to the Wildcats and Carters.

Looking down from the top of the slide, where there is broken rock and gravel. One should take care not to send rocks bounding down towards hikers below. On this midweek day I saw only one other hiker on the slide.

View from the top. Even if you climb North Tripyramid by another trail route, it's well worth descending 200 ft. down the Mount Tripyramid Trail to see this vista.


Into the woods above the slide, where the climbing remains steep to the summit.

The vista is restricted, to say the least, from the little NE viewpoint at the summit of North Tripyramid - except when there is a deep snow platform in late winter.

On the way up Middle Tripyramid, I ran into Philip Carcia, who was in his last week of his effort to complete the “Single Season White Mountain Guide. The SSWMG is the act of hiking all 650+ primary trails in the official White Mountain Guide in a single summer season." This is his third attempt in the last three years. After coming up just a few days short the last two years, he is on track to finish this year before the autumn equinox. He was doing a continuous route through the 4000-footers with loops back to complete various trails. I would see him again on the way down from South Tripyramid.

The western view from Middle Tripyramid is being slowly blotted out by tree growth.

From the summit rock there's still a decent view of Mts. Chocorua and Passaconaway.


The ferny col between Middle and South Tripyramid.

On the way up South, a peek back at North and Middle.

The neat summit crest of South Tripyramid.

The descent to the top of the South Slide is crazy steep.

The unique view to Lost Pass and Sandwich Dome from the top of the South Slide.

Looking down the South Slide, which fell in October 1869 - the first slide on Tripyramid in recorded history.

Long view out to the Lakes Region.

Looking back up at broken rock slabs. Careful attention to footing required.

This scramble is the trickiest spot on the South Slide, which overall is much easier to navigate than the North Slide.

A lone aspen graces the gravelly lower part of the slide.

On the slide runout I met Philip again. He had descended the North Slide and was now ascending the South Slide to "bag" the section of trail from here up to the Kate Sleeper Trail junction. Before I met him on Middle Tripyramid he had climbed Mts. Passaconaway and Whiteface and come across the Kate Sleeper Trail. Yikes!

Evening light in the gorgeous maple glade along the Mount Tripyramid Trail, not far below the South Slide. From here, the 4.7 mi. walk out is smooth cruising with good footing on the south link of Mount Traipyramid Trail and the lower 2.6 mi. of Livermore Trail.