Wednesday, January 19, 2022

South Slide Viewpoint, Whaleback Mountain: 1/18/22

Continuing a series of visits to "neighborhood slides" near our home in Lincoln, I snowshoed up the old Osseo Trail to the last remaining open patch on the narrow slide that scarred the south face of Whaleback Mountain. The new snow from the previous day's storm made for a strenuous steep climb.

The "old" Osseo Trail was opened in 1905 by the North Woodstock Improvement Association and the AMC, as part of the Franconia Ridge Trail. It led over Osseo Peak (Whaleback Mountain) and then along a wooded ridge to Mt. Flume. It was officially abandoned in 1983 due to condominium construction but still sees some use today. 
According to Frank O. Carpenter's 1890s Guide Book to the Franconia Notch and the Pemigewasset Valley, the name "Osseo Peak" was approved for this "striking, sharp, slide-scarred peak" by the AMC Committee on Nomenclature in 1890. Wrote Carpenter, "Osseo is an Indian name for 'Son of the Evening Star,' so named because of a bright star that rises above it, as seen from North Woodstock." At the time Carpenter wrote his guide, there was no trail to the peak, but logging roads could be followed along Clear Brook to its base. In 1898, the second edition of Carpenter's guidebook could be purchased for 35 cents. It can be viewed on Google Books:

There was a partial track in the easy first mile, but from there up I was breaking trail through more than a foot of heavy powder.

It took two hours to make the mostly relentless 1000-ft. climb to the slide.

Looking back during one of many short rest stops.

Big Coolidge Mountain looms to the west.


Winter beauty on the moderate section that approaches the slide on an old contouring logging road.

Heading up a short but steep bushwhack to the open slide patch.

Looking back.

Emerging at the edge of the slide patch, elevation 2750 ft. My best guess is that this slide fell during the 1938 hurricane, at the same time as the slide on the east flank of nearby Big Coolidge Mountain. No mention of the slide was made in the AMC White Mountain Guide description for this trail until the 1946 edition, which read: "...the trail turns R into the hardwood growth and zigzags with increasing steepness for about 1/2 m., then climbs into an easy old road leading R across the big Osseo slide." I recall climbing up the narrow slide swath above here back in the 1990s, but it is now mostly treed-in.

Loon Mountain's North Peak ski trails in view.

From the upper end of the open patch, a nice view of Scar Ridge and Mt. Osceola beyond the hump of "South Whaleback," which was once locally known as "Elephant Mountain." Guidebook author Frank O. Carpenter called it "Oweenee Ridge." The Osseo and Oweenee names came from Longfellow's poem, "Hiawatha."

The view was worth the effort on this cold, windy day.

Scar Ridge looks rather ominous in the low-angle January light.

 A particularly good angle on the long track of the eastern of Scar's NW slides, which I had visited the previous week.

 Snow plumes were blowing off the eastern Scar Ridge peaks and Mt. Osceola. Luckily this south-facing viewpoint was mostly protected from the wind, allowing for a half-hour stay.

Heading back down the old road section.

Descending towards the Loon ski trails.

Nice angle of light on the tracks.

Clear Brook.

A cold dusk in the depth of winter.


Friday, January 14, 2022

NW Slides, Scar Ridge: 1/13/22


Enjoyed excellent snowshoeing on a bushwhack up the big valley between Scar Ridge and Black Mountain, with visits to the lower parts of the two long NW slides of Scar. Walked a mile up Loon XC trails (not open for skiing yet this season), then strapped on the snowshoes for the long whack. Not too far in I came across this creepy abandoned makeshift shelter.


Home sweet home?

Good snowshoe conditions with 8-10" of dense powder.

This huge boulder is a prominent landmark in the valley.


Lots of hardwood forest on this route.

Traversing one of my all-time favorite glades, deep in the valley.

The nameless brook that drains this expansive basin.


This looked like the track of an old tote road, perhaps dating back to the J.E. Henry era.

The meeting of two streams. The brook draining from the slides is at the top, the one coming down from the Scar Ridge/Loon col is at the bottom.

A foot of snow out here - glad I put the tails on the MSRs.


Pushing through the hobblebush.

A good workout!

Old hardwoods in a glade approaching the base of the slides.


Heading up the track of the eastern slide.

Reaching the open part of the slide.

A long swath that extends far up the mountainside. Two winters ago, in early March, I snowshoed 2/3 of the way up. On this mid-January day, the slide was not "in" enough - the snow cover was thin in places atop the ice and there were hollow-sounding spots.


Even after the recent cold weather, there was some open flowing water.


Not far up the slide, I turned around, as it looked like more of the same ahead - not enough snow cover atop the ice. I sat on my pack for a while - temps were in the comfortable high 20s - to have a late lunch and take in the scene.

Looking back at Black Mountain, the eastern neighbor of Loon Mountain.

Wild crags on the south ridge of Black.


Heading back down a bypass around a steep ledge step/cascade.


Someday I would like to whack to the top of this cliff on a northern spur of Scar Ridge. It would offer a close-up view of the slides, but the approach looks steep and likely very thick.

It was getting on towards mid-afternoon, but there was still time to pay a visit to the western Scar Ridge slide. I cut across to its base and headed up its track under this archway.

After a steep bypass through the brush, I emerged on the open part of the western slide, which had better snow coverage than its eastern counterpart.

Cool ledges lining the slide.

This formation is one of the most interesting I've seen on any slide: steep scalloped ledges overlooking a pool, with a slab ramp on the left.

A different look in summer.

I tested the snow on the ramp to the left and it was deep and firm enough to make good steps without slipping on the ice beneath.


There's a narrow passage at the top to the left of the icefall.


Close-up of the icefall.

Topping out on this pitch, there's a long view up the slide.

And views back to the north, into the Pemi Wilderness, begin to open up. The high peaks were socked in, but Owl's Head could be faintly seen in the distance, emerging from the fog.


A bit farther up I reached my turnaround point - it was 3:00 pm and time to head for home.

From here the upper ice flows of the slide were in view.

These ice flows are a climb known as "Long Way Home," which was briefly described in An Ice Climber's Guide to Northern New England, by Rick Wilcox; the 3rd edition is available in limited quantities at International Mountain Equipment:

Good view of Black Mountain here.

Heading down.

The scalloped ledge formation, with tracks.

Pure winter beauty.