Friday, January 28, 2022

Haystack-Liberty Slide: 1/27/22

On a cold, deep winter day I teamed up with Cath Goodwin for a snowshoe bushwhack to a slide on the west side of the Franconia Range, hidden in a valley between Little Haystack Mountain and Mt. Liberty. Perhaps the only locations this slide can readily be seen from are the summits of the Kinsmans; the view below is from North Kinsman. This is a fairly recent slide. My best guess is that it fell during the October 1995 storm that triggered the Dogleg Slide on Mt. Osceola and the big north slide on North Twin.

It was a -15 morning, but it had warmed to just above zero when we started up Falling Waters Trail around 10:00 am.


After crossing Dry Brook we headed into the woods for the long, slow bushwhack up and across the slope to the drainage of the slide. In the open hardwoods there was about two feet of soft, unconsolidated snow...

...making for a good old-fashioned day of trail-breaking.

In these woods were some wonderful old, gnarled trees, such as this yellow birch...


...and this sugar maple.

Looking back at our tracks, which would make the return trip much easier.

Farther along, the slope eased on a beautiful plateau of hardwoods.

Fallen giant.

We thought these might be bobcat tracks.

Open woods ahead.

My turn to break for a while, though Cath relishes trail-breaking and always does more than her share.

I had the idea that we might be able to use the drainage below the slide as a route, as for 0.4 mile below the base of the slide it looks wide open on Google Earth. But at that point the walls of the ravine are too steep to drop in. A study of the 2-foot contour Lidar map on the NH Granit website suggested that the first feasible entry point into the drainage is another quarter-mile downstream. As we approached this spot we could hear flowing water, and a glance down at the brook revealed several open pools; we would not be using the drainage as a route this day.

Instead, we headed up the slope on the north side of the drainage, through mostly open woods.

From the edge of the slope, we could see the now very steep dropoff into the drainage.

Some really nice woods on this route.

Birch and fir. We did hit a few conifer thickets along the way, but they didn't last long.

About 4 1/2 hours after our start, we approached the base of the two-pronged slide.

After a short, steep drop through dense conifers, we pushed through more scrub along the edge of the slide track.

In here, the snow was up to 3 1/2 feet deep.

This raised area of snow concealed a pile of woody debris at the base of the slide - careful snowshoe placement needed.

Cath pushing through more brush - slide revegetation is well underway here!

Kicking steps up a bank to gain the slide itself.

Here I plunged into the first spruce trap of the season.

Making tracks up the lower, low-angle part of the slide's north fork.

A picturesque winter scene.

First views back to the Kinsmans.


There was an interesting mix of snow conditions on the steeper part of the north fork, which is mostly gravel and loose rock in summer. On the climber's left - the way we ascended - the snow was wind-scoured, thin and crusty, with rocks poking through. On the climber's right, the snow - presumably deposited by the wind - was several feet deep.

Cath approaches the prominent boulder on the wide part of the slide above the island of trees that divides the two forks.

In the center is a sharp spine of gravel and rock.

Looking up from the spine towards the top of the slide.

There's Moosilauke!

Sweet view of the Kinsmans, with Mt. Moosilauke behind on the left. The south fork of the slide drops steeply below.

Side view.

After a nice break, descending carefully along the crusty spine.

Descent with a view.

Heading back down the north fork, with a spur ridge of Little Haystack rising behind.

That was a good climb! Since the slide is between Little Haystack and Mt. Liberty, we thought we could call it the Hayberty Slide.

Our tracks, soon to be erased by a snowstorm.

Pushing through thick stuff to climb out of the drainage.

The golden hour.

Time to head down. The descent time along our tracks was less than half of the ascent time.


Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Mt. Liberty Slide: 1/24/22

On a fairly cold but sunny and nearly windless day I snowshoe-bushwhacked to the south slide of Mt. Liberty. This slide, which fell in 1883 in the same storm as the great slide on Mt. Flume that swept the famous suspended boulder out of the Flume Gorge, is prominent in the view of Mt. Liberty from Mt. Moosilauke, as seen below. It's also highly visible as you drive up US 3 or I-93 into Franconia Notch, and can be viewed from the area of the Flume Visitor Center.

 From the northbound Basin parking area I made my way to the start of the Flume Slide Trail.

As seems to be the norm this winter more than ever, a soft snowshoe track had been chopped up by barebooters, some wearing crampons (!) in the soft snow. I smoothed it out somewhat with my two passes over it in snowshoes.

The lower part of Flume Slide Trail is a pleasant walk through a fine hardwood forest, especially on a sunny winter day.

At 1.5 miles from the Liberty Spring junction the Flume Slide Trail crosses the brook that drains from the Liberty slide.

On the far side of the drainage I headed off-trail, through hardwoods for a short distance.

A study of Lidar hillshade and contour maps revealed an amazing network of sled roads from an early 1900s logging operation on the south slopes of Mt. Liberty. I soon came to the first of these and followed it partway into the ravine. I soon determined that this was not the main sled road I was seeking, one which leads high up onto the slope parallel to the drainage.

I whacked a ways up the slope and eventually found the desired road. From experiences with old sled roads on Mt. Osceola and elsewhere, I feared this century-old logger's thoroughfare might be choked with small snow-laden conifers mixed with blowdown. At first there was a bit of that.

But soon the road opened up, reflecting the open "salt-and-pepper" woods spreading across this slope.

The breaking was slow and heavy, but the route was turning out to be far better than expected.

Detour around a blowdown.

A marvelous corridor through the forest.

Plenty o' snow in here.

The road goes ever on...

High up on the slope I turned left onto a side sled road that traverses up and across the slope towards the slide.

Looking back along the side road.

I had turned off the main sled road one side road too soon, and ended up peering into the narrow, steep-sided gully of the slide track, 100 ft. in elevation below the open part of the slide.

I made a steep bushwhack through mostly open woods to get up to the slide proper.

There are three open sections of this slide. I emerged into brilliant sun at the bottom of the lower open section. Though the day's Mount Washington Avalanche Center forecast was for Low avalanche danger at all levels, I deemed the steepness of the slope and snow depth here a little chancy for ascending in the open, so I went back into the woods and climbed parallel to the slide.

Side view.

Near the top of the lower open swath of the slide, I emerged at a lower-angle slope for a view down into the Pemigewasset valley and out to Mt. Moosilauke.

Peering down at the Flume Visitor Center. The sun was wonderfully warm here and I could have lingered for an hour or more. But it had taken a long time to get up here, and I wanted to explore higher on the slide.

After a late lunch break I worked my way up to the base of an ice cliff at the top of the lower swath.

To get to the next open section of the slide, I made a flanking maneuver around the continuing band of ice bulges.

After another steep climb through the woods, I came out at the base of the middle open section of the slide.

Side view with another ice bulge. A report from a summer adventurer indicated that the ledge slabs of this slide are soaking wet and unsafe to climb in that season.

A zoom on crags higher up the ridge, beyond the upper part of the slide.

I ascended in the open along the climber's left side of this section, where the slope angle and snow depth were more moderate. Views expanded as I zigzagged my way up.

From the top of the middle section I could look up the topmost swath of the slide. Had I another hour it would have been tempting to continue to the upper end. But it was 3:30 pm and I had a long descent back to the trail.

From this spot, a commanding view! After taking it in for a few minutes, I headed back down along my tracks.

Ice sculpture in the forest.

Taking a different route down through the woods.

Looking back up a higher side sled road that I followed to get back to the main road.

Homeward bound.

This 1920s postcard shows the slide (upper right) about 40 years after it fell. Remarkably, it also reveals the lower part of the main sled road I followed parallel to the drainage. Higher up, some of the traversing sled roads can also be seen.