Thursday, December 7, 2023

Snowshoeing on Mount Hale: 12/6/23

A generous early season snowfall has created some good snowshoeing opportunities in the Whites. I took advantage of this with a snowshoe trek partway up the unofficial Firewarden's Trail on the west side of Mount Hale, followed by a bushwhack to a view ledge on the mountain's west ridge. Though the view of the peaks surrounding the Little River valley was obscured by an undercast, the powder 'shoeing and snow-caked forest made the journey well worthwhile.

I parked at the Seven Dwarves Motel on Little River Rd., put $10 in an envelope on my windshield, and followed the road and an old snowmobile trail to Haystack Road (FR 304). I had first tracks all the way this day, and the 'shoeing was good on Haystack Road with ~5" of powder. Actually, mine were the first human tracks; a deer had beelined up the road ahead of me.

It's about 1.5 miles from Seven Dwarves parking to the start of the North Twin Trail.

Every branch bore its burden of snow.

Good 'shoeing along the bed of the 1900-vintage Little River Railroad.

A snowy scene along the Little River.

Last summer the USFS relocated part of the North Twin Trail to stay on the east side of the river, more or less following the route of a well-used unofficial bypass that avoids two river crossings. To get around a nasty sidehill spot on the unofficial bypass, the trail crew built a short staircase that drops down from the riverbank.

It was a little tricky to navigate on snowshoes. I found it best to back down. A remnant piece of rail from the Little River Railroad juts out on the right.

Once I turned onto the Firewarden's Trail and rose into the hardwood and birch forest that cloaks this side valley, the snow depth increased significantly, about 8-10" to start.

Before long it was up to around a foot. This was going to be a workout.

An unbroken blanket ahead.

Swinging into a switchback.

About a mile up the trail, I headed up the slope into the woods.

Making tracks in open woods. The snowpack was unusually deep for early December.

The forest was fully encrusted.

Fresh tracks from a wandering bear at 3100 ft.!

Snow globe snowshoeing.

Open glade delight.

An inviting corridor.

Gorgeous birch glades, the legacy of a 1903 forest fire.

Hobblebush and birch snags.

Final approach to the ledge.

There it is!

Looking up the west ridge of Hale.

The day's undercast obscured the view I'd seen on several previous visits: South Hale, Zealand Mountain, Mount Guyot and the Twins overlooking the long valley of the Little River. At least I had a partial view of the valley. 

The view on a clear winter day.

Peering down to the floor of the valley from a smaller ledge just to the west.

After a late lunch break, following my tracks back down through the birches.


Looking north, the junction of the relocated North Twin Trail (left) and the Firewarden's Trail (right).


Friday, December 1, 2023

Mount Liberty Talus: 11/30/23

I returned to the Flume Brook valley for the first snowshoe bushwhack of the season, circling around to the SE side of Mount Liberty and climbing to an open talus slope with a close-up view of Mount Flume and its great snow-covered slides.

To reach the Flume Slide Trail, I retraced my route from two days earlier, bushwhacking up the long hardwood slope from the upper end of the network of trails around the Flume. I passed this set of deer tracks on an old contouring logging road.

There was enough snow out here to make the snowshoes a good choice. It was easier going than when I barebooted up through here two days earlier.

First snowshoe tracks of the season!

A well-used bear tree.


I was a bit surprised to find one set of fresh boot tracks heading up the Flume Slide Trail at this quiet time of year.


The trail scoots over the debris flow levee from the 1883 Mount Liberty slide, which I had visited two days earlier.

After a mile or so on the Flume Slide Trail I headed up into hardwoods to begin a long angling bushwhack climb across the south slope of Mount Liberty.

When breaking trail, slow and steady wins the day.

Interesting track pattern. Not sure who made it.

Higher up across the slope I entered an expansive white birch forest that seeded in after a 1908 forest fire that burned 423 acres.

Spacious and inviting.


Fresh bear tracks at 2800 ft.

I angled a little too high on the slope and ran into a wall of conifers.

I had to drop down a bit to get around the steep nose of Mount Liberty's craggy south ridge, which loomed ahead.

I descended steeply to one of several prominent logging sled roads on the south side of Mount Liberty, dating back to the early 1900s.

These roads provide stable platforms for cutting across a slope, much easier than tedious sidehilling.


The road hugs the very base of that steep craggy ridge.

It soon breaks out at the top of another extensive birch glade.

I left the road for a while and meandered through the birches with snow-caked Mount Flume visible through the trees.


Then it was back to the road as it angled across the SE slope of Mount Liberty.

There were occasional blowdowns and obstructing conifers on the road, and there were other sections like this.

I eventually left the road and climbed steeply up the slope towards the open talus.

Along the way I crossed a higher, parallel sled road.

After a strenuous climb through dense conifers on rocky terrain, I could see the edge of the talus above.

Made it! Snowshoeing on the jumbled rocks with an early season blanket of sugary snow was pretty sketchy. On my previous visit here in late March, 2010, there was a deep snowpack along the base of the talus, and I was able to traverse along it for 100 yards to its upper end.. Today I was content to just clamber up to the top edge at this lower end, and settle in for some views and a late lunch.


Here, at 3380 ft., I could peer down to the broad floor of the upper Flume Brook valley, backed by the dark bulk of Hardwood Ridge.


Distant views were hazy on this fairly warm day.

Looking up the steep talus slope.

The view I really came here for: Mount Flume and its snowy slides.

Closer look. In winter, one of the most impressive sights in the Whites.


Another angle, showing the col with Hardwood Ridge.

The descent off the talus required careful snowshoe placement.

Steep terrain below the talus.

After descending to the upper parallel sled road, I turned onto it and followed it down across the slope.

Though steeper than the parallel road below, this road also provided a generally good route through the forest.

From the junction where the two roads converge, I descended steeply and directly through the birches to the Flume Slide Trail.

Looking back up the slope.

Heading towards the lowering sun on the Flume Slide Trail.

Flume Brook at one of the trail crossings.

Sunset afterglow from the trail. From this point the trail and then the bushwhack down to the wide and smooth Flume paths is all in open hardwoods. I was able to navigate all the way out to the Flume parking lot without resorting to a headlamp.

In this view of Mount Liberty from Mount Flume, the talus slope I visited is the elongated snowy opening under the distant summit of South Kinsman.