Back in January 1997 I snowshoe-bushwhacked to a clifftop ledge on a northwestern spur of North Twin Mountain that promised an unusual view of the semi-circle of mountains ringing the upper Gale River valley: North and South Twin Mountains, Galehead Mountain, Garfield Ridge, Mt. Garfield and Flat Top Mountain. Due to persistent fog that day, I had only brief glimpses of the view. A quarter-century later I finally returned to that ledge, and enjoyed unobstructed views of this mountain amphitheater.
This was my second trip up the mellow Gale River Trail this winter.
A beautiful morning in the hardwoods. The snow depth was minimal along the first mile of the trail.
Recent cold weather had largely locked in the North Branch of the Gale River.
From the relocated section of Gale River Trail I spied my objective - the lower of these two "stairs" on
the northwestern ridge of North Twin. The clifftop is just around the corner and out of sight here.
After the crossing of Garfield Stream I left the trail and descended to the North Branch, hoping for a feasible crossing. This looked promising.
A good snow bridge is a wonderful thing.
This little side drainage was my ticket to access the clifftop.
I clawed my way up a steep bank and briefly followed the former route of the Gale River Trail.
Pretty nice woods in this little valley...
...including some majestic old yellow birches.
Heading up the drainage.
In the open woods there was about 8" of recent powder atop a base of hard crust. This combination proved to be quite slippery on steeper pitches.
An inviting corridor.
End of the hardwoods.
Steep climbing through the conifers. Oddly, in a few spots there was only an inch or two of powder atop bare ground.
I knew I had reached the ridgecrest when I encountered one of the many cliffs that armor this rugged spur.
I descended through a minor col to reach the knob that harbors the clifftop ledge.
Here's where the real fun began. The ledge is down in front below the crest of the knob. I made two pushes through the dense growth that ended in impassable dropoffs.
The third try was the charm as I found a negotiable but very prickly route down off the top of the knob.
Twin Range cripplebrush is not a great area for maneuvering with snowshoes.
There it is, and mostly snow-free!
The views were well worth the effort. Mt. Garfield rises at the head of the valley of Garfield Stream, with Flat Top Mountain guarding the valley on the right.
Zoom on Flat Top. The views from its ridgetop cliffs are not easily won. The white patch below is the remaining open area (gravel in summer) of the 1954 Flat Top Slide.
Looking up the Gale River valley to South Twin, Galehead Mountain and Garfield Ridge.
This is the best view I've seen of the 1954 Gale River Slide, which filled the valley with debris and water and almost swept away an AMC hutman.
Zoom on the headwall of the Gale River valley. At the base is the only remaining open patch of a 1938 slide. A rocky spur knob of South Twin looms behind.
The massive snow-caked ridges of North Twin are close at hand.
Down-look. This ledge is a perch.
Distant views out to Vermont.
A February boot shot. With zero wind it was comfortable enough to hang out here for 45 minutes.
Then it was time for Round 2 with the cripplebrush.
There are more cliffs on the next knob up the ridge. Not for today.
On the descent the snow conditions were very slippery, so it wasn't as quick as is normal in winter.
Nice open glade.
Following my tracks, no navigation needed - a winter advantage!
From the other side of the river, I had a peek back at the perch.
A beautiful snowshoe track for a quick descent on the Gale River Trail.