Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Mount Liberty Slide: 1/31/23

A repeat of a snowshoe bushwhack I enjoyed last winter: up the lower half of the Flume Slide Trail and then up the south slope of Mt. Liberty, largely following the traces of century-old logging roads, to the prominent slide that fell in 1883 and swept the famous suspended boulder out of the Flume. From the Flume Visitor Center parking area I approached via the snowmobile-groomed Franconia Notch bike path and the well-packed, somewhat bony lower 0.6 mile of Liberty Spring Trail.

I was very disappointed to see that the Flume Slide Trail had been badly chewed up by barebooters after the series of recent snowfalls. I would have much preferred to find unbroken snow. A mile and a half of this ankle-twisting mess was not appealing, and I contemplated bailing on the trip, but after a few expletives I decided to give it a shot. It was tedious, but doable.

The four brook crossings on this section of Flume Slide Trail were not well-frozen. The largest crossing, about 0.4 mile from the junction, was a bit tricky on snowshoes.


The boot holes go ever on. Almost picturesque, but a snowshoe track would look nicer. Every winter it puzzles me why so many hikers are reluctant to wear snowshoes, in this case churning with useless spikes or crampons through 8-10 inches of heavy fresh snow.

Fine hardwood forest abounds in the Flume Brook valley.


Farther in the valley I briefly came upon this single ski track, which headed off through the woods down towards Flume Brook.

Just before the stream crossing 1.5 miles from the Liberty Spring junction, the track of the 1883 slide is seen as a deep gully down to the right of the trail.

After the crossing I headed off-trail, at first up through open hardwoods.

The breaking was fairly heavy, but I was happy to be making my own track. Luckily the breakable crust that had bedeviled trail breakers the previous week had softened up and was not a factor here.

After pushing up through a stretch of prickly conifers, I merged with one of the rather steep sled roads presumably used by the G.L. Johnson logging company in the early 1900s.

This was my third trip up this route in the past year.

Higher up the road becomes quite steep. It must have been a wild ride sledding logs down this grade. I climbed in zig-zags to ease the pitch.


Making tracks on a branching road that leads up and across towards the slide.

Two hours after leaving the trail, I arrived at the edge of the lower of three open swaths of the slide. The sun was brilliant and remarkably warm on a generally cold day, and there was very little wind on this SW-facing opening. The distant view, beyond the Pemigewasset valley, was dominated by Mt. Moosilauke.

Side view.

The snow cover was not deep on the slide, easing any concern about avalanche potential, but enough to get good purchase with my snowshoes. I 'shoed up along the edge and then out to the middle where the pitch eases a bit. This slide is mostly wet slab in summer and is essentially unclimbable.

Looking up to the ice cliff that guards the top of the lower slide section.

Looking back.

I made a steep climb through the woods to get around the cliff bands that separate the lower and middle sections of the slide, and emerged at the base of the middle swath. The rime-frosted upper ridge of Mt. Liberty can be seen above.

Looking down over the cliff bands.

I ascended to the top of the middle section and settled in for a late lunch break in the sun. A commanding view from here.

From this spot I peered up at the steep upper section of the slide. It was tempting to climb farther up, but it was after 3:00 pm and I had a long way to go back down. Also, I could see several ice bulges up there, and a study with binoculars from down in the valley the next day revealed that the ice bulges went pretty much edge to edge on that part of the slide.

Here I had a chance to try out some new Hestra mittens my nephew and his wife had given me for Christmas. They are warm!

On my way down, looking back up at the middle section.


Steep descent through the woods between the sections.

A closer look at the ice cliff at the top of the lower swath.

I popped out farther down the lower swath for a look, and sent many small snow rollers down the slope.

View with snow rollers.

Descending along the branch logging road.

Back down the main sled road.

Blowdown detour.

Late afternoon sun.

Down through the hardwoods.

Sunset glow. I navigated the lower Liberty Spring Trail by headlamp, then the bike path/snowmobile trail by moonlight.

View of Mt. Liberty and the slide taken the next day from a parking area at Indian Head Resort.     (Photo by Carol Smith)

Zoom on the slide.



  1. Now I know who came up after me on Liberty Spring. I saw the snowshoe tracks when I got back to the junction with Flume Slide. Too bad the trail was a mess. Liberty was solid all the way to the ridge.

    1. Hi Kevin, Liberty Spring looked to be in solid shape. I saw your tracks in the dusting of new snow. It was a fine day out there!