Tuesday, November 14, 2023

A New Slide on the Cannon Balls: 11/13/23

Last Friday, avid hiker, skier and bushwhacker Declan Kiley came by the store and showed me a picture he had taken from Polly's Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, where he works. The photo shows a new (this summer, apparently) slide on the north side of the Cannon Balls. Declan noticed it because it was highlighted by the snow. The whitened swath is adjacent to an older long, narrow slide just to the east that descends north from the col between the Northeast and Middle Cannon Balls. Both Declan and I had been to the older slide just last March - he to ski it, and me to snowshoe on it. The next day Carol had geocaching business in Sugar Hill and took a photo that clearly shows the new slide. I had thought there might be new slides somewhere from the past summer's drenching rains, but until now I had heard of none. Many thanks, Declan!

The following Monday was my first chance to head into the Coppermine Brook valley and check out the new slide.  It was a chilly but calm day with sun through early afternoon, a good day for some exploration.

The Coppermine Trail was surprisingly snow-free for the first 1.3 miles.

I always pause to admire this ledgy area on Coppermine Brook. The iron pins on the right were presumably associated with a former logging road bridge over the brook.

Another scenic spot along Coppermine Brook.

Near its upper end the trail meanders through a beautiful hardwood forest.

At 2.3 miles, the trail crosses the brook on a sturdy bridge featuring icy footing this day.

On the far side of the bridge I turned onto the old Coppermine Ski Trail, originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and sporadically kept clear today by backcountry skiers.

After an initial steep climb, the trail heads east up the valley, high above the brook.

A set of deer tracks followed the old trail, as well as a set of recent boot tracks. Had a hunter been following those deer tracks, or had Declan come out here to see the slide up close?

When the boot tracks veered off the old ski trail, I figured it was Declan, or some other slide skiing enthusiast, heading up to the new slide. (It turns out it was not Declan, but he plans to go out there soon.) I headed off on my own route towards the slide, hoping to find some open birch glades I had snowshoed through in March. Partway up, I crossed this tributary brook.

The open glades did not materialize.

Instead, I found myself wallowing through seemingly endless tangles of hobblebush.

A glade I had joyfully snowshoed through in March....

...was a different experience minus a three-foot snowpack.

At least there was a nice view of Cannon Mountain through the trees.

I came across the boot tracks again shortly before reaching a scene of devastation at the base of the new slide.

Here was a wide swath where the new slide merged with the icy bottom of the old slide.

This photo of the old slide was taken in 2008 from a ledge (now overgrown) across the valley. The new slide angles up to the right from the bottom at perhaps a 20-degree angle.


Torn and tangled.

Looking up and across to where the old slide joins on the far side.

View from the bottom. This is the cold, shaded side of the Cannon Balls ridge.

Zoom on the upper end, where a wild-looking cliff has been exposed.

I carefully worked my way up through the woods behind the west edge of the slide. The woods weren't too thick, but the terrain was gnarly with rocks and holes, and at least one boulder cave.

Side view, partway up.

Probably a slope of 33 to 35 degrees.

Looking up.

A good-sized bear had been roaming around up here beside the slide.

The bear was weaving its own route through the rough terrain.

I won't be going out to the edge for a look there.

Farther up, at ca. 2900 ft., I picked a way out to the edge and a little shelf with a good view of Mittersill Peak (L) and Cannon Mountain (R). If you look closely you can see the track of an old slide angling down to the left under Mittersill. This slide was prominent on a 1964 aerial photo but is now mostly revegetated.

Welcome to the jumble.

Descending beside the slide, carefully.

Back down through hardwood heaven on the Coppermine Trail.