Friday, February 23, 2024

Northwest Slide, Mount Passaconaway: 2/22/24

On a fairly warm, sun-to-clouds day, I made my second trip into the Downes Brook valley this week. Coincidentally, the day after I climbed the Downes Brook Slide, my friend Cath Goodwin and two companions (one on snowshoes) went in and skied down most of the slide. Cath reported that they encountered a group of four snowshoers who had gone farther up the valley before turning back on a rough section. Knowing that there would be a good snowshoe track on the Downes Brook Trail, I decided to take advantage of it for access to a favorite bushwhack to the Northwest Slide of Mount Passaconaway, which is located in the next ravine to the southwest of the better-known Downes Brook Slide. This slide can be seen from only a few locations. This view of it was taken from North Hancock last winter. The bottom of the slide is a huge granite slab.

Looking upstream along Downes Brook. The snow bridges on the four crossings held up. I figured I should go now before the warmth and rain predicted for next week.

A fine packed powder snowshoe track made for easy travel on the Downes Brook Trail.

Heading up the tributary brook to the lower part of the Downes Brook Slide, from which I would launch my bushwhack to the Northwest Slide.

Cath and her friend Sarah had skied right over the cascade at the base of the open ledges.

I think they had a good time!

Skier's view of Potash Mountain.

Heading into the woods for the mile-long whack to the Northwest Slide.

Typical of late winter, the snow was largely supportive under the soft top layer.

Due to a poor route choice, I did some unnecessary sidehilling.

Farther along, I wandered around through a confusing flat area looking for the small drainage that comes down from the Northwest Slide.

Found it!

A little gem of a songbird nest seen along the way.

A weathered old maple in a nice hardwood glade along the slide drainage.

A pleasant plateau approaching the base of the slide.

The slide in sight ahead.

Closer look.

Making tracks along the slide track.

Getting closer.

On previous visits it's been possible to follow the slide track up almost to the base of the big slab, but today that route looked sketchy ahead.

Here I took to the woods and climbed steeply through spruces.

I made a long switchback and ascended into a fine hardwood area Cath Goodwin and I had discovered when we snowshoed to the top of the slide three years ago.

Looking back, distant Mount Washington could be seen through the trees.

A sweet hardwood glade.

Superb snowshoeing.

At the top of the steep climb I swung left onto a tote road from the Swift River Railroad logging days of the early 1900s.

Farther up, I worked my way down to a spot with a view across and down the big slab at the bottom of the slide. This monster ledge measures about 200 feet by 200 feet, and has a slope of 38-40 degrees. Cath's friend Sarah and her partner skied this slide several years ago. Yikes!!

A good view north here.

Mount Carrigain, Carrigain Notch, Green's Cliff with the Nancy Range beyond, and part of ledgy Potash Mountain.

Pushing through some prickly spruces en route to the slide at the top of the slab.

Onto the slide!

A shelf at the top of the big slab provides a comfortable viewing platform.

Hancock and Carrigain are prominent behind South Potash.

Middle and North Tripyramid and the Fool Killer are seen to the left.

The temperature was comfortable with no wind, so I fashioned a seat from my pack and stayed for a while.

Then I ventured a little farther up the slide. This part of the slide is a wet and slick swath of ledge in summer. It's much easier to climb in winter given good snow conditions. Three years ago Cath Goodwin and I went all the way to the top, where there is a neat ice cliff, but I didn't have time for that today.

I snowshoed up to the base of a very steep pitch (~40 degrees) topped by an ice bulge. On our ascent Cath and I skirted this through the woods.

Looking back down.

On the way down, looking back up at my tracks.

The world drops away ahead.

A large white pine stands tall near the top of the slab. I believe this slide is more than a century old.

Heading back down through the woods.

I picked a better line on the traverse back to the Downes Brook Slide.

I was happy to get back there.

Last look back at Passaconaway.




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