The Mystery House

Today was the first successful bushwhack to the summit of Bald Mtn (Waitsfield, VT).  Back in November I snowshoed the route in blue, which took me to the top of some fantastic cliffs that overlook the Mad River Valley.  Today's route in red circumnavigated the cliffs, rose into a notch just below the cliffs, then turned SSW to reach the summit.  This post is about something astonishing I saw up on the cliffs.  Now bear in mind that this entire ridge shows no signs of use except by logging every now and then and moose and deer (and mice, rabbits, etc.).  It's quite desolate, with no human footprints other than mine.

Today, on the way to Bald Mtn, Spanky and I explored an old abandoned road which we'd found before and used it to as a landmark and as a way to move quickly on the east side of the ridge.  We'd taken it up to where it evaporated and from there climbed to the to of the cliffs (shown in blue above.  Today, we took it down for 15 minutes looking for views into Northfield.  After a bit, we turned around and headed back to the spot where I wanted to enter the woods to continue on.  I don't know what the road is - too blown out for cars or ATV's, block by fallen trees in spots making even snowmobile awkward.  But on rounding a turn, I looked up and high on the cliffs in front of me was a house.  It was a dull grey, the same color as the cliffs.  It was like finding a monopoly board in the middle of the saharan desert.  Clearly that was the point of the road, but the road just dissolves near the summit - clearly I've got to go back.  

I've been on top of those cliffs and under them a number of times and never saw that house.  I was a little confused about it's exact location since I'd been up on those very cliffs just a month ago, right near the spot where I thought the house stood.  I've also looked at those cliffs from the south and have never seen that house.  I took a picture.

When I got home I stared at satellite images and found no evidence of a house anywhere.  i did notice that in the summer there are tracks higher up than I'd found before, so the road dissolves but then reconstitutes higher up.  I noticed when I took the picture that I was facing along the road but turned a bit to the right to see the house so I figured it wouldn't be hard to confirm that the house was on top of the same cliffs (the terrain is ragged enough that it could be a ridge in the foreground or a different ridge entirely, given that I'd never stumbled on that house before).

I noted the timestamp on the photo and based on my known start time, confirmed that the photo was taken 1:20 into my trek.  I looked on my Garmin GPS track and determined I was at the position of those gree dots in the next picture.

I was on a SW bearing and looking almost due west toward the cliffs and narrowed it down to the area swept by the pink beam in the picture.  I've looked carefully over satellite pictures of the area before, looking for old logging roads, and had never seen a house.  This gave me a specific target area though.  I looked again at a variety of satellite images and could not find any structure at all.

 And yet it was clear exactly where it should be:  On the ship's prow:  the height of the cliffs overlooking Northfield.

The next photo is my track on the satellite view.  There are a few noteworthy features.  My red track comes in at the upper right.  I took the side trip to explore the views down to Northfield and on the return, came in on the little "U" track just above center-right.  I notice the house and snapped the photo while standing right where the red track enters the picture on the right.  I continued north, then entered the woods and dropped SW along a drainage that follows along the base of a vertical cliff face which appears as a NNE/SSW-trending grey line alongside my track in the center of the photo.  That's the top of a 60-80' vertical wall.  My track continues south as I maintained an elevation of about 2100' to come around the big ship's prow where the house was located.  I headed NNW up into the notch and then hooked SW to hit Bald Mtn.  On the diagram I note the curve of the ship's prow in light green (the top of the cliff band) and the approximate location of the house based on my photo as a pale yellow disk.

I searched satellite images and finally found an object that had straight, seemingly man-made lines, including lines at right angles.  This must be the house.  The location is severely dramatic but I can't imagine that anyone's been up there in a long time.  During hunting season there was no indication anyone was using it.  The old logging road doesn't go that far any more (downed trees make it so inaccessible that I bushwhacked up to the top of the cliffs on my first snowshoe there).

There's no indication of snowmobile use, ski or snowshoe tracks, or anything other than deer tracks.  The road to the house has huge washouts and fallen trees, making it unlikely a vehicle has been up there in several years.

I've been all over the rocks at the top-left of the picture below, looking out over the notch to the west, which put me about 30 - 40' feet to the west (and a little north) of the house - and I never knew it was there.

I'm going to go back this winter and poke around a bit.  I'm absolutely intrigued.  I might check in at the town hall too and see if anyone has any record of that structure - which I believe is in Waitsfield.


Pierce, Eisenhower, Monroe

Date:  11/17/2012
Team:  tmail, dogman, trudy, spanky, chris, mark, g-$$$
Route:  Crawford Path out and back
Time:  7.5 hours
Conditions:  No snow, but a lot of ice on the trails.  Microspikes would've been helpful.  The ice was extensive on the entire ascent to Pierce and in the saddle between Pierce and Eisenhower.  After that, no issues.

photos here:


Date:  11/10/2012
Team:  Dogman, Trudy, Spanky & me
Route:  Franconia Ridge Loop (counter-clockwise)
Conditions:  Up to a foot of fresh snow on the ridge, no traction needed anywhere except on the descent below Greenleaf Hut - wore microspikes.

Photos here.


Franconia Ridge Lafayette & Lincoln

October 13
Me and Spanky
photos here


Mt. Washington

Checkin' 'em off the list.  October 6 w/ Dogman.


Franconia Ridge Loop

little haystack:  1:09
lafayette:  1:37
parking lot:  2:51

team:  dogman, trudy, chris & margaret


Pemi Speed Loop

Date:  9/1
Route:  Counter-Clockwise from the campground on the Kanc
Time:  11:20

  • 00:00  Start
  • 02:15  Bondcliff
  • 02:40  Bond
  • 04:00  South Twin
  • 06:00 Garfield
  • 07:45 Lafayette
  • 11:20 End
This was 25 minutes slower than my PR of 10:55.

At the same time, John was running in the opposite direction targeting 8hrs.  We crossed between Galehead and Garfield.

Also at the same time, tMail was running counter-clockwise.  He hit 8:30 and passed me on the summit of Liberty Springs.


Mt. Washington Speed Climb

Mission:  I tried to (and did) break my speed ascent record.  The descent was casual.
Date:  8/24/2012
Route:  Pinkham Notch to Summit via Tuckerman Ravine Trail.

Distance:  4.2 miles
Elev Gain:  4250


Elev (ft) vs. Time (min) - Green line is average ascent rate

  • To Caretaker Cabin:  0:40
  • To Base of Waterfall:  0:55
  • To Auto Road:  1:30
  • To Summit Sign:  1:33 
  • For 1st 40 minutes = 854 m/hr
  • For last 53 minutes = 808 m/hr
  • Overall = 828 m/hr (45 ft/min)

Pictures:  Here


Franc Ridge Loop w/ Spanky

4 hours including lunch, stops, snacks, swimming.
pics here:


Franc Ridge Loop w/ tMail & MadDog

4.5 hr loop due to sprained ankle and maddog's bum knee.  tmail in 2:26.