Member Trip report
Mts Whiteface and Passaconaway Hike (NH)
Trip Report/Photos from shep5
On Saturday, January 20th, I decided to head up to the White Mountains to climb Mounts Whiteface and Passaconaway. It was forecast to be mostly sunny with mild temperatures in the lower 30's, but with wind gusts of 40-60 mph at elevations above 4000-feet. I arrived at the trailhead in Wonalancet at about 7:30 AM.
It was mostly overcast at the start of the day. I quickly got ready and headed for the trail at 7:45, which started a little further up the Ferncroft Road. As there was not alot of snow on the trail, I wore microspikes...carrying snowshoes just in case the snow depth increased significantly as I gained elevation. The Blueberry Ledge Trail was already broken out as there were a few hikers who had started the day ahead of me. I hiked and chatted with a woman from Lincoln initially. She was also hiking solo and wasn't going to ascend the "ledges", but figured if I and others were doing it that she'd be okay. We continued hiking together to a point just before the trail junction with the cutoff, when I started to slow up a bit. I reached the cutoff trail within an hour of my start. The skies were clearing and there was a good view southward to the lakes region. I pressed ahead as the trail began a more persistently aggressive climb. It was 9:45 when I reached another view from the trail and it was only another 15 minutes to the junction with the Tom Wiggin Trail. Continuing on, I made it to the opening in the cliff face, with views to the west, at 10:30. This marked the started of the ledges. The first couple of ledges were fairly easy to climb as there was some snow and bare granite. This changed quite a bit for the last couple of ledges, as those were completely ice-covered and particularly for the last one, it took a few attempts to get up and over with little traction (crampons may have helped but the microspikes eventually did the job). Despite the challenge that the ledges provided, the views were fantastic over the "Bowl", on to Mt. Passaconaway and eastward to Mt. Chocorua. It wasn't long after climbing the last ledge that I reached the open shoulder summit. The winds were strong across the summit and I continued on to the actual summit which was just north of the trail junction with the Kate Sleeper Trail. There was still not a significant amount of loose snow...a few inches at most, but with the winds the tracks ahead of me were already swept over. Also, when I arrived on the true summit (11:30), the small summit cairn on Mt. Whiteface (4020') was buried. Since this summit was completely treed, I proceeded along the Rollins Trail. Continuing along the ridge, there were periodic views over the "Bowl", back to Mt. Whiteface and over towards Mt. Passaconaway. About halfway along the ridgeline and over to the Dicey's Mill Trail junction, the trail finally dropped into the col. Here I found a log and had a quick bite to eat (12:30PM). Shortly afterwards, I ran into a rather large group of hikers who were doing both peaks from Dicey's Mill rather than the classic loop (I had actually never thought about doing it this way).
By 1PM I reached the the Dicey's Mill Trail and turned northward for the summit of Mt. Passaconaway. There were a few icy spots on the trail, but it was easy to avoid the slickest spots. The trail initially switchbacks a number of times, but then for last third of a mile or so, it climbed steeply. At 1:50 I reached the last hurdle...a short climb up a icy and rocky portion just below the ledge view. Luckily, this was very managable staying to right where the tree roots and ice-free granite provided better traction. Just a few minutes later I was treated to wonderful views of the Tripyramids to the west and the Hancocks/Carrigain to the north. It's always great to have some additional perspective too from previous off-trail explorations, as the snow-covered West Sleeper Slide was very prominently displayed in the foreground of the Tripyramids. I had never really noticed it from here before, but having climbed the slide last fall, it was great to see it there, especially since I had great views from the slide to Passaconaway that day. As with Whiteface's summit, the summit for Mt. Passaconaway (4043') was completely in the trees just a short distance away. Also, as with the other summit, I had it to myself, although I didn't stay long. I returned off of the summit back to the Dicey's Mill/Rollins trail junction...which I made again by 2:30. I ran into the group that I had passed earlier, who were doing both peaks from this trail, and we chatted a bit. A couple of them were near the completion of their winter peaks. Afterwards, I continued to follow the Dicey's Mill Trail all the way back to Ferncroft Road, which I reached again by just before 4PM. From here I just had to walk the road back to the parking area, which took approximately 10 more minutes.
With the milder temperatures and mostly clear, blue skies, it turned out to be a splendid winter hike. For a set of mountains, which are only just over 4000 feet, they provided a great challenge by ascending the spectacular ledges with all their views.
Total Distance and Elevation Gain: 11.5 miles with approximately 4350 feet in cumulative elevation gain.
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Congratulations! I know the exact icy ledge you had trouble with! I almost turned around but persistence paid off. I like the loop you did. Using Dicey's Mill Trail works but not as adventurous! :-)