However, I revisited planning of the trip over the summer, and discovered that at the intersection of the Kate Sleeper and Downe's Brook Trail, between East Sleeper and Mount Whiteface, there was a reliable water source, and the area was quite flat in terrain, and there were some established camping areas. Sounded like a perfect spot to spend a night, and in fact I read several trip reports over the summer using this area.
As I got closer, however, I realized that I would reach this camping area by early-to-mid afternoon without any trouble. I didn't really want to be hanging out at a camping site for 5-6 hours before going to sleep, especially when I would likely be the only one camping in the area. As the chosen weekend neared, I began to consider doing the entire hike in one long day. On the trails, it is roughly 17 miles with ~6200 feet of elevation gain, so this would be the hardest day to date I had ever done. To top it off, the trailheads are separated by about 3.5 miles along the Kancamangus Highway, and I had no promise of a ride between them. Nevertheless, as I pulled into my end point at Pine Bend Brook early in the morning, I opted to go for it. It was to be a perfect day, with temperatures in the low-70s in the valleys and with decreasing humidity as the day progressed.
So first off was a 3.5-mile walk along the Kancamangus Highway from Pine Bend Brook Trailhead, which is a dirt pull-over alongside the highway, to Oliverian Brook Trailhead. Luckily there is no elevation change between the trailheads to speak of, Oliverian Brook starts maybe a couple hundred feet lower than Pine Bend Brook. I left my car at 8:15 in the morning, and hoped to be out around 7:30-8:00, which would put me well under "book time" for this trek (just the trail alone was a book time of close to 12 hours).
|Walking along the Kancamangus Highway|
|One of several brooks crossed on the way to Oliverian Brook - this was Downe's Brook I believe|
|Old forest/logging road along the highway|
From here, I would be on established trails all the way to my waiting car. Oliverian Brook Trail was my first of the day, and I continued to move along at a good clip, since the 1.9 miles of this trail that I was on gains all of 240 feet, and the footing is soft and good the whole way. From there I turned onto the Passaconaway Cutoff, which is mild for its first half, and then it climbs at a good rate to a junction with the Square Ledge Trail. Here the trail steepens significantly, but the footing overall is good, and I steadily made my way up to the Walden Trail. Along the way, the trail crosses the foot of a small slide, which if one climbs a bit (carefully), it is said that good views towards the Presidentials can be had. I did not venture up.
|Small slide on the Square Ledge Trail that the trail crosses the bottom of|
|One of Passaconaway's southern knobs|
|Large blowdown across the Walden Trail, this sucker was about 2 foot in diameter and had been cleared by axe!|
|South towards the lakes|
|The Tripyramids from my snack ledge along the Dicey's Mill Trail|
|Franconia Ridge off in the distance|
Rollins Trail gradually works its way up to the summit of Whiteface, never getting particularly steep. There are even some view points along the way.
|South towards Ferncroft, the normal starting point for a hike of Passaconaway and/or Whiteface|
|Whiteface's summit carin|
|Awesome summit isn't it!|
From the summit, it is a short descent to the junction with the Kate Sleeper Trail (unfortunately not all the way to the nice views from the South summit), where I turned and descended on the far-less-traveled route. Rocky at first, the descent soon eased into a nice trail to the junction with Downe's Brook where I found a wonderful stream in a peaceful setting. Certainly a wonderful spot. I grabbed a liter of water here to tide me through the rest of the day, I was doing far better on water than I expected. To top it all off, it was only 2:15, and roughly 1hr 45min ahead of book time! After getting going again, I immediately passed beaten herd paths to presumably some camp sites off the trail. There was also a site RIGHT next to the trail, really wish people wouldn't do this...
|Camp site RIGHT next to the Kate Sleeper Trail|
|Beautiful trail, the Kate Sleeper Trail|
|Sandwich Dome from the South slide|
|Towards the Lakes Region|
|Looking up the South Tripyramid slide|
|Sandwich Dome, Jennings Peak on right|
|Welch/Dickey and Tecumseh (Waterville Valley)|
|Looking down the South Tripyramid slide|
|Part of West Sleeper|
|Mount Tecumseh and the Waterville Valley ski slopes|
|Middle (right) and North (left) Tripyramid|
|Passaconaway, with Chocoura behind to the left|
|North Tripyramid slide to the right - someone carved "not recommended" in the sign!|
After Scaur Ridge Trail split off, I continued down Pine Bend Brook Trail, which is gentle along the ridge, then steepens as it drops off the ridge, with a number of eroded sections. Then the footing gets downright rough (perhaps it was just being that it came at ~mile 18 on the day?) for a while, with a lot of boulder hopping along what looked to be an old stream bed. This was not a pleasant section of trail, but eventually it turned into nice smooth trail for the final stretch to the highway and my waiting car (basically form the Wilderness Boundary to the road was fine). I arrived at the car shortly after 7PM, for a total time of under 11 hours! Oddly, I even felt like I could go a bit further, though I was more than happy to be back at the car instead.
4 more NH 4000-footers left for a 2012 list completion, and I'm looking forward to each of them! But first, off to Baxter State Park for a week to hike Katahdin and a few other mountains.
Peaks: Passaconaway (4043', NH4K), Whiteface (4020', NH4K), East Sleeper (3860', NEHH), West Sleeper (3881'), South Tripyramid (4090'), Middle Tripyramid (4140', NH4K), North Tripyramid (4180', NH4K)
Mileage: 3.5 miles road walk, 17.2 miles trail, 20.7 miles total
Elevation Gain: ~6200 feet
Time: 10 hours 50 minutes (book is 11hr 40min on trail, not including the road walk)