Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Year's Day to Whiteface and Passaconaway

In the process of figuring out my 3 hikes for this weekend, I wanted to get two of the more out-of-the-way peak duos knocked off that could reasonably easily be hit on the way North from Mass, and on the way back. The Tripyramids were done on the way up, which meant Whiteface and Passaconaway on the way home. These 2 peaks are most frequently done in winter from the South, in Wonalancet, utilizing the Blueberry Ledge Trail to Whiteface, the Rollins Trail across the ridge, and the Dicey's Mill Trail to Passaconaway and back to the car. It is a nice, but strenuous 12-mile loop at any time of the year.

For this hike I had some company. Both Iquest (without his dog Marlie this time, home with paw trouble) and HossInNH (who needed Whiteface for his anytime 48 list) had said they would come along a few days out, and we had a late addition in Satchboogie, also from the Hike-NH forums. We had briefly discussed passing on this hike as Mount Washington was calling for -10F temps with 60-80mph winds, but ultimately we decided to give it a go and perhaps it wouldn't be anywhere near that bad. This turned out true, as while it was cold, it was far from -10F on the ridge (more like 7-8F). And the trees mostly sheltered us from the stiff winds (which were howling overhead all day).

Off at 8, we immediately put on the snowshoes after the short road walk to the trailhead, and they stayed on until we returned to the road 8.5 hours later. We had a nice broken trail all the way up the Blueberry Ledge Trail. Moving steadily in the initial moderate grade, we soon hit the steep parts of this trail, where my legs were absolute jelly from 2 prior days on snowshoes. But I was determined to keep going if I could, and while it was slow, I made my way up just fine, with the rest of the guys. Eventually the trail starts to yield some views, which made stopping more frequent, but welcome to me! Also on the bright side, my camera was working all day this hike, whenever I pulled it out.

Initial peek-a-boo view through the trees to the South
Soon we hit the open ledges near the top of Whiteface. While not super easy, they were not as tough as they could have been and we made our way up them in our snowshoes without too much trouble. Even IQuest with his minimally-cramponed snowshoes had no real trouble. At one of the first ledges we took a break to admire the gorgeous view, and a dog came up the trail behind us. It was so excited to see people, it nearly plowed me over! Soon Pemi's (the dog's name) owners came up, and moved on ahead of us; we would see them again on our final ascent to Passaconaway.

Southern pano from Whiteface ledges

Chocorua off in the distance

The guys checking out a view of Passaconaway and Chocorua

Passaconaway - looks a long way off!
After making our way to the true summit of Whiteface (which is NOT the top of the open ledge section like many people think), which is completely treed-in and viewless, we had a good snack break. Along the way, we passed the un-broken Kate Sleeper Trail, which leads over the Sleepers to the Tripyramids. This was the trail I utilized on my long one-day Sandwich Range Traverse this past summer.

From Whiteface, the Rollins Trail drops 800-900 feet to the Passaconaway-Whiteface col near where it intersects the Dicey's Mill Trail. Along the way we passed through the knot of blowdowns caused by Hurricane Sandy a couple months before. Many people have cleaned out the worst of this, but we still had to do a little over-and-under work to get through it. Really, though, it wasn't that bad. From there it was a fairly easy trip to the Dicey's Mill Trail, though a few times it was hard to pick out the trailbed as it had drifted in. Luckily, the corridor isn't hard to follow in here. Shortly before the Dicey's Mill junction, we ran into the bare-booters heading to Whiteface...chewing up the un-packed trail way worse than what I had seen on Waumbek the day before, despite being far fewer of them (5). At least on the way down we were able to clean up the trail some...

The last 7/10-mile push to the summit of Passaconaway starts innocently enough, but soon steepens right up to near the top, but slowly but surely we made it up. We didn't go to any of the view points past the summit spur (though IQuest did head over briefly to the NE view ledge), just the one on the Dicey's Mill Trail just below the summit. A quick jaunt into the woods at the sign pointing towards the summit, and a snack break later, and we were off for the cars.

Tripyramids from a ledge near the summit of Passaconaway

Carrigain and the Hancocks from near the summit of Passaconaway
The descent went without any complications, and we made it back to the cars just a few minutes over the normal "book time" for this hike. Not bad!

Thanks to the guys for putting up with my awful pace on the climbing (at least going down I was mostly fine). Everyone got checkmarks of some sort on this one, with everyone but IQuest checking these off for winter (grid checks for him, haha!). These were Sachboogie's first winter 4K's, Hoss's #s 2&3, and my 31st and 32nd peaks. A great weekend start to this winter for me, and just 9 more hikes left to complete the NH Winter 4000-Footers!

Whiteface off in the distance as we cross a field to the cars

The lower part of the trail passes through private land - generous landowners

Peaks: Whiteface (4020', NH4K), Passaconaway (4043', NH4K)
Trails: Blueberry Ledge Trail, Rollins Trail, Dicey's Mill Trail
Mileage: 11.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 4250'
Book Time: 8 hours

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