Peaks: Mt. Whiteface, Mt. Passaconway
Trails: Blueberry Ledge Trail, Rollins Trail, East Loop, Walden Trail, Dicey's Mill Trail
Mileage/time: ~12.3 miles (including road walk), 4400 feet of gain, book time of 8:20, actual time of 9:20
This hike would be the first time I've been out with a large group, and honestly, I liked it a lot. Usually it's one or two others that I'm hiking with, now it was seven! Time to get to know some people. I arrived early, the Ferncroft lot was empty as could be, and snow was lightly falling. Mike arrived shortly after me, then more cars started to arrive... 8am is apparently a popular start time. Two other members of the group showed up, Barbara and Mitko, and then we waited on the other four who would be joining us. Soon enough, Becky, Jocelyn, Chris, and Li arrived and got themselves ready. We exchanged greetings, and began our walk up the road to the trails at about 8:35.
Blueberry Ledge Trail, after leaving the road and various driveways it follows until it dives into the woods, climbs gently in the first mile or so, through nice open woods, then greets you with some ledges to scramble up just before Blueberry Ledge Cut-off comes in from the right. These were not tricky, and the group made it up just fine. The trail then reenters the woods above the ledges, and began to climb more steeply at times. The group kept a great pace, never too fast, and never too slow, everyone was comfortable. Soon we reached the tricky ledges nearing the south summit of Whiteface. Most of the group put on Microspikes at this point, Chris had only crampons, so Mike and myself joined him... since we were carrying them, might as well use them!
There wasn't a hell of a lot of ice to contend with, but by the time we reached the ledges, snow had been falling for a couple of hours, and there was a decent coating on the ground, making footing on the steep ledges treacherous at best. Crampons were honestly overkill, and after the ledges, I quickly put them back in my pack. Shortly thereafter, we crested the south summit of Whiteface, and people began celebrating and taking pictures. We were forced to tell them that this wasn't the summit, and there was still a bit of climbing to do. After a short break, we moved on down Rollins Trail, and soon reached the pile of rocks on the side of the trail, and stick screwed to the tree, that mark the otherwise ambiguous summit of Whiteface. Summit pictures commenced, and Mitko proceeded to break out a large flask of Captain Morgan to share with the group. Don't mind if I do!
|Li, Mitko, Becky, Barbara, and Jocelyn on Whiteface|
We then reached the junction with Dicey's Mill Trail, and made the left turn for Passaconaway. Mike had suggested taking the East Loop around to Walden, and climbing to the summit that way... and here I thought I wasn't going to get in any redlining today! East Loop was mostly flat as it sidehills around the south side of the summit. Walden Trail was steep as always, with some icy sections that the group negotiated well. Zero views from the viewpoint, so we headed to the summit for a break before we descended. I was honestly more concerned with eating, hydrating, and staying warm while we were on Passaconaway, so I never pulled out the camera.
I donned my microspikes, much to Mikes relief, and we began our descent on Dicey's Mill Trail back to the junction. There were some icy areas, but mostly just snow on the rocks, would have made for tricky travel had it not been for the spikes. The group kind of split at this point, with Becky, Barbara, myself, and Mitko descending slightly ahead of the rest to the Rollins junction, as we had become chilled on Passaconaway. Shortly after regrouping (and more Captain Morgan), we started down Dicey's, the headlamps came out, and stayed on back to the parking lot. It was a nice gradual descent, with good conversation flowing back and forth throughout the group. Becky did a great job leading us out, and we made it to the lot and our waiting cars at about 5:55.
We said our goodbyes after warming up our respective vehicles, and changing out of our clothes and boots. Barbara followed Mike and myself out to Rt. 25. Mike and I had designs on something we had both seen on the way up... the Yankee Smokehouse. I'd been there several times before, but not since my initial ascent of the Tripyramid North Slide almost 2 years ago, it was time for a return. Shortly, we were served huge plates of smoked meats, fries, and beans. Delicious! We both pretty much cleaned our plates, and I washed it down with a Pig's Ear Brown Ale. Then we parted ways and I made my way slowly home over lightly snow covered roads. Mike's going to Key West for a few days, so he'll probably be freezing when he gets back!
While there were few pictures, it was a great day with a great group of people. It was a joy to hike with all of you!