Mount Passaconaway 4043’ and Mount Whiteface 4020’
11.6 miles 3850’ Elevation gain
Kevin, Judy and Emma
The "Seven-day Weather Pattern" has really worked out for us this January. Again this Saturday was a perfect hiking day. Mixed sun and clouds, temps in the twenties and little or no wind. Sticking with trails we are familiar with, we again took the Dicey's Mill Trail from Ferncroft. As we started out, Mount Whiteface appeared to be in a snow squall. After the short road walk we enjoyed a nice packed out trail. Judging from the amount of cars at the parking area there were a lot of hikers out here ahead of us. At the first "real" stream crossing we caught up with a large group heading to Passaconaway. Only one, Bob Kittredge, acknowledged being a VFFT'r, but I suspect there were more. There was one hiker ahead of them, and he broke trail through a few inches of fresh powder for us. Rising up through the forest the trees did their usual crossover from deciduous to conifers. At the second stream crossing I managed to slip and step in the very shallow stream soaking my right snowshoe so that the snow was now sticking to it and freezing. After a few tries I managed to knock it all off and was fine the rest of the hike. I broke in new winter mountaineering boots on this hike. I had used a pair of Scarpa's in the past but because of different problems with them, mostly concerning size and weight, I bought a new pair. This time I went with an overall smaller and lighter type boot, a pair of A solo AFS 8000. I had worn them a little bit before now, but this was the first real test. Of course they feel like lead weights compared to three-season hiking boots, but eventually your body adjusts and you get used to them. My feet were definitely much warmer, though I had to stop and adjust them a few times. Like most people, one foot is slightly bigger than the other, so one boot fits fine and the other one is tight in spots. After a few adjustments things were fine. What I have been noticing the most is the lack of good traction on our snowshoes, and we may be in the market to replace these next. After a quick sandwich and drink at the treed summit of Passaconaway we snuck around to the north side to where there is an open ledge with excellent views east to Chocorua and also to the north, but the Presidentials were in the clouds. There is another ledge just below the summit with great views to the west which include the Tripyramids and Mount Carrigain. Behind the Tripyramids the top of Waterville Valley Ski Area on Mount Tecumseh can be seen, and further to the north the Osceolas. The steep climb down to the Rollins Trail went quickly and we were soon on our way to Mount Whiteface. In any other season it seems like a nice, almost level two mile hike across the ridge between mountains, but the snow made the trip seem very long. There are many ups and downs which in the other seasons seemed hardly noticeable, but today in the snow they felt like climbing an extra mountain or two. At one point there was a spot where you could sneak out on a ledge and get a good look to the south and see the upcoming "bumps" in the trail. I counted them and began ticking them off in my head as we passed each one. I should say as I passed each one, because at this point Jude and Emma forged on ahead of me. Jude gets in a "just keep moving until it's over" mode that I just can't do. I need to stop and take a break every so often. I'm sure a lot of my stopping today was due to the new boots. Making adjustments and adjusting to the added weight on my feet. Eventually I climbed the last bump and found them waiting for me. Another quick sandwich and some hot coffee I had carried in my thermos and we began the steep climb down Blueberry Ledge Trail. Although we made it down in snowshoes, there were some definitely sketchy sections where we probably would have been much better off in micro-spikes or crampons. We somehow managed to butt-slide and side step our way down without breaking our necks. After some great views from the ledges, we made our way down into the woods and managed to get out before dark this week. Numbers 21 and 22 on the winter 4K list for Jude and Emma, numbers 22 and 23 for me.