Mt. Passaconaway & Mt. Whiteface
Wonalancet Range Trail (with cutoff) -> Walden Trail -> Dicey's Mill Trail -> Rollins Trail -> Blueberry Ledge Trail
Distance: 10.5 mi.
Elevation Gain: 2,943 ft. (overall) 4,145 ft. (total)
Time: 4:30 (Passaconaway) 7:17 (Whiteface) 10:10 (Total)
The Trail starts out going uphill gently over smooth ground. It wasn't far up the trail before I jumped two deer up that ran across the trail in front of me. Unfortunately they went too far into the woods for pictures. Things stay pretty easy and gentle as you soon enter the Sandwhich Range Wilderness. Soon after this, you come to an area that has large rocks to walk across before getting back to the same conditions as before. Then the trail starts to turn uphill to the left some as it enters the softwoods. Just after doing this and passing a large ice flow next to the trail, I came to the cutoff trail. I planned on going this way to avoid a bit of distance and an extra up and down in the trail.
Where the deer ran across the trail
It was around here there started to be a dusting of snow on the ground. The cutoff trail starts off running next to a large rock face before coming back out into the hardwoods. The trail stays gentle and traverses the side of the hill easily. Before long you head uphill a bit and come back to the main trail. Back into the softwoods, the trail keeps going easily. As you get to Hibbard Mtn, you come to a side path that goes to the right of a big rock and to a small opening with a view south. This path was easy enough to follow as I didn't even realize I missed the left turn the trail actually made. This made it a bit more confusing when leaving the viewpoint as the path abruptly hits thick trees. After a quick backtrack, I was back on the trail. The one set of tracks in the snow ahead of me just pushed through the thick stuff rather than going back. Quickly you come to a limited view over the trees looking to the west over the bowl. There was plenty of old moose droppings right in the area showing the moose stayed here for a few days before moving on.
Looking down onto Mt. Wonalancet
After some more easy walking, you come to the junction of the Walden Trail where the tracks I had been following turned right. Heading left, the snow was a bit deeper here, but still bare bootable. Pretty much immediately, the trail heads down hill and passes a small view to the Presidential Range. While it was cloudy at this point, the clouds were high and I was able to see the snow capped Mt. Washington just fine. The trail had a fresh coating of snow here and microspikes would have given me a bit more confidence walking down the rocks, but I decided I didn't need them quite yet. The trail goes down into the saddle and then continues downhill to the left rather than going right back uphill. Here the trail could use just a bit better marking, but it is still followable if you pay attention. The trail turns back around to the right and now head up pretty steeply. There were a few patches of ice here, but there was just enough room you could get around or hold on to rocks to stay upright. Once up on the small subpeak, the trail stays pretty easy as it passes the Squareledge Trail and comes to the East Loop Trail.
Mt. Washington off in the distance
Heading back up out of the saddle
Just before the East Loop Trail, there was a patch of ice that just couldn't be avoided and I decided it was time for the spikes. There was enough snow they wouldn't be awkward now on the rocks. The spikes were a good idea as the trail goes up some steeper rocky sections that also had some ice. It then levels out some to a more moderate incline is the trail goes to the right some then swings back left. Coming along the side of Passaconaway, the trail passes the viewpoint that looks out to the left. There is a nice view over to Mt. Whiteface that showed some snow on the trees near the summit. Continuing on, you loop around to the left and go up another small climb before soon coming to the open rock area that provides nice views to the north and east. There was probably 6 inches of snow here and I could see only small animals had been on this viewpoint before I got here. I took a break here having a snack and grabbing some pictures before doing the short distance to the actual summit. I didn't go do the trail to the viewpoint to the north. Based on the lack of track between the summit and the rocky viewpoint, I am lead to believe most people don't walk the short distance to this nice viewpoint that is closer then the one down the trail and doesn't drop down as much. If you have the time, you should make the short trek to this point.
Viewpoint just before the summit
Just after leaving the short path to the true summit, you get some great views to the northeast including out to Franconia Range. It was still cloudy here, but I could see a bit of the blue sky coming that was predicted for the afternoon. Dicey's Mill trail starts off a bit steep and rocky and was where I saw my first hiker for the day. Soon the trail gets less steep and then goes through a couple easy switchbacks on the way down to the Rollins Trail. This certainly seems like it would be the easier of the two trails up to the summit.
Large ice flow in the trail
On the Dicey's Mill Trail and Rollins Trail, the monorail started to come out from the heavier traffic these trails see. It was still pretty easy to negotiate though. There were a few ice covered spots on the trail and people had started going around them. Crampons would be good for walking across them or possibly microspikes if you were careful. The trail is a pretty nice walk without many hard sections and just some short steep sections. I met a couple in here that only had one set of traction devices and the guy had let the girl take them. He was having a bit of work today to stay on his feet. By the time I got to the first view point on the trail, I could tell the sun had come out. It was surprising how quickly the sky cleared considering the lack of wind today. Each of the view points have a nice view to the south over The Bowl with a bit of a view back to Mt. Passaconaway as well. After a little more distance on the trail, you come to the summit cairn at the viewless summit. I had another snack here and a quick chat with a couple that had caught up to me and was headed over to the Tripyramids.
Clear view over Mt. Wonalancet
Leaving the summit, there is a bit of a dip to go through before coming out to another great viewpoint at the top of the Kate Sleeper Trail. There is great views here over the lakes region. Soon after this you get to some more openings that include views up to the Presidential Range over the saddle between the two peaks. Now going down you come to the series of ledges. Go down these was a bit awkward. There was some snow and ice on them so I kept on the microspikes, but the clear slanted rocks make for a bit of slow going. At one point I was facing downhill going over a lip, and the bottom of my pack hit the lip and almost sent me forward off of the rocks. In some places, going down backwards was easier than forwards. Below the ledges the snow was getting thinner and the trail had been made into a series of stone steps. Once below these, the trail is pretty easy with a more gentle grade and only some rocks to go over. It is a nice walk through here. The opening at the top of the Blueberry Ledge Cutoff Trail surprised me as I saw it through the trees. I didn't expect that big of an opening on the trail. I continued down over the ledges which weren't slick at all. Below them, there was some fresh moose droppings that appeared to be from within the last 24 hours. There was also more piles along the trail looking like a moose had been in the area for the last few days. The end of the trail is easy and was followed by the short walk along the road back to the parking lot.
Great view between the peaks
A closer view of Mt. Washington (I'm liking the big lens I am currently borrowing)
Ledges where the steps use to be
This was a good hike and it was interesting to see how quickly the skys cleared off today. Temps were around freezing on the summits and there was almost no wind. It was nice starting off seeing deer and being on a trail that hadn't seen much traffic.
For all the pictures from the hike, just go HERE