Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Loop Hike Over Whiteface and Passaconaway

I have been waiting for good weather to complete my remaining three 4,000 footers. My last 4,000 foot hike was a month ago. Today's forecast was calling for partly cloudy to clear skies and cold temps with highs in the 30's. My plan for today was a loop hike to Mount Whiteface (4020') and Mount Passaconaway (4043') with fellow hikers Denise and Jill. This hike would take us up the Blueberry Ledge Trail across the Rollins Trail over Whiteface to Dicey's Mill Trail, up to Passaconaway and down Dicey's Mill Trail back to the Ferncroft parking area.


Mount Whiteface in the distance

Starting our hike at sunrise

Early morning sun casting long shadows

It was an early start leaving the house at 4:30 am with snow falling. I picked up Denise at 5:00 and the snow continued to fall through Pinkham Notch. As we drove down through the Notch the snow stopped and the dawn sky was brightening. We met Jill in Conway at 6:00 for the drive to Ferncroft parking area. There were no other vehicles when we arrived. But it wasn't long before one hiker pulled in after us then two more followed. It was cold so we layered up and were soon on our way to the trailhead as one more car arrived.

Snowy woods

View from Mount Whiteface

Denise starts the climb up Whiteface ledges

As we walked to the Blueberry Ridge Trail the sun was rising casting our long shadows down the dirt road. It was a beautiful blue sky morning. There was not much more than a dusting of snow as we started our ascent, ice was not a problem. We found it necessary to remove and change some layers as we warmed up from the hike. The forest was a snowy winter scene from this past week's weather. Up ahead through the trees we could see some cliffs on Mount Whiteface.

Mount Passaconaway

Jill following Denise across an icy ledge

Looking up at Mount Whiteface

We reached the bottom of the ledges and the fun was about to begin. Denise led the way with Jill next and me following in the rear. I'm not sure how that order was determined other than I was below to catch one if they slipped and fell off the ledge. So up we went. We left the microspikes off, I guess maybe assuming there would be no ice under the layer of snow clinging to the vertical granite.

Mount Chocorua

It was a slow, cautious climb. There were occasional, questionable handholds with a lot of faith in the small, scraggly trees used to pull us up. Hands, knees and fingernails were required in this challenging scramble up the ledges. At one point Denise slipped and fell off of one small ledge and after a collective gasp she picked herself up, brushed herself off and kept climbing. Very impressive!

Denise at the top of the ledges

Mount Whiteface summit for #46

The ledges just seemed to keep going but eventually the top was reached and we took a few moments to catch our breath. Our next brief stop was the summit of Mount Whiteface with its very small cairn for a quick photo. This was summit #46 for me. As the Rollins Trail started to descend we decided to put on the microspikes, they probably would have been quite useful on the ledges but where's the fun in that!

Naturally framed Mount Chocorua

Mount Passaconaway

Mount Whiteface

Icy trail

The ridge between Whiteface and Passaconaway is a fairly level 2.3 mile stretch, nice after conquering the ledges. We stopped for lunch at the Dicey's Mill Trail junction. After fueling up with something to eat we started our ascent to the summit of Mount Passaconaway. This is a 0.7 mile climb with a limited view just before reaching the top. With a cold temp and the wind blowing steady we stopped long enough to get a photo of me tagging the cairn on summit #47.

Snowy trail

Mount Carrigain

Mount Passaconaway for #47

It was all downhill from here and four-plus miles back to the the Fercroft parking area. This is a nice, easy gradual descent and we made good time. There is one water crossing at the bottom of the trail that was easily rock-hopped with the option of crossing on an icy log for a challenge, we chose rock-hopping. The deep leaves on the trail presented a little problem with hidden rocks and roots. We reached the end of this loop hike unscathed. It took 8 hours and 15 minutes.

A BIG rock

Rock-hoppable water crossing

Back at the beginning

Thanks to Denise and Jill for joining me on this hike, it would have been a very long solo hike. Now it's on to Mount Moosilauke for #48!

Panoramic view on Mount Whiteface

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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