My previous two hikes didn’t have much sunshine, so when my partners and I planned this hike, I was happy to see that although it was going to be windy, it was going to sunny. Our original plan was to hike Isolation, but due to weather and trail conditions, we settled on Whiteface with a possible trip to Passaconaway.
With the plans all in place, we arrived at the Ferncroft parking area to a colorful sunrise, and blowing winds which rushed across the open fields swirling the snow into large clouds. We got ready and headed up Dicey’s Mill Trail, which would lead us to Rollins Trail and eventually the summit of Whiteface. We might have taken Blueberry Ledge Trail, but the condition of the ledges was in question and it was agreed that we’d hike the extra miles and reach the summit from the opposite direction. It was actually good for me, as I had never been on the portion of Rollins Trail between the summit of Whiteface and the junction with Dicey’s Mill.
The trail had been broken out, but we quickly discovered there was a new layer of powder on top. We made it to the stream crossing without too much trouble and then had to decide how to cross. One of the group crossed on the log. I didn’t like the look of that with the snow and ice on top of it, plus wearing snowshoes and figured I’d just cross on the rocks in the stream, which was less risky.
Once everyone was safely across using the path of their own choosing, we started up the long ascent to the junction with the Rollins Trail. There isn’t anything super steep about this section, but like a lot of other White Mountain Trails it keeps a moderate ascent all the way. I had a feeling it would be a slow trip up for me and it was. The climb wasn’t without redeeming qualities, however. We had sunshine and without all the leaves, we had nice views neighboring ridges and peaks and could see the progress we were making.
At the junction, we made the left turn on to Rollins Trail for the trek over to the summit of Whiteface. This section seemed longer to me that it should have been, but then again, I had no idea what to expect beside what I could glean from trail descriptions and topo maps. I think what made the section more difficult was that it was windy and much colder on the ridge. I’m still not 100% comfortable in really windy situations, so that may have contributed to why I felt I was struggling physically and mentally at times hiking along the ridge. At any rate, the climb up to the summit comes in sections alternated with level section, so it isn’t really steep for a long time. Just about the time I was wondering about the blowdown section that I’d read about in trail reports, we came to it. Some trees we had to crawl over and some we had to crawl under. With more snow, these might be easier or not! I didn’t mind this section, it was a nice challenge to figure out how to get myself and my pack around the obstacles. After a few more short climbs upward, we made it to the summit.
We had some congratulations, some lunch, a few pictures and we were on our way back to the Dicey’s Mill Trail. It was a lot easier going down and the views into the bowl and out to Chocura and beyond were really good.
Back at the junction, we had to make the decision to go for the summit of Passaconaway or not. My partners didn’t need this summit, but I did. We were doing reasonably well on time, so that wasn’t the biggest issue. By that point, my legs were more sore than I wanted them to be and facing another climb with a steep section at the end wasn’t mentally appealing, so the decision was made to head down toward the cars. Passaconaway will still be there when I get a chance to hike it, so it was best to enjoy the rest of the day and not wonder why I decided to torture myself just to bag another peak. The trip down was fast, and the afternoon light in the open woods was a real treat.
Even though I had some rough moments during the hike, there was so much to enjoy and be thankful for! The sunshine was a huge blessing, I had great partners who are encouraging and inspiring (not to mention willing to hike an extra two miles for a peak they didn’t need!), deep bluebird skies, great views, and some trail I’d never experienced before.
Special thanks to my two hiking partners, JohninNH and Greg YEAH!, for their willingness to let me trot along behind them and share the day!