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A Winter Hike to Mt Whiteface and Mt Passaconaway

Mt Whiteface (right) in cloud
Mt Whiteface (right) in cloud

My friend Trey and I climbed up Mt Whiteface (4060′) and Mt Passaconaway (4043′) on Sunday. We hiked the peaks starting from the Ferncroft trailhead in Wonolancet, hiking up via the Blueberry Ledge cutoff, the Blueberry Ledge Tr, the Rollins Trail, and back via the Dicey Mill Trail.

Whiteface Passaconaway Map

These trails form a loop around one of the few old growth forests in the White Mountains. an area called The Bowl, which is surrounded by the steep slopes of Whiteface, Passaconaway, and several peaks in the Wonolancet Range forming an isolated Lost World cut off from the rest of the Sandwich Range.

We hiked Whiteface first because the ledges leading to the summit are quite steep and easier to climb than descend. We barebooted up the Blueberry Ledge Cutoff before switching into full crampons at the intersection with the Blueberry Ledge Trail. The trail gets very steep and icy after this point, getting more difficult the closer you get to the Whiteface ledges.

While I’ve climbed Whiteface in winter condition before, I’d forgotten just how treacherous this climb can be. I’d forgotten to sharpen my crampons since my last hike over the Bonds so I was a little nervous. The ice was very hard and I wasn’t getting the kind of grip that I rely on from my crampon points. But there were enough trees roots to pull ourselves through the crux points and two instances where using our ice axes proved extremely helpful. Still it was very slow going, taking us 3.5 hours to hike the first 3.5 miles of trail.

Mt Passaconaway from the Whiteface Ledges
Mt Passaconaway from the Whiteface Ledges

We were also quite tired still from the previous day’s hike up to North and Middle Tripyramid, which are located quite close by.

Once we’d ascended the ledges of Whiteface, we got onto the Rollins Trail which loops around the northern edge of The Bowl and leads to the actual WhiteFace Summit. The Rollins Trail runs another 2.3 miles on a narrow ridge linking Whiteface to Passaconaway. The trail gradually twists and turns through the woods coming out about 500 feet below the Passaconaway summit.

Philip at the Whiteface Summit Cairn
Philip at the Whiteface Summit Cairn

From there we climbed a series of switchbacks and more thick ice to the summit of Passaconaway which was shrouded in mist when we got to the top. We had a snack, took a photo, and started high tailing it down the Dicey Mill Trail back to the Ferncroft Trailhead. We really flew down this section of dropping close to 3000 feet and hiking the final 4.4 miles of the hike in just over 2 hours.

Another great hike with Trey and #45 and #46 in my winter White Mountain 4000 Footers

Conditions Summary:

Several inches of recent snowfall. Heavy traction recommended. Snow shoes unnecessary.

Total hike time: 9.5 hours/ 10.6 miles

18 comments

  1. Congrats, Philip. I have enjoyed watching you grow as an experienced hiker and mountain man over the past few years. You have built an expertise in winter hiking. I await your book on mountain hiking, which would resonate among many of your readers.

  2. I’m supposed to do this hike in a couple of weeks, Sounds like a tough one.

    • I’m afraid I underestimated it or maybe it was because we’d done North and Middle Tripyramid the day before. The ice on the Blueberry Trail is pretty intimidating and there are a couple of crux moves you need to get right to avoid a bad slide. Just go slow, test your handholds, and don’t worry about crawling when you have to.

      • I remember doing this hike. Its a tough one even if you hit it fresh. Those ledges wear you out more than you realize then rolins isn’t exactly nice.

      • I rather like the Rollins Trail although it is exposed on both sides to the weather, but Trey and I cringed every time we lost elevation because we knew we’d have to make it up on the Passaconaway trail.

  3. Thanks for the tips, I’ll need them. ; ) Our loop is supposed to be 11.9 miles so I’m not sure why it’s a tad longer than yours.

  4. Great day! Did you post a report on the Tripyramids hike the day before? I’m envious of your proximity to the Whites.

  5. We started off by hiking Tom Wiggins Trail to Blueberry Ledge Trail late Nov ’13. We had to use microspikes the last mile to the summit because of all the ice. It was extremely time consuming. Luckily there was small trees to grab onto. We lucked out that day because it was a clear day. The views were just incredible

  6. Which two W48s do you have left?

  7. How long has Wildcat been charging to hike up/down that trail? Do they lease the land from the USFS?

  8. Hey thanks for the post, my friends and are thinking of this route on friday but we only have micro spikes. Do you think you have to have crampons?

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