Yesterday was one on those perfect winter days in the White Mountains when it all came together – good friends, clear blue sky, gorgeous views, and a great climb.
Our destination was Mt Nancy (3926′), a New England Hundred Highest Peak, which is climbed via a very steep and un-maintained herd path. Overlooking Norcross Pond, which is itself a climb at about 3100′, Nancy provides great views of Signal Ridge on Mt Carrigan, the Hancocks, the Bonds, Guyot, and Twins, distant Franconia Ridge, Mt Washington and all of the southern Presidentials, the Carters and Wildcats, and on and on. I think this is one of the prettiest hikes I’ve ever been on in the Whites.
I was accompanied by my friend Kaitrin, who I’ve done a few hikes with in the past, and Ryan Lynn (aka Guthook Hikes), who is a good friend that I don’t get to see often enough. When we met at the Nancy Pond Trailhead at 8:30 am, the temperature was a balmy -5 below zero, which was some cause for concern, so we decided to cut out a second peak we’d hoped to climb – Mt Bemis – and focus on Nancy instead.
The Nancy Pond Trail had a hard crust on top due to the recent unfreeze/refreeze, so we left our snowshoes behind at the cars and proceeded with light traction. The water crossings were partially open, but easily crossed from one ice covered rock to the next.
The Nancy Pond Trail runs up an old logging road for the first 2.4 miles before climbing steeply past a huge frozen waterfall to Nancy Pond. We left the trail from here and walked out over the frozen pond, basking in the sun, while bundling up with face protection against the wind. It was a real treat to walk out in the open on the frozen pond after climbing up through the forest and a real change of pace from your typical White Mountain hike.
After traversing Nancy Pond, we got back on the trail again and continued to Norcross Pond, which is much larger in size. The herd path to the Mt Nancy Summit starts at the end of the pond, just past the sign warning hikers about Hurricane Irene damage in the area. Once on the herd path, it’s fairly easy to follow despite the snow, but it climbs very steeply to the summit. I was glad I was wearing Kahtoola K10 Crampons for the climb because it would have been murder in microspikes alone.
We hung out at the summit for a while and took in the views of Mt Washington and the Southern Presidentials, Mt Willey and Webster Cliff in Crawford Notch, and even the distant Baldfaces. I have to make this hike an annual winter ritual – it’s so worth coming back for the views!
We turned around when we started to get cold and hiked back down the herdpath, out across the ponds and back the ways we’d come in, arriving back at the cars shortly before 5 pm. I think we were all surprised and uplifted by how enjoyable this hike was and I’m looking forward to hiking with Kaitrin and Ryan again soon.
Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:
- Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Guide
- AMC White Mountain National Forest Map Set
- Exploring New Hampshire Map from the Wilderness Map Company
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