Icy Ledges on Mt Wonalancet, Views of Squam Lake
Naturegirl and I did another nice hike in the Sandwich Range of the White Mountains last weekend, this time up to Mt Wonalancet (2,760 ft) and Mt Hibbard (2,940 ft), the latter on the NH 52 with a View peakbagging list.
We started at the Ferncroft Kiosk trail head, which should be familiar to anyone who has climbed Mt Whiteface or Passaconaway on the White Mountain 4,000 footer list. From there we climbed up Mt Wonalancet on the exceptionally beautiful Wonalancet Ridge Trail, continuing along it to the signless summit of Mt Hibbard.
If you've ever hiked up the Dicey Mills Trail to Passaconaway, you know that it's the most boring trail in the world. If you look south however, there's a beautiful line of smaller peaks along the ridge that parallels that trail. This is the Wonalancet Ridge Trail and it's a much more interesting hike to or from Passaconaway back to Ferncroft. Try it sometime.
Ice Drop on Walden Trail below Hibbard Mountain
As usual, I was experimenting on this hike, carrying my Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus with about 90% of a winter gear load, and not my regular winter pack. I'm hell bent on getting my "below treeline" winter gear list under 22 lbs and the Mariposa lets we shave about 2 lbs off my current gear list. It's also a far more comfortable pack for me, even with 3 liters of water bottles and winter insulation. Carrying all this gear felt wonderful in the moment of course, but it was only later at home when I realized how tired I was. I'm still not used to carrying a 30 lb pack and really need to work on my endurance more.
I was also testing a new pair of insulated Garmont Momentum GTX winter boots which were exceptionally warm. Filled with 400g of Thinsulate, they are a far cry from the uninsulated trail runners I wore on my climb up Sandwich Dome last week. Despite a frisky wind, my feet remained toasty all day. Walking in these boots is a lot less clunky than my normal plastic mountaineering boots, and I may end up using them more for lower elevation climbs this winter. I don't know yet whether they are rigid enough for a strap-on crampon, but will keep you posted.
We encountered a lot of ledges and ice on this hike, which made things rather exciting since we had sub-optimal traction for the conditions. Naturegirl was wearing microspikes and I was wearing the removable crampon half of my Kahtoola Mountain Snowshoes, but we both wished we'd brought full crampons. Luckily we were able to bushwhack around a few dangerous sections.
View Back toward Mt Wonalancet from Hibbard Mountain (note ice on ledges)
Shortly after summitting Hibbard Mountain, we reached the intersection with the Walden Trail which runs northwest to Passaconaway and east to Mt Paugus and Mt Chocurua, said to be the most photographed peak in the White Mountains.
Mt Paugus and Cliffs (foreground), Mt Chocurua (background)
Much to our surprise, we had amazing views of these two peaks as we headed towards Paugus Pass and the Old Mast Trail which took us back to Ferncroft. These views were doubly exciting because the Walden Trail is very steep from Hibbard down to Paugus Pass and was covered in ice and snow the whole way down.
I think this latest hike in the Sandwich Range has cemented a fascination for us with this part of the White Mountains. We have other winter hikes and overnights planned for the area later this winter as we continue our explorations eastward towards the cliffs of Chocorua, and the wilderness region between Sandwich Dome and Mt Whiteface, in the eastern half of the range.
Total distance for this hike was 6.3 miles with 1,500 ft of elevation change.