Breaking Trail to Whiteface and Passaconaway (#34 & #35)

Date of Hike: 1/15/11

Blueberry Ledge Trail: 3.9 miles
Rollins Trail: 2.5 miles
Dicey's Mill Trail: 5.5 miles
Total Miles: 11.9 (3,850 elevation gain)
Click here for trail descriptions

 Trip Report:
- If you had asked me about the hardest hike I'd have ever done I would probably not be able to come up with one. I'd list parts of trails which are difficult (Huntington), steep (Wildcat Ridge), or just a pain in the A$$ (the dreaded Garfield Ridge). Maybe I would have come up with a long hike in the Presidential Range but definitely nothing in the Sandwich Wilderness...That is until after Saturday's hike over the usually boring Whiteface and Passaconaway!
- On trail at 7:40am, Whiteface summit 10:10am, Passaconaway summit 12:30pm, finished 2:20pm. Temps in the single digits, no wind, great visibility.
- When I arrived at the parking lot I was happy to see a bunch of hikers, I always feel more comfortable knowing there are other hiker out and about on the trail. It was an A.M.C. lead group hiking up to Passaconaway but no one heading to Whiteface.
- So I was on my own as I started up the road to the actual beginning of the Blueberry Ledge Trail. I was excited to see snowshoe tracks and thrilled that the trail might be broken out, unfortunately it was broken out about a tenth of a mile to the Sandwich Wilderness sign. From here I'd be breaking trail over the next seven miles.
- At first I didn't mind breaking the fresh powder (6 to 8 inches) albeit over some annoying hidden rocks. Of course as one gains elevation the unbroken powder becomes deeper and deeper, it was close to a foot when I got to the first open ledges, and by the time I reached the steep ledges below the summit it was well over a foot with some pretty deep drifts over two feet.
- The steep ledges on the Blueberry Ledge Trail is my favorite part of the hike. I brought my ice axe along specifically for this section, not for self-arrest (it would have been useless because the snow was just deep fluffy powder on rock and wouldn't bite), I needed it swipe all the snow away to find handholds. It was very slow going but I pulled myself up then crawled on all fours above the ledge like my dog (Mr. Smackers!)
- The other steep parts aren't as difficult but the snow drifts were so deep which made them tougher having to kick out steps, push away snow, find cracks, and claw and pull myself up.
- Along the way views from the outlooks were incredible, I could see the Presidential Range rising high above all the other peaks, and a close up view over to Mount Passaconaway, Paugus, and Chocurua .
- I took a short break to refuel at the viewpoint just below the official Whiteface summit and then started breaking the 2.5 miles of the Rollins Trail.
- Breaking out the Rollins Trail was painful, I was drained and the trail sneaks a few minor ups in that kicked my butt. The snow was now a foot and a half to two feet of fresh powder with higher drifts in most spots. The only good news about the deep snow was 95% of the rocks below the snow didn't clip my snowshoes.
- I was tired but knew everything would pick up once at the Dicey's Mill Trail junction, with the large A.M.C grew heading up to Passaconaway the trail would be broken out perfectly and built for speed.
- However when I arrived at the trail junction I saw that the trail had yet to be touched heading up to Passaconaway, I was bummed knowing that the final .9 mile would be an absolute suffer-fest.
- After refueling, changing layers, shedding my frozen gloves, and then warming up my frozen fingers I began the slog up to the summit.
- It was probably the slowest .9 of a mile I have ever done, snow depths weren't as bad as on the Rollins Trail but as the trail steepens I began losing energy by the minute.
- Luckily my snowshoes have a heel lift which come in handy on steep sections, today on the unbroken steep sections they saved the second part of this hike for me. If I didn't have this I would have had to bail at the Dicey's Mill Trail junction.
- As I made my way closer to the summit I passed and outlook with awesome views off to the Pemi Wilderness with Mount Lincoln, Lafayette, Garfield, Bonds over to Carrigain in the clear and made all the pain of a long hike worth it.
- Mount Passaconaway's summit is wooded so I beat feet out of there and started the descent.
- I ran into the A.M.C. grew at the second to last steep section before Passaconaway's summit, they were all having a great hike and enjoying the cold but great weather. They thanked me for breaking trail which was very nice of them.
- From here I plodded down the mountain back to my car, ran into about another ten people, one guy even bare-booting! Everyone was having a fun hike.
- Back at the car I was finally able to warm myself up good and stuffed my face full of food before heading all the way back to RI.
- It was a crazy, fun, and hard hike, one I will never forget, this winter has already surpassed last winter in terms of difficult one ever said attempting the Winter 48 - 4,000 footers was going to be easy!

Pictures: Click here to view all pictures

 Blueberry Ledge Trail
 Above the Steep Ledges on the
Blueberry Ledge Trail

 Mount Passaconaway
Southern Presidential Range
(Eisenhower, Monroe, Washington)

Carrigain Notch


  1. Nice notes, Chris! Looking forward to your photos.

  2. Hi Chris! We missed you by 90 minutes. We broke the first three miles of trail out to Passaconaway via Olivian and Passaconaway Cutoff until a group of 6 huge guys with heavy packs finally caught up with us and relieved us of the job. I thought I was gonna die, and there were four of us! Damn what a hard day! We didn't summit until 2pm, got back after dark.
    Keep on truckin!

  3. Hey Dan and Meena...I was wondering what the conditions were like from where you all hiked in from, sounds like you guys had a blast to, it sure was a great day to be in the Sandwich Wilderness! Every time I stopped I kept looking back hoping I'd see a brigade of hikers that would come zooming by me! The good thing about breaking trail yesterday is that eventhough it was freezing out it sure does warm you up pretty fast!

    Happy Hiking!