Mt. Whiteface & Mt. Passaconaway
by Steve McGilvary
Hike Length: Overnight
Trails: Blueberry Ledge Trail, Rollins Trail, Dicey’s Mill Trail
Date: June 30, 2002
Weather and trail conditions: Everything perfect! Temps in the mid to high 80s all day. Air was a bit humid at trailhead, but fairly dry up top. Skies mostly clear. Black flies bad at times. Condition of trails excellent.
Total miles hiked: 12miles
I had such a great hike the day before on the Tripyramids, I decided to head back up in the same general vicinity and do Whiteface & Passaconaway on Sunday.
I got to the Ferncroft parking area about 11:00am. I quickly loaded up and crossed over Squirrel Bridge and onto the Blueberry Ledge Trail. This path follows a private dirt road with little cottages on both sides for a few hundred yards until it finally veers left and into the woods. The trail gradually gains elevation and soon comes out on to some fairly wide-open ledges. This section of the hike is covered in blueberry bushes, hence the name of the trail. The bushes are heavy now with clusters of berries too! I’m sure the local wildlife will pick them clean before any fruit has a chance to ripen.
After leaving the bottom ledges, the trail steepens significantly. I wasn’t in a race, though, so I stopped every so often and tanked up on water. About half an hour up the trail I met a ranger coming down from Whiteface. He was pretty cool (I think he said his name was Dave). We talked for a while, and he told me I had a little more than an hour to go to reach the summit. I asked if ascending the southern ledges was as difficult as some of the trip reports on the Internet make it out to be. He said I definitely had some rock scrambling ahead of me, but he also assured me that it was child’s play compared to the North Slide of Tripyramid I scaled the day before. We shook hands and I continued on.
I continued a steady climb through the woods until I suddenly popped out onto the first serious ledge of the hike. I say “serious” because if anyone ever fell off this cliff, they’d perish for sure. I was too cautious to go right up to the edge, but I bet it’s a good 100-foot drop to the bottom. The trail takes a sharp right turn just before the cliff, but I decided to rest here, drink some more water, and have a power bar. The views out to Lake Winnipesaukee were outstanding. There was also an older guy with a white beard stretched out on part of the ledge, and next to him was this real cute blonde dressed in cut off jeans and a white midriff shirt. She was about my age, and I assumed she was his daughter… but who knows. I don’t hike to pick up women, but I couldn’t help glancing over in their direction. I thought perhaps dad was getting annoyed with me…..perhaps it was all in my imagination. I finished my snack and got back to the business of hiking! The trail got a bit more challenging as I hit the south summit ledges directly above the cliff. The Wonalancet Outdoor Club (WODC) has drilled a number of “finger holes” into the steep rocks here so that you can get a good grip while scampering up the rocks. This makes the climb a breeze; at least in perfect summertime weather like today. Even though the black flies were eating me alive, I must have spent about half an hour just taking pictures from the various ledges off the south summit. If you want a hike with incredible views, you want Mt Whiteface.
A little further on, past the dramatic south ledges, I picked up the Rollins Trail. Rollins took me over the true, unmarked summit of Whiteface and on to Passaconaway. This wooded ridge trail is pleasant and gave me occasional glimpses of peaks to the northeast, including Passaconaway itself.
After a couple miles the Rollins Trail intersects with Dicey’s Mill Trail. I took a left onto Dicey’s Mill and pushed ahead 1 more mile to bag my 4th 4000er of the weekend. This last part of the hike took me over a few wet and muddy sections of trail, but nothing major.
The very summit of Passaconaway, however, is a let-down. Near the top I came to a summit sign pointing right. Forty yards down this path and there I was….a tiny little clearing. That’s it. Not even a cairn! Oh well. Actually, the best thing about Passaconaway is an east outlook roughly 250 yards beyond the true summit. This narrow ledge offers excellent views right up to the Rock Pile. The bugs were bad here too, so I snapped a few pictures, chugged the last of my water and orange juice, and started the 4.5-mile descent back to the Ferncroft parking lot.
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