Friday, January 23, 2015

White Face & Passaconaway 1-23-15

White Face & Passaconaway Friday 1-23-15:

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Trip Report:  I had planned to do this hike on Saturday (1/24) but the last minute snow forecast made me push it up a day.  The hike turned out to be  ~12 miles with 4200 ft total elevation gain.  Longest hike by far since I did the bonds last March. And just like the last two, the steeper sections really kicked my butt. I've got to get back into better shape if I'm to do some of the longer hikes I want to do this winter. This was  a relatively warm hike with temps in the high 20s and low 30's, I believe, and clear skies - perfect winter hiking conditions.

 The most eventful part of the hike was tackling a section of  icy ledges on Blueberry Ledge Trail. I had read a trail report that recommended crampons and Ice axes for this section.
I don't carry Ice axes. I did have crampons hanging off my pack (and snowshoes) but did the entire hike with micro-spikes. The trail was hard frozen so that there was no chance of post holing on the broken out trail. I had been doing pretty good coming up some of the easier ledges with my micro-spikes and in lieu of ice axes, collapsing my telescoping poles and grabbing them just above the baskets to use the points like ice picks to help pull me up. So, rather than taking the time to swap to full crampons I continued up the steeper ledge this way. It worked okay half way up where  I had some small trees on the side that I could use for added footholds,  but then it got steeper with only the ice and several inches of frozen snow to work with.  If I had the crampons on I think I could have easily worked my way latterly across the face  but I didn't have the confidence to try it with micro-spikes  since it would be a long slide down if I lost hold. So, I continued straight up jabbing and walking the points of my poles several inches at a time and digging my spikes into the ice as best as I could. The problem with the spikes is that they don't have the forward point barbs that crampons do that are needed for kicking in a good foot hold. I almost got to the top where the slope starts leveling off but ran out of strength and wind and finally lost my grip and slid 15 feet back down being stopped by a tree that I caught with my foot. Its amazing how fast you can get up to in 15 feet on solid near vertical ice. Aiming for the tree with my foot I really thought there was a good chance of breaking my leg if I hit it wrong, but it stopped me okay with no injury.  I rested in that position a good 10 minutes trying to get my breath back and deciding if I should work my way all the way down and changed to crampons. Doing that might  be a bit more dangerous because beyond the single small tree I was resting on there wasn't much else to stop me. Finally I decided to give it another try but to go much slower pulling myself up with one pole at a time resting  a minute between jabs then reposition my feet trying to dig into the ice the best I could.  It was slow work but eventually I got to the crest of the ledge and was able to pull myself up hand over hand digging into the snow and ice with the pole tips. This obstacle wasn't really anything that was that  technically difficult but the fact that I am out of shape and and alone on the mountain made it enough of a challenge that I felt pretty good about overcoming it

Click Here for Trail condition posted to Views From The Top (VFTT).


 Start is from a large hikers lot on Ferncroft Road .5 miles off NH113A. Started at ~ 7am. (Ifinally fixed the date stamp on my camera). I wanted to start earlier but lost almost an hour driving through iced dirt roads that turned out to  be winter dead ends.  I really should get a better gps for my truck. this is like the third time this has happened.
 started out on Blueberry Ledge Cut-off.  not much snow here, but the trail is well broken out by boot traffic
 birch field
 frozen slush on trail from warmer weather at the beginning of the week
 large opening where the Cut-Off meets lueberry Ledge Trail
 though you are in the trees most of the time there are many opening, ledges and cliffs that offer great views going up to Whiteface.
 first site of Whiteface (actually its a false peak just before Whiteface.
 Some icy sections to maneuver. This small one wasn't bad, but the actual ledges up further were difficult - but I didn't think to take any pictures of them.
 some good southern views toward the lakes regions from the ledges

 just to the left of the trail here is a steep drop off. a bad slip here would be it.
 looking toward Passaconaway with "the bowl" in between the two mountains
 large ice covererd boulder at the viewing area on the south summit
 views to the southeast from the South Summit
 Just before the actual summit Kate Sleeper trail breaks off to the sleeper mountains. I was considering bagging East Sleeper today (one of my NEHH peaks) if the trail was broken out, but as you can see it wasn't. The snow was hard and I had snowshoes but didn't have a good gps track. Also another hiker had said that it was in bad shape with many blow-downs across it. So I passed and will save her for a summer hike.
 the actual Whiteface summit is view-less, just a board screwed to a tree to mark the spot.
 before decending along the ridge to the deep cole between Whiteface and Passaconaway are a few good views of Passaconaway and the Bowl below her.

 Passaconaway viewed from an opening cleared by Hurricane Sandy in 2013. I was here several weeks after Sandy and described it as the Argonne forest after being pelted by German artillery (Band of Brothers). The trail has been completely cleared now.
I'm assuming the ski trails are Watervile Valley (Tecumseh) , and the peaks in the foreground are the Tripyramids.

 Not exactly sure what peaks these are.  Can't recall what direction I was aiming.
 Clearing just off Rollins trail just before the short spur to the Passaconaway "peak"

 This picture could have been taken anywhere, but I am at my best guess of the peak of Passaconaway.  Its not very distict or marked with anything.
 I had dropped my pack and had a bite to eat, and hydrated at the junction of Rollins and Dicey's Mill trail and went up the Rollins trail with just my belly pack to Mt Passaconaway .7 mile 575' elevation gain.  Here I have returned to my pack to start the easy but long (3 hr.) hike back to Ferncroft Road along Dicey's mill trail.  The trail is all downhill and gentle or level so you can make some good time. The problem was that it had dozens of frozen post holes (3' deep boot tracks made when the snow was softer) that you could break an ankle in.  Down low there was hardly any snow and the trail was a combination of frozen boot tracks and rocks above the ice. - hard on the ankles.
 The only significant water crossing has a 2' diameter birch log that you can balance across. But - there are also plenty of rock hopping routes.

Back at my truck at 1730 (total hike ~ 11:15) 

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