I took a vacation day on Friday and decided to go hiking with a friend of mine from work. We picked a couple of peaks which neither of us have done before: Mt. Passaconaway (4,043 ft) and Mt. Whiteface (4,020 ft), both located in the Sandwich Range. The two mountains form a large natural bowl.
We headed up Dicey's Mill Trail from the Ferncroft Parking area, reaching the summit of Mt. Passaconaway in about 2hrs. Not a bad hike for most of the way although the last 1/2 mile was quite steep. The summit is mostly wooded but there are a couple of side paths that allow some views...if the weather cooperated. We were pretty much socked in the clouds. It also started to rain as we neared the summit and with temps in the mid 30's, it was obviously a cold rain. Stayed just long enough to take a couple of viewless pics and have a bite to eat and then we were off to Mt. Whiteface to the southwest.
We followed the Rollings Trail along the ridge over to Mt. Whiteface. The rain was coming down pretty good now and the wind had also picked up. Thankfully we were somewhat protected by the trees and the fact the trail stayed more to the east of the ridge line. The rain switched over to freezing rain and eventually snow on our hike over. Just enough to make everything white and allow you to leave tracks, but still it was snow. Snow in the first week of October, not what I was expecting! At times we had some nice views down into the bowl to the east, with some very serious drops from the trail. Mt. Passaconaway was also visible in the distance as the skies were slowly starting to clear. Freezing rain, wind and cold temps made for an uncomfortable hike, even though we were both well prepared for the weather. The true summit of Mt. Whiteface is actually wooded but there is a 'false summit' further south as the trail crosses over some of the steep ledge which probably gives this mountain its name. By this time the sun had made an appearance and the views were much improved. Not perfect but at least we could see where we came from and where we were going. The hike over from the summit of Mt. Passaconaway to Mt. Whiteface took about 2hrs but at least it wasn't raining/snowing anymore. Several stops were made on and around Mt. Whiteface since there were several decent outlooks, including views of Mt. Chocorua and Squam Lake. The picture to the right shows the ridge from Mt. Passaconaway (Rollins Trail) with the bowl towards the right of the ridge.
We could see the parking area off in the distance as well so we knew we still had a long hike ahead of us, although thankfully at this point it would be mostly downhill. We would follow the Blueberry Ridge Trail all the way back to the parking area. The first 1/2 mile or so was brutally steep, descending sharply over the ledges, nearly vertical. It was slow going at best but once off the ledge the trail descended more gradually through the hardwoods allowing us to keep a decent pace going for most of the way, finally reaching the parking area in just under 2hrs. The pic to the left was taken from the Ferncroft parking area with Mt. Whiteface off in the distance. Overall we covered about 12.5 miles and hiked for about 6 1/2 hrs total (including stops). The weather wasn't ideal but it didn't totally suck either. We were afforded some fine views on the way over to Whiteface and on Mt. Whiteface as well. I think I've finally decided to retire my hiking boots. I've had the same boots for over 20+ years. Talk about getting your money's worth!