Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mt Passaconaway

Yesterday we completed our first winter hike of 2012 to the summit of 4,043-foot Mt. Passaconaway. The high summits forecast called for cold northwest winds in excess of 50 mph, so our initial plan to hike to Mt. Flume or the Kinsmans was swapped for a more wind-protected hike to Passaconaway.

We set out with our hiking companions John, Paul, and Mike at 8:50 am from the Ferncroft parking lot. Eight hours later we arrived back at the cars as a waxing moon appeared overhead among shifting clouds as daylight faded with the setting sun. It was a long (9.4 miles) but beautiful hike via Old Mast Road to Walden Trail to the summit, then back down on Dicey's Mill Trail.

As other hikers know, there is little snow in the woods and lots of ice on some sections of trails. The initial 2-mile leg of the hike was a gentle grade along Old Mast Road. The microspikes were put on our boots early in the hike as what little snow there was underfoot was icy or crusty.

We reached the Walden Trail in good time. According to the White Mountain Guide, the Walden Trail was significantly reconstructed recently by the Wonalancet Outdoor Club. Although it is harder to see improvements when snow and ice are covering the trail, we greatly appreciate the hard work that the volunteer crew completed. The Walden Trail includes several ups and downs and with ice bulges in some steeper spots it was slow going.

The trail passes many large boulders and ice flows and Kodi was thinking that he prefers deep powdery snow to the ice. There was more snow at the higher elevations and the descent on Dicey's Mill Trail was covered in enough soft snow that ice was not a problem, allowing for a relatively quick descent. We briefly encountered a bit of what John called "sneet," not quite snow and not quite sleet.

On the final climb to the summit we passed through an area where one or more moose had rubbed its antlers on fir trees, stripping them of bark. We saw tracks of moose, snowshoe hare, grouse, and fisher. Bits of mountain ash berries were dropped on the trail up high, while yellow birch catkins and beechnut husks were strewn on Dicey's Mill Trail as we descended, in area with many bear-clawed beech trees. I heard a boreal chickadee and a robin, but mostly the woods were silent except for the sound of own breaths as we climbed.

It took us 5 1/2 hours to reach the summit of Mt. Passaconaway. At 2:15 pm we were looking east and north from the outlook just below the summit (which is in the woods). Although the temperature was below freezing and somewhere the wind was blowing strong, we were well-protected and not feeling cold (tired yes!).

Kodi waits for Srini as we climbed toward the summit

A view to the south toward our starting point;
the lakes region in the distance

Views to the east and north from the east outlook,
just below the summit of Mt. Passaconaway

Just past the summit, another outlook offers views to the north and west,
including a fine view of the Tripyramids

After a few final looks at the high summits to the north we began the 4.6-mile descent on Dicey's Mill Trail. The going was relatively easy compared to the ascent, and we reached the parking lot within 2 1/2 hours. There was just enough light that headlamps were not needed and it is always a nice sight to emerge into the fields at Ferncroft and walk past the well-kept farmhouse, the private landowners who kindly allow us all to hike right past their house and barn.

Thanks to John for selecting this loop hike; we were out of the wind almost all day and he knew the trail well having recently hiked it by himself. Thanks Paul for the hand-up on a few steep pitches and to Mike for the gingerbread cookies back at the car. Kodi slept soundly all the way home.


  1. Really nice documentation of your walk. It makes me wish we had some snow down here in Pennsylvania.

  2. Thanks DPLblog. We need more snow here too!