Sunday, January 4, 2015

Mt. Passaconaway, WINTER 4K (8/48) - January 1, 2015

Mt.Passaconaway (4,042') via Dicey's Mill Trail January 1, 2015

Mileage:  9.2 miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 2,950'
Trailhead: Route 16 to Tamworth, left on Route 113, and right onto Chocorua Road for 2.9 miles.  Turn right on Route 113A East (Chinook Trail) for 5.6 miles. Ferncroft Road is on the right where the road takes a 90° turn (past a church). Drive .5 miles down Ferncroft, large parking lot is on the right. 
Hiked with Rich and Sandy.  Hiking on New Years Day is a tradition for us, though conditions are always a crap shoot this time of year and temps can range from 10° to 60°.  We felt fortunate to have decent temps and stellar conditions upon which to ring in this new year!

We'd hiked Mt. Passaconaway in June, 2009 (see previous report) and were excited to revisit this quiet peak again, this time in winter. 

But, not so quiet today. What a beautiful day it was! Temps started out in the teens and promised to rise into the 20s and we met more than a few groups out taking advantage of the day and conditions.
The alarm went off at 5 a.m. and Rich and I met Sandy at the Gulf/Fancy Foods station in Tamworth at 8:00. We drove to the trailhead, got our packs on and were headed out by 8:40.  The trailhead is a short walk out of the parking lot - turn right and walk down Ferncroft Road to the end.  (Lots of signage here).

We're headed to that spotted bump in the distance.

Sign on the tree. Left takes you to Blueberry Ridge trail - stay straight.

You'll walk past several houses and through a gate.

Sandy and Rich doing an equipment check before heading into the woods.
It was a mild walk in the woods; the trail mostly bare with part-time snow. We barebooted to the water crossing.

Blueberry Ledge Cut-off Trail junction (stay on Dicey's Mill trail).

Large ice patches, easily walked around.

Trail is marked with just a few blue blazes.

Tom Wiggin trail junction (continue on Dicey's Mill).

At 2,000' snow covered the trail. Footing was good and the ascent was very gradual with just over a 700' gain for the first two miles.

As the trail swung northwest into the Bowl, we found the wind in our faces (not much protection from the bare, spindly trees).  But, the skies were blue and when not behind a cloud, the sun warmed us as we made our way through the forest.

We descended briefly to the East Branch Wonalancet River water crossing (where the old Dicey's Mill used to be); a rock hop in good conditions but we chose the strategically placed tree to cross.

Sandy climbing up on the big log (which was a bit icy).

We took a break at the river and put our Microspikes on.  Good move, as the ascent up the ridge got more serious (but still relatively comfy) for the next mile.  At 3.3 miles the trail gets momentarily steep and then levels out passing through a beautiful grove of spindly evergreens.  We could see the summit off to the right.  

Woodpeckers must've found goodies in this poor tree!

Sandy heading up the steeper section.

It gets steeper still to junction of the Rollins Trail, where hikers doing the Mt. Whiteface/Passaconaway loop meet Dicey's Mill trail - still about 750' of elevation gain to go for us. We went right and headed up the summit cone.

We reached an odd little water crossing and a few yards from there the junction of the East Loop trail (straight ahead), which loops around to meet the Walden trail. It didn't seem well broken out so we went left and up, continuing on Dicey's Mill trail. (Had we gone the East Loop we would have eventually reached the Mt. Passaconaway summit spur on the left.)

Small water crossing.  East Loop coming up.
Today the overlook near the summit spur trail offered a partial view of mountains obscured by low clouds; it was snowing in the distance.

Viewpoint offers mad views usually.

From here the trail is on the right and a few yards in is the junction of the summit spur (directly opposite the Walden trail sign).  We saw no sign indicating the right turn was the Passaconaway summit but we headed that way anyway.
End of Dicey's Mill trail. This sign faces the spur to the summit.
Spur trail to the summit.

The spur trail ends in a few hundred yards, indicating the summit.  I didn't see a cairn under the snow, nor a sign of any sort so we traipsed around and hoped it was the summit.  We even walked a bit down the Walden trail to the other viewpoint before figuring we'd topped out and were satisfied that we'd hit our mark.  (At home we compared GPS tracks and in fact the end of the spur trail is the summit.)

Summit smile ( hoping we were in the right place!)

Hands got cold and daylight was waning so we headed back to the car.  The wind picked up and we were glad to be heading down. 

Heading back over the water.

We got into heated car seats by 3:00 p.m., and headed to Hobbs Tavern for a beer. 

This hike is a wonderfully moderate workout and for me the only downside was waking up so early to drive to the trailhead.  We had great conditions and good company.

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