Date Climbed: 02/21/2010
Distance: 10.1 miles
Low Elevation: 1180 feet
High Elevation: 4043 feet
Elevation Gain: 3540 feet
Elevation Loss: 3540 feet
Start Location: Ferncroft Rd. TH
Finish Location: Ferncroft Rd. TH
Route: Ferncroft Rd, Dicey's Mill Trail, Walden Trail to Wonalancet Hedgehog and back, Wonalancet Range Trail, Wonalancet Range Trail Cutoff, Wonalancet Range Trail, Old Mast Road
Weather: Clearing throughout the day, 30's but windy in places.
Companions: New Hampshire
Dicey’s Mills TrailBrian and I headed off from the Ferncroft parking lot at 8:00, heading a short ways up the road to the trail. We were met by a friendly Golden mix, and what looked to be a small horse that turned out to be the tallest Newfie I’ve ever seen. Much as I love Newfs, the dog wouldn’t budge from the driveway, and sent out a few deep woofs that, if you know Newfs, are as intimidating as a teddy bear. I was surprised to see the trail goes right up someone’s driveway. Maybe a right-of-way, maybe not, but thank you in any case.
Down low, there was hardly any snow left. The grade was easy and then began to go moderately up, where we tossed on the microspikes, with the snow being a little slick. It was steep enough to slow us down some, but we hardly stopped until the Rollins Trail junction, and when we did, it was very short. From the Rollins Trail, the grade continued with some nice switchbacks, and then came the steep pitch up. There was some ice on these sections, and we clung to anything we could. Finally, the grade lessened and a great view north opened up. Everything north of Carrigain was socked in hard, but it was that much more dramatic because of it. Here SilverFox came up and said hello, and we carried on to the summit and the other view southward. Here Brian helped me spot Kearsarge, which I couldn’t ID before for one simple reason. The visibility was too god. I could easily make out details on it from this far away. By far the clearest day I’ve ever seen.
Walden TrailThe Walden was broken out, and to save time to avoid the East Loop we took this down, with Brian remembering it was “more mellow.” That quickly became clear to be a relative term, as we hit more steeps and ice, and we made our way very slowly down the several icy patches. We came to the East Loop and Square Ledge Trails turnoffs, soon put on our showshoes and we started a moderate climb up the sub-peak. On top, we could see down to the col between us and Wonalancet Hedgehog, and the angle we were looking down at did not look promising. Nor did the climb back up. And so, we hit yet more steep ice patches. There were several pucker moments, and making things worse, near the bottom, we actually had bare ground to deal with on our snowshoes. We were in spring conditions in February! We were really cursing the Walden Trail at this point. I had mentioned it looked really pleasant from the Wonalancet Range Trail, little did I know what lay beyond my line of vision.
We stopped for a break in the col before dealing with the steep climb back up. It was a lovely open glade, and I found a bare patch on a large boulder to sit on. Then came another steep climb. SilverFox had mentioned a whole lot of PUD’s on this trail – no kidding. Slowly we made our way up and finally came up to the Wonalancet Range Trail junction. At this point, we decided to return this way, as I knew the Walden Trail after Wonalancet Hedgehog had some nasty ledges to climb down. We quickly tagged Wonalancet Hedgehog (by far the easiest part of this trail all day), and returned to the junction, elated that we would now have an easy climb down. Wrong.
Wonlancet Range TrailI had promised this had “nothing bad” (let it be shown both Brian’s and my memories stink). All was fine until we got to the cutoff, which I hadn’t done before. It was a drifted in, sideslope walk, with a fair amount of steepness if you slipped off. This was something new to me and challenging to keep one’s footing. In other words, more aggravation. We came to the other end of the loop over the summit, and once again I thought it’d be smooth sailing until I saw a steep long drop in front of us. Oh crap. Suddenly I remembered coming up this section last year. Not good. And with open woods, there wasn’t a whole lot to hold onto. And so it was, of course, icy, and probably the worst descending we did all day. Still in our snowshoes, I fell once with no issue, but another time, I went down hard, starting sliding quickly and thought I’d just fall all the way to the bottom head first. I quickly saw a boulder that would not allow that. For whatever reason, instead of covering my head, I buried my elbow into the mushy snow and slowed to a stop with my head maybe 4 inches away from being smashed. All I could do is laugh at my dumb luck and stupidity. I sat for a while, slowly and carefully got up and made it the rest of the way down the steep part with no incident. It occurred to me then “why didn’t I put on my crampons???” Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. Never again.
We made the remainder of the way on good grades and tired legs, really having enough for the day. Arriving back at Ferncroft at 2:30, we remarked what a total bitch this trip was between the steep ice and the number of ups and downs. It was fun as always with Brian, but I’ll be happy to never see sections of the Walden Trail ever again. :^)