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21 July 2012

A Traverse of Whitewall Mountain

As indicated in my previous Blog report about a "Mini-Pemi Adventure" (click HERE to read that report), I've fallen far behind in filing reports about my recent hikes.  In an attempt to catch up, I'm trying to be selective and only post hikes which I think might be of interest.  Perhaps a few readers will find something of value in the following narrative and photos about a traverse of Whitewall Mountain.

Many times over the years I've visited the massive ledge complex at the south end of Whitewall Mountain.  However, since I'm indifferent about peak-bagging, none of my visits have included a trek to the actual summit of Whitewall Mountain! Furthermore, I've never approached the ledges from the north.  Instead, I've come in from the south and then climbed the east side of the mountain to reach the ledges.  And on one occasion, I accessed these ledges via a steep and slippery approach by going up a slide on the west side of the mountain.

So, in my quest to try doing something new and different on each of my hikes, I opted to use a north to south approach route, which would be new for me.  In addition, I also decided to incorporate a visit to the actual summit of Whitewall; yet another first for me!

On the map that is shown below, my route is highlighted in pink.  I roughly guesstimate that the entire trek was about 9.6 miles round-trip.
Map showing my round-trip route

The bushwhack up the north face of the mountain was okay.  It was never overly steep.  The only annoyance was the occasional patch of thick hobble bush.  However, this minor irritation was lessened by a beautiful white birch forest surrounding me in all directions.
(Please note that you can get an enhanced view of any photo in this report by clicking on it.)
Hobble bush and birch forest

As an antidote to the hobble bush component (on both the trek up the mountain, as well as the descent) there were huge patches of forest which consisted of a delightful combination of fern and white birch.   For me, it is pure glee to bushwhack in this type of woods.
Fern and birch forest

Moose also take delight in a forest consisting of birch, hobble bush and fern.   At many points along my route, I came across depressions in the ground-cover, such as shown in the next photo.  My assumption is that these were spots where moose bedded down for the night.
Possible bedding spot for moose

At one point, I actually spotted a moose off in the distance who appeared to be warily watching me.  Very quietly and slowly, I pulled out my camera and was able to get one zoomed snapshot.  But literally in the blink of an eye, the moose disappeared into the forest.  I'm always amazed at how something the size of a horse, can simply vanish, and usually without making a sound!
Moose watching me from afar

Upon arrival at the true summit of Whitewall, I signed the log book and then headed for a nearby ledge where I was pleasantly surprised to find such nice views.   This little ledge provided some vistas which I think are superior to those from the massive ledges at the south end of Whitewall.  Specifically, I'm talking about views of the Willey Range, as well as views of Stairs Mountain, and peaks in the Montalban Range (Stairs, Resolution, Crawford).
View of Willey Range from ledge near summit of Whitewall Mountain

View of Stairs, Resolution, Crawford from ledge near summit of Whitewall Mountain

There was also a nice preview of the Carrigain Notch vista from this little ledge.  However, I knew that a more expansive view of this feature awaited me at the ledges on the south end of the mountain.
Carrigain Notch from ledge near summit of Whitewall Mountain

After soaking in the views from the little ledge near Whitewall's summit, it was time to move on to the star attraction, i.e. the massive ledge complex at the south end.  It is always such a thrill for me to pop out onto these open shelves of rock.  The next photo shows the view that greeted me upon arrival.
Carrigain Notch area, as viewed from ledges on south end of Whitewall Mountain

By moving to another spot on this massive ledge complex, I was treated to a vista which included Shoal Pond, as well as the Carrigain Notch.
Shoal Pond plus Carrigain Notch, as viewed from ledges on south end of Whitewall Mountain

Another view that I particularly enjoy from the Whitewall ledges is the vista looking westward, which is shown in the next photo.  It begins with Mt. Guyot on the far left, and ends with Zeacliff on the right side of the picture.  Unfortunately, dark clouds overhead cast a shadow on this view.
Mt. Guyot (left) to Zeacliff (right), as seen from ledges on south end of Whitewall Mountain

The massive Whitewall ledges also include eastward views, such as peaks in the Willey Range and Montalban Range. However, I've already presented photos of these mountain ranges, as viewed from the tiny ledge near Whitewall's summit.

Eventually, the time came when I needed to descend Whitewall and head for home.  Rather than descend the precipitous ledges on the south end of the mountain, I backtracked northward for about a tenth of a mile in order to reach a spot where I knew it would be easy to get down off the mountain.  After descending the steeper parts of Whitewall's east face, I basically headed due south to intersect the Ethan Pond Trail at a point just slightly west of the Thoreau Falls Trail.  Then, once I was on the Ethan Pond Trail, it was straight shot back to the trailhead where I had begun!

On the return leg of my journey, I took a snapshot looking up at the massive cliff on the west side of Whitewall Mountain.
Massive cliff on the west side of Whitewall Mountain

And, I also stopped to take a snapshot of the picturesque wooden bridge at the north end of the beaver ponds on the Zealand Trail.  Once I'm at this point along the trail, I know it will only be about 30 minutes before I'll be sitting in my car and headed for home!
Wooden bridge at north end of the beaver ponds on the Zealand Trail

To sum it up, gheez what a trip!  I visited the actual summit of Whitewall Mountain for the very first time, and I used an approach route that was different from my previous treks to the ledges on the south end of the mountain.  Oh! And I had the rare privilege of seeing a moose in the wild, even though it was only for a brief moment!  And last, but not least, it was a true pleasure to bushwhack through such lovely birch glades.       


Steve Smith said...

Fantastic report, John - what a great traverse! Those birch glades are marvelous, and thye Pemi views can't be beat. Wow!


1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Steve for such generous and kind remarks! I thought about you while trekking through the glades of fern and birch, knowing that you and I share the feeling that this is bushwhacking nirvana! :-)


Summerset said...

Very cool that you got see a moose! Very interesting trip, too, since I've seen Whitewall from various vantage points, and knew that it would have to be a bushwhack to get up there. Maybe someday! The pictures are great, as always.

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Summerset,

It is indeed a “hiking-treat” when you spot large wildlife, such as moose, bears, etc. What’s even more special to me are those rare occasions when I’m able to get a snapshot. More often than not, the animal is gone before I can get my camera turned on!

Everyone is different, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you eventually incorporate bushwhacking into your hiking repertoire. You’re adventuresome and you’re a strong hiker, which are good qualities to have for off-trail adventures.


Rita Wechter said...

The fern and birch forest is stunning! Seeing a moose in the wild is a special treat too.

On your hikes you always manage to find something interesting and unique to report on and this post is no exception. I love the view from the ledges, and that wooden bridge across the beaver ponds...your photo makes me want to walk right into that scene!


1HappyHiker said...

Hi Rita,

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated!

I'm especially delighted to read that you apparently are as attracted to that wooden bridge as I am! It has a certain “je ne sais quoi” quality about it which I find very appealing.