|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Whitewall Mountain, West Field, Mt. Tom, Mt. Field, Mt. Willey, NH|
||Zealand Trail, Ethan Pond Trail, Whitewall Slide, herd paths, bushwhack, snowmobile trail, A-Z Trail, Mt. Tom Spur, Willey Range Trail|
|Date of Hike:
||Sunday, September 12, 2021|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||Already lots of cars at the end of Willey House Rd of whatever it’s called where Ethan Pond Trail starts at 5:45am. Many, no doubt from the night before. Same with Crawford Notch. But we did find parking at the end of the road (and a few spots left). The road was paved near the beginning of the summer. Zealand Rd was is it’s usual self. It’s a $5 USFS fee lot. Still several spots there around 6:15am. By the time we returned to the lots at 6:45 and 7:15pm there wasn’t even much sign of overflow. |
||Dry Trail, Wet Trail, Wet/Slippery Rock, Standing/Running Water on Trail, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Mud - Significant |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||All crossings were readily rock hopable. Even off trail, we didn’t encounter anything challenging (just occasionally wet). |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||I would not recommend bringing your dog up Whitewall Slide. Dogs probably aren’t as cautious as humans when it comes to dislodging rocks toward you 😂 |
|Lost and Found:
||My 8th through 10th 4000 footers this month that count toward the 26 I need to grid out September. First time on Whitewall and West Field and my 11th time on TFW. We were a little concerned about the chance of showers given our hellish (if hell was cold and rainy) whacking experience on Friday but it never rained, was a nice temp, was a good mix of sun and cloud, and the wind kept us cool :) |
Zealand Trail is very easy to follow and is blazed in blue. Ethan Pond Trail is blazed in white as it’s part of the AT. Not so sure Mt Tom Spur is blazed. Wiley Range Trail is blazed in blue. Nothing was hard to folllw and I don’t recall any blazed on trail.
General route: Whitewall slide to southern ledges to summit of Whitewall. Whitewall summit to Pond in col. Col to Ponds west of West Field, then to West Field. West Field to snowmobile/ski trail 0.1mi or less west of eastern intersection with A-Z Trail. Then up to Tom and over and down Field and Willey.
Beautiful and quick walk along Zealand Trail. Love those beaver ponds. No moose today. Nice to see some dry trail interspersed between the mud. I haven’t been on the Ethan Pond Trail since redlining; nice to revisit that. We started our shack up the slide about 200ft shy (north) of Zeacliff Trail. I’d just say start when you’ve got a nice open view of Ben thing and can see what you’re aiming for which, unless you’re rock climbing, should probably be what might be called the col between the main peak of Whitewall and the southern Knob. Or, it may be more accurately described as a notch between to cliffs or you’re only way up without hurting yourself 😂 Honestly, just look for a decent route up and you’ll see it.
We started up the slide. It’s not too bad at first as the rocks are larger or more boulders and are thus more stable. Not as steep at the start either. We slowly and cautiously made our way up, carefully picking our route and occasionally crossing over onto a different route/porch that looked better. We took care not to walk behind each other but rather across from each other on slightly different routes unless we were walking on very stable rocks. The slide is loose as people say and we deiinjtely exercised caution but I wasn’t ever really scared on this one. Arrow Slide was definitely worse. Then again, Iran of a different nature. This is all boulder and some loose rock. No slab and I wouldn’t even call the vast majority scree; just one little bit of more scree like stuff at the top. You’ve just got to be careful AND make sure you’ve got a good line and aren’t getting yourself trapped in some tricky spot. I wonder if that happens more when people do this alone and this is one advantage of doing it with someone. You keep each other on track and make sure each other avoid bad routes. I say this because I’ve heard of people getting into some sketchier stuff but we really had no issue. Anyway, the slide generally becomes a bit steeper and looser as you gain elevation but I found it all doable. Just slow and cautious. The slide narrows and becomes wooded as you head into the little notch. We only ascended a little ways before catching a faint right to the right that led to some open ledges. It may have been easier navigstionally (stay on a herd path) had we continued straight. But this brought us into the open where we had a nice view into Zealand Notch and the route of Zeacliff Trail, Zeacliff, and what we were pretty sure was the hut!
This open ledge was still shy of the main open ledges on the southern knob. Unfortunately there wasn’t a well established herd path to continue pushing up through the brush from here but some had gone that way and we just pushed through. Nothing terrible. From here to the summit I’d describe what we did as “following our noses” which mostly worked well except for finding the precise high point. After a short walk from the first ledge through scrub, gaining just a little more elevation, we came out onto the broad ledges of the southern knob. Fantastic spot especially for campers :) Beautiful views and wonderful summit and “ledgy vegetation”. We took a break here, for a look at the peaks we were later headed to, and set off for the true summit of Whitewall. There is not one clear herd path taking you there in my opinion so I just took us in the general direction following the most obvious signs of human traffic/light herd paths. We basically headed due north. The true summit is on the eastern side so we then headed due East to it. Generally, as we got closer a more well established herd path seemed to appear. Thought we might be at it a few times but we weren’t. When I finally saw it, the herd path turned left (north) away from it. I of course went straight for it just to realize why the herd path went left: a little bog/marsh. We got across it just fine though, signed into the summit, and decided on our next attack plan.
We wanted to hit the pond in the col but didn’t want to go down super steeply and miss the birch glades so the idea was to northeast staying in the edge of the nice grade, then curve around to our right (east) toward the pond once down lower. We stuck a little too far to the north though and, much like our walk from the southern knob if Whitewall to Whitewall, went almost due north, then East, nearly forming a right angle. We didn’t mind though as we walked through the most gorgeous and vast birch glade I have ever seen. It was mouth-wateringly beautiful! That had to be the highlight of the hike for me. Anyway, after heading north/northeast of the summit for a half mile, we turned East for just under 1/4mi, then south for 200ft to reach the pond. A little rough getting to with wet footing. Felt like we were in a marsh before the pond but we were just unlucky/stupid with our line. It’s doable and a beautiful spot once you’re there :)
We then headed due north for just under 1/4mi (didn’t need to go quite this far...I didn’t realize how far I’d gone) to avoid the steeps on the east side of the pond. Once in a good spot, we took a bearing and headed nearly due East to the Ponds by west field. Most of the elevation (all of 300ft-400ft of gain over 0.8mi) was done at the beginning in okay woods. The woods soon became thicker as the terrain also leveled out. These were the first thick woods we’d really hit all day. It wasn’t hellish but solidly thick. Sort of off and on until close to the pond but mostly on. The smaller northern ponds (we didn’t visit the tiniest northernmost one which may be more of a bog now) I didn’t find as scenic BUT they had carnivorous plants all around that were actually flowering!! Very cool to see. We then headed south maybe 300ft to the southern pond which was larger and more scenic but without the pitcher plants.
We then aimed northwest to attack the gentler and likely more open northwest ridge of West Field. The woods were very briefly bad again pushing to get from the pond to there but once we started gaining elevation the woods opened up some and were very negotiable. The only disadvantage to coming up this way was that you kept on thinking you were coming to the summit but then you’d see a higher point and another higher point and so on. It was the summit that just kept giving. We signed in and took our final bearing of the day, roughly 340 degrees and aimed to hit the snowmobile/ski trail just before it joins the A-Z Trail. The woods along the northwest face of the summit and on the summit are good but we soon came to push through some thick stuff. Not as bad as earlier but a little slow. After maybe 1/4mi the woods began opening up more and we whacked quite quickly back together the trail from there. 0.8mi from the summit to the snowmobile trail.
Oddly enough, the snowmobile trail was the wettest part of the day. The mud pulled my shoe off at one point. Luckily that was short lived. Back on the A-Z just in time for the steep ascent up to the Tom/Field col. Only people we saw from them on was one solo hiker and one group of 2 headed down Tom Spur. Couldn’t believe it as it wasn’t even 4pm! Quiet day. Winds were definitely stronger up there on the ridge. Short sleeves no longer. Between Field and Willey was it’s usual gross mess of mud, rock, and erosion. Is it possible to make an entirely new trail along the ridge? 🤣 Nice to meet some AT hikers back down at the car at 6:45pm.
A wonderful 12.5hr day in the woods enjoying some very remote scenery and good conversation :) On the whole, this hike was easier than expected. Woods weren’t thick for as long as we thought they’d be, and, when they were, they weren’t hellish. Just thick. And the wetlands/ponds weren’t too wet. So, considering that, and the potential to die in a spruce trap here in winter, unlike most, I think I’m glad I did this in the summer without snow. Now that I say it, wonder how long till I do these peaks in winter 🙃 No moose seen but definitely in a very Mooses area between Zealand and West Field with all the wetlands around. Saw some very fresh moose scat. Also best scat around Whjtewall with all its blueberry bushes you get to hobble through.
||Liam Cooney |
Disclaimer: Reports are not verified - conditions may vary. Use at own risk. Always be prepared when hiking. Observe all signs. Trail conditions reports are not substitutes for weather reports or common sense.