New Hampshire has a multitude of mountains, large and small, and often the smaller ones offer quiet wilderness. Recently on a beautiful windless day, I went for a pleasant hike up 1,339-foot Mount Whiteface in North Wolfeboro with a friend from that town, Beverly Woods.
When you say you have climbed Mount Whiteface, people think of the popular 4,020-foot peak in the Sandwich Range, named after a striking cliff on the south side of the summit.
The smaller Mount Whiteface in Wolfeboro is also named for a cliff on its southeast side. The mountain is located in a section of the town that was settled first, yet today is quiet.
Landowners and conservation groups are helping to keep it that way, and recently the Wolfeboro/Tuftonboro Land Bank and the Wolfeboro Conservation Commission partnered to purchase a 120-acre parcel on the eastern side of Mount Whiteface, including the summit where there is an expansive view from the cliff top.
The town of Wolfeboro will own the property and have an easement on it with the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, preserving the land in perpetuity.
Three years ago, young people in the Student Conservation Association built a 1-mile trail to the summit from Browns Ridge Road. A small gravel parking lot was built by Baldwin Excavation.
To get there, from the junction of Route 16 and 28 in Ossipee (next to Hannaford), take a right on Route 28. In about a mile at the overhead blinking light, take a left on Route 171. Soon, just after the old county courthouse, bear right on Browns Ridge Road. In 2 miles, there is a small break in a stone wall on the right into the small trail parking lot. White diamond blazes are highly visible on trees where the trail starts.
For us, parking was problematic with all the snow. The lot was not plowed. Parking out on the narrow Browns Ridge Road wasn’t a good idea. We back tracked a half-mile to Youngs Road on the right, parked in a substantial gap in the snow at its end and walked back down the main road to the trail parking lot. Perhaps in the future plowing of the parking lot will be arranged. For now, do as you will.
At the parking lot, we climbed the big snowbank from Browns Road, donned snowshoes and, following an old set of snowshoe tracks, bore left and headed into the woods on the trail. Immediately, our worries were left behind. We gradually climbed up the trail through the old northern hardwood forest with sunlit snow below.
Through the leafless trees ahead the modest bulk of Mount Whiteface grew, with its east-facing cliff. The trail bore right then turned left under it.
In the second edition of Ed Webster’s “Rock Climbs of the White Mountains,” he wrote a section on the 250-foot cliff, describing a half-dozen routes and calling the mountain Browns Ridge. The cliff was not in his third edition, perhaps because of private land. Now, 30 years later, there is a regained interest in the cliff by climbers. Some new bolded ring anchors have been placed where old belay trees are long gone.
As we climbed up the trail, we noted many old gnarly deciduous trees and tried to decipher each’s struggle through the years, evidenced in its appearance. Fresh fox tracks ascended the trail. At one point where the snow was completely disturbed, we saw blood spots from its successful catch of a mouse or vole.
Finally, the trail swung back to the right into evergreens. Near the top, it reached a junction with a trail that came up the west side through private land. We bore right and in 50 yards reached the open summit ledge.
In the wide view, the other Mount Whiteface was visible in the northwest. Then, from Mount Washington, spread many familiar White Mountain peaks. Directly across from us in the valley was a big gravel pile at Ossipee Aggregates, known for leveling out Logan Airport near Boston. Also easily visible was Pine River Pond.
We signed the log book, kept in a jar tied to a stump, shared an apple and looked forward to descending the trail in reverse through the sunlit forest.