Its west face gouged into a precipice by the continental ice sheet lumbering through the Valley of Vermont, White Rocks Mountain, just south of the City of Rutland and the Killington Ski Area, is one of the finest cliff faces along the Long Trail. I'd visited the view ledge (elevation 2,100ft; 0.2mi down a spur trail) during a multi-day Long Trail hike in the 1990s, but only this year got around to visiting the storied Ice Beds which lie at the foot of the massive talus slope (one of the largest barren talus slopes in New England) at the mountain's foot.
The talus and cliffs are made of white quartzite, formerly beach sand millions of years ago, lithified by continental collisions. The rock is very smooth and resistant to weathering, making it difficult for plants to take root. The white color of the rocks reflect light, keeping the cavities below the enormous boulders cool year round and slowing the melting of ice and snow that accumulates in the winter. The result is natural air conditioning, making the ice Beds a great destination on a hot summer day.
Gallery: Ladybug on lichen on quartzite; view from the top; Elizabeth emerging from boulders; cat's claw found in owl pellet; taking a rest partway up; scrambling over boulders.
There is no trail connection between the Ice Beds Trail and the cliff top vista; it's out-and-back on two separate trails (same trailhead, off VT 140/ Sugar Hill Road, at the White Rocks National Recreation Area parking lot) on account of the cliffs. Both routes are great hikes on their own: The Keewaydin Trail, Long Trail, and Overlook Spur must be taken to get to the cliffs (3.2mi OAB), passing a waterfall along the way, and the Ice Beds Trail climbs a barren knob with fantastic views of the ledges and talus slopes before dropping to the bottom of the boulder field (1.5mi OAB).
We weren't intending to, but once we started exploring the boulders one thing lead to another and soon we were half way up the talus and decided to continue bushwhacking the rest of the way. Most of the talus boulders were quite huge and impossible to move even two-thirds of the way up the slope but there were occasional loose rocks that would shift under our feet, so care was required. The upper part of the climb involved scrambling up a knife-edge arete and steeply climbing up the treed side of it to avoid the cliffs. One could easily end up in a not-so-good place without solid navigation instincts and a good understanding of rock slides and topography. Once at the top, we picked up the Overlook Spur and followed the trails back to the parking lot, stopping at the waterfall to dip our feet along the way.
Don't try this at home, kids.