It's supposed to be doable in a day hike, but I'm a very slow hiker, so I hiked in to the start of the loop trail and camped at the last crossing of North Branch (of the Pemigewasset). . . Started out at 8:00 am for the summit of N. Hancock. From the loop junction - the final ascent - the trail climbs 1000' in .7 mile, but it goes DOWN first to a stream, so it's more like 1200' in .6 miles. That still doesn't tell the entire story, because the trail flattens out at the top for about the last 1/10 mile. At any rate, it was steep as hell, and since it was my first 4000 footer of the year, it was VERY slow going for me. I wound up exiting the woods around 6:00 pm after summiting S. Hancock around 1:00 - going back to the loop junction from S. Hancock was just as slow as going up N. Hancock because I was hiking alone and was VERY careful so as to not break anything important. it took me almost two hours to get back down to the loop junction.
I loved the col trail between the two summits - great mountain top hiking with typical mountain top flora - that went pretty fast!
Trail kicked my butt. Since just about everyone that passed me going into the climb also passed me going out, I know I'm slow. Just wondering how these grades compare to climbs down south, where I'll be starting. It was discouraging. But I'm at 19 4000 footers and counting. . . I may do something pretty quick to get to 20.