Carter Dome, Middle Carter & Wildcat "A" March 2017
#'s 39, 40, 41 of my Winter New Hampshire 4,000 footers (7 to go)
First and only winter hike this season. I have a temporary transportation problem but I was able to do this 5 day trip completely by bus from Providence Rhode Island to Pinkham Notch N. H. Once a day there is a Concord Coach Line bus that runs from Berlin New Hampshire to South Station Boston and return, with stops at the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center (PNVC) . A perfect place to start off hikes to the Wildcats , the Carters, or especially Mt Washington (maybe next time). My perfect plan was;
Day1: Catch a bus from home or providence RI, bus up to Pinkham Notch (PN) (leaves Boston at 4:15pm arrives at PN 8:15pm) and spend the first night at the AMC Joe Dodge Lodge at PN (unfortunately I would arrive too late for the included diner.)
Day 2; Catch the Breakfast buffet at 0630, road hike 4-5 miles down Rt 16 to Nineteen Mile Brook Trail head. Hike the 19 Mile Brook trail 3.8 miles (1991' elevation gain) up to the Carter Notch Hut, and spend the night at the Hut.
Day 3: Leaving much of my gear (weight) at the hut, hike from the hut to Carter Dome, S Carter and Middle Carter (three 4ks) along the Carter-Moriah trail and back to the hut (total of 9.2 miles and 3760' elevation gain/loss), This day of course had options to turn back after the first or second peak.
Spend that night at the hut.
Day 4: Pack up all my gear and hike from the hut up to Wildcat ("A") over to wild cat "D" along the Wildcat Ridge Trail (1700' elevation gain, 950' loss). only A and D are 4k peaks but I would have to go over B & C with many PUDS (pointless up and downs). Then down the wildcat polecat ski trail ending up very close to PNVC in time for diner at PNVC and spend that night at JD lodge.
Finally Day 5: Up early grab the included breakfast buffet , catch the bus to Boston 8:15, hopefully arriving in Boston on time at 12:20 and catching the 12:30 Peter Pan bus to providence where my wife may pick me up or I can catch a Rhode Island bus almost to my door in Portsmouth RI.
At least that was the plan. I ended up doing 3 of the 5 peaks I wanted but for the most part stuck to the plan as far as buses and lodging go. I had to turn back at S. Carter skipping M. Carter because the trail to Middle wasn't broken out and I was already exhausted. on Day 4 I realized that I wasn't up to hiking up to Wildcat A and going over the ridge with my full pack and overnight gear, so I left my pack and most of my gear at the hut and slack packed up only to Wildcat A with two belly packs and returned to the hut for my gear then hiked back down Nineteen Mile Brook Trail. I'm also thinking that I may want to leave Wildcat "D" for a short 1 day hike next winter where I hike up carrying skis and boots and ski down.
Thursday 3/16: Had a 4 person bunk room all to myself the first night at Joe Dodge Lodge. Bus from Boston was one hour late getting to PN (traffic getting out of Boston) but I had missed diner anyway so no big deal.
Besides my pack and hiking stuff I brought a suitcase that they let me leave in their gear room the two nights I was up at Carter Notch.
Friday morning; After too much to eat at the PNVC breakfast buffet I started my road walk down Rt 16. Before I even got to wildcat ski area I got a lift from a guy on his way to an avalanche rescue training course in Gorham.
Nineteen mile Brook trail head. BTW the clock on my camera is about half an hour behind. this was about 7:30.
As predicted by a friend on VFTT the trail was broken out all the way to the hut, but not well compacted yet.
Part way up the trail, I was playing with the idea of cutting off to Carter Dome trail and trying to do Carter Dome before the Hut in case the weather changed and I could not do the Carters the next day. There was only one snowshoe track up Carter Dome. I tried following the trail for a while but the snow was too deep and the stride much too long for me and it would have been too hard to break trail all the way up plus there was no guarantee that the tracks went all the way to the dome and hut so I turned back and continued up nineteen mile to the hut. (this was a good decision).
Interesting snow drifts.
close to the hut the trail became really undefined.
At the hut. The view looking up toward Carter Dome from the bunk house I was in.
Looking toward the Wildcats
Friday night I had a full 4 man bunk room to myself. There were only ~ 17 guest that night. Full capacity of the CN Hut is 40; two bunk houses with two 4 man and two six man bunk rooms each - I think.).
FYI there is no heat in the bunk houses. The first night it got down close to or at zero. My bag is only rated at 20 degrees . I also have a liner that is suppose to add 10 degrees but it was still pretty cold the first night. They have a fire going in the main hut from 4 until ~ 8:00 so I spent a lot of time there reading.
I got up early and moved down to the main hut before anyone else was up to cook some breakfast.
The kitchen is fully stocked with pots/pans fridge. Even seasoning, you only have to bring the actual food with you.
I think I actually started hiking from the hut to Carter Dome at 0645
Looking up towards Carter Dome.
The first section going up to the Dome is quite steep, and can be tough if there is any ice and you may need crampons. Luckily the big snow storm a few days earlier had left a good base of snow and I was able to manage with just snowshoes. Actually on all my hikes this weekend I carried crampons and micro spikes but stayed in the snowshoes on all the trails.
trail junction with rainbow trail. Near top of the dome. I think this is considered the peak but with the snow some other areas on the dome looked higher.
Carter dome selfie. I wouldn't see any other hikes until I got down to the col between the Dome and S. Carter (Zeta pass)
Great views with zero wind on the top. This would have been a good day to do Washington.
I think that next peak you see here is S. Carter, but it might be Mt Hight hiding S. Carter.
Another selfie with better background
Almost 3 hours later; Peak Picture at South Carter. I didn't take any pictures between Carter Dome and South Carter.
The story is; coming off Carter Dome, typically people go a little further to go over Mt Hight rather around it because of the great views on Hight and also you don't have to walk cross slope on the Carter Moriah (C-M) trail that bypassHight. However there was really only one set of tracks off the north of Carter Dome and no sign of any broken out trail over Hight. That section of the C-M on the side slope of Hight was hell, with only one set of snowshoe tracks on soft snow. It was a hard slog getting though it and down to zeta pass where the C-M trail which continues along the ridge meets the carter Dome trail which goes down and joins nineteen mile trail (maybe I'll post a map here later) . Actually when I got to Zeta pass the C-M trail up to S. carter wasn't broken out, but 5 people coming up behind me from the Dome passed and continued on breaking the trail. With a larger group of hikers its easier to break trail because you rotate the point man in shifts. I ended up way behind the group and just blindly followed the path they were making. It turned out that they had lost the actual trail and were just meandering off in the wrong direction. They realized it the same time as I did and were backtracking to try and find the blazes on the actual trail (The Carter-Moriah is part of the Appalachian trail and should be well blazed with white blazes (paint swaths on the trees). I checked my GPS against a saved track and realized we were quite a bit off of the trail. I bushwhacked to where I thought the trail should be while the others backtracked and found their error. We both ended back on the actual trail. By this time I was really exhausted and had a pretty hard time getting up the steeper sections to S. Carter. The trail wasn't broken out from South to Middle Carter, but even if it was I still would have turned around at that point. I think there was one couple that did continue on.
Not sure where I'm at here. but after deciding to turn back at S. Carter and not wanting to go though the crappy trail up to the Dome I opted to go the longer route of down Carter Dome trail which was broken fairly good by now. and then back up Nineteen Mile. Longer and more elevation gain/loss but not as steep and a well broken out with no cross grade tacks.
Per my GPS started today's hike at 6:31am and returned to the hut at 6:52 pm,only 8.2 miles in 12 hrs 20 minutes. That may be a slow record for me. Slow hiking but also hundreds of 30 second stops to catch my breath. GPS says that only 6 hrs of the 12 hrs was moving time. I was having a hard time of it that day particularly after reaching the Dome. I think I had slipped back into AFIB near the beginning of this hike. (I was electro cardiaversion (zapped) back into normal rhythm 6 months ago). that combined with my emphysema made it a real tough day - but worth it.
When I got back to the hut it was pretty much at full capacity with 36 guest. including a few boys scout troops. I had two new bunk mates but never actually met them. I saw there gear when I returned to the bunk room then went down to the main hut to fix dinner and get some warmth and when I returned they were both asleep in their bags. Then I left for my last day hike before they were up.
I woke up feeling much better than the night before, but as I mentioned before still thought doing all the wildcats with a full pack would be too hard for me. (going up to A is also fairly steep) so I just packed two belly packs with water, snacks and my crampons and "slack packed" up to wild cat "A". it was also very overcast with just a light snow when I started. From the following you can see that I hit the peak in the fog with no views.
This is suppose to be a scenic Vista just off a spur trail off the ridge right near the peak of Wildcat . Completely fogged in at this point.
Wildcat "A" selfie.
I think that's the official peak a few feet into the spruce.
Background of fog into the "vista"
Of course halfway back down the fog lifted and it was a beautiful day. The same thing happened when I had done the Wild cats in Oct of 2012.
Hiking out on nineteen mile brook after retrieving my gear from the hut. I had my belly pack on upside down and couldn't get to my camera without taking off the pack, so no pictures until all the way back down nineteen mile when I took a break and removed my pack.
nineteen mile brook trail was like a paved sidewalk now.
19 mile brook.
back at the trail head
about a dozen cars still in the trail head although i was the last guest leaving the hut.
Wasn't looking forward to walking the 4-5 miles back to PNVC mostly up hill, but within 5 minutes I again was offered a lift. This time by an local fellow with his huge and friendly newfeee looking for a good place to take a walk on this beautiful day. Again this would have bee a great day to hike Mt Washington, and judging by the parked cars overflowing the PNVC lot and both sides of rt 16 . tit must have been crowded on those trails today. Again i had f4 person bunk room all to my self. Talking to the staff the only days they really fill up the rooms in the winter are Saturday nights.
Monday morning at the breakfast buffet. Only about 5 people there. breakfast starts at 6-6:30 and my bus isnt until 8:07
3-D sculptured map of the Presidentials at the PNVC gift shop.
They sell 2'x3' 3-d plastic map. I wanted one but it would have been hard to carry it on and off the bus with all my gear.
waiting out on Rt 16 for the bus.
On the bus. It was only 10 minutes late , but I was getting worried.- Only one bus back all day.
It was a great 4 night trip , not having the long drive in traffic up and back from NH. The buses are actually pretty comfortable. Even though its the end of the official winter peak season, I may just try and do a another bust trip and do mt Washington before the snow's gone. Ive never hiked Washington from the east side. Otherwise my next trip north will probably be to do trail work on Black Pond trail.