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 Carter Dome... 
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Peak Bagger
Peak Bagger
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Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 10:11 am
Posts: 198
Location: Grafton, New Hampshire
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 Carter Dome...
Date Hiked: Wednesday, April 2

We had planned on this hike several days in advance when it looked like there would be a nice, clear, warm day on April 1 or 2. We made arrangements to be away from work on April 2 and drive up the night before and stay somewhere in Jackson in order to get an early start on the trail. As April 2 drew nearer, it looked like the warm front passing through the area would be gone by Monday, April 1 and any high winds would die down by Tuesday. Such was not to be the case -- the evening in Jackson before our hike was characterized by 60- to 70-mph gusts blowing through the area. The next morning was almost as windy, with 100-mph gusts on the summits. We decided to hit the trail anyway, and brave the elements (but alter our route to avoid the exposed summit of Mt. Hight, in spite of the lure of great views). Suffice it to say, we had our hands full the entire day with the high winds, in some cases some so strong out in the open that the only way we could stay on the trail was to crawl on hands and knees.

In addition, the snowy, powdery trail conditions from a few days before became wet/soft snow because of the warm front -- that then froze into solid sheets of ice everywhere as soon as the front passed. Oh, the fun.

All in all, an incredible hike with more than a few heart-racing moments on the steep section of the Carter-Moriah Trail below the summit, near the "pulpit."

Trail Conditions: Nineteen Mile Brook and Carter-Moriah Trail before Carter Dome summit are a solid sheet of ice anywhere from two to four inches thick. At summit and beyond along the ridge, powdery drifts of a foot or two on top of solid crust. Carter Dome Trail had about a foot of powder over inch-thick crust up top prior to Zeta Pass; below Zeta, about a foot of loose, granular snow in the sun and slick/icy in the shade. In this area, too, snow/ice bridges are disintegrating from the sun.

On Carter-Moriah headed up toward Carter Dome summit, just below the pulpit, there has been extreme melting and re-freezing. In one case, the ice was so thick, steep and treacherous that it was "easier" to bushwhack around it and pick up the trail again just past the pulpit. Again, at this point where the trail is exposed, wind gusts were so extreme that crawling was the only option for staying on the trail. Freaky.

Given the high winds from that day, remarkable absence of new blow-downs -- there might be a dozen all told, and most had been there for a while. All are easily negotiable.

Special Equipment Required:
Traction, traction, traction -- there's a lot of ice on steep sections of the trail going up. Snowshoes helpful further down to avoid postholing.

Comments: One byproduct of the high wind other than making the hike extremely challenging: it cleared out all of the clouds. Gorgeous, sun-drenched, blue sky views everywhere from Carter Notch to the summit of Carter Dome. We had the entire hike to ourselves until late in the day, when we saw evidence (Stabilicer prints) of one other person headed most likely to the Carter Notch Hut.

NOTE: We found a pair of sunglasses on Nineteen Mile Brook on our way out and left them at the trailhead signpost.

I'll post some photographs later today to my LiveSpaces site (below), but I have to say in advance that most of the time where the views were of any interest (like looking down into Carter Notch, and across at Wildcat Mountain) I was more concerned for safety and not blowing off the trail down into the Notch than I was for photography.

Thu Apr 03, 2008 3:16 pm
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