Member Trip report
Middle Carter Slide Bushwhack (NH)
Trip Report/Photos from shep5
The Middle Carter Slide has been one that I've been curious about for a while, as I've seen it from the southern ledges of Mount Moriah. I am referring to this as the Middle Carter Slide, as I was not able to find any online references to any one else doing it and I don't know that it has been named. It is a major slide on the eastern arm of Middle Carter Mountain. It was opened up during Hurricane Irene in 2011. This slide is not on the way to or from anywhere and it is in a remote part of the Wild River Wilderness. My initial dilema was how to get to it. I thought there were two options: to descend halfway down the Gorge Brook Trail to an area known as the cascades and bushwhack up to the slide along the brook or to descend off of the Carter-Moriah Ridge directly to the slide. I figured the latter was the better option, since I didn't know how difficult the bushwhacking might be and the first option would be considerably longer.
On Saturday, September 16th, I arrived at the Stony Brook Trailhead off Route 16 just south of Gorham, NH. It was surprisingly warm and humid. The peaks were in the clouds, but as it was clear to the west it appeared that they would emerge during the morning. I got ready and headed up the trail. It was just after 7AM. This trail has a mild grade for about two-thirds of the way up. I've done this trail a number of trails, but this was the first time that I saw the lower portion in daylight. It took me an hour to reach the fourth brook crossing, afterwhich the trail finally began a more agressive climb. I made it to the junction with the Carter Moriah Trail (AT) at 8:50. I immediately turned south. This was a nice walk through the woods and the trail finally popped out onto a number of granite ledges in 45 minutes. It was at the last ledge that the clouds began to lift and I got a really nice view of Imp Mountain. I continued along the trail, passing by the spur for the Imp Campsite and after hiking alittle further I reached the large area just prior to ascending North Carter Mountain. I had remembered that this area looked somewhat open and I accessed the area. It was 10:10 and I left the trail heading east...dropping into the Wild River Wilderness. Initially, there was a herd path, but as soon as I breached the treeline it had vanished. Soon after starting my descend I ran across a very small brook and I followed this changing sides depending on the openness of the woods. For the most part the forest was easy to move through. In a half-hour I reached an open area just before a steep ledge with a great view into the wilderness. Here I had to backtrack a dozen feet or so to cross the brook to the south side. After a short time, there were steep granite ledges on both sides. The route down became steeper, but navigated in between the steep ledges. By 11:10 I could hear a heavier water flow and in 15 minutes I reached the brook, where the slide was located. As it turned out, I was only maybe 500 feet below the start of the slide. Initially, the slide was made up of wide granite shelves. As I climbed up it, Shelburne Moriah Mountain came into view. At 11:40 I reached the debris field of logs and broken stumps/trees. After this point the slide became more typical with boulders, scree and ledges. Even with a massive ledge before me, this was quite manageable, since there was a "ramp" along the middle of it. Above this the views of the wilderness got better and better and by the time I reached the split in the slide, there were great views of Mt. Moriah. I reached the split at noon and I proceeded up the western leg, as it would be closer Middle Carter Mountain. This was narrower and even easier to ascend despite the increasing steepness. At 12:30 I made it to the top of the slide and as the woods were open I ducked into the woods. This part of the bushwhack was still mostly manageable. About an hour later though things changed drastically. As I approached the top of the arm, it became bushwhacking hell. It was incredibly thick pine and my progress slowed to a crawl. On the plus side, I started to pop out of the woods onto ledges and treated to amazing panoramic views of the area stretching from North Carter Mountain over to Shelburne Moriah. This was so worth it! The views were beyond description! There were about half-a-dozen of these small ledge views before I could see the Carter Moriah Ridge line becoming closer. I descended slightly back into the woods and it became increasingly open again as I approached the trail, onto which I finally popped out again by 1:45!
Now back on the trail, I headed for the summit of Middle Carter Mountain. I came out on the trail just to the north of the boardwalk across a marshy area and by 2PM I reached the open ledge with a view of the Presidential Range. All of the peaks were visible, except the very top of Mount Washington, which was still being brushed by clouds. It was only 10 minutes later that I was on the summit of Middle Carter Mountain (4610') with its small trailside cairn. Here there was also a very path to a view over the Wild River Wilderness and the Baldface Royce Range in the distance. As I continued south along the AT I came out onto another open ledge. This time Mount Washington was emerging from the clouds. I proceeded south along the ridge and it was just before 3PM that I reached the summit of South Carter Mountain (4430'). From here I just needed to descend down to the junction with the Carter Dome Trail in Zeta Pass...which I made by 3:25. I turned onto this trail and began my descent off of the ridge. By 4:15 I reached the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail and subsequently reached the trailhead on Route 16 by 5:10PM. I was all ready to walk the 5 miles back down the road to the Stony Brook Trailhead, but someone I was chatting with on the way down offered me a ride back to my car.
Wow! This was really an incredible experience. It turned out to be a picture perfect day and the bushwhack of the slide was amazing and so worth it despite the short area of difficult bushwhack at the top of the Middle Carter Arm. Even though, the ledges along the descent to and ascent of the slide provided awesome views...along with surprising views along the top of the arm. This was another great slide for the books and a great off-trail trip into Wild River Wilderness!
Total mileage and elevation gain: 12.6 miles and 4760 feet in cumulative elevation gain.
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