Member Trip report
Carter Dome & Wildcats via the Slide
Trip Report/Photos from shep5
On Saturday, October 20th, it was forecast to be a decent day, so I headed up to hike Carter Dome and the Wildcats using the Carter Dome Slide. I had seen the massive slide on the western headwall of Carter Dome from South Carter Mountain as well as Mount Madison, and I'd been curious about it. I checked on the internet and did not find any hiking reports, but I'm sure others have climbed it. Anyway, I figured I would give it a try! One reference to the old slide was
...from The Geology of New Hampshire, A Report Comprising the Results of Explorations Ordered by the Legislature – New Hampshire. Geological Survey, 1868-1878:
The Carter Dome Slide was detailed in Vol. I, Appalachia, p. 83 (1876-1878). It seemed to have fallen at the same time as the first slides on Tripyramid (1869). During this storm the proprietor of the Glen House (Joseph Mariner Thompson) lost his life while trying to reduce damage due to heavy rainfall at his sawmill (which was on the Peabody River or one of its tributaries). As a result of the slide there was approximately 20 square acres of debris piled up at its base. The greatest angle of descent on the slide was 42 degrees.
The day started out warmer than it had been from the previous two weekends with mostly overcast skies and windy conditions. I arrived at the trailhead by 7:15AM and was on the trail about 15 minutes later. The Nineteen Mile Brook Trail was modest in grade as it paralleled the brook all the way up to the junction with the Carter Dome Trail. It was 8:10 and I stayed on the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail. The trail crossed two brooks via three-log bridges. It was at this second crossing that I climbed up the southern bank into the woods. I immediately landed in a small patch of waist high spruce, but after a couple of minutes, the woods opened up. I stayed up on the bank within ear-shot of the brook below and made my way up the ravine. At times there were patches of rotten blow down to climb over, but the bushwhack was relatively easy through here. After about an hour I could see granite ledges in the brook bed and I descended to check them out. These ledges were not only wet from the brook running down them, but there was moss, snow and ice, which made them very slippery. Still, I carefully made my way up these and as I got higher the valley below came into view. Some of the ledges became very difficult to climb and I would periodically climb back into the woods to bushwhack around them. It spinkled for a short time, but the sun was started to come out, particularly in the valleys below. By 10:20 I had reached the bottom of the slide, but I stayed in the woods a bit longer as it appeared difficult with high ledges. In another 5 minutes I popped out on the slide and it was still pretty steep and partially snow-covered. This was an older slide and spuce had started to grow on its slopes again. I stayed along the treeline to have something to take hold of, as I slowly and deliberately made my way up. Despite the low cloud cover around the Presidential Range, there were good views over to the Carters and towards Mount Madison. I continued to climb the slide for roughly another hour when I was close to the top and decided I would exit into the woods to the north. The woods were still very steep and the trees were tight, but not so bad that I ever had to muscle my way through. I popped out into a small clearing with views and then after this, the woods were slightly more manageable with a more modest slope. I knew that I was almost at the top. At 11:45 I came across the debris from the old fire tower in the woods and in less than a minute later I emerged out onto the summit of Carter Dome (4832'). I was amazed that there were no other hikers here...particularly since it was lunchtime! The summit was mostly treed, but there was a view back towards the Carters off of the northwest.
As it had already taken me about 4.5 hours to get to the summit and there wasn't much to see up there, I didn't stay too long. After about 5 minutes I proceeded south along the Carter-Moriah Trail (AT). This wasn't bad initially, but it steeped considerably as I descended. Luckily by that time, there was less snow and ice on the rocky trail. At 12:15 I reached a partial view in the trees and I could see that the clouds were lifting with some blue skies. Over on the Presidential Range, Mount Madison could now be seen. It wasn't long after this point, that I came upon the spur trail out to the view. I walked out to the ledge and had views of Black Mountain, Wildcat Mountain and the hut below in Carter Notch. I returned to the main trail and continued my descent. There continued to be views of Wildcat at times and by 12:35 I had reached the Carter Lakes. I took in the views as I walked over to the AMC Hut. There were quite a number of people already here and the caretaker said that it was full for the evening. I had come in to get water, but the system had already been winterized for the season. Still, she offered me water that she had just boiled. It was hot and undrinkable! Anyway, I put it in my pack just in case I needed it and after it cooled down a bit. I headed back to the trail and made my way around the "lakes" to the junction with the Wildcat Ridge Trail (AT). It was 12:50PM and I started up the relatively steep trail to Wildcat Mountain. There were views of the Carters and Carter Dome along the way and as I climbed the trail increasingly had patches of snow and ice. At 1:30 I had reached the viewing ledge off of the summit of Wildcat (4422'). There was a small group of hikers, who were just leaving and we chatted a bit. The views were great, especially since the skies had cleared up now. The Carter Range was prominent along with the Baldfaces over to the east. After 10 minutes I continued along the ridge and it didn't take long at all to get over to Wildcat B. By the time that I had hiked over to Wildcat C, there were openings in the trees, where I could see that Mount Washington and the other Presidents had finally emerged out of the clouds. It was about 2PM and I began to descend into the col. I ran into a few other hikers along this section, who had climbed up the ridge from Glen Ellis...some of them were going out and back and a group of hikers were traversing the ridge to Carter Notch. As I approached the next summit, the trail began to steepen and after a decent climb, I had made it to the summit for Wildcat B (4062') at 2:50. I immediately climbed up the viewing platform and was rewarded with a spectacular view of the Presidential Range. I descended the summit and popped out at the top of the Wildcat Ski Area and proceeded down the Polecat Ski Trail. The ski resort had apparently been testing out there snowmaking equipment, since there was about half-a-foot of snow in spots. It also appeared that quite a number of hikers had used this ski trail, since there were alot of footprints. I have hiked this ski trail in the winter and it provided great views over to Mount Washington. Luckily this day was no different as the much of the clouds were gone by late afternoon. Anyway it took about an hour to walk this trail down to its base. Instead of walking out to Route 16 at the ski resort, I turned onto the gated service road and took this north to where it joined the main road. The road walk took me north past the Autoroad Entrance and back to the Nineteen Mile Brook Trailhead. It was just before 5PM, when I reached my car again. I got packed up and headed home.
Despite the overcast skies during the morning, it cleared up beautifully through the day. The Carter Dome Slide was awesome, but steep, made a little more challenging with the partial snow cover already. It provided some nice views for a mountain, which has limited views from its summit. It might be worth another future trip on a clearer day...it would be nice to see the Presidential Range from the slide. The trip across the Wildcats was just icing on the cake with its amazing views of Carter Notch and the Presidential Range.
Mileage and Elevation Gain: Approximately 12.6 - 13.0 miles with about 5060 feet cumulative elevation gain.
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