Middle and South Carter Hike
Hiking/Walk DATE: 03/02/2013 - 03/02/2013
Trip/Event Location: Gorham, NH
Max # People: 15
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Strenuous
Tag 2 more winter peaks: Middle and South Carter in Gorham, NH. Hike part of the Appalachian trail. The 19 mile trail is always nice. It is a rewarding workout with great views if the weather is right...
From North Conway, drive north on NH 16 past Pinkham Notch. The Nineteen Mile Brook traihead is on the right, 3.5 miles north of Pinkham Notch. It's a decent size parking lot and usually has a few vehicles parked. We'll be driving a blue Toyota FJ Cruiser.
Jon and I bagged another two winter 4,000 footers over the weekend on a 10 mile hike over the Carter Range in the eastern White Mountains of New Hampshire, with a respectable 3,500 feet of elevation gain. I did the same trip last winter.
It was cloudy with little wind at the beginning. This trip would have required very strong GO members with lots of winter experience in order to have made the entire loop under the conditions we encountered today.
We parked the truck at the 19 Mile Brook Trailhead at 8:30 am and barely got the last legal space in the lot which fills up early on most weekends, especially in winter. We had to wake up at 5:30 am to make the drive up in time for this hike ~ definitely an Alpine start ~ but I really wanted to return to the Carters this winter and it was definitely worth it!
We started by walking north on Route 16 for about .2 mile to the road leading to the entrance of Camp Dodge, where the Appalachian Mountain Club trail maintenance crew lives when they're not in the mountains working. The road was not broken out and had about 6 inches of powdery snow so we put on our snowshoes. The camps are completely deserted in winter but makes for a great shortcut to get to the Imp Trail.
The snow clung to the deciduous trees and clumped on the conifers. A half mile later we reached the Imp Trail. It was not broken out. It was 2.9 miles from here to reach the ridge and the Carter-Moriah trail. We took turns breaking, switching off every 15-30 minutes. This was a pretty good rhythm but in hindsight I think we should have been switching off more frequently to make better time.
As we rose through the forest the snow deepened and we were now in 10 inches of snow. After the Imp/North Carter trails junction, we were now breaking up to 15 inches of powdery snow. As we gained elevation the snow was really clumping on the conifers and the deciduous trees were covered in a beautiful hoar frost which gave all their branches the appearance of crystalline barbed wire.
As the snow got deeper we were looking forward to reaching the ridge. From the Imp/North Carter trails junction, it took us 2 hours to break 1.2 miles of trail! It was a grind and physically exhausting for both of us. Once on the ridge we noticed the trail appeared to be more compacted with between 6-12 inches of snow. It now was breezy and getting colder.
We walked a bit south on the Carter-Moriah trail to find a sheltered location for lunch. The Carter-Moriah Trail coincides with the Appalachian Trail. The snow depth was such that our snowshoes were reaching the AT blazes.
We started to climb up to Middle Carter, which is the highest peak in the Carter Range, at 4,610 feet. We continued to break trail up to the summit, but it's a fairly gently climb over a few ledgy knobs that normally have some great viewpoints. But not for us today. Nonetheless, the trees were draped in snow and quite beautiful. There are a few places where we had to fight our way through spruce-fir branches and we had to pay attention to the eye pokers and face slappers. The only way we knew we reached Middle Carter was encountering snowshoe tracks from people coming in from the other direction. There's no summit sign on Middle Carter anymore. The Forest Service removed it from the summit it because the summit is on the boundary of a designated Wilderness area ~ seems a shame to us.
Reaching a broken trail was so nice. From here we continued south along the ridge to South Carter at 4,430 ft and stopped for quick snack. From here we had to hike another 4.6 miles back to our truck. We continued south to the Carter Dome Trail and hiked down 2,000 feet. At Nineteen Mile Brook Trail we switched to microspikes.
It's been at least our second hike in the row where we had no views, but it mattered little. What mattered was that we got out to spend a day together in a beautiful, winter forest on a high mountain range!
~ Mike Boisvert
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What Members Are Saying About This Trip/Event
- Winter hiking can be such an adventure as the ordinary is transformed through layers of hoar frost and rime ice into extraordinary beauty. - JDNnh