Wildcats Mountains A & D Hike
Hiking/Walk DATE: 11/07/2015 - 11/07/2015
Trip/Event Location: Pinkham Notch, NH
Max # People: 15
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Strenuous
Bag two 4,000 footers and with spectacular views of the glacial cirques of Mt. Washington!
Distance: 9.3 Miles
Elevation Gain: 3250 feet
Time Duration: Approximately 8 Hours
Follow NH Route 16 north through Pinkham Notch. The trailhead parking area is on the right [east] side of the highway exactly 1 mile north of the entrance to the Mt. Washington auto road. We'll be driving a blue Toyota FJ Cruiser.
Nine GO members and Bailey [Black Lab] hiked the Wildcats today. The forecast called for partly sunny skies, a high temp near 40 degrees and windy.
The Wildcats are a cluster of mountains tied into the Carter-Moriah range of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. There are 5 Wildcat peaks with the super unoriginal names of A, B, C, D, and E. Only two of these peaks, A and D count as "4,000 Footers," due to the low prominence differences between the others. Wildcat A stands at 4,422 feet tall, and D just below that at 4,070 feet.
After spotting cards at our ending point on the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail, we drove to our starting point at the Pinkham Notch parking lot. We hiked .9 miles on the Lost Pond Trail to reach the Wildcat Ridge Trail so not to risk falling into the Ellis River by rock hopping over icy rocks. However on a day like today, we probably could have crossed without incident due to the unseasonal temperature.
Once on the Wildcat Ridge trail it continues on fairly easy terrain for about 1/4 of a mile. After the easy section the trail steepens dramatically. Ascending several rock scrambles and chimney climbs we rapidly gained elevation.
The trail climbs over bald rock faces along with sections of man made ladder steps. We did not have to use MicroSpikes the entire day.
After a few steep sections and about 0.3 mile we reached a rocky ledge outlook and was rewarded with an incredible view of the Presidential Range and Pinkham Notch! From here we could see our cars wayyyy down in the parking lot below. The wind had picked up, so I put on my shell jacket. With windchill we figured it was down to 30 degrees.
The trail weaves through some really cool ramparts and erratic boulders, one of which was a small cave that Brian decided to explore.
After climbing to the top of the initial steep section the trail flattened out and continued on. This section of the trail was really pleasant. Loving it!
A short walk later, we arrived at the summit of Wildcat E, the top of the Wildcat Ski area. It was very windy here so we huddled behind a summit building for wind protection, have a snack and layer up some more. The trail continued behind this summit building.
The section of trail that continues over to Wildcat D is pleasant and moderate. A short walk later we arrived at the relatively new observation deck. From the observation deck we could see the socked in Presi's. Within a few minutes we were on top of Wildcat D. Our first official 4000 footer of the day!
Continuing on we dropped a little elevation and started climbing up to Wildcat C and B, these peaks are so low in prominence that they're hard to notice. The trail is very pleasant as we walked over bog bridges and by an occasional erratic boulder. Up until this point, we had encountered two hikers the entire day! However we could tell we were getting close to Carter Notch as we began to see more hikers.
We had lunch probably somewhere between C and B. We arrived at Wildcat A, the second 4000 footer of the day. There's a FANTASTIC outlook here that allows us to look down from a ledge into Carter Notch. Carter Dome is in view and it's rocky ramparts at the base. We hung around for quite a while here to take it all in.
From here the descent into Carter Notch is abrupt and steep. Dropping over 1000 feet elevation in 0.7 mile. The trail has plenty of footholds and isn't terribly scary to descend. We moved quickly here to make up time...at this point we were already thinking about getting back to our cars and having a beer at Red Fox Grill!
Soon we arrived at the intersection of Nineteen Mile Brook trail. The Carter Notch hut was close by, but we had no reason to stop. We continued on to Nineteen Mile Brook trail.
Nineteen Mile Brook trail from here is 3.5 miles of VERY easy hiking. There was a couple of wet sections. The trail crosses several brooks and rivers that all have sturdy man made bridges in place.
A short while later we crossed the final bridge. This bridge is new. The bridge appeared to be super strong and well built...however we could not help wonder why it was needed. This river crossing was extremely easy last time I was here. It definitely didn't need a bridge as a safety factor...maybe it was an environmental reason?
Just a few minutes later we arrived at the Nineteen Mile Brook trailhead on Route 16 where we jumped into the cars we left there, hopped in our vehicles at Pinkham Notch, and drove to the Red Fox grille where we had a celebratory dinner.
The Wildcats is always a pleasant hike! It's a lot of fun going up Wildcat Ridge, and the views were awesome! All in all...it was a great day in the mountains. Can't wait to do it again!
Total mileage with Lost Pond, Wildcat Ridge and Nineteen Mile Brook trail was 9.4 miles with a little over 3,150 gain. It took us 8 hours including breaks from trailhead to trailhead at a leisurely pace.
~ Mike Boisvert
[Pictures by Mike and Jon Normand]
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