There is a fine website called Views from the Top that I frequent, and I've met many wonderful people there. We've gotten together IRL (In Real Life) several times, and have taken to calling these "Gatherings". This was version 3.5, the ".5" designating a winter season. Thanks to Mohamed, we were able to get the Harvard Low Cabin, which is just off Rt 16 just south of Pinkham Notch. Brenda and I were supposed to arrive on Friday night, but a nasty snow storm made us stop in Lincoln rather than go over the Kanc is such lousy weather. We arrived at the cabin the next morning around 8:00 and made introductions and tried to make hiking plans for the day. Our original thoughts were to climb Mt Washington, so we grabbed Louie, a friend of Ridgerunner, and headed for Pinkham.
But when we got there, the forecast was for 80 MPH winds and bitter cold, so we chose Carter Dome instead. We all packed up in my car and drove to the trailhead where we saw Mohamed and Carole who were planning on hiking the full Wildcat Ridge. I stupidly left my snowshoes in the car, thinking that the trail was packed enough, and with Mo and Carole we started up the 19 Mile Brook trail. The trail was in fine shape, firm snow and good footing. We were all wearing plastic boots and everyone was pretty warm once we started moving even though it was pretty cold. I, of course, stayed in the back taking photos. We reached the junction with the Carter Dome trail and said our goodbyes. The trail follows a stream, with a few little crossings, before starting the serious climb. We were catching tantalizing glimpses of the Presidentials through the trees as we climbed higher and higher.
Another thing we had to deal with was more snow. Being the heaviest of the group, I frequently ended up in postholes up to my waist, struggling to climb free and cursing the decision to leave my snowshoes in the car. But higher we went, finally hitting the ridge at Zeta Pass, where we stopped for a brief lunch. Although the sun was shining, we quickly cooled off once we stopped moving, so it was back to it. We elected to go straight to Carter Dome when we saw the trail to Mt Hight wasn't broken out. Here, along the ridge, were the scenes of our most serious postholing as the snow was quite deep. We also ran into a skier, who had summited Carter Dome and was on his way down. I was surprised to see him, although I had been seeing what looked like ski tracks on the way up, I couldn't believe they really were. At the other end of the Mt Hight Loop we were put on our extra gear, including goggles, and pushed on towards the summit. The views were spectacular, while the weather was pretty harsh. We were all glad we didn't go up Washington that day.
The summit of Carter Dome is rather broad, so you don't actually get the amazing views from the summit rock, but there are plenty of great views very close by. We looked at Mt Hight and thought about hitting it on the way down; we'd decide when we got there. After 15 or 20 minutes up top we started down. The wind made it difficult to communicate, which turned out to be a problem as my goggles froze over and I fell into a big spruce trap. Being last in line, it was up to me to get myself out, which I did by using my poles, keeping my feet out of the worst of it, and swearing a lot. I caught up with Louie and Brenda who were waiting for me at treeline. Louie decided to go over the Hight Loop, Brenda and I just headed straight down. We ran into a group that had come up from Carter Notch and had gone over Hight while we went around, then hit South Carter. They still had a long hike for that late in the day but they seemed up for it. Louie arrived at the junction soon after we did, having done a few fine falls on the way down. He was covered in snow.
From Zeta Pass the descent was uneventful but pleasant. We did our share of boot skiing and the pace was pretty fast. We caught up to the skier, who was having a bear of a time keeping upright. He was falling every 50 feet and looked pretty exhausted by the time we found him. He ended up taking off his skis and walking down a big chunk of the Carter Dome trail. At the 19 Mile Brook junction we met up with a trail maintainer and hike out most of the way with him. We reached the trailhead well before dark, but the sun was going behind Mt Washington so it was pretty good timing. We headed back to the cabin where Peakbagger was set to cook up another fantastic dinner and we all settled in for a night of storytelling, planning, eating, and general good times.
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