Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011.10.16 Mt Hight & Carter Dome - A Pleasant Surprise

This has been on the list of hikes we wanted to do for a few weeks and things finally fell together perfectly.  This 10.3 mile hike included a short jaunt to the AMC's Carter Notch hut.  The elevation at the trail head was 1,575' and at the highest point we were at 4,873' for an elevation gain of about 3,300'.  As we are now losing daylight each day, it was important for us to get an early start so the alarm went off at 4:45 AM.  Are you serious?  I really wanted to sleep in!  We left the house at 6:00 AM sharp and began our hike at 8:15.  We returned to the car very near to 5:30 PM.  All in all just over nine hours for a hike that has a book time of eight hours.  Mr. & Mrs. Slowsky were at it again!

We were expecting temps in the mid-50's with partly cloudy skies.  Nice weather for a fall hike but, things in the Whites can be different than expected.  It was in the low-40's when began our hike and until we started descending from Carter Dome it did not get much warmer.  Though the temps were likely rising at the trail head as the day worn on, that was more than offset by our increasing elevation.  The strong winds made the temps feel much colder.  On our way up to Mt. Hight it even sputtered snow for a few minutes.

There were times during the ascent and at the summit that even while wearing every layer I had brought I was still cold.  Lessen learned - don't be fooled by the October dates, it's already winter in the Whites when at higher elevations.  There was some nice relief from the cold when we began descending from Carter Dome into the Carter Notch either because we were blocked from the winds or because they stopped (I could not tell which) but it certainly got warmer.  From about 2:00 PM on we enjoyed those warmer temps and calm winds so we began removing layers.  First the hat, then the outer jacket, then the gloves.  We kept stopping to remove more items - this was a good thing!  There were times it was downright warm and I finally started to thaw out.

Let's move on to some photos and more commentary:

Another lollipop trail.  Sue loves taking hikes that have a loop as opposed to a straight in and out.

Two important comments about this hike.  If you are looking to bag your first 4,000 footer this may be the hike for you.  The ascent up to Mt. Hight and then on to Carter Dome (the latter being the only 'official' 4k even though Mt. Hight exceeds 4k) is a nice long slow grade that is extremely consistent (see left side of elevation plot above).  Should this be your first 4,000 footer, you might want to return on the same route.  If you look closely on the marked section of the elevation plot you can see that the grades coming down the other side of Carter Dome to the Carter Notch Hut are about 45%.  That is pretty darn steep if you are not accustomed to hiking, in fact, its steep even if you accustomed to hiking.  Second, do not take the shortcut to Carter Dome thereby avoiding Mt. Hight.  The 360 degree views from Mt. Hight are stunning yet the views from Carter Dome are very limited so, don't miss Mt. Hight!  It will be the Hight-light of your trip. Okay, I admit, that was corny.

About a mile before the trail head we stopped at the Mt. Washington Auto Road offices
 to use the facilities before beginning our hike.  Sue snapped this photo of Mt. Washington with, yes, snow on the upper elevations.  Hmm....

The two photos above are of course our mandatory trail head photos.

I keep a list of hikes that I would like to repeat.  This hike is definitely on that list, somewhere near the top.  I enjoy listening to the rush of water when I hike and on this trek you get to listen to water for hours (literally).  The river flow was loud, raging actually.  I could have stopped every 250 yards to take another photo.  The river was more picturesque for a longer period of time than most hikes, if not all hikes, I have been on.

So here we are a mile or so in the woods and there is a dam on the river.  Say what?  Was this used years ago to power a saw mill or ??

At this point we have accomplished nearly two miles of our hike.  Only 8.4 miles left to go.  We will now leave the 19 Mile Brook Trail and head to Mt. Hight.  We will then follow the Carter-Moriah Trail across the ridge to Carter Dome.  Continuing on that same trail we will descend to the Carter Notch Hut later returning to this junction again on the 19 Mile Brook trail.

Sitting on the ground at the trail intersection was a piece of steel that is clearly a runner from an old sled.  How old I wonder?  Why is it here I wonder?  Did the sled crash, was it merely abandoned.  We'll probably never know.

This photo and the next several are from the summit of Mt. Hight.  Though the 360 degree views were beautiful, the winds were a'howlin so we pressed on pretty quickly.

Does this pine tree need Head & Shoulders shampoo?  Is that pine dandruff?  No!  It is snow.  Now I'm really cold.

Interestingly enough, the geological survey marker at the summit of Carter Dome had no elevation noted.  It frankly appears that it was never there.  My GPS however tells me we were at 4,873' above sea level.

One notable thing about this hike is that it was wet, very wet.  In this particular section the trail was literally a small brook.

There is a ledge with a view part way down from Carter Dome.  Below you can see the Carter Notch Hut.  We stopped at this outlook for a late lunch and then we headed down to the hut.

This photo and the next are of the lake just adjacent to the Carter Notch Hut.

Another beautiful water venue on the way down.

Here the late afternoon sun shown through the trees.

It was nearing dusk so this photo might not totally capture the brilliances of these leaves.

A large section of this footbridge had been washed away during tropical storm Irene a couple of months ago.  If you look closely you can see some 2x12's underwater that allow us to cross.  I so appreciate the AMC and trail crews!

Sue captures me "walking the plank"...

It was a long day but I so appreciated this hike.  I would highly recommend it to anyone.


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