My husband is continuing to work on his NH48 list, and when we had an opportunity the day after Christmas to hike with another friend who is also working on the list, we took it. After some comparing of lists and mutual peaks still needed, it was decided that we’d take a trip to Moriah. The route of choice was the Carter-Moriah trail, which was nice because I had previously hiked Moriah via the Stoney Brook trail with my son last summer. It was also a good choice since it was forecast to be a bit windy, and I was hoping that the Carter-Moriah trail would be more protected over all than the exposed ledges I remembered from the other route.
We started out bright and early and by the time we picked up our hiking companion, found the trailhead and were suitable geared up for the day with microspikes to start. We actually got on trail at 8:20a. The first little section goes up hill and is a nice little warm-up. The rest of trail ascends at a moderate grade until the ledges. We moved along nicely until those ledges near Mt. Surprise. The ledges are covered with ice and then a layer snow, which looks pretty, but is very deceiving as to the amount traction you’ll actually have when ascending them. The first couple of ledges were fine, but on the third one, I slipped and grabbed onto a tree to keep from sliding further. It was at this point we decided that microspikes weren’t quite enough traction and that we’d have to upgrade to crampons. After switching into full crampons, we were able to proceed with more confidence, although still cautiously. Supposedly we were to have views from various points on the ledges, but with the clouds around and above us, we didn’t see very much. Moving along, we continued up the mountain on moderate grades, with a few little steep sections thrown in, and although we were off the ledges, we still experienced quite a bit of ice innocently hiding under a couple inches of snow. The snow covered did provide a pretty backdrop to the upper portion of the trail and we enjoyed the scenery and looking at all the animal tracks in the snow. Mostly what we saw were rabbit tracks, but we spotted a few moose tracks as well.
Getting closer to the summit, it started to get very windy and cold and it was time to add those final layers before heading up to the summit for the customary tapping of the high point, pictures and then a quick retreat out of elements and back to the relative safety of the trees. The summit was very windy and cold, but we were happy to be there and then move along back down the trail a bit for a break.
Heading down, we made good time and soon enough were back at Mt. Surprise and the ledges, ready to meet the challenge of descending them. We traveled slowly through this section, not only due to caution on slippery terrain, but also because the clouds in the distance were starting to lift and we were able to have some pretty amazing views. Each new ledge brought more views. We started by being able to see just Madison and Adams through the trees, then we were able to them fully, then we were treated to a view of Madison, Adams, the Great Gulf filled with clouds and Washington. The clouds were moving quickly and it must have been much windier on the summit of Washington as we could see plumes of snow being blown off the mountian, along with small puffs of clouds that swirled over Jefferson and up out of the Great Gulf. The view really was incredible to watch as the clouds were constantly in motion, changing the scenery every minute. By the time we got the end of the ledges, the clouds had lifted out of the Great Gulf and all of the Northern Presidentials were visible.
After thoroughly enjoying the views, we headed down into the semi-open woods, and were treated to the afternoon sunshine and the shadows cast among the trees. For me, the afternoon light was nice to see, as most of my hiking is done in the morning, and usually before 1pm.
We had a great hike, with some excellent views to end the day. As if that wasn’t good enough, we were treated to a spectacular sunset and alpine glow on the Presidentials while driving east on Rt. 2 toward home.