My winter hiking partners and I are working on our winter lists, so when we hike together we try to get peaks we all mutually need. With one partner very close to finishing this takes more planning. The original plan was to hike up Adams and Madison but with the original weather forecast two of the three of us weren’t 100% comfortable with it. Fortunately, it all worked out to where everyone was able to hike the hike they wanted to. One partner was able to hike with other friends to Adams and Madison, allowing us remaining two to hike Carter Dome. A few emails later and everything was set for the carpool.
The carpool ride up to Pinkham Notch was slick, with enough of a coating of snow to make the highway from south of Franconia Notch all the way to the 19 Mile Brook trail head to put the 4 wheel drive into action and to use caution. We arrived in one piece to a full parking lot, thanks to my partner’s driving skills. We squeezed into the last regular parking slot, got geared up, said hello to a friend we recognized in the parking lot and were on our way up the 19 Mile Brook Trail to the Carter Dome junction.
It was much warmer than we’d anticipated and we quickly shed the fleeces and hiked in shirt sleeves, all the while admiring and respecting the condition of the brook. Most of the boulders wore a thick coating of snow, but there were also open holes of fast flowing water ringed with rows of vicious icicles, a stark contrast to the peaceful, sleeping boulders. We agreed that the open sections of very cold, fast flowing water would not be a nice place to get stuck. We arrived at the Carter Dome Trail, and headed up after a break. This was a new trail for my partner, so in addition to each of us getting another winter peak, he would get the bonus of redlining a trail.
The Carter Dome Trail starts off gently along a brook and after crossing it twice, it starts up a section with switchbacks. The switchbacks were nice and soon we made the last right hand turn and headed straight for Zeta Pass. This section is a bit steeper, but the whole trail has moderate grades the whole way, with nothing ever really steep. Meanwhile, while we could still see some of the ridges around us, we did note that the summit area was shrouded in a cloud. At Zeta Pass, we leapfrogged again with a group that we had first met and leapfrogged since the 19 Mile Brook and Carter Dome junction. We went up the Carter Dome Trail, noting at the junction to Mt. Hight that it had no one had been up there since the big snowstorm. We kept climbing up into the cloud, arrived at the summit of Carter Dome first and enjoyed it a few minutes before the group arrived. After a snack and some photos, we headed back to Zeta Pass admiring the wind-blown snow sculptures and being thankful that it was not windy at all and the temperatures were mild.
Back at Zeta Pass, we had to decide whether to hike the other Carters or not. We were having a good day, but due to the clouds and no views, we decided to leave the rest of the Carters for another day, where there might be some nice views from the ledges between South and Middle Carter. With a quick break to prepare for the descent, we headed downhill.
It was a quick trip down, even without any butt-sliding. The Carter Dome Trail just isn’t steep enough for butt-sliding, although I did vainly try one section and just couldn’t get going. Soon we found ourselves right back on 19 Mile Brook. A quick chat with a group at the junction revealed that the parking lot was getting fuller and one vehicle, next to ours was blocked in. We prayed we weren’t blocked in and headed towards Rt. 16 to find out. We got back to the lot and thankfully, although it was narrow, my partner easily got the vehicle out and we were on our way home.
We had a great day out in the woods! We were blessed with beauty all around in the brook, the trees, and the new snow, not to mention the health, equipment and partnership to make the hike enjoyable.
Special thanks to my partner, JohninNH, for a great day. Good luck to Greg YEAH! for finishing his winter list soon!