Winter came early to the Whites this year, giving us lots of snow in late November. While beautiful, it did give the hiking community some adventures to talk about for a long time!
Middle Carter is one of those tales. It was the only peak I needed to grid out December. It was the only peak I could not get last year. It was not for lack of trying! A brave group of 4 of us tried to get to it in 2017, but breaking through 18″ of snow and navigating a lot of blowdowns plus worsening weather saw us getting only to South Carter.
December 1, 2018 was a bright and beautiful bluebird day, so Ethan was kind enough to go with me on yet another trip to the Carters. We knew that the trail had been broken out to Zeta Pass, Mt. Hight and Carter Dome. We had no idea what the trail would be like northward from Zeta Pass to South Carter and beyond, but guessed it wasn’t broken out.
Fortunately, another hiker was also headed that way while we took a break at Zeta Pass and we joined forces and headed to South Carter. Another before us had tried and lost the trail just beyond Zeta Pass, but we found the trail and a lot of snow! It was a repeat of the previous year, taking an hour or so to break the .8 mile from Zeta Pass to South Carter. Due to time and incoming weather, once again I was stopped at South Carter. Sad, but it was the right choice to head down, by the time we got to the car, it was cloudy, colder and rainy.
Between email, weather reports and trail reports, I had a plan to go back for Middle Carter. My friend Hikinguy agreed to go with me; he too, missed Middle Carter last year when we turned back. We planned an out and back up through Camp Dodge, up the North Carter Trail and over to Middle Carter on the Carter-Moriah Trail. We did not know the condition of the trail on the ridge, but with only .6 of a mile to possibly break out, we felt we could do that. Everything up to the Carter-Moriah Trail was pretty well broken out by a group the week before.
It was zero degrees, but we got out of the truck, geared up and headed up. With a lot of pushing through branches in the last half mile to the ridge, we finally broke free and were ready for the last push. Much to our surprise, it looked reasonably broken out – yay! Off we went, pushing through more branches, up and down, across ledges and then we stopped at what we thought might be the summit. Maybe, it looked familiar but was hard to tell – there was so much snow, and the trail corridor itself was hard to find in places. We walked past and then I checked Guthook’s guide and sure enough, we had passed it, barely recognizing it!
So happy to be there, we made our way back to the ledges for lunch, clearing branches along the way to open up the corridor a bit. After lunch, it was more hiking, more clearing and downhill!
So grateful to finally get that peak! A big thanks to Hikinguy for going with me and many, many thanks to all those who broke different sections of trail. With all the snow and branches, it was a huge effort!