Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cold Day on Wildcat A

A last minute opportunity had me doing one more hike on the last day of the year. Last week I hiked to Wildcat D via the Polecat Trail on a perfect day of weather. Today I would be hiking to Wildcat A with a weather forecast calling for cold temps, clouds, wind, light snow flurries as well as a wind chill advisory posted. I was getting a later than usual start but my plan would still have me completing my hike before nightfall. My hike would take me up the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail onto the Wildcat Ridge Trail to the summit of Wildcat A (4,422').

 Ice forming on the Nineteen Mile Brook

 Icy section of Nineteen Mile Brook Trail

When I arrived at the trailhead parking lot there was still a couple of spots available. I wore a thin layer under my endo pants, another thin layer under a fleece and my primaloft jacket. This would be a rare winter hike that I did not continually change layers throughout the entire hike. I left the snowshoes behind counting on the trail being well-packed from recent rain and cold temps. The microspikes went on at the trailhead and stayed on until I returned.

 Wet section of trail

 Icy steps on the trail

 Carter Dome Trail junction

The trail was in great shape with the exception of some variable sections of ice, water and bare rocks but all areas were easily crossed. There were several hikers descending having spent the night at Carter Notch Hut. I stopped briefly at the Carter Dome Trail junction, it was 10:50. As I moved up along the upper portion of the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail there were numerous blowdowns due to recent winds that have been affecting this area.

 Variable trail conditions

 Numerous blowdowns on the trail

I reached the Wildcat Ridge Trail and started the steep ascent to Wildcat A. My only concern up till now was the slide that crosses the trail. When I got there I found the same well-packed trail going across the slide but a slip or misstep would still be very unpleasant. I got across without incident. It was at this time I noticed what appeared to be a crack on the display view of my camera. I assumed the cold did this because the camera wasn't dropped and it is well protected in the case. The other problem was the battery packs were being affected by the cold and were losing their charge.

 Wildcat Ridge Trail junction

 Looking down the slide on Wildcat Ridge Tail

The temperature was dropping and the wind was picking up along with steady snow flurries as I climbed higher. Reaching the summit I dropped my pack, tagged the summit and moved out onto the outlook. My temperature reading was 5°F with a biting wind. I got the usual photos and panoramic videos before moving back into the trees to escape some of the wind. My distal digits (fingers and toes) were telling me it was time to get moving. After something to eat I started my descent.

 Carter Dome from Wildcat A

Outlook on Wildcat A

 Carter Notch Hut and Carter Lake far below

I moved quickly and my extremities began to warm up again. It was a careful descent but at one point after reaching the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail I was not paying attention and stepped back into a shallow posthole and hyperextended my right leg causing some pain to my right knee. That was minor compared to what I saw next. While following three hikers the last hiker in front of me slipped on a sheet of ice and fell very hard on his right arm. I asked if he was alright and he indicated he was other than being in pain. His fellow hikers came back, thanked me for stopping and I continued on.

 Trail crossing the slide

 Wildcat A

A couple I spoke with that were on their way up told me there was a large group of hikers meeting at Carter Notch Hut for New Year's Eve. They had attempted a Presidential Traverse yesterday but 50 mph sustained winds and temps around 0°F forced them down before completing the hike. Those are conditions that I would not even think about hiking in. That put a whole new perspective on today's hike for me and suddenly today's weather conditions didn't seem so bad.

Back at the trailhead

It was uneventful the rest of the way back to the trailhead and I arrived at 3:30. I was glad to have been out on the trail today and it was a great hike. This was my final hike for 2014 and it was nice to wrap up the final day of the year with a 4,000 footer!

I took this photo to show what appears to be a horizontal crack across the display. After arriving back home and getting the camera warmed up the apparent crack on my camera display disappeared. I'm now thinking moisture caused this to happen and I'm thankful I won't need any camera repairs.

Panoramic view from Wildcat A

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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