Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wildcat D via Polecat Trail

This would be a day that I was to be pleasantly surprised by the weather. The forecast called for seasonally warm temps and cloudy skies. My son and his friend wanted to snowboard at Wildcat and this would give me an opportunity to hike up to Wildcat D (4,062') for a winter 4,000 footer. I couldn't be sure what I would find for snow conditions on the Polecat Ski Trail that I would be hiking up.

Clouds to the north

Mount Adams and Mount Madison

As I drove up into Pinkham Notch the weather conditions were improving dramatically. As we reached the Wildcat parking lot there was a clear deep blue sky and plenty of sunshine with a very comfortable temperature for the month of December. Three weeks ago while skiing here I had to tolerate bitter cold temps, howling winds and a wind chill advisory.

Looking down Tomcat Schuss

Mount Adams

I dropped the boys off at the lodge and found a parking spot. Wildcat requires hikers using the Polecat Trail to purchase a $10 ticket so I went to the lodge and got mine. I was never stopped and asked for it even though I passed many members of the ski patrol throughout the day. It was good to have it just to avoid any hassles.

A view east from Wildcat

On the Wildcat Ridge Trail

Back at my vehicle I strapped the snowshoes onto my pack and put a fleece on over one layer. I headed out across an icy parking lot to the Polecat Trail. My first free performance happened under the Wildcat Express Quad chairlift when I slipped and fell. It was then that I realized, in my haste to get hiking, that I had forgotten my trekking poles. It was back to the parking lot to get the poles and on my return to the slope I immediately put on my snowshoes and they stayed on for the rest of the day.

Clouds to the south

Mount Washington and the ravines

Many hikers were seen on the summit of Mount Washington

I started my trek up the Lower Polecat Trail. There was plenty of frozen crust for the snowshoes to dig into. I have a pair of MSR Denali Ascents and they work great! There's plenty of bite for those steep icy trails and the Televators take the strain off of the calves. I was able to give them a good test on the Middle Polecat Trail that was steep, ungroomed and had an icy crust on it. The MSR's took me up over this slope with the greatest of ease. They would get tested again near the summit.

Mount Adams

Mount Madison

From the observation tower on Wildcat D

I reached the Upper Polecat Trail and the weather just got better. The sky was a deeper blue and the sunshine was warmer. There were lots of skiers and snowboarders coming down that required me to make some quick scrambles across parts of the trail to avoid being hit. I saw two snowshoers making their descent and several skiers stopped to chat.

Clouds roll into Tuckerman Ravine

Looking down the Wildcat Ridge Trail

When I got to the top of the Polecat Trail I turned onto the Wildcat Ridge Trail for the short, steep ascent to the summit of Wildcat D and the observation tower on top. The snowshoes performed well again. I thought I would have to take them off in order to climb the tower but there was a layer of snow that allowed me to walk right up with the snowshoes on with plenty of snow covering the deck. There were several hikers there when I arrived but they were just leaving and I had the place to myself.

Wildcat Ski Patrol hut

I spent some time basking in the sun while I took some photos and videos. Hikers could be seen with my zoom lens over on the summit of Mount Washington. What I found to be amazing was the heavy cloud cover to the south and north with blue sky and sunshine hovering over Pinkham Notch and the Northen Presidentials. It's nice to sometimes get lucky when choosing a hiking destination. I decided to eat a quick lunch down below at the top of the ski slope where I had seen a place to sit.

A great pair of snowshoes

It was time to retrace my steps back down to the Polecat Trail. Once again the snowshoes were tested on the steep, icy descent on the Wildcat Ridge trail. I found a bare, flat piece of granite to sit on while I enjoyed my sandwich and the weather near the top of the chairlift. There was not even a slight breeze unlike three weeks ago when there were 50 mph winds blowing and a temperature of 7°F.

Lion Head and Tuckerman Ravine

A perfect day at Wildcat

I made the trip back down the Polecat Trail in one hour, it had taken me two hours to hike up. This was a spectacular day to be hiking in Pinkham Notch, the weather was perfect. Wildcat D can now be added to my Winter 4,000 footers completed list.

Panoramic view from Wildcat D

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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