Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hiking to Carter Dome on a Bluebird Day

After spending last weekend sick in bed I wanted to test my stamina. The weather forecast was predicting a beautiful day and I wanted to get above treeline to enjoy some views. I chose a loop hike over Mount Hight and Carter Dome. My route would take me up the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail to the Carter Dome Trail through Zeta Pass and onto the Carter-Moriah Trail up to Mount Hight and over to Carter Dome then back down to the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail for the trip back to the parking lot on Route 16.

Sunrise on the drive to the trailhead

Early morning sunshine on the high summits

Mount Madison from the trailhead parking lot


It was a nice, cold, crisp morning with not a cloud in the sky as I left for the trailhead. Along the way I caught the sun rising over the Mahoosucs and the first sunlight hitting the northern Presidential peaks. When I arrived at the parking lot there was plenty of available space. I layered up, put on the microspikes, kept the snowshoes on the pack just in case they were needed and was on my way to a day of adventure. 

A rare spot of open water on the Nineteen Mile Brook

Log bridge not needed today

Sun rising on the Carter Dome Trail

Snow-covered brook

Sunshine on the trail

There is still a LOT of snow in the woods. The Nineteen Mile Brook is covered with two to three feet of snow and ice and shows no signs of beginning to thaw. The trail was in great condition with plenty of snow covering the rocks making for a smooth, frozen and solid sidewalk. I found only a couple of spots of exposed, bare rocks that was easily crossed. It was a quick hike to the trail junction where I turned and headed up the Carter Dome Trail. 

Busy woodpecker

Snowy trees

Zeta Pass

While this was not quite the sidewalk I had just come from it was still in good solid shape with no postholing. It was along this stretch of trail that I heard a woodpecker. After searching through the branches of dead trees I finally found him and zoomed in for a photo. It was a smooth climb to Zeta Pass. There was a couple of hikers that arrived here the same time as I did. We talked for a few minutes and they hiked on. It was time for me to change some layers. The wind was starting to pick up and I put on my Primaloft jacket. After a quick snack I continued on.

Northern Presis

The summit of Mount Hight with a Presidential view

A view to the east into Maine

At the next trail junction I turned and made my way up the Carter-Moriah Trail to Mount Hight. As the trail got steeper I stopped and exchanged my microspikes for the snowshoes. This was a cold climb and found my toes getting quite cold so I hiked a little faster to try and warm them up. I was met with a strong, cold breeze as I made the last few steps onto the summit. It was not the frigid cold that we've had this winter but it was not a day for lingering and basking in the sun. A few quick photos, a panoramic video and I was on my way to Carter Dome in the distance.

Carter Dome

Ascending Carter Dome

Mountain peeking over a snowdrift

So far I had seen only five hikers today. I met one on the summit that told me he broke through some wind-blown drifts from Carter Dome. But it was about to get better. Another hiker came along and said there were nine more behind him. At this point the trail was well broken the rest of the way not that it had been that bad up till now.

A view north from Carter Dome

On the summit of Carter Dome

Mount Carrigain

Mount Washington

When I reached the summit of Carter Dome there were two more hikers there. We spoke for a few minutes, took some summit photos and I started my descent. Along the way I passed a Spruce Grouse on a tree branch about two feet away from my head. I had to back up to get a photo. It was all downhill from here and I mean down in every sense of the word.

Spruce grouse

Looking into Tuckerman Ravine

It was a nice firm trail and fairly easy going until I reached Pulpit Rock. Things started getting serious from here. It looked like someone had been butt-sliding down the trail but I can't imagine anyone doing this as steep as it was. The trail was smooth, slick and very steep. I found myself having a very tough time getting down through here without injury. I quickly became a tree-hugging maniac. At one point I slipped, went down on my back and just kept on sliding while grabbing trees, branches and twigs hand over hand while gravity pulled me down. The trail finally leveled out a bit and I made my way down to Carter Lake.

Wildcat A

Carter Notch Hut far below

Carter Notch

View from Pulpit Rock

I got to the lake, found a rock to sit on and had a well deserved break. I relaxed and had something to eat and drink. The Spring sunshine felt nice and warm. While sitting there in the sun I could feel my face starting to bake and I put some sunscreen on. I saw one more hiker pass by and that would be the last one for a total of eighteen hikers that I saw today. I was very surprised, on a day like this I was expecting to see dozens of hikers on this popular trail especially with the Carter Notch Hut being open all year.

Wildcat from Carter Lake

Relaxing at Carter Lake

It was an enjoyable trip back down the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail to the parking lot. I have been on this trail many times before and this is the best I have ever seen it, summer or winter. I was very surprised by the amount of snow for this time of year, there's a lot! But that's what is covering the rocks and making the great trail conditions!

Snow and ice-covered Nineteen Mile Brook

Today was a good test of my stamina after being sick and not hiking for a couple of weeks. The weather was fantastic with a cloudless blue sky and lots of sunshine! The trail conditions were great and the views were spectacular! It was an awesome day of hiking in the White Mountains!

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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