Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Wintry Hike to Goose Eye and Carlo

What a difference a week makes. Last Monday I was hiking in short sleeves and shorts with temps in the 70's. Today's forecast was calling for snow showers with temps in the 30's, colder at higher elevations. I would be joining fellow hiker Brian for a loop hike up Goose Eye Mountain (3,870') over to Mount Carlo (3,565') and back down to Success Pond Road. This would be my first time hiking these summits.

Goose Eye in the clouds before sunrise

Snowy high summits on the way to the trailhead

Trailhead sign on Success Pond Road

Loop hike starts here

The temperature was 19°F in Berlin. I dropped my son off for some early morning soccer practice then drove over to where I would be meeting up with Brian. We both arrived at the same time and then drove over to a public parking lot where Brian left his vehicle. I had offered to drive to the trailhead that is eight miles in on Success Pond Road. It can be a very rough drive but wasn't too bad today.

Colorful water crossing

Brian crossing the water

Leaves brighten the trail

We could see that the summits were in the clouds as we drove to the trailhead and were hoping the sky would clear by the time we got up there. The trailhead sign is right beside the road but requires a close look due to it being very weather-beaten. I drove into the old logging road and found a good spot to back into. We were the first ones there today. The temperature was very cold but there was no wind...yet! I put on a couple of thin Under Armour layers, a fleece pullover, warm hat, and Under Armour layer under my EMS Endo pants. I bought a new pair of LL Bean Wildcat winter boots and decided this would be a good day to break them in using two pairs of socks. Thought I was overdressed but this turned out to be the perfect combination.

Steep section of trail starts here

Emerging from a frosty tunnel

Hands become necessary

A look back down

Dressed and ready to go we set out for the Goose Eye Trail. It was down the road and to the left. A short section of woods and we were back out on a logging road again. Brian had been here before and knew which way to turn, good thing because I would have done the same thing he did on his initial hike here and that was to turn right toward the mountain we were about to climb instead of left tracking away from the mountain.

Here I come!

Brian on the summit of Goose Eye

We got back into the woods and the trail was full of falling leaves. While it was a beautiful site it also had its hidden hazards, ankle-twisting rocks, roots and holes as well as unseen water and mud. There was also a few water easy water crossings made a little more difficult with the amount of leaves covering everthing. It was starting to snow lightly and as we climbed higher there was some accumulation.

My brief moment on the summit

Heading down

As we got closer to the summit of Goose Eye there was a heavy accumulation of ice and snow on the trees. The wind picked up and the snow was falling moderately now. My fleece was starting to get wet from the snow so I put on a waterproof shell. We got to a steep set of ledges that were snow covered hiding patches of ice underneath. Slow and cautious was the way we ascended up over this portion of the trail.  I had put away my trekking poles and was moving on hands and knees in some places. We made it past here and up onto the summit. But there were many other stretches of trail ahead of us that required the same level of caution, if not more.

Brian moves slow on the ladder

Iron rungs are next

It was an anticlimactic climb onto the summit. Clouds enveloped us obscuring the views. We were standing on a completely exposed ledge with a howling wind, frigid temps and falling snow. This would not be a day for taking a break on the summit and eating lunch while enjoying the views. We stayed long enough for a couple of pics and then started our descent from the summit into the protection of some trees.

It's my turn on the rungs

We got to the trail junction and made a turn onto the Mahoosuc Trail for the 1.8 miles to Mount Carlo. As we made our way down the trail we came to a long wooden ladder down over a steep ledge. Brian was the first to get on the ladder and it was slow, calculated going as he stepped down. It was my turn and I made my way down to the ledge below. Then there was a series of iron rungs going down the next section of ledge. We made it down to the bottom with no problems.

Looking back

Small cave

It was a trail of PUDS (Pointless Ups and Downs) over to Mount Carlo. The snow covering the ledges and rocks on the trail made for some more slow going as we tested each step to avoid any unnecessary slips from unseen ice below. We got to the summit of Mount Carlo and looked back from where we came. Of course the summit of Goose Eye was in the clear now. There were some great views from Mount Carlo although not nearly as good as I imagine they are on Goose Eye.

Goose Eye in the clear

Two hikers on the summit of Goose Eye

Summit of Mount Carlo

We dropped down from the summit of Mount Carlo to the trail junction of Carlo Col Trail that would take us back to Success Pond Trail for the final 2.6 miles. After about a mile it was smooth going all the way back to the vehicle. While there was a little less wind the temperature was still very cold. There was two hikers at the parking area, it was the same two that I had seen on Goose Eye from Mount Carlo when I zoomed in on the summit with my camera. They had seen no other hikers and it appears we were the only four hikers up there today. I was glad to have Brian hiking with me on what would have been a very desolate solo hike.

Mount Washington in the distance

Great photo taken by Brian

While I was aware of the weather forecast today it was just a little more wintry than expected but we were both very well prepared. I had the perfect combination of layers on and made no adjustments other than to add a waterproof shell. My new winter boots performed well keeping my feet warm and dry, they also felt great but will need a little more break-in time. The snow and ice on the trail made for a much slower hike but I enjoyed the challenge and I think Brian did too.

Pool of color

Stream of color

The loop is complete

I see Goose Eye almost every day during my travels around the North Country here where I live. This peak has been calling to me for a long time. I will now have to return to this summit but I'll wait for a warm day with clear skies so I can enjoy the views next time!

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

1 comment:

  1. Yet another great read as I work my way back in your blog. I got an answer to a question that I tried to post earlier: what to wear under fleeces, etc.
    Considering the date of this entry, I find the amount of ice and snow surprising. Fine pictures show the good bits like ladders and iron steps.
    I will travel to one more entry tonight.