Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Monday, January 18, 2016

Snowshoeing to Wildcat D

I postponed my hike for one day after not feeling well yesterday. I was disappointed knowing I had missed a day of good weather and beautiful mountain views. Today's forecast was calling for an Arctic cold front to move through bringing high winds and frigid temps later in the day. I was hoping to get a quick hike in before the front arrived. After overnight snow I wasn't sure what the trails would be so I opted for a hike up the groomed Polecat ski trail to Wildcat D.

Driving into Pinkham Notch

 First view of Wildcat through a snowy haze

A view from the lower Polecat Trail

The road conditions were not bad and even better as I got up into Pinkham Notch. There was no wind and the temperature was tolerable when I arrived at the Wildcat parking lot. The high summits on the other side of the Notch were in the clouds but Wildcat was clear. I went into the lodge and paid my $10 trail use fee. I also put on my winter boots and gaiters in the lodge. Then it was back out to my vehicle to retrieve my backpack, snowshoes and poles.

Sun trying to break through the clouds

As soon as I stepped onto the snow my snowshoes went on and stayed on for the entire hike. I started my climb on the Lower Polecat Trail. The trail was groomed and I moved up the side so as to be well out of the way of any skiers or snowboarders. After laying low yesterday it was a tough start. I slowed my pace down a bit to give my body a chance to catch up and become accustomed to the hike. This was my first time on snowshoes this season.

I was soon turning onto the Middle Polecat Trail and up till now I was following a set of snowshoe prints but they seemed to disappear at this point. There was a short steep section and I raised the Televators on my snowshoes. These MSR Denali Ascent snowshoes are awesome! The traction is great, they're lightweight and the Televators are an excellent feature that really saves the calves on a steep pitch.

Trees have a nice coating of snow

Not much for views at the top of the ski area

A skier skinning up passed me but I saw no one else the rest of the day ascending the ski trail. The last section of the Upper Polecat levels out and I could see the top of the quad chairlift. The wind picked up along here. I stopped for a few pics then began the final ascent to the summit on the Wildcat Ridge Trail. This is a short but steep trail and I had to maneuver over some hidden ice.

Wildcat Ridge Trail goes up behind the ski patrol hut

Outlook with views to the southeast

Just before reaching the summit there is a nice outlook with views to the southeast. I stopped here and made some layer changes taking off the damp ones and putting on a dry one. It was now cold enough to try my new EMS Feather Pack 800 DownTek Hooded Jacket. This made for the perfect combination of layers and I continued on to the summit. As expected there were no spectacular views from the summit observation tower. I didn't stay long and soon started my descent. The summit temperature was 13°F with a steady wind blowing.

Sun still trying to break through

No views from the summit observation platform

I made it down over the steep section of the Wildcat Ridge Trail without falling and was back on the Upper Polecat Trail. I had a pretty good pace going but soon found myself on the wrong trail with no idea how I did that. Somehow I had wandered down the Upper Lynx Trail and was next to the quad chairlift. It was here that I put on a little impromptu show for the chairlift riders. I slipped on a section of ice beneath snow and fell down the slope. It was embarrassing but I was unhurt. I got up brushed myself off and kept going.

I made my way back over to the Upper Polecat Trail traversing an ungroomed trail. It's apparent that the ski area is in need of some natural snow as I had no problem snowshoeing across here on about eight inches of snow. Once I got back on the right trail there were no more incidents and it was a pleasant descent down to the base lodge.

Today's weather proved to be a lot better than was forecast. Seems the frigid temps and high wind were holding off until later in the day. The sun made an appearance along with some blue sky but the clouds hung tough on the high summits. As I drove down out of the notch there was a dramatic weather change. When I reached Gorham the wind picked up and it was snowing. This continued all the way home. There is now some weather talk of a Nor'easter arriving next weekend. We need some more snow!

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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