Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Wildcat A Slide and Carter Notch: 3/27/23

On a sunny, warm early spring day I headed up the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail to Carter Notch, went up Wildcat Ridge Trail to the crossing of the Wildcat A Slide, then dropped down to the Carter Lakes, Carter Notch Hut and the talus area known as The Rampart. With a great variety of terrain and snow conditions, it was one of the most interesting snowshoe excursions of the season.
The first half of Nineteen Mile Brook Trail had a firm snowshoe track under a thin soft layer of new snow on top. By the end of the day, with temps reaching the mid-40s down low, this section was getting wet and almost slushy in places.

Even at an elevation below 2000 ft., it will be a while before the snow melts out.

Snow mounding on Nineteen Mile Brook.

About the halfway mark to the Notch.

The depth of new snow from a weekend storm soon increased, up to 5 or 6 inches with a dense consistency. Unfortunately it was chewed up by someone wearing crampons (!). I did my best to break it out properly.

The valley broadens in its upper half, with beautiful open woods.


A pleasant level stretch high up in the valley.

A blaze almost buried.

Conifer corridor approaching the height-of-land. By this point someone had switched to snowshoes. Yay!

This huge drift above the trail caught my eye, just below the top of the Notch.

I made a little bushwhack loop to its top for a view. Mt. Madison was peeking around the corner.

From here I could see the slide crossed by the Wildcat Ridge Trail.

It looked steep enough.

Side view of the Wildcat cliffs.

Tracks across the top of the drift.

Looking down at the trail.

Junction at the top of the Notch. Here I turned onto the unbroken Wildcat Ridge Trail to climb to the slide crossing, which I had never seen in winter conditions.

A few Appalachian Trail blazes were still showing.

I was greeted by waves of drifts from the recent storm. It looked like no one had been through here all winter.

Sidehilly, too.

Some of the drifts were mini-walls of snow.

Busting through.

Looking back at the cliffs of Carter Dome.

I made a switchback to get up this steep pitch. Above here I briefly lost the trail but soon looped back to rejoin it.

In deep snow, the sidehill nature of this climb creates a different kind of difficulty than straight-up steep ascents like the Hancocks or East Osceola.

Approaching the slide crossing.

Oh boy.

The crossing. With varying depths of new windpacked snow atop a hard slidy crust, it seemed pretty sketchy this day. This slide, which fell in August 1991, has a slope of 34 degrees. In certain conditions an avalanche would be a possibility. When icy or really crusty, it's a dangerous if short traverse. There have been two incidents - one in 1998 and another in 2005 - where a winter hiker was seriously injured here due to a sliding fall. Both of those stories are told in the excellent book, Peak Experiences,  edited by Carol Stone White. (Out of print as a book, but available as a pdf from University of Chicago Press.)

Looking up to the top of the slide.

Looking down.

In my younger days I might have crossed the slide and tried to continue breaking trail another half-mile up to the summit of Wildcat A, but the drifting and sidehilling would have been brutal. Instead, I backed down and looped around to a little shelf beside the slide where I could have a late lunch and enjoy the view out to the north.

A closer look at the vista down the Nineteen Mile Brook valley and out to many distant peaks in New Hampshire's North Country. Black Crescent Mountain (L) and Pine Mountain (R) are seen closer in.

The summit of Carter Dome looms across the Notch.

Looking back at the approach to the slide.

The sidehilling is easier once you've stomped out the steps.

Back down through the drifts.

Back at the trail junction at the height-of-land, a quick 100-ft. descent dropped me at the picturesque Upper Carter Lake, with the rugged face of Wildcat A looming on the west, the sun just peering over.

Wildcat cliffs.

The west shore of the lake was one massive drift.

A great look up at the rocky bowl on the flank of Carter Dome. Pulpit Rock just out from the side of the ridge.

Some serious snow depth here.

The smaller Lower Carter Lake.

The snow piles deep around Carter Notch Hut.

Do drop in.

The terminus of Nineteen Mile Brook Trail.

The Carter Dome bowl viewed over the roof of the lower bunkhouse.

Zoom on the bowl.

The upper bunkhouse was almost buried.

You could buttsled to the door.

I continued a short way down Wildcat River Trail to the side path to The Rampart, one of the outstanding features of Carter Notch.

With deep firm snow it was easy to wander out onto the talus field and not harm any fragile vegetation.

Neat perspective on the Notch.

The south edge of The Rampart affords a nice view south down the Wildcat River valley. A fine spot to fashion a seat from my pack and take it in for a while. It was warm and still in the Notch, and there was no one around.

The creased face of Wildcat A.

Wildcat B peeks out on the left. At lower left is part of the 2011 slide on which a skier was recently swept far down in an avalanche. He luckily survived a six-minute long burial when his friend saw his hand sticking out of the snow and dug him out.

On the way back down from the Notch, I caught this view of another slide on the slope of Wildcat A, north down the valley from the slide the trail crosses. Another time.



1 comment:

  1. Fabulous trip. Good to see all that snow high up. The rivers should run cold and clean throughout summer!