Sunday, February 19, 2012

14 Miles to #14 - Mount Carrigain - 2-19-12

I had hoped to hit Madison/Adams, but the wind forecast (once NOAA decided to update things properly) nixed that one. I was kicking around either the Hancocks, Pass/Whiteface, or Carrigain. With the forecast for ample sun, I was leaning toward Carrigain. Winds were supposed to be stiff, but out of the NW, so things should be sheltered nicely until at least Signal Ridge, if not until the summit itself. Saturday morning Petch (whom I had hiked with the weekend before on the Mount Isolation hike) declared he was going to hit up Carrigain for his winter 48 list too, so that sealed it.

My goal was to be on-trail at 8:00 AM while Petch (and it turns out Steve too - another participant in that crazy-cold hike) were shooting for 8:30. I figured we'd meet somewhere along the line. I left the Boston area at 5AM and in my morning fog completely missed the I-93 exit off of I-95, and didn't realize this until about 10 minutes from NH...luckily taking NH rt. 16 was supposed to be only a few minutes longer...aside from the person going 35 in a 50 with no legal passing for 10 miles...anyway, I arrived at the trailhead around 8:15. O well.

Petch and Steve were about ready to go, so I grabbed my stuff, we took a picture, and were off along the herd path along the river (not the road) right at 8:30. After following the herd path for about 1 mile (at which point it was fading), we cut up to the road, right at the major washout section which has been nicely repaired. My guess is the grade is going to be left like this, but who knows. (Update 5/2012 - it appears that this is going to see more work, as the road is remaining closed for construction work much of summer 2012).

Somewhat repaired wash-out section on Sawyer River Road

We hit the summer trailhead in about 45 minutes. A brief break and we charged along the trail. Shortly before the Carrigain Notch Trail, we ran into a pair of guys with MASSIVE packs (probably c.a. 80 pounds) taking off some snowshoes (large ones at that). They had been in the woods for the last 2 nights, having camped about a mile off towards Mt. Lowell. They had climbed up Lowell the day before and now they were on their way out (and glad to hear they would be fine bare-booting or microspiking the rest of the way). We hit the junction around 9:50.

To this point is pretty moderate, gaining only about 1000 feet since the parking lot (the winter one), in 3.7 miles. Soon the climbing starts, there is nearly 4000 feet of climbing in the 7 miles of this route overall, 3000 of it in the last 3ish miles. Slowly but surely we chugged up the mountain, taking frequent breathers (my fault, sorry if you guys wanted to keep moving!) at the limited peek-though view points that offer great views of Mount Lowell.

Mount Lowell across Carrigain Notch from Signal Ridge

We eventually crested Signal Ridge, where the views were OK but no where near what they can be. You see, the weather men were all wrong: the skies were not sunny, but mostly cloudy. The lower elevations were OK, but the higher summits apparently all had clouds...

Looking towards distant Crawford Notch with Vose Spur in the right foreground

There was no wind until we got up on the tower, where there was enough to limit our time hanging out up there. We sat below the tower (where the wind was pretty much non-existant) and ate for a while, then headed down. Just below the summit in the steeps we passed Pam's group making their ascent.

Nothing much to report on the descent. We guessed we would be back at the cars around 4PM and sure enough we hit the cars at 3:52. We took the Sawyer River Road the whole way this time instead of the herd path. Sub 7.5 hours for 14 miles and 3900 feet of gain. Not bad!

Trails were just like all the others right now: hard packed, rocks all hidden, and thus FAST. Microspikes were perfect, only minor drifting along Signal Ridge. We all carried snowshoes for 14 miles. Another free ride for them.

Good day out, too bad the sunny summits forecast wasn't true. The weathermen were all wrong on the sky cover Sunday and Monday... 

Mileage: 14 miles
Elevation Gain: ~3900'
Peaks: Carrigain (4700', NH4K)

Winter NH 4000-footer #14 for me!

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