Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Bushwhack to Vose Spur and Mount Carrigain - Nov. 9, 2013

On November 9, a group of us headed to bushwhack a peak that most of us needed for our New England 100 Highest List: Vose Spur. Situated on a North-running ridge of Mount Carrigain and forming one side of Carrigain Notch, Vose Spur is a trail-less summit reaching over 3800' above sea level. As if that wasn't going to be enough, Ian and I were also going to bushwhack from Vose Spur through over a mile of thick and steep woods to the summit of Mount Carrigain, which has one of the finest views in the White Mountains.

Around 8AM our group of 7 plus a dog (Ian's dog Marlie) met in the parking lot on Sawyer River Road and began our trip into Carrigain Notch. The first ~2 miles is on the Signal Ridge Trail, which has had a couple minor relocations in this stretch since I last traveled it in early 2012. The junction with the Carrigain Notch Trail has been moved further in as a part of one of these relocations, making this stretch slightly longer than the 1.7 miles it used to be, but being all flat, it was a quick and easy jaunt to our first landmark of the day.

The old Signal Ridge Trail/Carrigain Notch Trail junction. Now you continue a little further to the left on what used to be the Carrigain Notch Trail.
From the junction, we were to take the Carrigain Notch Trail into the heart of the notch, where a little before the height-of-land there is a large boulder that most people heading to Vose Spur start their bushwhack from. Here we headed into the woods, heading for a South-running sub-ridge of Vose Spur that we then followed uphill. The woods in here were mostly open and easy going, though steep in spots. Soon enough though, we topped out on the ridge, and eventually stumbled across a herd path that took us up to a large talus field below the summit. Crossing this talus field, we re-entered the woods on the upper left side of it, and the herd path took us right to the summit area (albeit VERY STEEPLY). The woods never got terribly thick, and it was a pretty straight-forward bushwhack in fact, yeay!

The large boulder along the Carrigain Notch Trail that signifys the start of the bushwhack. We actually passed it a little but before starting our trek.

On the early portion of the bushwhack up to the subridge of Vose Spur.

Entering the talus field

Trey and Anne climbing up the talus field on the side of Vose Spur

Passaconaway from the talus field

Mount Tremont, with Chocorua off in the distance to the right

Philip (of on the talus field

Passaconaway and Whiteface from the Vose Spur talus field
Once at the summit we had a small celebration since one person in our group was finishing the New England 100 Highest list today on this peak. Congrats again Randy! After some wine, cheese, and assorted snacks, the group parted ways, with most folks heading back to the cars while Ian and I headed up to Carrigain.

The group on Vose Spur

Mount Carrigain off to the left with a subpeak in front, our first destination on the trek to Carrigain.
Our plan was essentially to follow the ridge up to Carrigain, crossing the false summit along the way, so as to avoid the steep ravine to the South of the ridge. It was a steep drop into the col, with a few tricky ledges to descend, but we made it without much trouble. A few feet above the col on the Carrigain side is another talus field (visible in the picture above) which while not very high, was very wide and offered a number of great views, especially into Zealand Notch and towards the Presidential Range.

Snow-covered reindeer lichen

Mount Tremont from the second talus field

The short, but wide talus field in the Vose Spur/Carrigain col

Ian and Marlie check out the views from the second talus field

The cloud-capped Presidential Range from the second talus field

Zealand Notch, with Zeacliff on the cleft, Hale in the back, and Whitewall Mountain on the right. Just visible as a tiny speck well below Hale's summit is Zealand Hut

Tom, Field, and Willey (L->R)


Last look at the Presidential Range
From the talus field, we entered the woods, and climbed steeply and thickly at times until we eventually reached the summit of the sub-peak on the way to Carrigain. Here there was a tiny cairn, and from here to the tower on Carrigain we frequently had a faint herd path to follow, which made the going a little better. The big help though was that the grade in here was much more moderate, which made climbing over blowdowns and the like much easier. Nearing the summit, we hit a small alpine shoulder which offered some nice, albeit windy and cold, views, before we entered the spruce for the final push to the summit area.

Marlie on the false summit between Vose Spur and Carrigain

The tower is in sight!

Signal Ridge from the alpine shoulder of Carrigain
With the final push, we popped out of the woods on the summit of Carrigain right by the newly-redecked fire tower, almost 2 hours from when we had left Vose Spur. Up top it was cold (19F, first real cold for us this year) and windy (20-25mph), so we only stuck around long enough for a few pictures before heading down. The descent was uneventful, with only a few minor and avoidable pockets of ice, and we saw only one group of people, near the road. A few minutes before the parking lot we had to break out the headlamps, but we still got back barely an hour after the rest of the group did.

It was a great hike with a great group of folks. Congrats again to Randy for finishing another list, and thanks to Ian for coming along for the bonus bushwhack after you had already been to Vose Spur before!

The bedsprings from the old FireWarden's cabin near the summit of Carrigain

Signal Ridge from Mount Carrigain

Partial pano from the Carrigain summit tower

Vose Spur on the right; the upper talus field is the one we climbed en-route to that peak. The rest of the ridge visible was our bushwhack route to Carrigain

Nancy, Anderson, and Lowell from Signal Ridge

Vose Spur and the other side of Carrigain Notch

Looking back at the summit tower from Signal Ridge

Pano from Signal Ridge

The Presidential Range from Signal Ridge
Route: Signal Ridge Trail, Carrigain Notch Trail, bushwhacks, Signal Ridge Trail
Peaks: Vose Spur (3862', NEHH), Mount Carrigain (4700', NH4K)
Mileage: ~11.5 miles
Elevation Gain: ~3700ft
Time Taken: 8hr 40min

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