Peaks: Carter Dome (4832', NH4K), South Carter (4430', NH4K), Middle Carter (4610', NH4K)
Mileage: 13.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 4400ft
Book Time: 8hr 45min (actual 8hr 10min)
In 2014 I visited this trio of peaks 3 times, and all 3 times there was even snow on the ground. After visits recently in November and December, I had stated that I was done with these peaks for a while. And yet, with February barely begun, I was back at the 19-Mile Trailhead to begin a hike of these peaks yet again. You see, the end of January and the beginning of February ushered in a return of major snowfall, and many trails were now buried deep in fresh snow. Ian and I tossed around a number of hike options, but ultimately it fell to the Carters as Middle and South were a couple of the few peaks Ian had left for his winter 4000-footers, I had a grid hole in February, and we knew of others that would be on these peaks meaning that we wouldn't be breaking trail all day if things weren't broken out.
We headed off down the well-packed 19-Mile Brook Trail, making decent time to the turnoff for the Carter Dome Trail. Here the trail continued to be broken out, though obviously less-consolidated. Still, the going was fairly easy and we made it up to the open area known as Zeta Pass, passing a couple people along the way. It was chilly today, but not terribly windy, especially with the trees and the neighboring Presidential Range shielding us. There was a lightly-tracked route towards Carter Dome, our next destination, but it was clear that we would likely be breaking out the major drifts that the trail along the flank of Mount Hight tends to accumulate. Soon enough this theory was proven right, as the broken trail largely disappeared (the corridor is easy to follow on this trail however), and we had to bust through 2-3 foot high drifts much of the way to the summit. The final couple of tenths of a mile eased up, and we were able to follow the previous tracks, which actually strayed a bit to the West right before the summit, traveling over what is normally 6-7 foot tall scrub. The snow was deep for sure! Views were limited from this section due to the low clouds, but on a clear day this spot would have been really stunning with great views of the Presidentials!
|Carter Dome from the 19-Mile Brook Trail|
|Carter Dome Trail junction - time to head to the left!|
|A nice-looking trench heading North on the Carter-Moriah Trail. We'll get there later.|
|Approaching Carter Dome. Normally you can't see the summit from here, but the snow is really deep!|
|Ian looks back at Mount Hight - barely visible less than 1 mile away.|
|Snow drifts to nowhere.|
|Carter Dome summit area.|
|The skies did clear ever so slightly for a short time on Carter Dome, teasing us.|
|Carter Dome summit, with the Rainbow Trail to the Wild River Wilderness straight ahead.|
Heading back towards Zeta Pass, we ran into a couple of gentlemen bare-booting their way up the trail. They had totally destroyed the hard work we did on the sidehill section on the way up, though they likely paid for it by expending an awful lot of energy post-holing hip deep in places. Thankfully most of the others that came through later in the day were wearing snowshoes and were able to clean up the trail and leave a nice packed path (which undoubtedly drifted right back in the next time it was really windy).
|Middle Carter from just below South Carter|
Up on South Carter we ran into some friends in an AMC group hiking the same loop in reverse. They reported that the trail had been pretty well broken out before them, and with the 8 or 10 of them having snowshoed through too, we enjoyed great tracked-out conditions for the rest of our hike! The several viewpoints along the ridge near South and Middle Carters were all limited in views on this day unfortunately, but you can't win them all. I did manage to find the stick sign on Middle Carter finally though, a mere few inches above the snow exactly where I thought it would be. I'm not sure how I missed it all those other visits...
|Middle Carter's stick sign, at the snow level.|
|Looking South from Middle Carter - usually you can't see over the trees on the left either!|
|Mount Lethe from below Middle Carter.|
The hike out was fairly uneventful, and after the short roadwalk after taking the old logging road into the back of Camp Dodge, we parted ways. This was my 7th visit to all 3 of these peaks, all in different months, making them my most-gridded out peaks now. I think it's time to visit some other peaks for a while!
|Mount Madison from Camp Dodge|