While winter is not officially here, it sure feels like it! I decided to hit up the Wildcats via a less traveled route- the Wildcat Ridge Trail. To hike this route, we parked at Pinkham Notch and started up the Lost Pond Trail. This rarely hiked trail was untouched when we arrived. We strapped on our snowshoes and began breaking trail. Though only a mile long, it took an hour to travel this route. The snow was a mixture of powder and crust with thin bridges over water sources. Monorails were common along the Lost Pond trail, but at times were difficult to find. Without blazes along the trail we went slightly off track, but overall it was easy enough to follow.
The trail was truly a winter wonderland with snow covered pines and untouched scenery. I really enjoyed this beautiful trail and would recommend it as a snowshoe hike for those not looking for a summit.
Unfortunately the snow pack wasn’t ideal. Even with snowshoes it was easy to posthole- hence our 1 mph rate.
The trail skirts to the left of the Lost Pond (pictured above). We stopped here to delayer and take a few photos. With 35 mph winds in the forecast I knew we’d be dealing with our layers a lot as we traverse. The route is mainly below treeline, but does have some ridge walking and above treeline sections.
This is where our work begins. This is the first hike I have needed my snowshoes this year and they do take a little getting used to. For this hike, I needed to adjust quickly because I had to use every snowshoe strategy I know to ascend the Wildcat Ridge Trail! This section is part of the Appalachian Trail and is extremely steep and rough.
Throughout this section ascending Wildcat E, we climbed up rock chimneys, across narrow ledges (see above) as well as snow covered rocks and steps. The combination of extremely steep trails and multiple feet of loose powder makes it almost impossible to ascend. The trick was to kick out enough snow and find a spot to dig the front teeth of your snowshoes into so you could repeat this method with your opposite foot higher up. There were sections where I would take four or five of these “steps” only to slide down. My crew was very positive during this section and we were really pulling for each other. Though it was challenging, we did have a hell of a time!
After multiple tough climbs, we came to this gorgeous view. We were on our way to Wildcat E, the first of five peaks in the Wildcat range. Only Wildcats “A” and “D” count as official 4000-footers due to elevation change. Wildcat “D” is actually a ski resort (a very windy and cold one!) so I was looking forward to seeing the ski conditions as well.
The winds were whipping when we got to the exposed section at the Wildcat Mountain ski area. They were so bad that the man in red (pictured above) took about 10 minutes to ski across the flat section to face the top of the trail, He had to crouch and use as much force as he could to push off with his ski poles just to move a couple inches! We were ready to get out of the wind!
After we summited Wildcat D, we were greeted by snowshoe tracks! We had taken about five hours to ascend the Lost Pond and Wildcat Ridge Trails to peaks “E” and “D” with the difficult job of packing down seemingly vertical trail. Without this job, we would have been able to do it in about two hours.
While the trails had seen a little traffic (thanks Dan!) it was only from one or two people. We also had many trees blocking the trail. I didn’t get a photo of the pines as I was too busy getting an arm workout in, but the branches were covered in a thick layer of ice. We would have to duck under or lift the branches to pass through.
The trail between these peaks was tough as well. Many sections were slanted and a slip would send you into the woods. This meant sidestepping with snowshoes which puts pressure on your toes where the snowshoe bindings are. These sections really slowed us down.
We did run into an AMC group that came up the Nineteen Mile Brook Trail. They announced that we were crazy for ascending the route we did. We already knew that!
After our traverse of the Wildcats, we found some sweet sledding spots. With snowshoes, it’s an extra workout to keep your legs up, but it’s so much fun! By the end of the run I was completely covered in snow and having a ball!
We originally planned on hiking up Carter Dome as well, but with the conditions we hiked out in the dark. With sunset being shortly after 4:00, it’s difficult not to. We decided not to ascend another quite steep trail to Carter Dome. I do need it for my very last NH 4000 footer in Autumn so I will be back before the winter solstice! I am hiking all the NH 4Ks in each season and have Spring and Summer done. I hope to get out to Carter Dome this upcoming weekend and finishing Autumn as well! With only 9 peaks left for winter, I’m closing in on the Four Season 48!
Nineteen Mile Brook Trail was wonderfully pack out compared to the trails we had been on so it won’t be a difficult snowshoe in for Carter Dome. Until next time!
Last modified: September 2, 2017