February 19, 2014 / Comments (5)

Carter Dome and the ‘Cats (Winter)

The weather for our hike consisted of 35-45 mph winds and temperatures around 5 degrees. With windchill we were feeling about -30. Most of our hike would be below treeline so some of the toughest conditions we faced was in the lot.


Nineteen Mile nicely broken out!

I was hiking with seven guys on this hike through my meetup group. We met at the Wildcat resort lot and then took two cars to the Nineteen Mile Brook trailhead. The trail had been broken out, but I’d rather have my snowshoes on my feet than on my back if I know I’ll need them at all on the trail. The lower section could be done with no traction at all.

The temperatures were cold enough that I didn’t delayer for quite a while. We continued at a pace of about two miles an hour and stopped for very short breaks to avoid getting cold. Two of the hikers in the group were falling behind and decided they would return to their car. About 3/4 of the way to Carter Dome a third hiker opted to hike down. As he is a very experienced winter hiker, he was fine to hike down himself.

We decided to take the Carter Dome Trail up as it looked broken out and it is a little more gradual than hiking up to Carter Dome from the hut. About the first half was broken, but the other half was full of postholes. It was horrible. The trail isn’t very wide to begin with and breaking trail while finding the right balance over the foot deep holes was a lot of work. My right snowshoe turned sideways more than once which hurt my knee. It was a lot of work getting to Carter Dome.




The summit of Carter Dome has a cairn and it is wooded, but there is a nice viewpoint near the summit. It is definitely worth checking out! We had beautiful blue skies which made it easy to tough out the wind.






Once we got to the summit, we headed down to the Carter Notch Hut for lunch. It’s a steep descent so I got to do some sledding! When we arrived we saw one of our hikers that turned back was at the hut! He decided to take a break, eat some food, and then hiked up to the hut. This was day three for him so he was worn out, but with some fuel in him (and a long break at the hut) he decided he wanted to continue.

There were a few people who were staying at the hut so the trail had been very packed out. Of course the route we took was not. We did enjoy sledding down the last steep section down to the hut.

Photo courtesy of Adrian

At the hut I have an almond butter and nutella sandwich which was amazing. The hut was a nice spot to refuel and be out of the elements before heading over to the Wildcats. One of my hikers decided to head back down Nineteen Mile Brook as he wasn’t feeling like he was up to the big climb up to the Wildcats. Our group was back to four.

Photo courtesy of Tom

From the hut we had .7 miles to Wildcat A and over 1000 feet of elevation gain. Whew! It was a tough climb, especially since there were so many snow drifts and we were breaking trail. Once we reached Wildcat A we had a two mile hike over peaks B and C and then our final summit of the day: Wildcat D. My right knee was in a lot of pain going downhill. I knew I had to make it to D and it would be all downhill from there.

Photo courtesy of Tom

We all had $10 for our Mountain Access Pass, but we arrived after they had closed. We descended via Polecat and another trail (I didn’t see the sign so I’ll have to figure out which one it was). Unfortunately the zipper of my pocket broke and my cell phone disappeared on the ski trail. I am hoping someone finds it!

Even with the conditions we had a great time. I could not have asked for a better group to go with. Everyone was supportive and determined. The hike was twelve miles long and a little over 5,000 feet of elevation gain. The sunset coming down Polecat definitely made the day! While we couldn’t be on the Presidentials on President’s Day, we could still look at them.

Last modified: July 13, 2017

5 Responses to :
Carter Dome and the ‘Cats (Winter)

  1. Nice report Allison. I look forward to hiking with you again sometime. Tom F.

  2. I had a great time! I hope you join us again soon Tom!

  3. Gabi says:

    Very cool snowy photos. Enjoyed reading.

  4. Maureen says:

    Hi Allison,
    This might be a stupid question, so sorry about that! haha
    You mentioned you all had your $10 for the Mountain Access Pass, what is this? I’m planning on hiking the Cats in the next few weeks and I don’t want to miss out on anything! 🙂


    1. allison says:

      Not a stupid question at all. Wildcat had some issues in the past with hikers being unsafe using the ski trails and to cover them from liability, there’s a required “mountain access pass” that costs $10. It doesn’t allow you to use the lifts but allows you to hike on the sides of the ski trails. You can purchase the pass on site just in case. If you use dedicated hiking trails this isn’t an issue.

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