Date: 11/3/2018, Co-hiker: Stark
The best laid plans …
We had a great idea. We would park at the Wildcat slopes, bike to the Carter-Moriah trailhead, and hike the 18ish miles over Moriah, the Carters, and Wildcat before illegally sledding down the Wildcat slopes. Sure, the forecast said rain, but hopefully it would still be nice, packed-in snow up high.
It was chilly and raining when we hopped on our bikes around 8:45 but the 11 miles to Gorham was mostly downhill. It went by quickly though managed to completely soak through our shoes. The temperature down in Gorham was a heck of a lot warmer than in the notch and I rapidly found the need to shed many layers. Somewhere around Mt. Surprise the rain stopped and I even removed my pants and spent the rest of the adventure in shorts.
As we continued to climb the temps started sinking a bit and the snow pack plus rain resulted in pure puddle-dom. It was the classic guessing game of trail-or-stream for many blaze-free segments. Between that and sunken wooden logs we had long given up on our feet ever drying.
Then came the treachery: the last 2/10th of a mile push to the summit of Moriah was where we started postholing. Now this is nothing new when it comes to wet snow near summits. What was so dangerous about these postholes was that because of the rain and warmer temps, at the bottom of each sunken step was a pool of freezing cold water. After an incredibly short time of this terrain we both lost feeling in our toes and feet.
And this is where decisions have to be made: do we push on and hope conditions improve? Do we at least get to the Imp junction then bail? Or do we just turn around?
Looking at a map, the fastest way off the mountain was back the way we came. And the safest option. And we were glad to have taken it. Within a quarter mile the rain picked back up significantly as the temperatures warmed again. Our feet regained feeling. Our gloves and mittens soaked through but under tree cover the wind was no threat.
Back in Gorham the rain continued to fall lightly but the wind had picked up significantly. Which meant that if we were to cycle back to the car we’d be facing 11 miles of pure uphill into 40+ mph wind. Even though we had only hiked 9 miles we were cold and wet and exhausted just from being cold and wet. So we hitchhiked. After 10 minutes of thumbing a local couple in a truck gave us a lift. And WOW, were we glad – back up in the notch the wind was blowing WAY more fiercely and the rain was beating down with reckless abandon (mmmyep, it really was that dramatic).
After reuniting with el Jeep we quickly zipped over to Dodge Lodge in order to change into warm dry clothes ($1 for a hot shower, so amazing) before backtracking for the bikes then turning around once again to get into North Conway for consignment shopping and a bite to eat at Delaney’s. That drive through Pinkham notch was probably the worst weather I have ever personally seen in the Whites. The wind was shoving itself into el Jeep and leaves were tornadoing all around the road (I know, not a word).
After bopping around town, as the sun was setting, the sky cleared for a while and was just so gorgeous we figured it would be nice to take the Kanc back south. With just a bit of light left we stopped in awe – Lower Falls had become tumultuous white waters where I reiterated my fear of kayaking. And sure enough a small group of some adventurous/insane folk were walking along with their kayaks in hand, either about to or just having taken that wild ride. As we climbed and darkness fell the rain turned into snow and I could cross off two more life experiences I had not been eager to close off: driving the Kanc in the dark/snow.
But we lived. And my third attempt at a Carter traverse again was a no-go. But I hit my 40th peak and had an adventure day for the books (or blog, as you like it).
Total distance: 10.8 on bike, 8.7 on foot, total time: 32 minutes on bike, <4 hours on foot