Carter Dome Loop Trail

Dave, Jonah, Ken, Pat, Phil, Rob, Scott

The boring details:

The Carter Dome Loop trail connects nineteen mile trail to Carter Notch, Carter Dome, Mt. Haight, and Zeta Pass. It's about 10.5 miles round trip, with about 3500 feet of elevation gain.

The fun part:

To avoid "PPP" symptoms, we decided to awaken at 4am, and try to start hiking around 6:00. If our hike took 12 hours, then we'd be down with some time to spare. We slept a few hours at the Intervale cabin, and then crept out stealthily into the alpine darkness of half past four.

We'd sorted our gear the night before; we stopped by the AMC center at Pinkham notch to do a final gear check, check the weather and sign the register, and then drove to the trailhead.

We checked our watches a few times. It was 6:30am, nearly a record for a MITOC hike start. Everybody had the requisite gear, and all was ready on time. It seemed certain that something must be wrong, but there we were. The trail began with a few worrisome icy patches, but soon blown snow had covered the trail with a solid walking surface which lasted the entire hike!

We stopped a few times during the first two miles, but it was an extremely pleasant surprise to note that only an hour had passed. At around this time, the sun began to rise, and through a break in the trees we could look upward across the valley as the sun started to hit the peak of Mt. Washington. It's a sight worth waking up early for.

The pace was brisk, but nobody had complained yet, so we continued on to the AMC Hut at Carter Notch, 3.8 miles up the trail. Crossing the frozen lake we were buffeted for the first time by extremely strong winds, but we quickly ducked into the hut.

We clocked in at 10am, which the AMC caretaker described as the earliest he'd ever seen. We were happy. The hut was warm, the foodstuffs tasty, the companionship congenial, and the free refil of hot water at the hut was very welcome. We spent 45 minutes chatting, and then proceeded up the steep section of the hike to Carter Dome. Only Dave stopped to put crampons on, which proved unnecessary for most of the hike. The view from Carter Dome was nice, but we'd been told that the real beauty was at Mt. Haight, so we didn't stop long, and trundled relatively quickly through the knee-deep snow on the ridge between the dome and the mountain.

Throughout the hike so far, the dreaded winds had failed to materialize, but when we topped out on Mt. Haight, they made up for it. We estimated that they were blowing at about 40mph, and the temperature was between -15 and -20, providing us with an impressive windchill of -76.

The view from the top of Mt. Haight is incredible. We were presented with a full view of the presidential range, and could see for vast distances into "other parts" of New Hampshire and surrounding areas. Unfortunately, the wind made it difficult to see things since our goggles had mostly iced over, but we posed for some photos while posed carefully atop the slippery ice which coated many of the rocks on the summit.

Thirty feet below the summit, the wind was nonexistent, and we made great time through the powdery snow which coated the trail back. We arrived back at the cars at 3:15 pm, taking a pleasing 8:45 to finish our hike. We headed from there to Elvio's in Conway (which, for the record, is much better than the Elvio's by Camalot), scarfed down our "dinner" at 4:30, and headed back to the Intervale cabin.

In all, it was a great hike, both environmentally and people-wise. Everyone on the trip did a great job, and the trail we wandered also deserves accolades for being such a nice hike.

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Last updated: Mon Jan 6 19:40:06 GMT 2003

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