Monday, October 15, 2018

Moriah Carters Wildcats Traverse

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts." -- Rachel Carson

This past weekend, Doug and I headed up to the White Mountains to complete the Moriah Carters Wildcats traverse (with 6 of NH's 4000' peaks).  We were originally planning on doing the Presidential Traverse, but with sub-zero windchill forecasted at the top of Mount Washington, we decided that something mostly below the treeline would be a better bet.  Additionally, the distance via road from the start / finish of this route was less than 15 miles which enabled us to drop our bikes at the south end and bike back to our car after we finished.  We decided to go from North to South, which resulted in about 1200' more climbing on the trail, but nice downhill bike back. 
The Northern Trail Head

We did this as a day trip, which started with a 3:55am wake up.  We got to Glen Ellis (near Pinkham Notch) shortly before 7:30, dropped the bikes off, and were on the trail by 8am. 

For New Hampshire's 4000' peaks, the traverse summits Mount Moriah, Middle Carter, South Carter, Carter Dome, Wildcat A and Wildcat D.  We chose to stick to the Appalachian Trail for the day starting in Shelburne off Route 2 (You can also take the Carter Moriah Trail which starts near the center of Gorham and meets up with the AT at the summit of Moriah -- where we briefly mistakenly started descending during our run). 

Summit of Mount Moriah
As ultrarunners, Doug and I were interested to see what type of pace we could hold.  Little did we know how little of this trail was actually runnable.  We started off with a pair 12 minute miles with 1200+' of climbing.  From there it got pretty technical and never really let up.  Our fist summit was Moriah after about 5 miles / 3000' climbing.  There was a good deal of mud and a bit of frost on the wooden planks that had been added to the trail which only made the day more difficult.  

About 4 miles later we reached Middle Carter then South Cater, which you would barely know are there (below the tree line) if someone didn't tell you (You had to work for it though as it had a 1200' climb in under a 1.5 miles). 

Next up was Carter Dome.  We dropped down to about 3900' before making the climb up (4832'), the highest point for the day.  We were now 13.4 miles into the day and hoping the last 5-6 miles wouldn't be too bad.  This trail had no let up and we had to earn our keep to get through it. 

Looking down on Carter Notch from Wildcat
We dropped 1500' over 1.2 miles to Carter Notch (home of the Carter Notch Hut) before ascending back up Wildcat (A).  While this was the last major climb (1100' over 0.8 miles), but we still had a good amount of technical descent to go. 

After passing by Wildcat (D) Ski area (and wishing we could take the chair lift down), we hit the craziest piece of trail I have ever seen.  As we looked down to Route 16, all we could think is that is really far below us.  With 2 miles to go, the descent began.  We dropped just over nearly 500' in the first mile and a whopping 1427' in the final mile. 

We finished the traverse in 7:47:38 (24:27 / mile).  We probably lost about 9 or 10 minutes when we lost the trail at the Summit of Moriah.  In general, this is one of the hardest routes either of us has ever done.  With 8000' technical climbing and 6800' of technical descent, we just weren't capable of going that fast. 

After a chilly 15 mile bike with 1500' of descent, we were back at our car.  All and all a good day's work.  

It is kind of ironic that right after leaving the Presidential's you get greeted with this chunk of the AT (albeit going the other direction than we did).  It is kind of like sarcastic goodbye before you exit the White's. 

GPS Track

- Scot
Taking in the Power and Beauty of the Mountains 

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