We woke early this morning knowing today would be challenging and there was a chance for some severe afternoon weather. To provide ourselves with the most flexibility, we started hiking a little before 7am. We left Imp Shelter where it was still very full of NOBOs excited for their easy arrival in Gorham.
We enjoyed the ridge walk over middle and south Carter, which often provided clear views of the presidential range. It never gets old seeing these massive mountains and in a way it’s like seeing our friends again (please excuse the cheese). By the time we reached Carter Dome, the casual hiking was over. The next few miles included a steep 1500 foot descent followed by an immediate ascent of over 1200 feet in just under over 2 miles. If you were ever not sure you whether you’ve arrived in NH yet, that’s your clue.
After the descent we arrived at our first hut Carter Notch Hut which is small and picturesque near two small ponds with Carter Dome and Wildcat Mountain looming over it (creating the notch). We received our 2 free baked goods (pumpkin chocolate bread/cake) and bowl of tomato soup, thank you AMC Thru-Hiker card! This would be good energy to get over the Wildcats. We would also be carrying 2.5 extra liters of water (about 5 extra pounds) so we could camp on the summit where there is no water source. This has also been an important summit for Eric. More to come on this in another post.
Unfortunately, our plan wasn’t looking good. At the observation tower at the summit we had cell signal to get a weather update. A cold front and warm front were going to clash and hit western NH around 5pm. The special weather report included high winds, heavy rain, and even a tornado warning. We saw a massive system coming towards us on the radar. One of the hardest parts of any type of hiking (day hiking, backpacking, etc) is making good decisions. Even if it breaks your heart to turn back or abandon the summit, it’s best to heed the storm warnings. The weather in the Whites can be very serious, so with heavy hearts we left the Wildcat summit.
It was a little after 2pm. Our new plan was get down Wildcat, which includes steep open ledges. Many hikers consider this to one of the most challenging and technical sections on trail. Better to do this dry conditions. It’s funny many people focus so much on Mt Washington (which is definitely an important summit) but Wildcat is the true villain with the steepness and trail grading. Our friend Just Jeremy was at Carter Notch with us and he looked up at Wildcat and said…tell me don’t go straight up. Our response…We surely do and then straight back down the other side which is even worse.
We could hear the wind picking up and clouds coming in but we took our time navigating the descent and found a stealth campsite about a mile from Joe Dodge Lodge. This sets us up for an easier day tomorrow and we can sleep in. We’re bummed our summit camp didn’t pan out but also happy that the Wildcats are now behind us.
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