Monday, December 5, 2011

Mt. Carrigain - 12/3/11

It was such a beautiful late fall day on Saturday for our hike to Mt. Carrigain. It was crystal clear, with not a cloud in the sky, but it was brisk and chilly hovering around freezing all day. Given the fact the Sawyer River Road is closed, we thought we would try something a little different so we brought the mountain bikes out one last time this year to help cut our time down on the road.

It sure was a tough pedal up the road on the way in to the Signal Ridge Trail, but it was good because it got us warmed up for the trek up the trail. We passed the large washout and some parked construction vehicles, so perhaps they will start repairing the road soon. We left our bikes behind a big rock in the woods near the parking area across from the trailhead.
Mountain biking Sawyer River Road to SRT
Bill leads the way carefully past the washout
We walked up to the trail head where a small group was waking up in their tents. Of all of the available places to set up a tent, the group's two tents were pitched right in front of the signs at start of the trail, so we passed by taking care to not to trip over their tents. But, we said good morning to one of them, and we got a "see you up there". At the beginning, the trail is pretty flat. A light dusting of snow pellets sporadically blanketed the cracks in the rocks or on the leaves at the beginning and throughout our hike, but there was no accumulated snow at all. Last time I hiked Carrigain, the crossings were a non-factor, but this time, they were pretty testing. Instead of crossing in our bare feet, we found a slightly easier spot to cross up river, but the rocks were coated with ice, so it wasn't easy. At the second crossing near the trail junction, we each opted for a different crossing point, but again the rocks were slippery and there were floating logs in the bog.
I don't think so...
After the two crossings, the trail ascends gradually all of the way to Signal Ridge. Along the way, the cliffs of Mt. Lowell became visible. It was cool to look out and the surroundings and check the progress of our ascent. Once we were above Mt. Lowell, we knew we were getting closer. The dusting of snow on the trail with the sun beaming through the trees made us not even think of the grueling gradual ascent.
Mt. Lowell through the trees on Signal Ridge Trail
Signal Ridge Trail
We exited the trees onto the exposed Signal Ridge to incredible clear views of Mt. Washington, the Presidentials, and Mt. Lowell. Knowing the same views and more would be at the top, we pushed on back into the trees and reached the summit a few minutes later.
From Signal Ridge
Me with my foot on the summit
On the summit, there was no wind, and it was quiet. Bill had a grin from ear to ear as we both looked around in amazement of Carrigain's views. When it is as beautiful it was, sometimes, there's no reason to talk about it, but to just take it in. We sat down, checked the time, had some crackers, chocolate, and some warm green tea. Carrigain was Bill's 41st of 2011, and now has seven more to go! This was my 78th NH 4000-footer of 2011, and because I started my original quest in January, its the first 4000-footer I've ever climbed in December!
Franconia Ridge and Owl's Head
Signal Ridge and south
Willey Range, Presidentials, and many more!
Sunny summit photo, ready to descend
The descent was straightforward and fun. Along with some breaks, we covered good segments of trail pretty quickly. Again the river crossings were fun. You can see the ice on this log, and the volume of water running underneath it.
Bill crosses an icy log
Although I couldn't record every part of the crossings because of the icy rocks, here is some footage showing what it took to get across.

Once we were done with that, we made our way out the last little bit of rocky damaged trail to the road. We felt great as we went into the woods to retrieve our mountain bikes. This was such a great trip. We were so excited for the ride out on our bikes, as it would be a 2 mile descent! I have never gone faster on my mountain bike; I was thrilled to mix it up a bit. Here's some video (but sorry about the poor angle, I was going way too fast to pay attention to the camera):

Hike Stats
Trails: Sawyer River Road (mtn bike), Signal Ridge Trail
Distance: 14 mi (including road)
Elevation Gain: 3800 feet
Book Time: 6hrs 45min

To view the full album from this hike, view or click on the slide show below.


  1. Great trip report and pics, Dan! The movies are always a nice touch. What do you use to make them? Just a digital camera? Or a digital camcorder?

    I really can't wait to get up to Carrigain someday. I can't believe Sawyer Road is still closed! Definitely looks like some challenging brook crossing...easy to slip for sure.

    Great pics and report! How's Trailwrights coming these days?


  2. Karl,
    Thank you, This trip to Carrigain turned out better than expected, it was fun. No matter what photos you see of the view from the summit, its no match for being there in person, so hopefully next summer its more accessible, and we'll see what Carrigain throws your way.

    I use an Olympus TG-810 14MP point and shoot camera that records 720P. It's also completely waterproof, crushproof, freezeproof and can shoot underwater video. I bring this with an extra battery and memory on every trip for photos and videos. It's a great camera, and I would buy another one in a second.

    I am at 33 of 72, and I should knock off at least 3 more in the next couple of weeks. However, getting those Presidentials will be tough. My top 3 remaining on my list that I'm looking forward to returning/exploring: Jefferson (via caps), Hight, Whiteface.

  3. Carragain brings back great memories to me. I went there back in college with the Outing Club during the peak of leaf season. We climbed Carrigain, which was frosty with a little snow, then went down the backside to a leanto and soaked our feet in a great stream. We stayed near the leanto overnight.

    The next day we came out through Carragain Notch. The scramble up the slides of Mount Lowell looked challenging, so we did it. I fell at one point and got a big deep cut near my elbow (still have a scar), but the whole trip was great.

    Thanks for the nice trip report of your adventure.

  4. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I definitely want to explore the Carrigain area more off-trail, and scrambling up the cliffs of Mt. Lowell is something I certainly would love to do someday.