Saturday, May 18, 2013

Carter Dome & Mt. Hight - 5/11/13

Last weekend, my brother and I got back to the mountains with a plan to bag the Carters, and whatever else we found ourselves up to. The forecast was iffy, with rain expected. It was warm, and the snow is just about gone on the lower parts of the trails. It was nice to be out, now warmer, and to be able to allow nature to touch the skin - its a different world than winter hiking. The awesome sign of spring and warmer temperatures was prevalent as the 19 Mile Brook roared its way down the slopes and out from Carter Notch.
The Nineteen Mile Brook Trail head 
Nothing quite like standing alongside a beautiful river in the mountains... 
The small creature was on my hat before I set it down here. 
Nineteen Mile Brook Trail bridge
The hike up to Carter Notch on the 19 Mile Brook Trail took a while. We stopped a lot. It was a lot different than in the winter. In the winter, its a flat highway that ascends easily, but in the warmer months, its quite rocky, in my opinion, and requires more effort. As we got closer to the end of the trail, and into the notch, the sprinkles we had turned into a pretty nasty pouring rain. It poured down on us as we rounded the lake, and made our way to Carter Notch Hut for a break.
Carter Lake 
AMC's Carter Notch Hut on a rainy day
Of course it was so nice to get out of the rain and into the hut for a break. Inside, there was no caretaker present at the time, but there were two hikers inside also taking a break. Both, from Seattle, one of them was here to finish his 48 on Wildcat after starting to hike the 4000-footers 35 years ago. After reading his log entry at the hut it confirmed that regardless of whether you do them in less than a year, all in one winter, or over 35 years, hiking the White Mountain 4000-footers will leave a mark on you forever with memories that will always remain fresh.

After a good snack, they had gone on their way, and we were going up to Carter Dome. We got a little bit of a later start than our norm from the trail head, but it wasn't a big deal. We dealt with patches of snow just before the Notch, and then higher up on the Carter-Moriah Trail. The hike to Carter Dome from here is basically like a natural stair master.
A patch of snow at the start of the trail up to Carter Dome 
Hiking over some pretty crappy trail... 
In 4 times I've been to Carter Dome, I only once had a view... 
The summit marker on Carter Dome that I can't remember ever seeing before - Crazy!
As we left the Carter Dome summit, we were making a decision for the rest of the hike. It was definitely a little late to head beyond Zeta Pass today, but we made the decision to get Mt. Hight for the first time ever. Of the 4 times I've passed through here, I opted out of Hight because there were no views. This time, we decided to bag it, and we would descend to call it a day. The trail beyond Carter Dome summit was a pretty nasty monorail, like walking on a mini knife edge that was constantly collapsing. Not to mention it was still raining steadily at times, but we got there, and it was a pretty cool summit. We defined this as our Trailwright 72 jaunt to Mt. Hight. I can't wait to get this peak with some views, but there is never a bad day in the mountains.
Carter-Moriah Trail in May leaving Carter Dome summit 
Mt. Hight summit ahead 
Mt. Hight 
Bill on Mt. Hight for the first time 
Me on Mt. Hight for a Trailwright 72
 As we left the summit of Mt. Hight, we chuckled over the only tiny little glimpse of sun we had all day. The trail descended from the summit pretty steeply as it went back to the Carter Dome Trail. We dealt with the nasty pine needle and dirt riddled monorail (which got all over our hands, if we had to ease a fall) back to the junction. After that, it was a quick .2 to the always memorable and beautiful Zeta Pass. There is just something about this spot that is awesome, but I can't nail it. I've been here in all seasons, and even camped nearby in a stealth-spot in the summer of 2011. It's always quiet and peaceful, and its an easy spot among the always challenging Wildcat-Carter Ranges that calls for a stop to enjoy it for a few. I bet for sure that the Native Americans and early peoples of the White Mountains also made stops here.
A tiny glimpse of sun on the summit of Mt. Hight, but no view 
The always interesting and intriguing Zeta Pass
After that, we descended the Carter Dome Trail to head back down and get this rainy mess over with. It didn't get any easier, really, as we were faced with a couple of tricky crossings of the raging stream. One thing that dawned on us, was that somehow, the trail led us a way that didn't pass the junction sign at the Carter Dome Trail and 19 Mile Brook Trail. After about 15 minutes, we confirmed that was the case and we were on 19 Mile Brook, but we wondered whether the first of these two crossings was necessary, but it clearly had a path on each side. Anyways, we made it across both without a hitch but with some excitement, which was cool.

At the end of a cloud and rain-filled journey, we arrived back at the trail head to be treated with some late afternoon sunshine and clouds moving out. A big thank you to Eric T. and his friend from Seattle, for spotting and leaving my brother's hat for us at the car, and more importantly, Congratulations for completing the 48 after 35 years!
A warn greeting at the trail head after a wet and messy hike
Hike Stats
Trails: 19 Mile Brook Trail, Carter-Moriah Trail, Carter Dome Trail
Distance: 10.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,600 ft.
Actual Book Time: 8:00


  1. "...but there is never a bad day in the mountains." Isn't that the truth?! Great post! I've added this hike to my long list of trails. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Michael, there's only bad equipment or gear too, so a rainy day is not a disappointment. Thanks for sharing your comment.

  2. Thanks for the trip report ! Plan to do Carter Dome in June on a vacation :)