Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Moriah, Carters, Wildcats Traverse - 8/24/13

With meteorologists everywhere raving about perfect, cloud-free weather for Saturday, August 24th, I forced myself to make a decision on what to hike. Now that I'm well into my 4th round of the 48 and working on various other peak lists, its sometimes a tough decision! My hiking had been light so far in August, so I wanted to get into something around 20 miles. Come Thursday night though, my gear was packed and my mind was set to take on a Wildcats, Carters, Moriah Traverse, and for the first time, do it in reverse - Gorham to Pinkham Notch. For me, this traverse would knock off six more 4Ks for the month of August, five of the six peaks for my 4th round, and lastly one Trailwright 72 peak in Middle Carter.

Hiking this one solo, I brought my mountain bike along and at about 4:30AM, dashed into the woods in the parking lot of Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and secured my bike and tire to a tree. At 5:00AM on the money, I was off up the Carter-Moriah Trail in the dark from Bangor Street. It was nice and comfortable to start. The climb to Moriah is really gradual, and at the top it can be tiring once you hit the ledges. From the ledges and Mt. Surprise, the pink sky over the Presidentials was amazing. I always love when the sky is pink like that, its an awesome sight. I made relatively good time on the 4.5 miles to the summit of Moriah in 1:45. I missed sunrise by a little bit, but it was still a perfect morning.
Crap, it looks like I'm not going to make sunrise :( 
The moon and pink morning sky over the Presidential Range
Mt. Moriah summit, looking south 
The Presidentials from Mt. Moriah
The last time I did the section between Moriah and the Carters without snow was the first time I did these peaks and did the full traverse. Although I picked up my pace considerably to a run through this section and until Zeta Pass, I enjoyed the solitude as I passed atop the ledges and over the bog bridges. Eventually, I made it to the junction with the North Carter Trail and hurried up to Middle Carter. Without much delay, I took a summit photo and continued on to the summit of South Carter, doing the same
Ledge on the Carter-Moriah Trail 

The Carters (route ahead) from Carter-Moriah Trail , and the moon too!
Carter-Moriah Trail (looking back north)
Middle Carter Summit
South Carter summit 
Then, at the coolest trail junction in the mountains, Zeta Pass, I sat for about 20 minutes and woofed down my Italian sub. It was about 10am, and time for lunch. It was such the perfect day the weathermen had promised, and there was no way in heck I'd miss Mt. Hight this day. It was cool to approach it from the north, which is steeper, and when I reached the summit, I saw first-hand the view from Mt. Hight in all its glory - a much different look than my first time to the summit.
Zeta Pass, Carter Range 
The Northern Presidentials from Mt. Hight 
Looking East from Mt. Hight 
Carter Dome and Pinkham Notch from Mt. Hight 
I moved on and shortly after reached the open top of Carter Dome where I was able to get my first perfect view from its summit outlook. Every other time there has been heavy overcast. Now it was time for the grueling descent from Carter Dome. About a 1/3 of the way down, I got an emergency call for work -  someones ceiling was coming down from a water leak! About 30 minutes later after doing what I needed to do, I continued on, but shortly after, realized that my rhythm had been destroyed from dealing with the call.
Carter Dome summit outlook 
Carter Dome Summit 
Carter Notch from side of Carter Dome 
Carter Lake, Carter Notch 
The views of Carter Lake and to up above were amazing this time around, and certainly a world away from when I crossed the frozen Carter Lake in blowing snow in February. I wished I could have stayed longer, but I felt the need to push on, and without stopping, I was ascending the Wildcat Ridge Trail to A. This was my first time up this section, and I have to say it was pretty rough at this point. I was surprised at the difficulty, but it had been a few weeks since I last hiked, and I was pretty beat. The view from Wildcat A after the haul up was a nice treat. Carter Dome and Carter Notch are so impressive.
Carter Dome and boulder field from Wildcat A  
Mt. Washington from Wildcat D 
The ups and downs of the Wildcat Ridge Trail were pretty brutal. I think I can say that a north to south traverse of Moriah to Wildcats is a bit more difficult than doing it south to north. This is mainly because of the 1,050 ascent to A, and then the 400 or so additional over the Wildcats. On this hike, I mostly enjoyed Mt. Moriah and the northern sections of the Carter-Moriah Trail in the early morning. In my first few rounds, these peaks always were the last several to be done, but for my 4th round, there more in the middle of pack, and I glad to have gotten a day like this on the Carter Range, which included full views of my next objective, the Presidential Range.
Pinkham Notch from Wildcat Ridge Trail
Hike Stats
Trails: Carter-Moriah Trail, Wildcat Ridge Trail
Distance: 18.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 8,250 ft.
Actual Book Time: 11:07


  1. I've done sections of this traverse but never the whole thing. I also have some of the same pics both with and without snow. Awesome hike, great trail report and enjoyed your fantastic photos!

    1. Don, thanks as always for checking in on my reports!

  2. This was great to read. We are thinking of doing a similar hike and are wavering on south to north or should we go north to south. Anything else you'd add to help us make our decision?

    1. Hey Sara, North to South certainly seemed more difficult. Reason being is the down and up after Carter Dome to Wildcat A, and then there are some bumps over the rest of the cats that will start to catch up on the legs. Going north the trail is much easier on the tired legs between Zeta Pass and Moriah, except the hike out down Moriah can be real monotonous. Have fun either way!

    2. Great! Thanks for your reply. I don't know which way we will end up going, but it sounds like there are options. We are staying overnight at the hut so there will be a chance to rest the legs. It's a pretty strong group of hikers. I just know that sometimes trails can be one way (up only) so I wanted to make sure we weren't doing something stupid. I also want to set expectations with the group well, too. The leg from the hut out to 16 down the Wildcat ridge is shorter distance-wise, but I don't want to mislead people into thinking that it will be an easier hike.