A big day for Tenzing and me in the Whites, a day where over ten miles of travel was only possible through the of use traction devices. Today we walked over miles of exposed ice down low, over ice almost buried under the snow from 3,300 feet up to the 4,000+ ridge, and then more exposed ice on the Appalachian Trail to the top of Mt. Hight, at 4,675 feet.
We had been up here in August, where we did a loop that went up and over the Wildcats, then through Carter Notch and down 19 Mile Brook Trail.
Tenzing planned for us to be walking today at 7:20 AM- we were on trail at 7:18 !
No snowshoes- there isn’t enough snow to use them right now.
We had to traction up straight out of the parking lot, and then all day long. Tenzing had a pair of Kahtoolas
, and I had Stabilicerson my LLBean winter boots.
The Stabilicers won out over the Kahtoolas, which had a persistent problem with the toe sections sliding out to the sides, requiring frequent readjustment.
We made quick work out of the first 1.9 miles, reaching the Carter Dome Trail intersection in an hour. I love walking behind Tenzing, who just churns out the mileage, no matter how rough the traveling.
Tenzing NEVER complains about anything.
We decided to modify our planned route when we saw how much ice there was on the trail. The steepest walk today would be the 1.2 miles from Carter Hut up to Carter Dome, and I feared coming down that steep a section, so we reversed our intended route to run counterclockwise, and headed up Nineteen Mile Brook to arrive at the AMC Hut by 10 AM. We’d be going up soon.
It was time for hot coffee and Brad Bars. Sitting in the ancient, stone-walled hut, I enjoyed pouring from my thermos, smelling and savoring my coffee, and eating my handmade treats. Both of us were soaked from sweat, even though all I had on my upper body was a super thin merino base over a Patagonia Wool 3 mid layer. It would hover around freezing all day.
It took us an hour and half to make it up the next 1.2 mile of uphill- it was very much an uphill- 1,600 vertical feet of steep, with no foot prints ahead, and now a cover of snow thick enough that our micro spikes weren’t able to reach the slippery ice underneath. Tenzing and I were caught in a two steps up, slide one step back and repeat loop. At least it was working, until Tenzing, who had been up ahead, fell and came sliding down right past me, thankfully stopping before any damage had been inflicted upon him. At 4,300 feet, the steepness abated, so we caught our breath, but now were hearing and feeling the wind start to pick up. It was predicted to reach 40 to 50 mph today.
There was no hanging around for us on Carter Dome, where we had sporadic views out west toward Washington. We knew we had to keep moving avoid the wind chill, as we we even more soaked that we had been at the Hut. The walking was much easier now, as we were on the ridge itself, turning right toward Mt. Hight. We finally saw someone dressed in blue coming toward us, who told us that he had just broken the trail up and over Hight. I consider this man a Trail Angel, because we would have not found the trail coming down off Hight toward Zeta Pass without his faint footsteps on the bare wasteland up and all around that rocky cone.
It became steep again, but downhill steep. With the fresh snow here a bit more than a half foot deep, we skidded out way down, our trekking poles now functioning as ski poles.
It became time for a much needed lunch break, which we took at the rustic bench at Zeta Pass. Even though it was a very quick meal, I became hyper chilled, and it took me fifteen minutes of fast downhill hiking before my ice cold fingers warmed up inside my wet gloves. We only stopped once on the way down, for Tenzing to get water out of the stream.
Not much more to add on our trek back to the car, except when Tenzing slipped off a log at the edge of Nineteen Mile Brook Trail. He prevented his poles from going downstream, but mostly saved himself from rolling down a steep drop to the ice and water below. Still he didn’t complain about anything as we were lumping our bodies back to the car at 2:30 PM. Here’s a brief clip of the type of ice that we had to clear:
We’re hiking over in Maine next month.