After seeing the promising early season snowpack decimated by the Christmas rain event, Kelly and I opted to skip the resort scene and head out for a light winter hike. Now that we’re committed to a backcountry Montana excursion, some extra conditioning certainly couldn’t hurt. An arctic front was firmly entrenched in the Whites for New Years weekend, bringing with it bitter cold and blustery conditions. Not wishing to repeat our desperate scree-scramble atop Mt. Washington amid gale force winds, we selected a route substantially below treeline: Carter Notch via 19 Mile Brook Trail.
The hike is an 8 mile round trip, out and back. It ascends gently for the first 3 – 3.5 miles, where it briefly climbs over the shoulder of the Wildcat ridge before dipping down in to the Notch. The notch is a pretty spectacular spot: the precipitously steep east flank of the Wildcat Ridge tumbles into two alpine ponds nestled at the bottom of the even steeper Carter Dome. Even though it’s not the majestic summit of some craggy peak, Carter Notch is a worthy day hike destination.
Since we were theoretically trying condition ourselves for the Montana trip, I loaded my 65 L pack up with all sorts of indulgent paraphernalia: puffy pants, a down jacket, down mitts, extra gloves, my shell, a fleece vest, microspikes, crampons, an ice ax, some camera equipment, you get the idea – way more stuff than you need for a low angle, sub-tree-line, day hike. I also brought along my new flexible tripod to experiment with concocting some creative shots in the wilderness. Have a look!