IO: VMO: Wildcat-Carter-Moriah Range and Wild River Wilderness in NH

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I've been itching to spend more time in the White Mountains of my native New Hampshire, and late September sounds like a damn fine time to do so. The summer crowds will have thinned and the leaves should be turning. This trip will include some peakbagging as well as exploration of one of the less visited wilderness areas of the White Mountain National Forest.

The route will be a full three days of backpacking. Day 1 will see us ascending Wildcat Ridge and traversing the ridge and the Carter-Moriah range all the way out to Mount Moriah before backtracking to the Imp Shelter for the night. Total mileage for the day will be 16.9 miles with 7,192 feet of elevation gain. We will bag 6 of the NH 4,000 footers during the day: Wildcat A and D, Carter Dome, South Carter, Middle Carter, and Moriah).

On Day 2 we will descend into the Wild River Wilderness along the Moriah Brook Trail. We'll ford the Wild River and then make our way southwest along a succession of trails to the Baldface Circle Trail, which we will use to traverse the Baldfaces on Day 3. We will stop for the night at the shelter about 2/3 of the way up South Baldface after 16.8 miles and 4,295 feet of elevation gain. Depending on timing we may be able to scramble up to the summit of South Baldface to view the sunset.

Day 3 will begin with a traverse of South and North Baldface, with open summits on both peaks and extensive stretches of open ledge which afford excellent views if the weather cooperates. After descending from North Baldface we'll work our way northwest through the Wilderness, eventually meeting up with the Wildcat River Trail which we will use to ascend to Carter Notch. From there we will make the steep ascent up Wildcat A and descend the ridge, finishing up with the silly steep descent back down into Pinkham Notch. Stats for Day 3 will be 17.9 miles and 5,564 feet of elevation gain.

The total mileage and elevation gain of the route are 51.6 miles and 17,051 feet, respectively. A link to the route map in All Trails is provided below and I will upload a PDF route map as well. This will be a challenging route. There will be multiple steep, extended, and rocky climbs and descents. The weather in the Whites can be extremely variable and late September could present conditions more akin to those you might expect in December or January. If you are RSVPing to this trip you should have experience with and be comfortable with the following:

1) Backpacking in suboptimal weather conditions. Autumn in the Whites could bring anything from mild, summer like conditions to snow or freezing rain, and everything in between - possibly in the same day. Be prepared with suitable insulating layers, sleep system, and rain gear.

2) Route finding utilizing a map and compass. The entire route will be on-trail; however, the portion in the Wilderness will utilize a number of different trails and blazing may be intermittent or non-existent. You should acquaint yourself with the route in the link above and you must purchase and familiarize yourself with the AMC White Mountain Trail Map for the Carter Range-Evans Notch ( http://www.amazon.com/AMC-Map-Mahoosuc-Mountains-Appalachian/dp/1934028541). As the trip draws nearer I will prepare and distribute a cue sheet. We will try to hike as a tighter group than usual, but if you are easily turned around this may not be the trip for you.

3) Be comfortable with a lot of climbing and descending over rugged terrain. A lot of trails in the Whites tend to go straight up and straight down. The terrain is rugged and rocky and we will likely be climbing an average of better than 5,000 feet per day. In addition the weather conditions may dictate carrying a pack heavier than your standard 3 season load.

In terms of logistics, we will depart from the Forest Glen Metro Station on the Red Line promptly at 0800 on Wednesday, 24 September and make the 9 to 10 hour drive up to the Whites. We will spend Wednesday night at Dolly Copp Campground and make the short drive to the AMC visitor center in Pinkham Notch to start our hike on Thursday morning. We will camp at Dolly Copp again on Saturday night after completing our trek and enjoy a celebratory dinner at the Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery in North Conway (http://www.moatmountain.com/). We will rise early on Sunday and make the long drive back to DC, hopefully arriving at a reasonable hour.

My apologies for the long winded description. If you meet and are comfortable with the conditions above feel free to RSVP. I will be screening all who reply, please do not take it personally if I ask you additional questions about your experience or decline to include you in the group. On a trip of this nature safety is the number one priority and we need to make sure everyone in the group has the skills necessary to deal with the conditions we may encounter.

Links:

Route Map: http://alltrails.com/maps/dc-ul-wildcat-moriah-wild-river-september-2014 (http://alltrails.com/maps/wildcat-carter-moriah-wild-river-baldface-loop)

Map to Purchase: http://www.amazon.com/AMC-Map-Mahoosuc-Mountains-Appalachian/dp/1934028541 (http://www.amazon.com/AMC-Map-Mahoosuc-Mountains-Appalachian/dp/1934028541).)