Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mt. Nancy (3927 ft.) and Carrigain Notch 11/21/12

Peak: Mt. Nancy

Trails: Nancy Pond Trail, herd path, Carrigain Notch Trail, Signal Ridge Trail, Sawyer River Road, Rt. 302

Mileage/time: 17.5 miles, ~4000 ft. of gain, book time of 10:45, actual time of 7:52

The original plan for today called for hitting Mt. Nancy and Vose Spur for the 100 Highest list. As you can see, only one happened, but not for lack of trying. With the shortness of the days, I gave myself until noon to get to the start of the bushwhack for Vose Spur, leaving myself plenty of time to get back on trail before it got dark. In retrospect, it probably could have been done, but the older I get, the more erring on the side of caution serves me well. I'm getting ahead of myself.

At the crack of 6:30, I started up the Nancy Pond Trail. It was chilly, but I soon took off my shell, and was hiking in just a heavyweight, grid-backed base layer for the rest of the day. The early part of the trail was very gradual, serving as a good warm up, and it was nice to get away from the road noise and the sounds of the world. The trail followed old roads in the early parts, then turned off them and began climbing more steeply up to the first on trail objective for the day, Nancy Cascade. It was all a frozen mess, but it was still beautiful to see. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a shot of the whole thing, as there was a giant tree down right in front of it!

From the base of the cascade, the trail really starts to climb. Up steep switchbacks, the trail wends it way up next to the cascade, offering some more views of it, and some views over to the Montalban Ridge, most prominently, the Giant Stairs. There were more than 2 dozen blowdowns of varying types along this stretch, it sure made for interesting travel.

The trail moderates as it works it way towards its namesake, Nancy Pond. It wasn't really much to look at from the trail, but it's a nice high altitude backcountry pond. It's neighbor, Norcross Pond, was magnificent. The views across to the Bonds/Twins (the view from the outlet is better than the view from the east end of the pond), the view up to Anderson, just the way it's situated... it's damn near perfect.

Nancy Pond

Bonds/Guyot/Twins over Norcross Pond

Mt. Anderson over Norcross Pond

Reaching the west end of Norcross Pond, I noticed a small no camping sign nailed to a tree, this was my hint to turn to my right and start looking around. It was pretty obvious, step over the tree and follow the path into the woods. There was a fork, at which there were remnants of a fire pit with charred logs, I took the left fork and began the climb to Nancy. The herd path was more of a trail than some official trails I've been on. In places, it was pretty brushy, but the footbed was always discernable. Where the path leads out onto the slide, there's another path that goes to the right, I took this way figuring I'd check out the slide on the way down. The path avoids the slide and brings you out near the top of it. Here's where things get really steep, like "reach out and touch the trail in front of you" steep in places.

The beginning

The steepness

Dig the angular rock
The path haphazardly made an attempt at switchbacking (a very steep attempt), realized that was futile, gave it the beans, and went vertical. It was fairly short lived, and it soon mellowed out, as it wandered towards the summit. The summit was marked with a sign, but had no cairn or canister. The views to the north and east were impressive.

Bemis, Montalban Ridge, and Evans Notch peaks from Nancy

Wildcats/Carters from Nancy

Looking up the Dry River valley to Washington from Nancy
I soaked in the views for a few minutes, then started down, I had a timetable to keep! I ended up blowing by the bottom of the slide on my way down, next time for sure. There were some views through the trees of Anderson, Lowell, Vose Spur and Carrigain, but it wasn't worth taking a picture of. The view from the outlet of Norcross Pond, across to the Bonds, Twins, and some of Zealand ridge, with Franconia Ridge poking out, is amazing. I took a short break here and had a snack while I admired.

Now it was time to lose some of that elevation that I'd gained. The Nancy Pond Trail descends westward into the wilderness, never steeply, on a pretty smooth footbed (by White Mountain standards), fairly free of rock and root. I encountered some more blowdowns here and there, but they weren't all that bad. There was one cluster down across the trail, at a point where the trail jogged right, it was good thing I was paying attention! At one of the stream crossings, upon reaching the other side, the top of a blowdown obscures the trail, and a herd path turns right up to a bootleg campsite. I had to push through the top of the blowdown to continue onward. There was one very weird section just before the Carrigain Notch Trail, it was all 10 foot tall evergreens, tightly spaced on both sides of the trail, almost like a hallway effect. One cluster had me climbing up onto it, about 4 feet in the air, because there was no viable workaround in the thick evergreens.

I took a break after reaching the Carrigain Notch Trail, it was 11:10, and there was elevation gain ahead. Doubts crossed my mind, would I make it to the start of the bushwhack in enough time? As it turned out, no, I arrived at the big rock around 12:20. I'm not disappointed at all, especially with how my feet and legs feel right now, that extra ~2 miles and ~1400 feet of gain wouldn't have done me any favors. This way, I figure, it's an excuse to do Vose Spur this winter, and bushwhack to Carrigain for my Winter 48!

Carrigain Notch Trail was nice, though it was eroded heavily on its northern end, but conditions improved quickly thereafter. Unfortunately, on my climb, there were maneuvers happening in the skies above, disrupting my wilderness experience. Up through the height of land on easy grades, and down the other side. It's a really nice section of trail, you should probably just do it. There are two dry crossings that saw significant flow during Irene last year, and these could pose a navigational challenge. Rule of thumb, just go straight across.

I didn't recognize Signal Ridge Trail at all, almost until the end, when I looked down the slope from one of the relocations, and saw the old trail. It's amazing what more than two years will do for your memory. It only took an hour to get from the big rock, to Sawyer River Road, and with only one car in the trailhead lot, it was time for a 3 mile road walk! I passed by some of the remains of the town of Livermore, as I'd only driven down this road, not walked it. Pretty neat how nature has retaken the land. I managed not to get hit on 302, and arrived blissfully at my car at 2:22.

So while I didn't complete the goal for the day, I'm still eternally happy with the result. 11.2 miles of new trail redlined, and #72/100!


  1. Hi Bill, I'm the AMC region leader for the Carrigain area. Did you happen to take any pics of that erosion you mentioned on the Carrigain Notch Trail? Also, would you be able to estimate the footage involved? I'm not likely to get up there until the spring, so thought I'd just ask. Thanks for the heads up.


    1. Hi Julie,

      I'm sorry, I did not take any pictures of the erosion. I can tell you that it's all within the first 2/10ths heading south from the Nancy Pond Trail junction. There's some gravel outwash preceding the erosion, then there are two sections (if I recall) where there are eroded pits, not longer than 6 feet, but about 3 to 4 feet deep, directly in the middle of the footbed. Shortly beyond this, there is one section about 25 feet long, following the footbed, about 2 to 3 feet deep in places. Hope that at least gives you an idea of what you're up against.


  2. Thanks, I appreciate it. Happy thanksgiving!

  3. Thats a fince hiek for sure, I did the out and back a few weeks back, when I got home and looked at the elevation profile form the GPS, it really does give you and idea of how much of a quad burner the small bit up to the top of nancy is. Liking your blog...cheers

  4. These are some of my favorite pics. That pond is fab! Great ice shots too.