Saturday, December 15, 2012

Moriahs 12/14/12

Working title: It's days like these that I live for

Peaks: Shelburne Moriah, Mt. Moriah

Trails: Shelburne Trail, Kenduskeag Trail, Carter-Moriah Trail, Mt. Moriah Spur, Rattle River Trail

Mileage/time: 13.9 miles, 4300 feet of gain, book time of 9:05, actual time of 9:55

With a well deserved rest day on Thursday, it was time to get back out on the trails. The hike was going to be a big one, on unfamiliar trails to the both of us. For those of you who don't know, I'm redlining the AMC White Mountain Guide, which means I need to hike every section of trail in that book. This was going to be one of those kind of hikes. The only section that I'd been on before, is the 0.1 section of Carter-Moriah Trail, and the Moriah Spur. Here's to new territory!

Mike and I met up at the Cumberland Farms at the corner of Rt. 16 and Rt. 2, meet time was 7am, but when I pulled in at 6:35, Mike was already there. "You're late!", he said with a grin on his face. He then followed me to the Rattle River trailhead, where we suited up, piled into my car, and took off for the northern trailhead for the Shelburne Trail. The turnoff from Rt. 2 is kind of nondescript, there's a sign for the Old Man of the Valley, and a parking sign. You end up following this road past the parking area on Rt. 2, and it turns into Forest Road 95 (Conner Brook Road), which you'll follow to the gate and trailhead. Today, the road was passable in my sedan, but the built up hump of ice and snow in the center of the road flirted with my undercarriage a bit. Of note, this road isn't closed in the winter, but it is not gated, or maintained for winter travel.

Final preparations complete, we started past the gate onto the continuation of the road, which is the trail for a portion. This road walk portion continued for quite some time, way longer than either of us thought it should, but it was easy walking on crusty snow that our boots dug right into. Speaking of boots, I've been breaking in a new pair, and today, they broke me back. Not far from the car, the area above my left ankle started to hurt, so I made some adjustments and carried on. The pain continued all day, and as I sit here now, those areas on both my ankles are visibly swollen and bruised. Definitely something I need to figure out!

So, where were we... oh, right, boring road walk. Just as we wondered if we'd missed the turn off the road, there was a broken cross country ski stuck in the ground, with a piece of blue material screwed to it, with faded writing, barely discernable. It started with an "Sh", the road appeared to end a short distance from here at a landing, and there was a small cairn, so we followed the trail up and away from the road. Finally, on a trail! This section passed fairly quickly, as we climbed to the col between Shelburne Moriah and Howe Peak, the woods were beautiful and there were some nice ice formations just off trail.

One leg of the journey done, we arrived at the height of land, and the junction with Kenduskeag Trail. From the junction, you could see down the continuation of the Shelburne Trail to the sign for the Wild River Wilderness, which I yearn to explore, but would be on the edge of all day. Taking the turn, we started climbing more steeply, with more ice to deal with in spots, not yet enough to warrant traction. The woods stayed fairly open with beautiful birch areas, and we shortly reached a pseudo-highpoint, and scrambled up to a ledge. Vast views were opened up to us, the entire Baldface-Royce Range, the complex of peaks in the Caribou-Speckled Wilderness, the Carter-Moriah Range, and the whole of the Wild River Wilderness.

Looking over the Royces, into Maine

South view over the Wild River Valley

Kenduskeag Trail
Leaving our perch, we continued west on Kenduskeag Trail, as it wound its way up, over, and around various ledges along the way to Shelburne Moriah. We finally decided to put on traction, and I was happy to try out my new Hillsound Trail Crampons, which I replaced my dull Microspikes with, after Wednesdays debacle on Howker Ridge. They worked extremely well, allowing me to scramble up, and to an extent down, the majority of ice flows we found throughout the rest of the day. Soon we found ourselves on the true summit of Shelburne Moriah, the views continuing to be strong.

Kenduskeag Trail

Kenduskeag Trail

Presidentials from Shelburne Moriah

Pilot/Pliny Ranges from Shelburne Moriah

From here, we worked our way carefully down the open ledges and back into the woods, reaching the junction of Rattle River Trail, where we took a break for lunch at the base of Middle Moriah. Here we saw our first footprints of the day, coming down from Moriah and headed down Rattle River, good thing we'd have something to follow! Break over, we trudged up the Kenduskeag Trail, which skirts Middle Moriah to the south, and then climbs to meet the Carter-Moriah Trail just below Moriah. This section proved to be the most icy, with huge sections to clamber up and down, and a blowdown or two to deal with. The scramble at the beginning of the climb to Moriah from the junction seemed less daunting to me than it did a year and a half ago, and was easily dispatched (on the way up at least). We climbed up the last few feet onto the bald summit, and the views. While we had been crossing the ridge, clouds had moved in overhead, and apparently over the Presidentials as well, because they were unseen under a blanket of clouds.

Mike, scrambling

South view from Moriah

Baldfaces et al from Moriah

Shelburne Moriah from Moriah
Our descent off Moriah went well, the scramble before the junction was tricky, but doable. Some downs and ups, and we were back at the Rattle River junction, where we again took a break. Starting our descent at about 3pm, we debated whether we could get out without headlamps. Rattle River Trail drops steeply off the ridge at first, and with the leaves off the trees, you can see the drop into the valley that you'll be following out. The steeps don't last very long, as the trail moderates the further you get from the ridge. There was an interesting rock formation that caught our eyes on the north ridge of Middle Moriah, from the angle we were at, it looked like a fish head. We hereby dub said rock, as Fish-head Rock.

We reached the shelter, which is directly on the trail, and took a short break in the waning light of the day. 1.7 miles to go! We made it more than a mile without headlamps, the sky darkening overhead, but the snow on the trail made it easy to follow in the dim. There was one small stream crossing that I got sketched out by, and ended up turning on my headlamp. From here, it was quickly out to the road and Mikes waiting truck. After retrieving my car, we parted ways, I had dinner plans with my roommate, and Mike had avalanche school in the morning. I also ended up getting pulled over by a Cumberland County Sheriff in Raymond on my way back, no big deal, just my plate lights are out... way to go Maine state inspections, glad you find things that are wrong with the car!

Thanks Mike for another memorable one!


  1. Nice trail report. Thanks. Am taking a group in January.