Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Mighty Carrigain 1/26/13

Working title: "Dear Snowshoes, you're lucky I don't just chuck you into the woods. Sincerely, Bill"

Peak: Mt. Carrigain

Trails: Sawyer River RR grade, Sawyer River Road, Signal Ridge Trail

Mileage/time: ~14 miles, ~3900 feet, book time of 8:55, actual time of 10:00

Where to even begin on this one? I'm definitely being pulled in many directions at once, so here goes nothing. In working on my Winter 48, I've been happy to visit peaks I may have only climbed once before, this was going to be one of them. The whole experience for me, was a study in contrasts, not only of my surroundings, but of myself, where I was when I was last there, and where I am now.

This would be another of Mike's Meetup hikes for Northeast Peakbaggers, and there would be a total of 5 of us. When I pulled into the winter lot at 5:10, Mike was already there, ever an overachiever. He then told me that Wayne might show up, I was into that, Wayne's a good guy, and I haven't hiked with him since our attempt on the Osceola's debacle. No sooner than it was mentioned, Wayne pulled in, then a couple other cars, carrying Jim, Rich, and Ian, a very cheeky British fellow. We saw that the temperature was 6 degrees, and the wind wasn't bad in the parking lot. Introductions made, gear on, and off we went up a packed trail behind the kiosk. I believe this was the old Sawyer River Railroad grade, and we followed the track to a point where it finally turned right, and climbed the slope up to the road, not far down from the house, and the ruins of Livermore.

Road walks are great, and monotonous (though a good warmup), and it was nice to turn a corner and have the trailhead right there. Signal Ridge Trail was in great shape, with a fast snowshoe track to follow. The sky steadily lightened, with blue skies overhead, and some cold breezes blew through the open woods. Soon, rays of golden, morning light started to pierce through.

After reaching the junction with Carrigain Notch Trail, I was in long foreign territory. The last time I hiked Carrigain was 9/3/10, it was my third NH 4000 footer, I'm slightly ashamed to say that I haven't been back since then. That day was particularly hot, temps in the low 80's, barely any wind, and humid as all get out. My friend Dave and I had a good hike that day, though we had pretty hazy views from the tower. What I do remember was Signal Ridge Trail. Above the junction was the section that kicked my ass the first time. It's a good mile long section that just goes straight, and side-hill up the flank of Signal Ridge, with little let up. Pretty brutal, and a definite leg burner. I remember it being rather rocky, and unrelenting. In contrast, it was now a well packed snowshoe track, though still brutal.

Temperatures were hovering the low single digits most of the day, and though protected, we felt some very cold breezes along the way. None too soon, we reached the first of the switchbacks, which would take us to the crest of the ridge. We took a break here for food, and hand/foot warmers, and started back up. Now just before breaking out of the trees, we met up with Wayne again. About halfway up the ridge he had taken off in front of the group, not being a part of the Meetup group, he wasn't obligated to stay with us. He had already summited, and told us about the wind we would soon encounter on Signal Ridge.

He wasn't lying, the winds were pretty gnarly, not so much the force, but the cold. I couldn't help but stop and take a few pictures.

Willey Range from Signal Ridge

The (you're a) Nancy Range, with Lowell large and in charge
I now moved quickly across the ridge to the safety of the trees, and my group which was ahead of me. Apparently while I was taking pictures, we were passed by Georg, Per, and his dog Cinnilla. When we ran into them just down from the summit, they said it was the fastest they've ever gone across Signal Ridge! Nice to meet you guys. Up the last steep pitch to the summit, and Mike found that Wayne had left chocolate for us in the snow just in front of the tower. What a guy! We all took off our snowshoes, and went up to the tower for some views and wind.



Franconia Ridge, Owl's Head, Bondcliff, Garfield, and West Bond

Chocorua and Signal Ridge

Hancocks, Scar Ridge, Loon, and Moosilauke
Our stay on the tower was very short, and after putting on snowshoes again, Jim and I chatted for a bit in the sun at the base of the tower, while the rest of the group was back in the woods a bit. Now it was time to recross Signal Ridge, and get down. We had seen a group coming across the ridge, and we ran into them just before the summit, I think I counted 8 French-Canadian folks, some with snowshoes, some without. As we worked our way down, we noticed significant drops in temperature along the way, especially on the lower portion of Signal Ridge getting closer to the road, with Ian's thermometer reading about 9 degrees at last check.

Soon enough, we were out on the road, and one of the group behind us, had come down and passed us just before. She went off into the woods, and retrieved cross country skis, she had the right idea! We also ran into many snowmobiles along the way. At one point, Ian convinced one of them to let him ride on the back for a short stretch, an unfortunate missed photo opportunity. I'm sure he won't soon hear the end of that one.

We arrived back at the trailhead in daylight, what a novel thing to have happen! The temperature had effectively doubled since we left, at 12 degrees, though it didn't feel like it. Thanks to Mike for leading the hike, and very nice to hike with Rich, Ian, and Jim. Good to see Wayne as well, even if he was only with us part way. Nice to meet everyone else out on the trail too!

I've looked at my Grid, and there are only 6 peaks that I haven't hiked at least twice, Owl's Head, Garfield, the Wildcats, Hale, and Monroe. If I get those before the end of winter, I'll be a happy camper, though let's be honest, there's a lot more winter left... and there's still 19 peaks left on my Winter 48.

Here's hoping for warmer temperatures, and some snow!


  1. Cool! Nicely done. Hmmm... I would like to go back to the Wildcats...