Last Sunday, I was trying to make a decision for what to do with my day. With so many great trails near the PinkhamNotch Visitor Center, it can be difficult to pick one. Luckily, one of our information volunteers, Brenda, invited me to go on a hike with her. Her plan was to hike past Lost Pond to the Wildcat Ridge Trail, hit the summits of Wildcat D and E, and then descend through the Wildcat Ski Area. I’d been thinking about the Wildcat Ridge since seeing it on my Glen Boulder snowshoeing adventure, so I agreed to come along and went to go pack my bag.
Remember last week when I only brought snowshoes? I was smarter this week, and packed both snowshoes and microspikes. Brenda and I started our hike at noon. We crossed Route 16 and jumped on the Lost Pond Trail, snowshoeing a relatively smooth and flat mile along the Ellis River and Lost Pond. The trail had been packed out as well, so that first mile went pretty quickly. I would share a picture of Lost Pond, but it’ll be more fun if you come and find it. I will say that it was a nice sight: a pristine layer of snow over the frozen pond, Mount Washington looming in the background, radio towers visible against the clear sky.
At the end of the Lost Pond Trail, we turned left onto the Wildcat Ridge Trail. Within a few minutes, we found that the trail was too steep for snowshoes to be convenient. If you’ll recall from my last post, I mentioned that the Wildcat Ridge is supposedly the steepest part of the Appalachian Trail. It’s not hard to believe, if you’ve ever hiked up the ridge. Accordingly, I switched to microspikes and Brenda switched to crampons, and we started working our way up.
White blazes, measuring 2 inches by 6 inches like the one on this boulder, delineate the entire Appalachian Trail, which stretches for 2,185 miles from Georgia to Maine.
The trail was relatively easy to follow. There was evidence of traffic in the past day or two, although in many areas the wind had obscured the tracks. Brenda and I switched back and forth with leading. A mile and a half up the ridge, the trail started to level out. The wind had blown away the powdery snow here, so we pulled off our snowshoes and switched back to crampons and microspikes. It was a great place to take a short break and enjoy the view of Mount Washington.
It was just a false summit, and as we dropped down the other side, we were up to our knees in snow. The snowshoes went back on, and we slowly pushed our way forward and up, toward the top of Wildcat E. We kept alternating positions, as breaking trail while climbing uphill is no easy task. We took a much needed snack break, and then kept climbing.
Eventually, we reached the top of Wildcat E, a wooded summit.
Dropping into the col a couple tenths of a mile later, we reached the Wildcat Ski Area.
The top of the ski lift looked wild with dusk on the horizon.
With one final push, Brenda and I made our way to the observation deck on top of Wildcat D.
It was perfect timing to catch a beautiful sunset on the southern shoulder of Mount Washington.
No longer working to climb uphill as we’d done nearly all afternoon, and with the sun disappearing, we donned extra layers. We put the snowshoes away for the day, put on microspikes, and headed down the Wildcat slopes. After making it to the bottom by moonlight, we put on our headlamps and hiked down Route 16 to the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. Brenda and I parted ways in the parking lot: she was headed home after a rejuvenating weekend in the mountains, and I was headed into the visitor center in search of a freshly cooked meal.
Interested in volunteering with the AMC?
There are plenty of opportunities available for people like you!
You can provide trail information at Pinkham Notch like Brenda, educate guests about flora and fauna at the huts, maintain a section of trail, and much more!
With the incoming of fresh snow over the weekend stay tuned as we will have an updated backcountry skiing report!
The AMC also offers and hosts clinics and group trips for ice climbing, avalanche certifications and winter mountaineering. All of our programs for the ’14/’15 season can be found on our Activities and Events Page.
For any general questions, conditions information, or trail advice, please feel free to contact us here at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center front desk. We are available by phone at (603) 466-2721 every day from 6:30 AM to 9:00 PM or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To make reservations
Please call AMC Lodges and Huts, at (603) 466-2727 available Monday through Saturday 9am-5pm.
Happy Winter Adventuring!
Backcountry Information Specialist