Monday, July 6, 2009

Wildcat D & E Peaks 7/5/09

I chose to hike Sunday this weekend as it was the better day of the holiday weekend and probably least busy. I picked Wildcat originally planning on bagging all 5 peaks, 2 of which are 4000 footers. Scott & I started at the Ellis Falls parking lot hoping we would be able to cross the river (said to be difficult) despite the high waters from all of the rain. Well it was near impossible and we did not want to take a chance in falling in the raging waters. We checked a short ways up and down river with no possible crossings. A couple doing the same gave up on this start point also and we both made way for the Pinkham Notch VC. Half this full lot is closed for construction so we parked in the overflow across river. We hiked across the highway and started on the Lost Pond Trail at 9:45am. The trail immediately crosses over a marsh pond (Ellis River) above a beaver dam. The trail follows the river and then breaks away from it making it's way to the East side of Lost Pond. The trail was wet and muddy, making it's way over rock hops and wooden foot paths. We made a short scramble up some wet rocks, leveled again and arrived at the edge of Lost Pond. This pond is beautiful and well worth the extra mile (one way) detour. With views across the pond to East side of Mt. Washington this makes for a very picturesque area. On the other end of the pond you begin to make your way through and around large boulders and in the case for today, water overflowing into the trail (from rain and beaver dams). Soon after we arrived at the Wildcat Trail Junction. This trail immediately climbs very steeply on broken rock. We were glad to have a nice warm up on Lost pond which is what I would recommend for this trip. The trail climbs reminding me of Desolation trail on Mt. Carrigain and continues this steep pitch until you reach the first ledge area. First you make a tricky, steep climb along the front/bottom of the ledge and makes it's way around the left of it and soon topping it with a magnificent view of Washington and it's massive East side of Ridges and Ravines - though Washington's upper ravine areas and summit cone were covered in bright heavenly clouds for the entire day. We passed by two people sitting on the ledge and continued on. The trail goes through some minor up's & downs and comes to an attractive South facing Ledge with views south and also up towards Wildcat E Peak. Continuing on we dropped down into a couple PUDS and began to climb steeply again up E Peak. This section of trail passes several small Boulder Caves, one of which was open above with a large rock that broke and fell, wedging itself in between. Flora grew on top of this rock chunk creating a "hanging garden". At the top of this knoll you pass a trail to the left with a "water" sign and drop once again before making a final climb to E Peak, with one final rock scramble and steep rock ledge with wooden steps. We made our first lunch break here in the wonderful light breeze. After lunch we topped this ledge area and the trail immediately drops off the rock and along a ridge connecting to the D Peak, with a minor Col. in the middle where the very loud, very unattractive gondola area is. The sights and sounds of this area disgusted me. Certainly not welcoming like Washingtons summit, the building looked as though it should be in a Western Ghost Town (and the observation deck off the building was closed probably because it wasn't safe), and the loud noises and beaps of the gondola sounded like a construction site. I was very dissapointed in the way Wildcat Mountain Ski Area kept this area. We made our way through the small crowd of "city folk" and easily topped Wildcat D (another checked off the 4000 footer list)! Again Dissapointed to find the observation tower closed and in terrible looking shape. The time was 12:45 and we debated on whether to continue on to the other 3 peaks. We checked out the trail beyond to find that it steeply drops as described in trail descriptions. Both a little sore (and Scott not hiking for the past 3 weeks) and with a steep, slippery decent back the way we came with the minimal clouded view of Washington, we decided to head back. Quickly and easily we crossed back over D Peak, down to the Col. and across the gentle ridge to E Peak. We took another lunch break in the same spot on the way up. Then carefully made our way down the trail following two guys who did the same trip, stopping briefly at the ledges. We arrived back at the start point at 2:45. All-in-all this was a rugged steep trail with excellent views to Washington. Views from the peaks (atleast at this point in time) were minimal. The trail was much busier than I had expected (4 groups of 2, 3 solo hikers, 15 tourists at Col.) probably because it is the most direct route to the peaks. The view and noise of the highway for much of the day (noise possibly due to the wind?) and the noisey, unkept gondola area was almost enough to ruin the soiltude I was looking for on this section of trail. If looking for a short but difficult hike with views, the trail to E Peak is outstanding though and should be attempted atleast once. View pictures HERE!

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