9/10 Wildcat Range Zeta Pass (10.3)

October 16, 2013 at 1:16 pm

IMG_20130910_170150_744Well, last night I awoke frantically to clapping and yelling.  This is because Mark apparently woke up to snorting and sniffing, and immediately became the cause of my own consciousness.  I’m glad his bear reflexes are so strong, but in this instance it was a false alarm since the culprit seems to have been a curious nocturnal mammal in the raccoon family.  We were sleeping alone for one of the first times on the trip, however, and we were somewhat illegally camped in a remote and secluded stealth spot, so we were both pretty jumpy.  We survived, as did our foodbag, but we had a hard time falling back asleep after the instinctual reaction to something going bump in the night.

Waking up early did not pose much of a challenge after our long night, and we were cheered up by the prospect of breakfast.  The buffet was only a couple miles away.  We saw the most beautiful sign of all at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center: All you can eat buffet.  After gorging ourselves, we hung around to ask about the weather.  The day had been overcast when we woke up but was quickly turning ugly with a slight drizzle.  We were nervous after our experience on Washington and didn’t want to head back up the last big climbs of the White Mountains in bad weather.  Wildcat, our next ascent, was possibly our steepest consistent ascent so far, involving a good deal of hand over hand climbing.

IMG_20130910_172534_785We took a chance on the weather and went up wildcat and, as it turns out, we were lucky.  The climb was very steep and did involve a lot of rebar holds and some fairly technical slab climbing (although we did go up when it was wet so it probably seemed harder).  The view was similar to Webster Cliffs though, as it followed the hike up.  It was beautiful and reminded me of the rock climbing I had been missing this summer as we snaked up the open mountainside.  At the top, of course, the rain abated and we shortly reentered tree cover after the Wildcats.

Slowly, the weather grew clear and by the time we were in Carter Notch there were clear blue skies.  We stopped at the hut there out of curiosity and the hut crew was very kind to us.  They actually seemed pretty bored; not many people venture into the Carter region for overnights, but it’s well worth the trip!  The lake was beautiful and the views from it, with the Carter and Wildcat mountains rising like huge bookends out of it, are just amazing.

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We were very tempted to stay at the hut after the crew offered us fresh caught fish and steak (the fish was recently caught, not the steak), but we knew we needed to get moving before the promised thunderstorms decided to show up.  Sure enough, by the time we reached the top of Carter Dome, the clouds had moved back in and our view was blocked.  We didn’t mind as long as we could avoid getting soaked; so far our day had been pretty dry.  We camped alone at an amazing campsite right at Zeta Pass, excited that tomorrow we would finally reach town!