Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Monday, March 31, 2008

More On The Wildcats

By he way, speaking of the slide going up Wildcat A and the group who did it yesterday. Here’s what the group posted for trail conditions in and on-line hiking site concerning that route:

Conditions: Lower Portions had 8-10” powder atop firm crust. Deep snow under crust. Upper part had 2-3’ powder with deeper drifts.Equipment: Snowshoes, Poles, Rope
Comments: Extreme care needed crossing slide. Unable to break through crust at times making footing dangerous. Beyond slide trail was hard to follow in places due to deep drifts and low branches.

You read that right…“rope”.

Crossing the slide on the way up to Wildcat A can be hazardous to your health. Atticus and I have been hiking for three winters. In the winter before we started a fellow was hiking this route with his dog. When they came to the slide the dog had trouble on the ice and started to fall. In his attempt to help the dog the man also fell. Both dog and man tumbled down the perilous slide. The dog was reportedly unharmed. The same couldn’t be the same for the man. A rescue crew was needed to retrieve him and carry him out.

The first winter we did the Wildcats Atticus and I climbed the ski slope at Wildcat Ski area and then crossed over the bumpy Wildcat Ridge Trail to Wildcat A, then returned the way we came and exited by the ski slope, too.

The second winter we hiked the Wildcats in early January, before there was much snow or ice. I dropped my car in the ski area; we got a ride down the road, climbed the Imp Trail, and then traversed over Middle Carter, South Carter and Carter Dome before dumping down into Carter Notch. From there Atticus and I continued on up across the slide, which was not an issue, then carried on over the Wildcats until we got to the ski slope and then made our way down in the dark of night.

This winter, our third, we never made it. The goal was to replicate last year’s winter hike over the five 4,000-footers, twice. But due to the constant snow there was never a time when the Wildcats and the Carters were not broken out at the same time. It’s been so bad that until yesterday the trail from Carter Hut to Wildcat A hadn’t been broken out in at least six weeks, perhaps longer.

Remember, while our goal was to hike two rounds of the 48, it was also to hike the two rounds safely. In a winter with record snowfall this was not going to a safe winter to hike Wildcat A. It’s spring and it’s still not acceptable for little Atticus’ safety. We’ll just have to wait for the spring to stretch on and much of the several feet of snow and ice to melt away.

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