Cardigan, Rimrock and Orange

May 20, 2017.

Giving the Whites another week to melt off any remaining snow. There were patches of snow where I was last week and since that it is one of the lower areas I have to hike in one more week can't hurt. Andy wanted to go and do Cardigan and since I had not been there yet it seemed like the perfect time to hike it with he and Nancy.

An early trip up as we wanted to beat the crowds that Cardigan is known for. Driving up the back roads and I get my first up close look at Firescrew, a subpeak of Cardigan. Just before eight and we are heading up the trail/old road.


It's a mild walk in the early morning woods as we pass by several camping sites before reaching the junction where Manning Trail splits off to the right. We are heading up the Holt Trail. It is the shortest trail to the summit but also the steepest, more on that in a bit. Reaching a bridge that spans Bailey Brook and there is a mossy green ledgey cascade that the brook comes down.


A few minutes up the trail and we spy a cascade that is down off the trail. A steep trip down the embankment and at the floor of the brook is a nice cascade dropping down into a small pool.


We reach the Grand Junction where the Holt Trail leads off to the right. There is a warning sign that is self explanatory.


The trail begins gaining elevation from the junction but still pretty mild. We pass by a few giants in the forest. First an Ash tree that has not leafed yet and then a Yellow Birch.


The grade begins to increase but still manageable. Then we hit a cracked ledge that is steeper than it looks in the picture. I head up first and carefully placing my feet and grabbing on reach the top. The grip on the rock slab is so so and the crack helps the ascent as I lock my feet in a few strategic spots. Nancy gets stuck a few feet up not feeling comfortable with the grip and takes the bypass. Andy does the same rather than risk slipping and getting hurt.


A couple more minutes up the trail and we reach the steeps. I see a ledge off to my left and at first wonder if that is the trail. If it is it's going to be a tough climb out on the exposed portion. I see a blaze straight ahead and instead the trail heads up next to the ledge on boulders.


Holt Trail veers off to the right and out onto a open ledge. A look back down the to where we just came up and out of the woods.


Just above there are the first views of the day. And they are grand from this spot. Mostly eastern views and with all the hardwoods down below this would be a fantastic destination in the fall.

Ahead the ledges continue as this trail rivals Huntington Ravine. It may not be as openly exposed as Huntington but I think it is steeper and the slabs don't have the same grip.


The higher we get the better the views as I can now see the Tripyramids with West Sleeper and Sandwich Dome. Even the moon is making an appearance in the southwestern sky.


A walk up through some easier ledges and then we hit this spot. Nancy goes first heading right up the side of that protrusion. It's much bigger in real life and with the steepness and slickness of the ledge she crawls up beside and then under until she gets stuck unable to go further and too dangerous to go backwards. Andy heads up off to the left to go around it and I have Nancy stay still so I can get above her. Holding onto the edges I get around and on the other side of her. Her backpack is keeping her from going any further so she takes it off. In the process one of her poles falls out and slides behind her. Being a trooper she uses her other pole and after a couple of attempts she snags it and pulls it up. Packless and poleless she pulls herself out from underneath the overhang and disaster is averted.


We have just a couple hundred yards to go and one more steep section. Yes it is that steep!


At the point where we can see the firetower there is an actual trail sign pointing down the trail we just came up. I think they should remove this sign and if not definitely a warning not to descend this route. Anywho...we make it the top on a glorious day with the exception of a biting wind out on the exposed summit. It's a pretty neat spot as the whole summit is crisscrossed with all sorts of veins.


Picture time as I try to see the home mountains from up here and sure enough I spot them. North Pack and Pack Monadnock are just to the right of Mt Kearsarge. Then more to the right of those two is Monadnock itself.


It's kind of like taking a walk down memory lane up here as I can see quite a few peaks I have done. Smarts and Cube are easily recognizable as I can follow the path of the AT in NH. Continuing on and Moosilauke is the first major peak along the AT when the thru hikers enter NH.


Franconia Ridge and It's five peaks are visible but the trail only leads over three of them. Washington can be seen faintly in the distance which is the highlight for any thru hiker.


A short summit break as we have some snacks and try to figure out our descent. There are a couple of options and we let Nancy make the decision to see what she is up for. We decide to try for Orange Mt before heading back to the parking lot next to the AMC lodge. West Ridge Trail is our descent route down the vein scarred ledges as we make our way to the junction with Skyland Trail. It's about a twenty minute trip to the junction and then a nice walk through some hemlock woods.


Back out onto the open ledges when we arrive at Rimrock, a bump on the southern ridge of Cardigan. A look down into the valley to Canaan. Looking south is our next destination a short mile away, Mt Orange.


Dropping back down into the woods where the trail for the most part is pretty mild. Along the way we meet up with two separate huge groups coming up and glad we are going in the opposite direction. A short break on an open ledge with a view across to Cardigan and Rimrock on the left. If not for the emerging blackflies we would have stayed longer but they can be annoying so it was time to move along.


Several false bumps along the way and stubbornly I/we had to hit them all until we agreed the last one was definitely the high point of Orange Mt. At the junction we head down the Vistamont Trail which leads across a sloping ledge before ducking into the woods for good.


Vistamont Trail heads down rather steeply then mildly then a quick switchback down into a brook ravine. The trail up out of the ravine is a cruel joke as it is a steep ascent before levelling out. A short distance away is the junction with the Clark Trail which will wait for another day. The plan is to stay on the Vistamont Trail back to Grand Junction where we were earlier this morning. About ten minutes further down the trail and a pretty good blowdown section where the trees are scattered across and around the trail. Looks like this happened within the last few years and obviously has already been cleared where the trees fell across the trail.


One more junction then a short section of trail and we are back at Grand Junction. Less than thirty minutes later and we are back at the parking lot and there are quite a few cars lining the road beyond where we parked this morning. Considering how busy this mountain can be I was quite surprised at not running into more people today. Holt Trail is definitely a tough trail and ranks right up there especially for the steepness and ledgyness. I'll absolutely be back to this peak sometime in the near future to do some more exploring. According to the map there is a cellar hole and a cave on the other trails.

Final numbers: 6.7 miles, 5 hours and 55 minutes.

Redline Miles: 0, Total to Date: 1298.4