Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Cold & Windy Fall Hike to Summit of Mt Cardigan, New Hampshire

Was it cold! What a surprise. Three friends and I decided to Hike Mt Cardigan. Mount Cardigan is a prominent stripped-rock summit in the towns of Orange and Alexandria in western New Hampshire. While its peak is only 3,155 feet above sea level, it has extensive areas of bare granite ledges and alpine scrub, giving it the feel to hikers of a much higher mountain. Most of the summit area was exposed by devastating forest fires in 1855 and did not revegetate.  The fire tower on its summit quickly identifies Mt Cardigan throughout the area.

We pulled into the Orange, NH parking lot from Cardigan Mountain Road. T
he weather was in the low 30’s with high winds, and surprisingly we weren't the only ones willing to take on the elements ... the parking area already had a multitude of cars.

The first hour up the moderately difficult rock bound-West Ridge Trail was uneventful. However, once we reached bare granite ledges above treeline, things changed dramatically.

We faced below freezing temperatures, spitting snow, and extreme high and bone-chilling wind as we made our way over the baren ledges to the summit's firetower.  We stopped twice in alpine scrub to block the wind, catch our balance, as our faces briefly enjoyed the warmth and shelter. 

I removed my gloves each time I took a picture or video, and my right hand felt the frostbitten pain. The deafening noise in the videos you hear, once we entered the barren granite ledges, is the roaring of the summit’s disrespectful winds.

The trip to the summit from the West Ridge Trail took an hour and 15 minutes. Due to the extensive freezing cold and dangerous 50 – 60 mph hour winds, we stayed on the summit less than ten minutes.

Our original plan was to hike to the summit via the 1.5-mile West Ridge Trail, and then return to the parking lot by the South Ridge Trail. This plan changed immediately once we reached the tree line of the summit and faced the treacherous winds and freezing temperatures.

West Ridge Trail
The WRT is marked with orange strips. These orange markers are assurance we are on the right trail.

Cairns are vertical piles of rock.  Cairns are another means of staying on trail.  It is against New Hampshire law to remove or change a cairn.  I can tell you from personal experience, that they can be a life-saving direction in fog or low light conditions.

These are driving directions to the West Ridge Trail parking area
Take exit 17 from I-93 North to get on Route 4 West. Turn right onto Route 4 West / Hoit Road. Drive 1.2 miles and continue straight through the traffic circle to stay on Route 4 West. Drive 2.5 miles and turn slight left to stay on Route 4 West. Drive 15.2 miles and turn right to stay on Route 4 West. Drive 20.9 miles and turn sharply right onto Parker Street / Route 118. Drive 0.6 miles and turn right onto Cardigan Mountain Road. When you get the Burnt Hill Road, turn left to stay on Cardigan Mountain Road. (You will see a Cardigan Mountain State Forest sign here) Drive until you come to the parking lot.

If you have a GPS, you can put in Cardigan Mountain Road in Orange, NH and look for the parking area on the road. 


" Everyone must do something. I believe I will go outdoors with family and friends"

Steve's 5th book is now available. Outdoor Play: Fun 4 4 Seasons has trip preparations, routes, and narratives of bucket list places to go. Motivate friends and family to make the outdoors a key component of their daily life.

Steve’s books are available as hard copy and e-Books at Amazon's Kindle . 

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