September 7: mile 1878: stealth camp, Zeta Pass

We all woke up early to shuttle out to do the Wildcat mountains and the Carter Pass– a grueling two day end to the white mountain range.  The weather cleared and was gorgeous by the time we assembled below Wildcat D — the steepest ascent on the AT.  Dispite the great weather, the hiking was nothing short of vertical.  The kind where your fear of heights comes into play.  We hiked the stair step ascent for a couple of hours before, near the top, we had to ascend these enormous smooth slabs with little or no hand holds.  If you slip, there is nothing to arrest your slide down the slab– truly scary shit.   The entire climb was 2000 feet in 1.2 miles.  The vistas behind us were stunning if you are daring enough to look over your shoulder.  

As soon as we reached the top we had to turn to an equally scary descent–  1200 feet in a mile.  The descent, as always, is much more nerve wracking– putting all your weight on to your polls as you either leap down or slide your feet down a steep slope.   After the first Wildcat we hit another immediately at the bottom of the first.  Another 1000 footer just like first.  After that we climbed 2000 feet to the top of Carter Dome.  The views were spectacular but exhausting.  By the end of the day we had progressed only ten miles of the twenty-one that would loop us back to Gorham.  We couldn’t make our intended shelter by sundown.  Dove and Dancing Bear raced ahead and made the shelter.  Gimlie, Frodo, Captain No-beard, and myself stealth camped at the bottom of Carter Dome.  By far the hardest day of hiking on the trail so far.  Tomorrow’s eleven miles, if anything like these, will be tough to accomplish.  We will break camp early and try to make it.  Happy trails.

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