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Thread: mt cardigan holt trail, is it really that tuff?

  1. #1
    Senior Member freighttrain48's Avatar
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    mt cardigan holt trail, is it really that tuff?

    I was reading on summit post that the holt trail on mt cardigan is one of the toughest in new england. I will be giving a shot tomorrow if it is not raining just wanted to hear some opinons of people that have done it and other steep trails i.e flume slide, north slide triprimads
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    Senior Member audrey's Avatar
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    It's quite short and if it isn't wet then your boots ought to hold just fine on the rock. If you have a fear of steep rock, you may have to summon up a little extra courage..

    Pat and I had no problems at all (and I'm not a fan of exposure) but we did have to talk a woman upwards as she froze in fear and was refusing to move for a few minutes.
    In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus.

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    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    Thumbs down

    Toughest in NE, that poster has not hiked alot in NE. ITs short and steep but not tuff.

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    Senior Member Barkingcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by audrey View Post
    It's quite short and if it isn't wet then your boots ought to hold just fine on the rock.
    Agreed; better to go up the Holt Trail when traction is good.

    Here's a bit of trivia for you about the trail:

    The original Holt Path followed roughly where the Holt Trail now runs from the AMC Cardigan Lodge and then along the route of what is now the Holt-Clark Cutoff (Cathedral Forest Trail), where it ended at the Clark Path. It did not go up Cardigan's eastern face to the summit, as it does now.

    It was named after a family that lived in the area in the late 1800s; apparently, the cellar hole of their farmhouse can still be seen not too far away from the AMC Cardigan Lodge.

    By 1925, the trail was a bit rough and out of use and the folks at Camp Mowglis re-cleared and re-blazed the trail -- and dedicated it to the founder of their camp -- Elizabeth Holt (no relation whatsoever to the original Holts; how is that for coincidence?), who had passed away earlier that year. The camp also named the series of waterfalls on Bailey Brook that parallels the trail near there "Elizabeth Falls."

    One more bit of trivia: in 1925 one could walk the Holt Trail to the falls and get a view of Cardigan all along the way -- the trees had yet to grow in (as they have now) from the farmstead there from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

    I don't know when the Holt Trail was re-routed to its current course to the Cardigan summit. It was certainly post-1925.

    (If someone else on this forum knows, post that information here.)

  5. #5
    Senior Member RoySwkr's Avatar
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    It is not among the toughest trails in New England unless you are going for the hardest 20% or so and include rail trails :-) But you can get hurt or killed in bad conditions or if you're unlucky

    I would say if the trail is dry and you have soles with adequate traction you can walk right up it, although I once remember holding hands with a timid person to get them up it

    On the other hand if it is slippery you could slide far enough to get hurt or killed, I once got within about .1 mi of the summit wearing 10 pt crampons and backed down and went around because I wasn't sure I could safely make it up the last pitch if the ice peeled

  6. #6
    Senior Member Michelle's Avatar
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    ha ha, this made me laugh!! Holt trail is one of the few trails I have been turned back on!!
    A friend and I were hiking Cardigan yrs back.......we laughed at the sign saying how tough the trail was and then apon reaching the "tough spot/smooth ledge" we found a thin layer of ice (pre-microspike) and just could not make it up without sliding back!! (served us right for laughing)

    Went back to Cardigan months later with other friends and decided not to take the chance and just went up the easy way!!

    So, I still haven't been up Holt trail!! Have a fun time!!
    Maybe I'll put it back on my "to do list"
    ~Chickety

  7. #7
    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    (I didn't write the Summitpost page, but you'll find some of my photos there. EastKing (a friend of mine) did not climb the Holt trail himself before writing that it was "considered one of the harder trails in New England" on the Mt Cardigan overview page. For the record, he's climbed plenty of trails in New England - check his profile page on SummitPost. On the page for the Holt Trail, DartmouthHiker just calls it "the steepest and most technically demanding of any route on the mountain".)

    It's not the *toughest* trail in terms of physical effort, but it's a slabby climb with several spots where you really don't want to slip, and some steep spots where you're faced with some borderline rock-climbing moves.

    Huntington Ravine trail is more exposed and probably steeper (also much longer), and several other trails are much rougher or wetter or longer or sustained or all three. Tripyramid north slide is much more exposed, but less steep in my memory. Flume slide is rougher and similarly steep and usually wetter, but offers plenty of handholds so it feels more secure to me - matter of taste in climbing I guess. I do think that in terms of crux steepness and potential for injury, the Holt trail is way up there - probably top five in New England trails. Holt is one of very few trails I'd really hesitate to try in slippery conditions - and I've done both Tri North Slide and Flume Slide in icy conditions without an axe. Holt is also one of the easier trails to lose track of in bad visibility or under snow or ice - and if you wander off-trail you can find yourself on some *really* steep and exposed slabs.
    Last edited by nartreb; 11-15-2011 at 09:33 AM.

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    Senior Member The Unstrung Harp's Avatar
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    Anyone got pics of this trail? Ah am becoming intrigued!
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  9. #9
    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    Not really a trail that lends itself to picture-taking, but here are two of mine (click to enlarge):




  10. #10
    Senior Member Nif's Avatar
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    I'll see if I have any pictures at home from a couple of years back. Basically if I'm remembering correctly there is one section which if wet or icy without proper footwear could be quite worry some. You'd most likely bounce a couple times before coming to a beat up rest. That particular part is very short though just a couple of moves through it before you're secure. The rest is just on the steeper side. That said, I've never attempted it in winter or a 'tweener season where it could be icier and therefore tricker in other areas.

    This is coming late. Hope you did Ok if you tried it today. The photo's Nartreb has above are from the section I was thinking of. The first one seems to make it look a little steeper than I remember it. He has these posted on Summit Post too, which has information too.
    Last edited by Nif; 11-15-2011 at 07:20 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member freighttrain48's Avatar
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    My friend and I made our attempt at the Holt trail today. When I woke up this morning things were wet in derry but when I checked the weather the sun was supposed to come out by noon so I thought all would be good. Because of other obligations I didint get to the trail head until 12:40. I quickly got started and was at grand jct a little after 1pm. The trail from grand jct to were it started to get steep was quite wet and muddy I was hoping that once I got to the open ledges that they were dry but it wasnt to sunny there today and that was not so. We made up the first two or three slabs to a elevation of about 2600 ft. I was not happy with the level of grip my shoes had on the rock and my friend agreed that turning around was probally best and give it a shot on a sunny day when the rock is dryer. I have not done the north slide or flume slide I was hoping this would be a good place to start with more challenging trails. As winter grows closer I think I will put the Holt on the backburner for a bit but I will be back to finish it off on a better day.
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    Senior Member Silverfox's Avatar
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    I remember Holt as short and steep..with a couple of collected ledges with little choice of route and a potentially tricky down spot . Of course I did this route years ago with stiff leather boots on a pretty dry day..Held my breath all the way up..steep enough for me..With the inovates these days on dry rock i suspect this would be a decent but doable scramble
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  13. #13
    Senior Member freighttrain48's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silverfox View Post
    .With the inovates these days on dry rock i suspect this would be a decent but doable scramble
    If you are reffering to Inov8 shoes I was wearing those which grab rock very well but it just wasnt dry enough for me
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  14. #14
    Senior Member Bob Kittredge's Avatar
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    1 - I first tried the upper Holt Trail several years ago on a lovely, dry October day. When I reached the steep friction slab in question, I started up it following the blazes on the rock. I got to a point where I started to doubt that my boots (my old Merrills) would hold. The prospect of sliding down the slab leaving quantities of skin behind left me frozen to the spot for five minutes or so until I was able to inch my way to the left several feet to where there was something to grab. I've had less problem with North Slide, Flume Slide and Huntington Ravine, so, yeah, it's up there.

    2. The Boston AMC's winter hiking program includes a weekend at Cardigan Lodge. One year a group tried the upper Holt and a participant slipped, slid and broke his leg.

    3. Back in February of this year I attempted it with a small group. There were 2 or 3 feet of virtually unbroken snow. On the steeps, the unaggresive crampons on my snowshoes just didn't cut it, and I continually backslid. Finally changed to real crampons and finished the climb with a bit of postholing.

  15. #15
    Senior Member dug's Avatar
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    To give some perspective, in my hometown, the entire 8th grade does a backpacking trip to Mt. Cardigan. I believe it's down to a two-night trip. All the individual classes camp all over the place, and summit via different routes.

    Every year one class gets the Holt Trail. It is summited by 30+ inexperienced 8th graders, and I don't believe there has ever been an issue. It can be steep, I guess a miniature version of the North Twin Trail is how I could best describe it.

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