Ascent of Owls Head on 2013-07-04

Climber: Matthew Nelson

Date:Thursday, July 4, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Owls Head
    Location:USA-New Hampshire
    Elevation:4025 ft / 1226 m

Ascent Trip Report

We started hiking around 8:30AM. This time we went the right way, taking the stairs down right at the beginning

It was a pretty quick trip along the Pemi river to the black pond spur, pretty uneventful.

Black Pond was beautiful, with a light fog over it. There was a couple there fishing. We stopped briefly to get a drink before moving right along to the bushwhack.

I took the advice of some forum-goers and followed a 340 line on the compass, and it was a pretty good line right through to the Lincoln Brook Trail. The whole way through the bushwhack I kept seeing someone else's footprints rejoining with our path, so clearly someone had taken a very similar path through the forest. The trees were not very dense, though it was very wet and soggy pretty much the whole way. We were relived to come to the trail eventually, as it wasn't the most enjoyable bushwhack, not much interesting terrain, and no views whatsoever.

Once on the Lincoln Brook trail, we made quick time up to just before the trail turns north. Here I set off on my own towards Owl's Head slide, and found that the lincoln brook trail gets much rougher as you go along. There were alot of little streams crossing the LBT, and some of them were nice little views.

It was extremely wet and muddy, and the crossing seemed a bit high. I eventually came to the point where the trail crosses the main lincoln brook, and because the water was running high, it nearly came over the top of the rocks that make something of a bridge across the brook.

I stripped a small fallen tree and used it as a balance stick to cross and had no problems.

I continued up the trail which continued to deteriorate, and I think I was so focused on my feet, that I completely missed the cairn marking the beginning of the slide. The cairn was described online various places as being large, but it was quite small, maybe 1.5-2 feet. Either way, I missed it and up a ways further, the trail seemed to trail up the mountain, then kind of merged with a rocky drainage.

I began climbing the drainage thinking it may be the beginning of the slide, but soon realized it was not. Again, however, I saw some other footprints, so clearly someone else made the same mistake I did. The drainage had a healthy stream of water flowing down it, and I took the opportunity to use my Sawyer squeeze filter for the first time. 2 big thumbs up for the sawyer filter; super easy to use, very quick, and it didn't really change the taste of the water at all, and it's super light and small. Anyway, I continued up the drainage, and it eventually transitioned into an orangish rock that I havn't really seen before in the Whites. It was a very beautiful little drainage and I followed it as far as I could before it got too steep for me to follow.

I branched out to the side of the drainage and continued up through the forest.

This entire section of the mountain was very steep, and the forest got more and more dense as I went up. It turned into a proper bushwhack, and got old pretty quickly. I didn't get any views the entire way up, just steep and soggy climbing.

Finally I began to see daylight low through the trees and I knew I was coming to the ridge. I joined the ridge trail just north of where the slide trail turns north. I made my way north on the ridge remembering that the accepted summit is to the north of the old summit marker. I didn't see an old summit marker at all, but eventually came to a cairn right where the trail ended.

I took this to be the proper 4025 summit. I stopped to eat a snack before headed right back along the ridge. There are alot of old intertwining trails on the ridge. Some are marked off by branches, but some just meander around a bit before rejoining the main trail. I followed the trail south, and it eventually turned west and began to descend. I was able to follow the trail easily down to the slide, and here in the slide I got my first and only views of the day. The back-side of the Lafayette ridge cuts a nice profile, but doesn't have much variation other than the Lincoln slide to the north of the Owl's Head slide. It is a nice reddish color, as is the OH slide.

I haven't seen much red stone in the whites, but this valley is certainly full of it.

I kept a pretty good clip heading down the crumbly OH slide, and about half way down I ran into a party of 4 heading up with large dog. A brief howdy-do and I continued running down the slide. I quickly came to the bottom, looked at the cairn and marveled at how I could miss it, and continued on my way back down the LB trail.

The "Large Cairn" marking the beginning of the OH slide

This whole hike to this point seemed to have gone quite quickly, though I summited about 1PM, and left about 20 minutes later. I quickly made my way back down the LB trail and met up with Andrea and her dogs. She had tried to go down the LB trail towards Lincoln Woods, but couldn't find the way. We back tracked to where she got off-trail, and realized that that was the first major river crossing. Perhaps the water was high, but the direct path across the river from trail to trail was a terrible place to cross. We ended up going up-stream a bit and finding a decent place to cross, however we realized it was going to be a bit too much for the dogs. I made a few practice crossings, then pulled the dogs across by their collars one by one. They weren't to happy about that, but they made it across just fine and we continued down the trail.

We came to the second crossing (across Franconia Brook), and quickly realized this one was quite a bit trickier than the first. We again ended up just upstream from the direct trail crossing as the water was moving very fast. I had to pull a couple fallen trees out of the forest and bridge them across 2 very fast and rather deep rapids in order to get to a nice bridge of rocks the rest of the way across. It took quite a while to decide where to cross, and to figure out a way to bridge the 2 rapids we needed to cross. I quickly realized this was going to be much harder with the dogs. After another couple practice crossings, it was time to take the dogs across. Andrea came up with the brilliant idea of putting her backpack on the dogs since we didn't have a harness, and dragging them across by their collars would not have been ok. We tried first with Quinn as he was smaller and much more adept at jumping across rocks. I helped him across the rapids, and he was so anxious to get to the other side that he practically broke free and jumped ahead of me. Beyond the 2 rapids, he jumped on his own from rock to rock very well and Left him on the opposite bank to go back and get Romy

Romy didn't do so well with the crossing. Where Quinn was anxious to jump ahead on his own, Romy was so terrified of the rapids that he completely froze up. The trees I bridged with proved invaluable as I basically set him on the tree while I re-positioned myself to toss him the rest of the way. Since he was so terrified, he was basically dead weight and moving him across the rapids was quite difficult. Finally we made it across and while both dogs were properly terrified and just wanting comfort. Before he crossed, Romy knocked Andrea's boots into the river, so they were soaked inside and out, and I had a good amount of both water and sweat in mine, so the ~5 miles out were done with soggy, sloshing boots. Given that they had been sweaty all day, and we spent alot of time in the water, our feet were properly pruned by this time, and that made the hike out rather painful. We met a couple groups heading into the Pemi to camp, but made our way as quick as possible back to the car. While very painful, this hike out was pretty uneventful. We got back to the car right as it started to rain heavily (a welcome reversal of luck from last weekend). We changed quickly and head into Lincoln and to the common man for dinner.

Lincoln was packed with cars and pedestrian as the whole town was out on main street getting ready to watch the town fireworks show. People were setting off their own mortars and other fireworks while waiting, and it was so great to be in a place where fireworks aren't illegal. With everyone out on Main street, it really felt like a nice little community. Anyway, the road home to Boston was pretty uneventful. We saw a few more fireworks going off in the towns along I-93. This was #47/48 on my 4ker list, leaving just Jackson to be had the next weekend at the end of a presi traverse.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2865 ft / 873 m
    Elevation Loss:2865 ft / 873 m
    Distance:17 mi / 27.3 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Stream Ford, Scramble
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:2865 ft / 873 m
    Distance:8 mi / 12.9 km
    Route:Lincoln Brook/Bsuchwhack
    Trailhead:Lincoln Woods  1160 ft / 353 m
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:2865 ft / 873 m
    Distance:9 mi / 14.5 km
    Route:Owls Head Slide/Lincoln Brook
    Trailhead:Lincoln Woods  1160 ft / 353 m

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