Wednesday, August 8, 2012

#20 Owls Head (4025') August 8th 2012

8/08/12 (Wed).  This is an 18 mile in and out hike ,  10.75 hrs book time with very little elevation gain for the first half of the hike.  (Lincoln woods Trail Head-Lincoln Woods trail (2.9 mi, 282’) – Franconia Brook trail (1.7 mi, 282 ‘)  - Lincoln Brook trail (3.4, 827’) – Owls head path (3.4, 1443) - (Bushwack, ( ~26’) .  Drove up the night before and slept in the truck at Hancock campground ($22). I was woken early in the morning by the truck shaking.  When I got up I found my cooler tipped over and two P&J sandwiches wrapped in foil were gone. The foil was spread around the campsite in shreds.  It was probably a black bear.  After the hike I saw sandy paw prints and light scrathes on the side of the truck. I also dint notice the Bear Warning messages opn th picknick table unitl the nexct morning.  I got up at 0330 made a cup of coffee and drove to the Lincoln Woods trail head parking lot 10 minutes away. Started the hike at 0400, finished at 1600 (14 hours). Book time is 10.75 hrs.  I probably spent 1.5-2.0 hrs not hiking so time ratio of hiking time to book time is  ~1.16.  Pretty good for me, but this is only because so much of the trail is near level. I'm prettuy fast on level ground.  As planned, I hiked almost 3 miles in the dark on Lincoln Woods trail which is near level, wide, and strait, so that the sunlight started by the time I hit the real trails.   Book time for the first 2.9 miles is 1:39, and put me 40 minutes ahead of book time by the time I hit Franconia Brook trail.  Trail to the base of Owls Head is easy but long with  many river crossings ,all fairly easy, except for two on the Lincoln Brook trail.  I managed to cross all with dry boots  but the worst two took a bit of time to figure out, especially the first big one that I had to go down stream a few hundred feet to manage. On the way back I took my boots and shoes off and waded this one but it’s a toss up if rock hopping or wading is quicker.  Since this is area classified as wilderness territory there is very minimum trail management and no blazes.   Many times I was concerned that I was off trail but was always was on it up to the summit (muddy foot prints helped a lot).  At the foot of the mountain (start of Owls path) I took a break ate a sandwich and stashed my pack behind some rocks, and carried one quart of water, first aid kit and my rope up the trail. Stupidly I forgot to take the compass and spare batteries for the GPS, and bug spray. Note to self; I have to come up with some container with all emergewncy/essential stuff I should take when dropping my pack.  Also on the way up I thought about leaving a pack with food sdtashed for the bears. I wouldnt have been surprised to get back and find my pack in shreds. Most of the trail up owls head is just a very steep with an unstable rock slide which (other than hard on breathing) was not to bad going up. Going down was difficult because it was hard to judge which rocks were stable.  I took a very bad fall on a steep section where I stepped on a rather large rock that looked stable but started sliding as soon as my full weight was on it. I went down hard on my back and butt, but was able to grab a small pine sapling which somehow held and arrested my slide.   (See x-rated pics for bruises) On top I got confused finding the summit with  a cairn which I thought was just the end of Owls Head Path,  but which was actually the old summit marker, and the next cairn, a  small bushwhack away which I thought was the old summit marker but was actually the new summit marker. What screwed me up is the GPS points that had put in were in error due to clicking the off the AMC guide rather than using established  lat/lon which I had, (but not on the GPS) and the fact that there were signs of a bushwhack trail going on  beyond this cairn.  I wondered around in the woods (the top of Owls Head is still heavily wooded) for 30-45 minutes (maybe even an hour) trying to follow the bushwhack that went nowhere and trying to find a cairn at my erroneous lat/lon position before realizing my error and plugging the correct numbers into the gps which lead me right back to the second cairn I had passed.  I think part of my problem was I had read an old posting that was made shortly after the new summit was discovered (~2005) when there wasn’t a good heard path to the new summit yet.  Part of the reason I took so long searching for the summit was that I was determined not to have to come back here if I found later that I didn’t  bag the right summit.  I would have been much better off without the GPS and just relying on my mapping skills which are actually pretty good (thanks to Boy Scouts and the USMC).  Owls Head is one of those mountains that probably only sees peak baggers hiking it only to check it off their list. The hike back to the trail head was, other than my slide and fall on the slide, which I already mentioned, was pretty much uneventful.  I did see two beavers on some rocks upstream from me on one river crossing half way back but had already stowed my camera away because the batteries where nearley dead.  Although not a particularly hard mountain, this was a tough one mountain hike just because of the length of the hike.  My total hike time was 14 hours (0400-1800).  Subtracting out wasted time searching for the true summit and a few sandwich breaks (both at the foot of the mountain) my actual hiking time was about 12.5 hours for a 1.1 ratio over book.  Not bad for me but only because the AMC book time formulae for the level sections is not realistic.  It was a good hike to get out of the way, but I still have the Bonds and Isolation to contend with.
Pictures:  Cick to enlarge - without captions):

Hancock campground

Start of Lincoln Woods trail

Bridge on Lincoln Woods Trail

Start of the protected area of the Pemi Wilderness

A peak at Owls Head in the morning sun (or is this Liberty)
A closer peak at Owls Head(or Liberty?)

First tough river crossing.

Nice cascade view.

Another nice river/cascade view
 - loses something without the sounds - You have to be there!

Bad picture, but shows the breakout to Owls Head Path
from Lincoln Brook trail. Cairns on both sides.

View from Owls head side toward Franconia Ridge.

View down the slide -
This is near where I took a bad spill on the way down.
You'll note I took no pictures after that.

Finally, back at what I decided was the summit. 
The only reason I look exhasted, beat, and spent is that ...
I was exhausted, beat, and spent, and still had a  9 mile hike back.

The new summit.