Saturday, March 8, 2014

Owls Head 3/8/14

Owls Head (Winter) 3/08/14:

 Owls Head is the longest single mountain hike.   The normal non-winter hike is ~18 miles. I did it in Aug-2012 in about 14 hrs.  There are 2 bushwhacks typically used in the winter to bring it down to ~16.5 miles.   There was no way I was going to attempt this in one shot so I planned it as a overnight bivouac.  A good part of the walk in on near level ground so I figured I'd pull my pulk (sled) again. I wanted to make it into the start of the 2d bushwhack (known as the Brutus Bushwhack) the first day with the pulk and set up camp just before it started getting steep. As it turned out the trail got rougher than I  expected and my sled was too wide for the narrow broken out trail so I set camp a few miles short of the start of the 2d whack.

 Arrived at Lincoln Woods Trail head at ~ 3pm Friday.

Start of the Black Pond trail off of the Lincoln Woods trail which leads to the 1st bushwhack (the Black Pond Bushwhack)
The two established bushwhacks I used for this hike can't really be thought of as normal bushwhacks because they have been broken out so well that they are like a snow blower path through the woods.

  I brought my pack and a "carry on"  bag and started with both on the pulk but once on  the Black Pond trail I found that my choice of sled was too wide for the 18" wide broken out trails with 6-12" high ledges on the side.  So after the first 2.9 miles on the very wide Lincoln Woods trail I had to carry my pack after all and struggle pulling the too wide pulk through the  narrow trails. At that point I realised I should only have brought what gear I could carry.

Black Pond. The  actual trail stops here but the black pond bushwhack starts here and cuts over to Lincoln Brook trail

 An igloo someone built on Black Pond
It was a relatively warm day. I started with just two layers of teckwick but was soon down to just one thin layer.

  At this point I was back on the all-season Lincoln Brook trail. Notice the snow on my pulk. Because of it's width it kept chopping away at the trail sides and I'd have to stop and scoop out the snow every 15 minutes or so.

At almost 7pm , (traveling by headlamp) the gullies across the trail were getting too rough and I decided to set up camp. I had hoped to get to the start of the 2d bushwhack at the base of the Mountain just before it got steep. I found a nice clear area in a gully just off the trail. It was actually over a frozen section Lincoln Brook.  There was 3-4 feet of  snow over the ice that I tramped down to make a level packed area to set my tiny tent up over a tarp I had brought (pictures later)

 Inside my tent heating up water for my cup of noodles. This was the first chance that I got to really use the "Jet Boil" that my wife got me for Christmas.  After  eating I hit the sack by 7:30. My 20 degree sleeping bag and added liner (suppose to lower the rating by 10 degrees) and several pair of thick socks  was sufficient for the temps. (I think a low of 17 was forecast but I think it stayed above 20 most of the night)

   After waking up at 2 am and giving up on trying to get back to sleep,  I went to heat some water for coffee and found that all my bottles of water had frozen. Jet Boil to the rescue! I scooped up some snow from outside the tent and quickly melted  enough to put my frozen bottles into the water to melt. I heated up enough water  for the 2d day, had some coffee and some energy bars (forgot to bring oatmeal for breakfast) and hit the trail by headlamp at ~4 am.

  Flash picture of my camp site.
  I reached the 2d Bushwhack at ~ 5:15 (still dark). This one goes almost straight up to the South Ridge of Owls head avoiding the infamous slide that starts ~ 1/2 a mile further up the trail. This bushwhack is known as the Brutus Bushwhack (BB) after the Black Newfoundland  that first developed it with his owner.
The late Brutus is kind of famous as one of he first Dogs to complete the winter 48 peaks in one season.  Actually dogs can no longer be recognised by the AMC for the winter 48 list. I think thats a good thing.

 A tough blow-down across the broken trail. Too low to crawl under and difficult to step over with snow shoes. And, I haven't mentioned it yet but if you step off the broken-out trail, its knee deep or higher.  So walking around isn't much of an option either.   I had changed to snow shoes for the ascent because even though here was no ice and the trail was hard packed, it was too steep and slippery for my micro spikes.

 after reaching the South ridge there are a few isolated peeks through the trees.  Owls head does not have much for views (except on the slide approach).

This is probably the best view from the ridge looking over to the Fanconia Ridge.   I think this is looking at Mt Lincoln with Lafayette to the right, (but it may be the Flume and Liberty).

 Not a great summit picture.  A speed hiker (John from CT.) took it for me.  He  overcame me just as I got up on the ridge and he had started that morning (an hour after I left my camp) from the Lincoln Woods trailhead.  He told me he was getting a hike in this morning so he could hike with his family in the afternoon. Owls Head for a morning warmup Hike ??!!

Back down to Lincoln Brook trail at the start of the bushwhack. I met two other groups of 2 hikers just starting up the BB .

   Back at my campsite. You can see the trail going off to the right.
  I had a quick bite, retrieved a bottle of heated water that I had stuffed in my sleeping bag (still warm), broke camp and started back down the trail by 1130

 Back at the Lincoln Woods trail

Once I was back on the super wide (and near level) Lincoln Woods trail I was able to load my pulk back up with both my pack and my bag, for a fast walk back to the trail head. I'm mising my last few photos, but I made it back to the trailhead at about 2:40 pm.  So I ended up hiking about 4 hrs the first day and ~ 10 hrs the second day for a total of ~ 14 hours which is about what it took me in August of 2012. However, I dont think i would have had the stamina to do the full hike in one day.

It was agreat hike, but i don't think i'll be doing Owls Head. its one of those peaks that I would only hike to check off a box on a list and i just did that.

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