The answer came Friday when a group tried to go in there and despite taking the Black Pond bushwhack to avoid the worst 2 river crossings, they had to turn back just a few yards from the start of the actual climb to the summit due to the last crossing being completely un-crossable. I crossed my fingers that 2 more days of cold plus time for things to ease would result in manageable water levels. Early Saturday, the flow volume at the Lincoln Woods gage dropped to 460 cubic feet per second and a gage height of 5.2 feet, both numbers similar to when I last hiked this mountain in September. I figured this was worth a try, especially with the ice bridges having started to form during the day Saturday.
Greg and Rob, both of Hike-NH and new acquaintances to me, signed on to join me, as both needed this peak for their winter lists as well. We met at 6AM at the Lincoln Woods parking lot, just before the sky lightened up, and began our preparations. While there we said hello to Heather and her dog Kali, knowing we'd see them again on the trails (though not as soon as we expected!). Right around 6:30 we were off without headlamps, as the sky was rapidly lightening. Microspikes went on from the parking lot, snowshoes strapped to the packs, where they stayed all day in fact.
The first 2.6 miles on the Lincoln Woods Trail was its usual fast but boring warmup, spiced up only by the views along the river of Mount Hitchcock. There was very little snow cover, but just enough to bury those obnoxious railroad ties, yeay!
|A couple peaks of Mount Hitchcock - I assume North and West peaks|
|Bondcliff over Black Pond|
We headed up Lincoln Brook Trail, navigating the lower 2 brook crossings without too much trouble, though they weren't exactly trivial. Somewhere in between them we were passed by a solo hiker (I later found out it was Little Brown Mushroom), who we would later see on his way down as we climbed Owl's Head.
|Another shot of Lincoln Brook|
|Yet another Lincoln Brook shot|
|Greg begins crossing Liberty brook, the first of 2 lesser stream crossings|
|The upper crossing of Lincoln Brook. Not as bad as it looks, we were able to rock-hop the ice-covered rocks|
Once on the other side, we stopped at the start of the Brutus Bushwhack, which is the typical winter route up Owl's Head. Forged by a New Hampshire man and his legendary Newfoundland dog Brutus, this route navigates up the mountain a little South of the Owl's Head path and its steep slide, eventually merging into said path above the rock slide.
We took a fuel break before heading up, then started following the faint footprints of the guy in front of us. None of us had done this route before (Rob had done part of it a few times though), but we had GPS tracks and descriptions as a worst case. Unfortunately we almost immediately lost the footprints where they turned to follow a skidder road we never saw (it was very overgrown in this spot). Instead we ended up just 'whacking straight up to the upper part of the normal bushwhack route. Steep and not great in footing in spots, but it got the job done, and once we met the established route, we had no trouble following it the rest of the way to the Owl's Head Path and on to the ridge. Crossing the "old" summit, we followed a good path right to the carin marking the "new" summit, where it was time for a break again.
|Greg and Rob just past the Owl's Head summit on our way down - all smiles!|
As we continued down, we made sure to follow the true Brutus Bushwhack past our tracks up from earlier, and had a much easier trek down to the Lincoln Brook Trail. The bushwhack cuts down a birch-filled gulley, before picking up the skidder path we'd missed in the morning, then cutting down to the trail. This was actually a nice trek, and one I'd love to do again. The woods were just beautiful in here with the sun shining and some overnight snow clinging to the trees.
|Birch woods along the Brutus Bushwhack|
|Heading down through open woods|
|Still going down...|
Thanks and congrats to Greg and Rob on Owl's Head winter checkmarks. But why do I have this feeling I'll be back someday??? Winter 4000-Footer number 40! 5 hikes left to finish.
Peaks: Owl's Head Mountain (4025', NH4K)
Trails: Lincoln Woods Trail, Black Pond Trail, Black Pond Bushwhack, Lincoln Brook Trail, Brutus Bushwhack, Owl's Head Path
Mileage: ~16.5 miles
Elevation Gain: ~3100 feet
Time Taken: 8hr 40min
|Hitchcock from Lincoln Woods Trail|
|North Hitchcock I believe|