Owl's Head is never that "dreaded hike" for me. I find it always exciting to be headed out there which ever season it may be. The main concern, especially going solo, is that such a remote hike has increased risks and they must be properly planned for, and timing is important. Heading out to Owl's Head in the winter is something I haven't done before, so I was really looking forward to this hike and whatever challenges it was going to present to me.
I started at 6AM sharp from Lincoln Woods, just as the sky started to lighten a little. The Lincoln Woods Trail was nicely packed down hard, which made for a really nice 2.6 mile warm-up to the Black Pond Trail. I found the Black Pond Trail nicely broken out, as well, allowing me to continue quickly to Black Pond. When I arrived, the sky was completely overcast, and the wind was blowing snow in circles out over the pond. I took a few pictures, and without much happening, and the sky now light, it was perfect timing for me enter the Black Pond bushwhack.
|Overcast and windy morning at Black Pond|
|Black Pond Bushwhack|
|Lincoln Brook Trail|
|Frozen Lincoln Brook|
After what seemed like a long time following partially drifted in boot prints, they came to an absolute dead-end, and there I was standing somewhere in the trees on the side of Owl's Head. It was probably around 3,000 feet of elevation, which meant that there was still a lot of work to do here to reach the summit. At times, the snow on the steep, steep terrain felt as if it would all fall out from beneath me and slide down the mountain. I was using trees left and right to pull myself up, and I was even chopping small twigs off here and there with my wrists to push my way through. It was some seriously tough stuff. It is moments like this when things seem to slow down, and I become zoned in. I started to think how crazy it was that I was by myself, 9 miles (or more) from help, off-trail, in the middle of the Pemi Wilderness, and on the side of a steep mountain! While that's awesome (to me), that could spell disaster if the hike wasn't going as planned. As I continued ascending, I attempted to take the path of least resistance. The further I ascended, the more I attempted to bushwhack to the left (north) in hopes of landing on the Owl's Head Path. When it started to open up more, I could sense I was getting closer to the area of the slide, and I grew more confident. Finally, after nearly falling through some spruce traps much taller than I, I came out onto a super bright Owl's Head path which appeared to be well-broken out! I freakin' knew I should have just ascended the slide, but oh well!
|The spot where I came out onto Owl's Head path|
|Owl's Head summit in winter|
|Owl's Head summit - 3rd round, first time in winter|
|Lafayette and Lincoln from the slide|
|Owl's Head slide in winter|
|The junction for the slide as I came through on the way down and out|
Back on the Lincoln Brook Trail, the consistent wind of the day filled all of my tracks about 3/4 of the way from the time I had been on the mountain. That was pretty amazing, but following the trail was easy. Same went for the Black Pond bushwhack in reverse, where the tracks were less filled in from the winds. I thoroughly enjoyed the hike out where I passed Black Pond again to find a crystal clear view of the Bonds, and also along the Lincoln Woods Trail, the sun shone brightly off the streams, providing me with inspiration to keep hauling to my car. It was a fantastic day, and my first winter ascent of Owl's Head was a great success, which left me feeling really good.
|Black Pond bushwhack towards Black Pond|
|Stream alongside Lincoln Woods Trail|
|Pemi Bridge at Lincoln Woods|
Trails: Lincoln Woods Trail, Black Pond Trail, Black Pond Bushwhack, Lincoln Brook Trail, bushwhack, Owl's Head Path
Distance: 16 miles (approx.)
Elevation Gain: 2,850 ft.
Actual Book Time: 9:45