Roundtrip distance: 18 miles. Elevation gain: 2900 feet. View: none. Why does anyone hike to the summit of Owl’s Head, deep inside the Pemigewasset Wilderness of the White Mountain National Forest? Perhaps, as Sir Edmund Hillary once said, “Because it is there.” More likely, however, because it has resisted millenia of weathering to keep a little piece of itself above 4000′. Shave off 26′ and nobody would visit this peak. As it is, everyone hoping to “bag” the list of 4000-footers must climb this knob that is encircled by far grander peaks in the Franconia, Twin, and Bond ranges.
Seventeen years ago I set out to climb Owl’s Head in the summer. Daunted by an 18-mile hike, I made it an overnight, which turned out to be a wonderful adventure (with a mysterious ending, but that’s another story). As I walked the long 8-mile approach trail, which is largely flat by White Mountain standards, I imagined that it would be far better to do this mountain in the winter when one could ski.
So when my friend Lelia suggested that we attempt Owl’s Head this winter, I recalled those thoughts, considered the recent deep cold that would have frozen up nicely all those the brook-crossings, and the deep snow we’ve had in recent weeks (check out my photos from a ski tour on Moosilauke last week, where we found 4 to 6 feet of base). Sure, let’s do Owl’s Head. Continue reading Owl’s Head Mountain