Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Hancocks With a Side of Arrow: 6/24/19

A bluebird day for these old favorites, with a side jaunt along the lower part of the Arrow Slide. I always approach a Hancocks trek with a sense of wonder, thanks to their ruggedness, their wild aura, and their storied past in the early days of peakbagging.

Morning sun on the Osceolas from the Hancock Overlook.

The good walking on the first 1.5 miles of Hancock Notch Trail is owed to one of the early lines of J.E. Henry's East Branch & Lincoln Railroad, dating back to the 1890s.

View over the North Fork of Hancock Branch to a spur of Mt. Hitchcock, courtesy of Tropical Storm Irene.

A familiar junction.

Nice ledgy spot on the North Fork.

Open spruce forest on a relocated section of Cedar Brook Trail, cut in 2015.

A placid North Fork where the Cedar Brook Trail crosses.

Loop junction.

The Arrow Slide, which was often used as a route to ascend Hancock before the trail was opened in 1966. Back in 1988 I climbed North Hancock via the Arrow Slide with Vin Spiotti, now an AMC manager. I thought the upper part of the slide was very sketchy with gravel and loose rock sprinkled atop smooth, steep slabs of granite. A slip would be disastrous. I bushwhacked through dense scrub along the edge to bypass the trickiest area. I had foolishly brought a walking stick, which prevented me from using both hands for balance on the slabs. Vin saved the day by securing the stick under his fanny pack, then continuing up what he called 5.4 friction climbing. Today I just wanted to get out on the slide at some point for a look and some views.

I went a short way up the trail to North Hancock, then bushwhacked across to the rubbly lower part of the slide. It's in a steep-sided gully, so it was ncessary to continue up alongside it until it was feasible to get down on it.

For several hundred feet of elevation the slide is a scramble up rocks and boulders, some of which are loose.

The slabs of the upper slide in sight above.

Looking back.

Reaching the base of the lower slabs, you are confronted by the ledges from hell. The loose rubble on the left is the way around.

Even the dry slabs look polished and perhaps not very grippy. There is some very dangerous terrain on this slide.

Looking across.

South Hancock looms.

I had hoped to get to the top of the lower slabs, where there appeared to be a safe way to go back across, but, flying solo, I turned back at this steep, treacherous pitch of gravel and loose rock.

The upper slabs seen above.

I picked my way back down to the base of the lower slabs, then bushwhacked back up through dense woods on the other side, and popped out for a view of the Osceolas.

A slide-to-slide vista.

Looking across to where I had ascended on the other side.

The 0.15 mile whack back to the trail gave a taste of pre-trail Hancock climbing.

Got back to the steep, eroded trail at about 4000 ft.

A fir wave offers some trailside views just below the summit.

North Hancock summit signs.

North Hancock outlook ledges. A nice spot, though tight quarters with more than a handful of hikers.

Great look at the Sandwich Range high peaks and Osceolas beyond South Hancock and Mt. Huntington.

Vista down the broad and wild upper North Fork valley to the Osceolas.

Southeastern vista.

Leaving North Hancock, the trail corridor is tight, like an Adirondack herd path.

The trail winds through an area of massive blowdown, perhaps from the 2017 Halloween windstorm.

Bushwhacking nightmare.

Might be the champion balsam fir of the Hancock ridge.

Ferny col.

Bog bridges funded by donations made to the AMC Four Thousand Footer Club.

South Hancock summit.

Wide easterly view from the "enhanced" South Hancock viewpoint.

Mt. Carrigain and Signal Ridge.

A remote beaver pond down in the valley. In the 1990s a memorable snowshoe bushwhack took me to this pond and to a much larger one hidden on the floor of the cirque above.

This little gem of a pond is off-trail in the main Sawyer River valley.

Part of Sawyer Pond is seen at the base of Owl Cliff.

Summit resident.

A peek through the trees down at Juno Peak, the steep-faced southern spur of South Hancock.

A recent slide on the wild east ridge of Hancock.

It appeared that the jay on the right was a youngster, with a parent on the left.

Looking back at North Hancock.

Descending South Hancock is slow work on a steep and heavily eroded trail bed.

Evening light in the spruces on Cedar Brook Trail.