Mt Hancock Slide Loop Hike
Hiking/Walk DATE: 09/10/2017 - 09/10/2017
Trip/Event Location: Lincoln, NH
Trip Leader(s): shep5
Max # People: 8
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Strenuous
Join me for a loop hike around Hancock (4420') and South Hancock (4319') Mountains. This hike will have a twist over the classic loop in that we'll be climbing the Arrow Slide to ... Driving directions to the location and spot to meet at:
Take Exit 32 off of Route 93 for Lincoln. Continue east on Route 112 (Kancamagus Highway) for 10.7 miles. Parking for this trip is at the Hancock Roadside Overlook. This is just beyond the hairpin curve in the road. The parking lot will be on the southwest side of the road. Look for a gray Hyundai Elantra.
For GPS Users: Hancock Overlook on the Kancamagus Highway (44.040728,-71.523467).
As the one participant who joined the trip dropped out, I decided to do the hike on Sunday, September 10th, since the forecast was a little nicer. I also headed up early to start the hike and to explore more of the Hancocks.
I arrived at the trailhead parking lot at a little after 7AM. I got ready and headed out on the trail by 7:15. It was slightly chilly with clear blue skies to the south, but there were clouds slowly coming in from the north. The Hancock Notch Trail paralleled the North Fork Hancock Brook as it climbed at a very slight grade. At 7:45 before reaching the junction for the Cedar Brook Trail there were views along the brook bank. Surprisingly there was quite a bit of fall color already. It was only another 10 minutes to Cedar Brook Trail, which I turned onto. This trail climbed more modestly, but more or less meandered through some nice semi-open forests. I made it to the Hancock Loop Trail at 8:20 and after crossing a brook the trail began to climb at a slightly more aggressive grade up to the junction with the north and south legs of the loop, which I reached just before 9AM. I immediately turned onto the north leg and this segment dropped to a brook crossing. Along the way there were great views of the Arrow Slide above. The brook had some water running through it, but the water went underground right at the crossing. I left the trail at this point and followed the brook for about 100 feet through an illegal campsite and saw the bottom of the slide off to the right. I started up the slide and this was very narrow at first but began to open up more and more as I climbed. By a little after 9AM I got my first views of the Osceolas and of South Hancock. These views only got better the higher I rose. It took about 20 minutes to reach the bottom of the main wider slide. I stayed to the left to circumvent the first major ledge. Last time, I hiked this slide, I stayed to the left all the way up and crossed over at the cairn. This time, I choose to cross to the right at the top of this first ledge. This was a little tricky as the smooth granite was wet and moss-covered. The right side of the slide was a little easier to climb than the previous time. I reached the top of the slide by 9:55 and the clouds were starting to brush the tops of the Osceolas and South Hancock. I ducked into the woods to the east. It was initially somewhat thick, but thinned out as I got closer to the trail, which I reached in 10 minutes. From here it was a rather short climb up the trail to the summit (4420')...about 5 minutes. I went out to the view. It was nice, but was becoming increasingly overcast. Still the Hancocks and Osceolas were just out of the clouds. After a short break and some conversations with fellow hikers at the view, I continued on along the loop, which traversed a couple of sub peaks including Middle Hancock. It took a half-hour to hike over to South Hancock Mountain (4319'). It was 10:50. I headed down the short spur trail out to the view. The top of Mount Carrigain was in the clouds, but still a nice view. Here I had a snack, while chatting with a guy here. We got to talking and soon discovered that he had a particular passion for the Hancocks and in bushwhacking the various slides and valleys surrounding the mountain. After learning, what I had hiked and what my possible plan was (I had thought about backtracking and then bushwhacking to explore more of the area and ledges off of the NW peak), he asked if I wanted to join him for a bushwhack out to East Hancock. After a little thought, I figured "why not"! I'd not been and he wanted to check out a couple of views and a possible slide off of the east peak.
It was still early in the day and we headed back along the loop trail towards Middle Hancock. At the boardwalks, we headed into the woods and started our descent. The woods were fairly open and by noon we reached the top of a slide facing north. If it weren't for the clouds on this side of the Whites there would have been a great view of the Willey Range. We took a short break and headed back into the woods, where we almost immediately crossed an old overgrown skidder road. For the most part, the heaviest underbrush could be circumvented and it was not too difficult. It was about 12:30 when we arrived at the treed summit of East Hancock (4000+ feet). This was a broad summit and there was no sign or cannister. We continued to the northeast to get a view of the Captain and Mount Carrigain. We initially got a partial view through the trees, but following the ridge to the north, we eventually found a better ledge. It was likely that we could have found even better ledges further, but we started back towards the summit as he wanted to check out a potential slide off of the south side of East Hancock. We saw an opening in the trees at around 1:30PM and descended down to get a better look. This was very steep, but we found the "slide". From the top, there were great views back towards South Hancock and the cirque below. As it turned out, this was only a slide for short distance and then it dropped off of a sheer ledge...not a viable route! We headed back over East Hancock and somewhat followed out track back to Middle Hancock. This was alot thicker, but we reached the skidder road by 2:10 and the small northern slide a short time later. The views were a little better as the clouds were just starting to lift off the summits of the Willey Range. After a short break, we continued to climb back up towards the loop trail, which we reached again by 3:10.
We proceeded back to South Hancock. We took in the views again, since they had improved. It was also very cool to see the slide/ledge below East Hancock, where we had just been. At 3:30 we headed back by descending off the peak via the south leg. We reached the Cedar Brook Trail by 4:25 and the parking lot again by 5:20.
It was great to re-visit the Arrow Slide. The views were fantastic. It was particularly cool to meet someone else who loved the mountain and knew so much about all the sub peaks, slides and valleys surrounding it. The bushwhack out to East Hancock was a nice extension and the bushwhack was not as bad as I had read. There are certainly some areas further north along the East Hancock ridge, which might be worth re-visiting in the future!
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