August 9, 2014: The Hancocks via Arrow Slide

Trails: Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, Hancock Loop Trail, Arrow Slide, Bushwhack

Summits: North Hancock, South Hancock

Hikers: Lina MacDonald, Larry Donoghue, and me

With a forecast of dry conditions and no chance of precipitation, our plan was to hike The Hancocks via Arrow Slide. Climbing this slide is fun in good conditions, and I would only attempt it in good conditions; the upper half is mostly slabs that would be very dangerous when wet. Itís a short hike and the only hike we were planning for the day. With the introductions taken care of, we were on-trail at the crack of 8:30am.

Hancock Notch Trail has received a fair amount of maintenance work recently. A lot of mud and erosion control has been installed. One particular section that has always been messy appeared to receive a little extra attention. We enjoyed a non-stop cruise to the junction with Cedar Brook Trail. There we had a quick break before continuing.

Cedar Brook Trail has the usual mud and standing water. Itís easy to work around the edges and reach the Hancock Loop Trail junction with clean and dry boots. We made the turn and started up Hancock Loop Trail to the loop split and the real entertainment for the day.

A short distance past the loop split is a view to Arrow Slide. From there we were able to study the slide and discuss the approach we intended to use for the climb. Soon we were on our way down to the dry stream bed and on to the run out of Arrow Slide. We left the trail and wandered the short distance to the bottom of the slide. Once we were on the rocks Lina took the lead and never gave it up. It appeared she listened very carefully as we discussed the slide and our approach to climbing it. All the way up, Lina did exactly as planned and stayed on the perfect route.

The bottom third of the climb is a mixture of large and small rocks. The climbing is pretty good. With a little thought itís easy to work through all of the obstacles with no back-tracking required. As we approached the area where the slide opens up and the slabs start, our plan was to stay left. Once we started up on the left side of the slide we needed to keep extra room between each of us. There were many rocks that were loose and often came bouncing down from the person above. Extra space was needed for reaction time to avoid being hit. We had no problems at all on the climb but there were many rocks that each of us sent down the slide.

Roughly half-way up we ran out of rocky terrain to climb and had only slabs. Fortunately, the wet slabs were more toward the center and right side of the slide and we had a clear stretch of dry slabs for our climb. There was some growth on the slabs but it was dry and we were able to make our way up, with good surface friction for the climb. One by one we made our way up the slabs. The surface was good for a friction climb and we all made it to the top of these slabs without a problem.

At the top of this section of slabs is a large cairn built on top of a boulder. I believe this cairn is intended to mark the point for crossing from the left side of the slide to the right. The top of the slide has two major splits and our exit went out of the top of the right split. The surface changed back to rocks, boulders, and loose gravel. Once we crossed from the left to the right side of the slide, slightly above the cairn, we were all set to head for the exit.

Climbing the right split didnít take long and we were soon stopping for our final pictures and views. Then, Lina disappeared into the thick conifers at the top of the right split. We could talk to each other but couldnít make visual contact. I started in next and then Larry. It seemed as soon as we were in the thick growth we started to work our way out of it. The really thick stuff only lasts for ten to twenty yards; then the place opens up.

Itís tempting to bushwhack straight uphill but that approach leads into an overgrown area of blow downs that are too thick to go through. Bushwhack slightly uphill and to the right to quickly land on-trail without a lot of difficulty along the way. Itís a short bushwhack; just try to stay in the relatively open growth.

A few minutes after landing on the trail we landed on the summit. First we got some summit pictures and then we went to the viewpoint to enjoy the terrific views. While we were there a grey jay came by. After a few crackers there were six to twelve of them swarming the place. Thatís a lot of mouths to feed, and a lot of entertainment.

We played with the birds for a while and others arrived. The place got crowded and it was time to go. The walk from N. Hancock to the south peak is very pleasant. The place is dry, there are numerous bridges that have been installed at the mud pits, and I donít recall a single blowdown. It seemed like very soon after leaving North Hancock we were on South Hancock taking our summit pictures. With the pictures done and thinking about the ice cream that Lina had been talking about, we started our exit hike.

From S. Hancock to the trailhead went as expected. Itís all trail starting with a very steep descent to the loop split where we headed to Arrow Slide. From there it was the reverse of our hike in with no surprises at all. We arrived to the trailhead mid-afternoon, there were fewer vehicles in the lot than expected, we were all happy with the successful completion of climbing Arrow Slide, and we all wanted ice cream. It didnít take long to dump the hiking footwear and take off for Conway and an Ice Cream Stand that was a favorite of Larryís. It was definitely a good choice.

Thanks to Lina and Larry for such a terrific day climbing Arrow Slide. And, thanks Larry for the ice cream.

Iíve posted some pictures from the day.

BIGEarl's Pictures

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