Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Owl's Head > 13 Falls Overnight > Mt. Garfield - Nov 19-20, 2022

  1. #1
    Senior Member Rhody Seth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Charlestown, RI
    Posts
    279

    Owl's Head > 13 Falls Overnight > Mt. Garfield - Nov 19-20, 2022

    No way around it, I screwed up big time last weekend setting up my hammock and I'm as lucky as it gets to have walked away unscathed.

    I hiked with three friends into the Pemigewasett Wilderness last weekend to climb Owl's Head which would complete my third round of the New Hampshire 4000 footers. There was some snow on the ground and plenty more once we got deeper into the backcountry. Temperature was in the mid 20s (F) at our 6 AM start but soon climbed into the mid 30s as we made our way towards Owl's Head. The approach involves a few different trails and a very defined "bushwhack" but what it doesn't involve is much elevation gain. It makes for a lovely start to the journey along the cold, icy rivers. Then we had to cross those rivers which made for some very treacherous rock hopping.

    This all changed with the final ascent up Owl's Head which is very steep. We dumped our packs and made our way to the wooded summit, which was noticeably colder and snowier than down low. We hit the summit, enjoyed a couple limited views through the trees and then made our way back down to reclaim our packs and continue the hike to the 13 Falls tentsite. This section of trail features a lot of boggy areas and while now covered in snow there were plenty of opportunities to step into the water/muck so we had to be wary. A couple of us weren't so lucky. Thankfully it wasn't too far to camp.

    We reached the campsite at 4 PM, a half hour before sunset. Here's where things took a turn for me. I was exhausted, hungry and hurried to find a place to hang. I glanced at a couple trees I thought would suffice and began to set up. I ran into issues setting up my tarp ridgeline which stressed me out further. Finally I got the tarp and hammock strung and sat in the hammock to test it out. Immediately I collapsed on the ground and a big branch landed on my head. No, not a branch. The dead tree trunk I had hung from. In my hurry to set up camp I failed to inspect the trees I was using. The dead tree had snapped and landed directly on me. I crawled out from under the tarp slightly dazed but more angry/frightened than anything. My buddy came over to help but I seemed to be alright. Amazingly I didn't get hurt at all and neither did the tarp. The log I had attempted to use was just heavy enough to not make me think twice but light enough not to split my head. Doesn't get any luckier than that.

    So now I was setting up in the dark but at least I finally got situated. If nothing else the stress seemed to have helped keep me warm as the temps dropped. After a quick meal I promptly went to bed where I quickly initiated my second blunder of the evening. I decided I was sick of my top quilt shifting around and sometimes flopping out of the hammock so I decided to try holding in place using the rings on the inside of the chameleon and the rings on my Burrow top quilt. Welp, I didn't take into account how shifting around would effect things and soon a ripped a good size hole in the quilt. Now down was floating all over the place. I patched it with a bandaid and hated myself for my errors. Thankfully sleep quickly found me (though I would still wake often to pee).

    It was 21F the next morning and we were on the trail a little before 8 AM. We were completing this traverse by going out and over Mt. Garfield. While steep, the trail wasn't as bad as we thought due to the recent snow making for grippy traction with our spikes. The temp would drop into the teens as we climbed and while I had many issues on this trip, staying warm was not one of them. But more difficulty lie in store for me. I had cracked a rib a few weeks back and knew it wasn't a great idea to go backpacking but I wasn't going to miss this trip. Early into day 2 I made a weird sidestep which aggravated my healing rib and it made for several hours of painful hiking. Pain killers helped as did the final miles of downhill. We made good time to the summit of Mt. Garfield. It was cold, windy and fogged in so we did not linger long. Then we made the five mile slog to the trailhead to wrap up this trip.

    All in all, a pretty embarrassing trip for me with those mistakes, including one which could have been really bad. If I had gotten hurt by that tree there would have been no easy way to extract me. As you can imagine some lessons learned and I'll be checking all trees carefully from now on! Looking beyond the mistakes, this was a fun trip with great guys. Winter has returned to the Whites and it was just beautiful out there.


  2. #2
    Senior Member Grey J's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Chattanooga TN
    Posts
    597
    We, including me, are often quick to judge the mistakes made by inexperienced hikers and campers, some of which will lead to tragedies. Your honest description of your errors shows that even those with lots of experience and well-honed skills can make mistakes and that sometimes you need to be lucky to avoid injury. I always enjoy your reports. Thanks for posting.
    "I am a pilgrim and a stranger"

  3. #3
    Senior Member Rhody Seth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Charlestown, RI
    Posts
    279
    Quote Originally Posted by Grey J View Post
    We, including me, are often quick to judge the mistakes made by inexperienced hikers and campers, some of which will lead to tragedies. Your honest description of your errors shows that even those with lots of experience and well-honed skills can make mistakes and that sometimes you need to be lucky to avoid injury. I always enjoy your reports. Thanks for posting.
    I definitely learned a lot about how exhaustion and stress can make a bad situation much worse. Thanks for watching!

  4. #4
    Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    Whitefield NH
    Posts
    44
    Thank you for your candid report. These are common hazards, which fatigue and unexpected difficulties can amplify into serious threats for anyone.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Mac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Dartmouth, Nova Scotia - Avatar: Lion Head trail
    Posts
    284

  6. #6
    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    New hampshire
    Posts
    2,999
    Nice write up, you are far from the first hiker that has had fatigue play a role in their misfortunes. Once, I was in the Great Gulf with a 4-man tent, it's all I had for the winter, and nobody could go on the trip. I broke trail all the way to Spaulding Lake and planned to ascend the headwall the next day. The winds were pretty strong and I was somewhat concerned with the large footprint of the tent. Exhaustion won out and after a quick meal, I crawled into the tent without staking it down. I was asleep in seconds, dreaming of pretty girls and far away mountains. Next thing I know, I wake up being tossed around in the dark. The wind got under the tent and picked it up, dumping me and my tent now upside down. My gear is everywhere, cannot find my lamp, sounds like a freight train running me over. I unzip the tent and collapse the poles, this stops me from being blown around. I wrap myself in the tent and huddle down for daylight. Next morning, I pack up my battered tent and call it quits. Always stake your tent down in the winter, period.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Rhody Seth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Charlestown, RI
    Posts
    279
    Yeesh sierra that certainly sounds dicey. Beyond getting super lucky on this trip I'm glad I had friends with me who rushed over when the tree fell. Not that I have any plans to do solo winter backpacking.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Posts
    3,452
    Am I the only one who clicked ahead in the YouTube video to see if the tree snapping on you was caught on film ?

    Glad it was nothing serious. Awesome trip report as always. Among the best I see online.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Rhody Seth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Charlestown, RI
    Posts
    279
    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    Am I the only one who clicked ahead in the YouTube video to see if the tree snapping on you was caught on film ?
    Haha, nope no footage of the incident. I debated whether to include it at all in the video. It really did cast a pall for me over the trip so it felt disingenuous not to bring it up. So I made myself ramble about it when I woke up to record it for posterity.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •