Arrow slide up to the Hanocks

Hikes, NH48, TripReport , , , , , ,

I was invited to join a group of friends on a hike up the Hancocks via the Arrow Slide. There was an option to bushwhack over to the old fire tower area of the Northwest Hancock, the descend down the Cedar slide. This would be a test to see if I can handle the slide terrain as open exposure and severe steeps are less enjoyable to me. I figured I’d jump on this with an energetic group and hope to be able to keep up.
We met up and trip up north went by quick. We arrived at the hairpin turn on the Kancamagus highway. The lot was filling and we grabbed a couple spots on the side of the road. We readied and were on trail just before 0900. The weather was perfectly cool, hovering near 50 and expected to remain the rest of the day.
The first ~3.5 miles into the Hancocks from the Kanc are very mild and move quickly. The trail runs along the North Fork of the Hancock Branch river. There are plenty of sites to camp along the way and may be a great option in the future.
We covered those miles quickly and easily for a great warmup. Nearing the fork of the Hancock Loop Trail, you can catch glimpse of the Arrow Slide. It looks quite steep and aggressive in spots, but I keep my anxiety in check and we push on. We fork left toward the North Peak and shortly after the trail dips to a (dry) riverbed and then back up. I believe if we followed this riverbed to the left, it would have brought us to the base of the slide. Instead we pushed up a little further and realized we should have gone left. A quick check of GPS assures us the slide is a short distance left off trail. We bushwhack the ~100 ft and are dumped onto the slide a short way from the bottom.
Once on it, the slide looks steep and mostly loose rock and gravel with portions of open slab.
We gather and began to ascend the rubble. We try to spread out to avoid being caught by tumbling loose rock from those above. The lower section is larger rock but most of it is loose. It goes fairly quickly with a short rests to take in the quickly extending views behind us. We navigate to the left around the first ledge as it is fairly wet and moss covered. The next section is a larger ledge. Most chose to stay left again. Joel found a narrow dry route and friction climbed up. Some of the sections to the left seemed to be the safer choice, but it was still plenty steep and loose. I don’t think either way was any better than the other, just different. There was one final friction climb near the top. I struggled a bit here while the others made it look easy. They sat perched at the top of the slide admiring our accomplishment. I needed to get off the slide and continued up into the scrub. The first 20-30 feet of scrub was brutally thick. A few scrapes, but once through that, it thinned ‘slightly’. I rested and took a bite to eat just out of view of the slide.
Not too long the others finished snacks and broke into the scrub. We aimed straight toward the summit briefly, then angled right to pick up the trail. Once on trail, brushed off most of the debris and cruised to the summit. It was VERY crowded at the lookout. I elected to snap a couple photos and find a place back on trail a bit from the lookout. I grabbed a Clif bar and emptied my shoes of trial debris and re-lace.
We made our way over to South Hancock, which is an easy ~1.4 mile traverse. There is not much to see along the way. We did stop to admire a zealous Gray Jay. He fed from the guys hands. We covered the remainder of terrain in short order and reached an even more crowded south summit. I don’t think I have ever seen so many folks in a such a small summit area. There is one lookout to grab a photo and step back. Chatted briefly with father who had taken his son for his first back country overnight. Both were very excited and pleased with the result.
The others made the decision to descend from South Hancock and save the other slide for another trip. Descending from the South Peak we catch a view of the Arrow slide. It looks quite impressive from a distance, more so while on it. It does look more steep from afar than it feels on it. The descent down the trail is somewhat annoying. The trail is steep and has some gravel covered rocks which make your feet dance a bit. Luckily it is narrow and trees help with balance.
Once back to the fork of the Hancock Loop, the trail flattens and we set to cruise control for the ~3.5 miles out to the road.
In retrospect the slide was a tough challenge mentally. It was actually fun and watching the others make it look easy helped much. This was certainly the toughest terrain I’ve covered thus far.

Entering the trail directly on the Kancamagus highway famous hairpin turn
Entering the trail directly on the Kancamagus highway famous hairpin turn
The start of the trail is 600 feet from the lot.
The start of the trail is 600 feet from the lot.
Joel double checked the door locks.
Joel double checked the door locks.
A sizeable portion of the 3.5 miles in is easy going.
A sizeable portion of the 3.5 miles in is easy going.
Hopping over a stream crossing.  There are a couple crossings.  Fewer crossings than my prior time here.  A nice trail reroute avoids some.
Hopping over a stream crossing. There are a couple crossings. Fewer crossings than my prior time here. A nice trail reroute avoids some.
The water still low from the drought conditions in the region
The water still low from the drought conditions in the region
All of the crossings were very easy today
All of the crossings were very easy today
Joel checking out potential camp sites at the fork of Cedar Brook Trail and the Hancock Loop Trail
Joel checking out potential camp sites at the fork of Cedar Brook Trail and the Hancock Loop Trail
A peek at the Arrow Slide on the hike in
A peek at the Arrow Slide on the hike in
Forking left toward the North Peak
Forking left toward the North Peak
Another glimpse of the slide through the trees
Another glimpse of the slide through the trees
The dry riverbed as the trail dips and then rises.  We should have gone left here to meet up with the slide at the very bottom
The dry riverbed as the trail dips and then rises. We should have gone left here to meet up with the slide at the very bottom
Yes, that way, but we didn't.  Pushed up trail another ~50 yards and bushwhacked to the slide.
Yes, that way, but we didn’t. Pushed up trail another ~50 yards and bushwhacked to the slide.
Adam straps down gear and prep for the fun
Adam straps down gear and prep for the fun
They seem ready and waiting to start
They seem ready and waiting to start
Tried to space out to give time to dodge tumbling rocks
Tried to space out to give time to dodge tumbling rocks
A short break on the lower section.  The larger boulder were manageable, but most still wiggled and jiggled underfoot
A short break on the lower section. The larger boulder were manageable, but most still wiggled and jiggled underfoot
Continuing up the narrower lower section
Continuing up the narrower lower section
Making our way around the wet moss covered ledge
Making our way around the wet moss covered ledge
Patrick and Luke carefully picking their route
Patrick and Luke carefully picking their route
Daniel perched for a water break.
Daniel perched for a water break.
Strong flower with a firm grasp on the weeping ledge
Strong flower with a firm grasp on the weeping ledge
Around the wet ledge, the loose rock required care
Around the wet ledge, the loose rock required care
Patrick making his way up the loose rock.  Joel finding dry stretches up the slab
Patrick making his way up the loose rock. Joel finding dry stretches up the slab
Adam and Daniel checking out how far they've progressed
Adam and Daniel checking out how far they’ve progressed
Looking up to what is next
Looking up to what is next
Adam and Daniel choosing different routes.
Adam and Daniel choosing different routes.
Patrick glancing back to the amazing views
Patrick glancing back to the amazing views
Joel looking on as Patrick carefully crawls up the slab
Joel looking on as Patrick carefully crawls up the slab
A bit of rest while admiring the views down the slide and over to the Osceolas
A bit of rest while admiring the views down the slide and over to the Osceolas
Views down the slide into the notch
Views down the slide into the notch
The Osceolas from the slide
The Osceolas from the slide
Luke, Adam, and Patrick take a brief break
Luke, Adam, and Patrick take a brief break
Another look down the slide with South Hancock rising to the left
Another look down the slide with South Hancock rising to the left
From my escape into the scrub at the top, looking down, the guys perched for lunch
From my escape into the scrub at the top, looking down, the guys perched for lunch
South Hancock to the left, the Osceolas to the right
South Hancock to the left, the Osceolas to the right
Made it to the top.  I can relax now.  Well, after getting through the thicket
Made it to the top. I can relax now. Well, after getting through the thicket
South Hancock through the trees.  The dense scrub in view at the bottom
South Hancock through the trees. The dense scrub in view at the bottom
Now on trail after a short bushwhack, en route to the north peak, Mt Hancock
Now on trail after a short bushwhack, en route to the north peak, Mt Hancock
Mt Hancock summit.  The lookout to the left
Mt Hancock summit. The lookout to the left
A snap of the layered ranges from the small crowded lookout.  The Osceolas dominate the view
A snap of the layered ranges from the small crowded lookout. The Osceolas dominate the view
Adam checking out the crowd and views
Adam checking out the crowd and views
I stepped back out of the crowd for a snack
I stepped back out of the crowd for a snack
Some hanging moss from a mostly fallen tree
Some hanging moss from a mostly fallen tree
A mushroom takes the role of birdbath
A mushroom takes the role of birdbath
An eager gray jay makes his presence known
An eager gray jay makes his presence known
The jay was very pleased to take the shared snacks
The jay was very pleased to take the shared snacks
The guys seem just as pleased to share
The guys seem just as pleased to share
The south peak summit.  There were a few others already here
The south peak summit. There were a few others already here
From the lookout just off the south peak summit.
From the lookout just off the south peak summit.
A pic of the crowd gathered at the summit
A pic of the crowd gathered at the summit
Begin the descent and catch a view to the Arrow Slide.
Begin the descent and catch a view to the Arrow Slide.
Already made it to the Hancock Loop Trail fork
Already made it to the Hancock Loop Trail fork
The going gets quick and easy
The going gets quick and easy
We pick up the Cedar Brook Trail on the way back to the road
We pick up the Cedar Brook Trail on the way back to the road
Weathered signage
Weathered signage
Grabbing with the Hancock Notch trail, this goes back to the lot
Grabbing with the Hancock Notch trail, this goes back to the lot
Pounded out the pace on the 'sidewalk'
Pounded out the pace on the ‘sidewalk’
The steps up the road
The steps up the road
Route up the slide.  I think GPS is a little off, maybe shifted left a small amount
Route up the slide. I think GPS is a little off, maybe shifted left a small amount