For a number of years, a gun-wielding caretaker kept climbers away from this striking 500-foot granite monolith. Times change, and just recently climbers have once again begun to venture onto this wall without harassment. Owl’s Head is not in any guidebook at present, but those who have been there return with reports of clean, smooth rock and hard routes, mostly in the 5.10-5.11 range. The rock is relatively unfeatured compared to Cannon Cliff, affording exciting falls with little cratering potential. The climbing here has been compared to Glacier Point Apron in Yosemite, with some routes of equal quality. Almost all of the Owl’s Head routes have bolts, but also require the placement of additional gear.
Loose rock is still present on the cliff, due to its relatively unfrequented state. Since the cliff faces south southwest and soaks up the sun, Owl’s Head is a good early-season and late-season alternative to Cannon. (It can be quite hot in the summer, however, and very buggy).
Roughly in the center of the cliff, there is a kind of apron with six to eight one-pitch bolted routes 170 feet long, with a three-bolt rappel anchor at the top. This apron is probably the best place for an introduction to Owl’s Head climbing. The major left-trending, left-facing corner on the right side of the cliff is called Dartmouth Corner, a.k.a. Great Circle Route.
Few of the Owl’s Head routes go all the way to the top, and we have encountered a few suspect anchors. In some cases, lines of bolts lead nowhere (at present). Route finding can be tricky, and double ropes can be helpful, as some of the routes tend to wander.
How To Get There:
Drive northeast of Glencliff, New Hampshire, on Route 25 about one mile until directly in front of the huge cliff. Park on the side of the road, east of the obvious mobile home. (You will be able to see your car if it gets broken into!) Driving time: 40-50 minutes.
Walk 200 feet down to the stream and cross via a bridge or a fallen tree. Cross the huge field and locate an old logging road in the woods on the far side. Follow this road until it tops out and makes a well defined turn to the left. At this point (several deadfalls mark the spot) turn right off the road and head towards the cliff. A good trail should appear shortly. Follow this to the base of the cliff.
Nearby: A few miles northwest of Owl’s Head and north of the village of East Haverhill, there is a set of striking, highly visible, white-rock ledges spilling down the west flank of Sugarloaf Mountain. These clean, solid-looking quartzite cliffs are roughly fifty to eighty feet in height, rising out of a dense, rugged, debris-filled pine forest. Protection is sparse, and much of the rock is steep or overhanging. There are now several routes here, including a few bolted lines.