|Owl's Head Cliff (Oliverian Notch)
Owl's Head Cliff
Owl's Head is a 600ft south facing Basalt cliff. It is situated in Oliverian Notch. Owl's Head has a dozen or so rock climbs of moderate to desperate friction slab climbing. It has a few ice climbing routes in the winter.
There is a access road to a boating ramp, just past the cliff. There is parking here off of 25 but don't park down at the boat ramp. The boat ramp is far from the cliff and it's all swamp towards the cliff. It has been okay in the past to park on the side of Rt.25 on break down lane in front of the cliff. We usually left a note on our car to let the police know why the car had been parked there all day. Access used to be difficult because the property below the cliff was on private property. Recently access has become more reasonable because 360 acres has been purchased by the Access Fund group (mainly because of the petitioned by Vermont Crag Association to wealthy sponsors). The trouble is the ledge is not easily accessible. The land is a pasture and is a hindrance to crossing it. Beavers have moved into the neighborhood after the pasture and before the hardwood forest. These beavers have really made a mess of what was once a simple stream crossing. So plan on getting wet and muddy. There is also a brook that must be crossed in the middle of the pasture that isn't shallow and usually has a fast current. Another access is at the boating ramp road, where it meets Rt.25. Walk until your at the end of the pasture and follow the pasture's edge to the beaver brook swamp section streams to cross. This is national forest property now. I used to enter this way 20 years before the beavers created the wet lands and swamp.
When you get to the woods follow logging roads towards the cliff but it is best not to approach the cliff from it's central eastern side. Find the wide sandy logging road and remain on it (be careful of reforestation pine trees knee high to a grass hopper on the road) until you are heading north towards the cliff. Where it ends there are small cairns to follow near to the logging road on the central slightly east side below the base of the cliff. It is an easy short hike to the base. On the west side are the easiest climbs (for the most part) to the central buttress that separates the west from the east side or the owls beak and also known as the nose. The east side of the beak is primarily harder routes but a few easier lines do exist on this side also on it's most eastern side. It should take less than a hour to be at the base of the cliff.
Owls head is definitely not for everyone to enjoy. Even the easiest routes have long run outs and route finding difficulties. Because many of the steepest climbs were bolted and the cliff is south facing, the bolts not made out of stainless steel tended to wear out quickly. Therefore much of the bolts placed in the 1980's and early 90's are rotted. There are several trad climbs without any bolts and a few rotting pitons on them.
Owl's Head has been climbed since the late 1930's up the center beak buttress area by Bert Jensen and his companions. The Dartmouth Outing Club (D.O.C.) utilized the cliff continuously for decades. It has had advent visitors since Jensen's possibly first ascents over much of the cliff's traditional climbs.
The main boiler plate slabs are 400 feet. Top of it used to have a bolted rappel line I established in 1986 (not stainless steel). Other areas of the cliff you must walk off and down to get back to your car unless there are trees to do multiple rappels down. The best way to walk off is by heading up and then east after the cliff's summit until you can steeply descend just past the cliff's east side. This will bring you back to the base but it is easier to avoid the base and head south through the woods before heading west to the logging roads that brought you in.
Some climbs after 400ft of steepest rock become closer to 4th classing because of the short low angle walls and slabs and tree ledges 200 feet to the summit. This is an area of caution because of loosened rocks and possibly boulders.
Owl's Head was the cliff utilized by Audubon to reestablish Peregrine Falcons to N.H. The project was successful and abandoned on Owl's Head around 1988, but you should check with the fish and game department to whether or not there are any Falcons nesting there each spring and summer.
Rock climbs will be described starting on the western side and finishing on the eastern side. To keep it simple west of the beak buttress will begin with W1 for west and east of the beak buttress will begin with E1 for the eastern side, unless there is little to no doubt the identities of the Route's names are known.
Prior to the newest ascents and some of them from the late 1980's. Even these dates I only know of vaguely who did what but not exactly where the details of bolt protection material are unfortunately unknown, especially into the early 1990's. I have had extensive activity at Owl's Head though. I was a regular there. By doing much I found many vintage pitons, that came out with my fingers, and also a few masonry industrial expansion bolts.
All of the climbs moderate to severe face/friction routes on this cliff are run out, but similar to Whitehorse slabs they are considered well protected. There are two newly bolted climbs on the boiler plates center east side but I don't know the rating and length to the climbs.
Owl's Head during the winter of 2008-09 had at least four distinctive rock slides. These slides fortunately had little to no damage to the bolted climbs, but climber beware, I've heard of at least one bolt being flattened high up on a climb right of Revelations. I just became aware of this climb from David Powers (an enthusiast of Owls Head climbing and it's history). The climb was done by Paul Duval. Paul Duval like myself has actively been doing climbs through the 1980's and was still actively climbing here recently. I forgot his name. I'm sure some of the climbs I've listed by name of the climb only and being listed as unknown first ascent people are his climbs.
Go west on Route 25 from Interstate 93 onto Route 25 (Tenny Mountain Highway exit) at Plymouth. This road becomes (Mt. Moosilauke Highway) to Oliverian Notch. This is approximately 35 miles from Plymouth, N.H.
Browse More Classics in Owl's Head Cliff (Oliverian Notch)
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Owl's Head Cliff (Oliverian Notch):
5.7+ Trad, 3 pitches, 300 feet, Grade III
5.10- Trad, 6 pitches, 400 feet, Grade III
5.10 PG13 Trad, 4 pitches, 500 feet, Grade III
5.10d R Trad, 3 pitches, 300 feet, Grade II
5.11+ R Trad, 4 pitches, 500 feet, Grade III
Featured Route For Owl's Head Cliff (Oliverian Notch)
5.11+ R NH
: Owl's Head Cliff (Oliverian...
This climb was a project. It took several months over 2 years to protect it. There were 5 bolts put in on top rope. Three for the rappel station and 2 on pitch three. The rest of the bolts and pins were put in on the lead. Because this cliff is Basalt, hand drilling bolt holes was slow and arduous.Start up first pitch of Armstrong arches to the base of the left facing corner (5-8) to belay. Climb the corner (5-8) until it ends and move left (5-9) to bolt. Do friction moves left and up (5-10d) to...[more] Browse More Classics in NH
|Photos of Owl's Head Cliff (Oliverian Notch) Slideshow
Central and eastern side
|Comments on Owl's Head Cliff (Oliverian Notch)
|By M Sprague|
From: New England
Mar 7, 2013
We really need some good topos for this cliff.
|By john strand|
From: southern colo
Mar 11, 2013
I'm not sure i can even figure out the routes i have done here, I do remember;
A 4-5 pitch 11C or so that was started by Paul Duval and Jim Van Buren ? in the 80's that was finished by Chris Dube ??
A pretty nice , one pitch 10C with bolts and next to it, a 5.11 arete thing with a tough 11+ ? direct start.
Big help i know, these last two were over on the right side.
From: North Kingstown, RI
5 days ago
There are topos of many of the routes in Stewart Green's "Rock Climbing New England." I revisited the cliff a year ago and there was a significant rock fall path that took out some good size trees so you want to be careful.