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Ascent of Owls Head on 2012-07-08

Climber: Gustav Sexauer

Others in Party:Artski
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, July 8, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Motorcycle
Peak:Owls Head
    Location:USA-Iowa
    Elevation:989 ft / 301 m

Ascent Trip Report

Artski and I came off of Lycurgus Road onto County X6A. Then we turned on Hartley Drive and parked at the gate at the entrance to a quarry to the south. A barbed wire fence was on the north side of the road. It was not posted. Mount Earl is part of a pastureland that is crisscrossed by animal trails. This was advantageous for bushwhacking as there was minimal brush. We weaved our way up, pushing aside low dead evergreen trees. A few times I used my arms to help pull me over some steep rocks, and I often used my hands to steady myself. There might be a trail of some sort that snakes up to the top, but we didn't find a complete one. We hit the ridge just west of a saddle that is too small to be on the topo. To the west we went up an outcropping for a rewarding view. Then we followed a lightly traveled trail along the ridgeline to the tree shrouded summit. You can get a few glimpses out of the trees though. When we thought we had found the top we saw an empty diet A&W can and a ripped plastic bag with paper in it. This was Andy Martin's map and the two items together were the register, although we did not find a writing utensil. We used a key on a business card and fixed up the register under a cairn on the east side of the highest tree trunk. This tree is deciduous and had one of its three main extensions broken off and still hanging on, but dead. From here we went two minutes to the east and then dropped down after we did not find a trail. It was definitely helpful to have a good hiking boot on the way down. We were gone from our motorcycles for 40 minutes. This was certainly a good hike, and we were impressed to have such a great time in Iowa.
Our Garmin gave a reading of 1000' on the top. Although there is obviously a margin for error, I wouldn't rule Earl out of being Iowa's most prominent peak just yet (see updates below).

2016 Update: Firstly, upon finding that Owl's Head is the local name for the peak I will from now on call it that.

With the help of LiDAR, Pilot Knob and Carroll County Highpoint overcome Owl's Head (Mount Earl) in terms of prominence, but Owl's Head still should be recognized for being a ranked peak (one of only 3 in Iowa), and for being the most jagged in that category. Here were my findings which were made possible by both DEM LiDAR data for the summit elevations and two foot contours for the cols.

Carroll County Highpoint – First Place
Summit: 1559.55’
Key Col: 1228’-1230’
Clean Prominence: 329.55’
Optimistic Prominence: 331.55’

Pilot Knob – Second Place
Summit: 1453.90’
Key Col: 1126’-1128’
Clean Prominence: 325.9’
Optimistic Prominence: 327.9’

Owl's Head (Mount Earl)– Third Place
Summit: 988.58’
Key Col: 674’-676’
Clean Prominence: 312.58’
Optimistic Prominence: 314.58’

June 2018 Update: I had incorrectly listed the prominence of Pilot Knob as ten feet more then the summit and col elevations would lead you to believe. I've corrected this, and unfortunately, Carroll County Highpoint comes out as the most prominent point in Iowa, not Pilot Knob.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
The impressive west face of Owl's Head (Mount Earl) (2012-07-08). Photo by Gustav Sexauer.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:244 ft / 74 m
    Total Elevation Loss:244 ft / 73 m
    Round-Trip Distance:0.5 mi / 0.8 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:244 ft / 74 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 219 ft / 67 m; Extra: 25 ft / 7m
    Loss on way in:25 ft / 7 m
    Distance:0.2 mi / 0.4 km
    Start Trailhead:770 ft / 234 m
    Time:25 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:219 ft / 66 m
    Distance:0.2 mi / 0.4 km
    End Trailhead:770 ft / 234 m
    Time:15 Minutes



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