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Thread: Freedom of the New England Hills

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    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    Freedom of the New England Hills

    Here's a topic I've been thinking about for some time: at what point can you claim to have "The Freedom of the Hills" in New England? By that I mean at what point does one have the experience and technical expertise to tackle almost any objective in New England? What are the classic routes that one must complete in good style to claim that Freedom?

    Obviously this is ridiculously subjective, but for me this thought exercise has always helped to focus my efforts on my own shortcomings as an outdoorsman, and to foster the greatest growth potential.

    There are no "rules" to this exercise - in fact, it should be a rather personal reflection. The only suggestion I'll make is to refrain from, "I have done X, Y, and Z, and therefore I'm so much more hardcore than you." Let's refrain from spraying and see where this goes. I'm sure there are objectives I haven't considered in New England, so maybe this will spark some new trip ideas. Here is my list, in no particular order:

    1. Winter presi-traverse as a backpack (i.e. no waiting for a single perfect weather day and running across - which is also a great accomplishment, but to me does not reflect the degree of challenge inherent with the equivalent multi-day backpack).
    2. Summiting Washington via any of the ice routes in Huntington Ravine, having lead at least one pitch.
    3. Whitney G or Moby Grape on Cannon Cliff, having lead at least one pitch.
    4. Baxter Peak and the Knife's Edge in Winter.
    5. Any loop that requires 5 days or more in Winter, such as a rich Pemi Loop. By this I mean one must show they have a winter system capable of keeping them comfortable for at least 5 days. It's not about mileage necessarily, but about managing moisture and food.

    I feel that anyone who has completed this short list can call themselves a Mountaineer, at least by New England standards. Even though it's a short list, each of these requires a substantial amount of preparation, likely over a period of years. I suppose this is a bucket list of sorts. Anyone else have other thoughts or additions?
    Sure. Why not.

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    Mt. Monadnock?

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    Senior Member iagreewithjamie's Avatar
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    Good list.
    Before I read your suggested list, the first three things that popped into my mind were: 1) Huntington in winter and summer, 2) Moby Grape, and 3) Winter Presi traverse. So I agree with your suggestions

    You do leave out bushwhacking. Some type of "straight-line" multi-day hike... like from Lincoln to Guyot going down Lincoln Slide, over OH, up W Bond.
    Maybe Devil's Path in the Catskills would suffice as being "hardcore" enough to make the Freedom list.
    I find that there are people on here who can do distance, ropes, class 5 climbs, etc. but will never step foot off of a trail into the unblazed woods.

    Trap Dike should be in there as well, even though it isn't technically New England.
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    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    A bushwhack is an excellent suggestion, definitely an oversight on my first list. I even quite like your actual route suggestion. Consider it added!

    Does Trap Dike test any skill that Huntington does not? I'm not terribly familiar with the 'Daks.
    Last edited by hikerbrian; 10-22-2013 at 10:48 AM.
    Sure. Why not.

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    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    6) Must obtain a physician's certification that testosterone toxicity has not reached a level known to obliterate all judgment and common sense.

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    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Rooney View Post
    6) Must obtain a physician's certification that testosterone toxicity has not reached a level known to obliterate all judgment and common sense.
    Wouldn't number 5 take care of this? And on the subject of number 5, it seems like the number of days is fairly arbitrary, and you could collapse #1 and #5 into a single goal. If you're going to spend 5 days (and please note I am not a backpacker or camper), the Pemi Loop has many more options for shelter without significant elevation loss, than the Presie Traverse.

    Tim
    p.s. The winter PT is on my bucket list... single day, nice weather, run-across variety
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    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    Interesting. I consider myself to be 'advanced', but not an expert. The things I think that separate myself from the experts are:

    1.) Experience navigating above treeline in zero visibility (summer or winter). This requires one to know how to use a map/compass/GPS when it counts.
    2.) Experience with mutli-day winter backpack trips. This requires one to know how to manage heat and moisture, as well as use a much wider set of tools.
    3.) Experience with bushwhacking. This requires one to know how to navigate and read the woods - slightly different than being above treeline.
    4.) Extensive knowledge of flora and fauna. What you can eat, what you can't. Alternative uses. Etc.

    I would say that a winter presi traverse using non-standard routes would qualify. Maybe heading up through the via Dry River wilderness with a bushwhack, then up through Oakes Gulf, over the big 4, then down Buttress and out through the Great Gulf?

    I don't think that ice and rock climbing are on the list as those are distinct sports. Are there many places in NH that are only accessible by climbing?
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    Senior Member Puma concolor's Avatar
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    Freedom of the Hills is only attained when you go wherever you aspire to go with no regard for what anyone else thinks of it. Freedom from Ego is attained only when you speak of it to no one. Current list of completers stands at 0.

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    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Puma concolor View Post
    Freedom of the Hills is only attained when you go wherever you aspire to go with no regard for what anyone else thinks of it. Freedom from Ego is attained only when you speak of it to no one. Current list of completers stands at 0.
    Now we're getting somewhere.

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    Is it The Freedom of the New England Hills list or is it The Complete New England Walker list or both?

    rock climbing, ice climbing, and winter backpacking? what about bushcraft? LNT?

    I think a list of skills is a better way to approach this. And then which skills are required for which trips.

    For example, a multi day winter Presi traverse has been a goal of mine for a number of years. I think I need to learn to self arrest (and buy a an axe and crampons but I don't think I need to learn Glacier Travel and Crevasse Rescue to do it.

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    Freedom of the hills qualification should include the ability to do any outdoor activity but the wisdom to know that some days its best to stay home.

    A local climbing guide that used to offer winter multiday guided presidential traverses, would occasionally call them off when the conditions were outside of certain limits. One year I think he had to postpone three in a row.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 10-23-2013 at 08:37 AM.

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    Senior Member Chugach001's Avatar
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    I support the addition of bushwhacking.

    Also suggest at least one forced winter bivy. I felt great freedom after realizing there is a big divide between misery and death and I only needed to fear that latter.

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    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Puma concolor View Post
    Freedom of the Hills is only attained when you go wherever you aspire to go with no regard for what anyone else thinks of it. Freedom from Ego is attained only when you speak of it to no one. Current list of completers stands at 0.
    If the rule is you cannot speak about it to anyone, then I would argue the list of completers is unknown.
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    Senior Member Chip's Avatar
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    Good subject.

    For me it would be having the gear, experience and physical fitness to walk off into the mountains at any time, in any weather condition for almost any duration of time.
    Years ago I told my wife if anything weird happens I'm hitting up that gear display at the I91 rest-stop in Brattleboro and heading into the Pemi .
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    Senior Member hikerbrian's Avatar
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    Some thoughtful replies here, good stuff. Tim- sure, a 5-day winter Presi-traverse would certainly prove that one was capable of staying out for an extended period in poor conditions, which is what I was getting at, I think. Personally, I think I'd feel like I was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole though. It's really a 3-4 day route, and the chances of getting 5 days of travelable weather seems pretty slim to me. Well, even getting a 3-day window is fairly low POS. In any case, 5 days in the Presis would provide a lot of growth potential, which is what this list is about (for me).

    Tom_Murphy- great points/questions. I'm calling it the Freedom of the New England Hills, after the classic mountaineering tome. The idea is still only half-baked in my head, but Freedom of the Hills has chapters on each of the classic mountaineering skills - rock and ice climbing, steep snow, scrambling, cold weather camping, and others. Even though the Whites are not especially tall, you can learn and practice a surprising number of these skills in our humble mountains. It's not only a great destination in and of itself, it's a great training ground if one wants to venture off into bigger ranges around the world. This list, I think, is my attempt at capturing the largest requisite skill set in the minimum number of objectives/trips. If one can safely (in good style) complete this small number of trips, one is likely capable of safely tackling many, many classic routes all around the world.

    Now, one could certainly combine all of these skills into a single, very long outing. But I can't think of a route that accomplishes that and still feels like a classic. All of the ways I can think of to shove all of the skills into a single outing just spells suffer-fest to me.

    So, by your approach, one could ask, "What are all of the skills that one is capable of obtaining in New England?" Then, "What minimum number of classic trips provides a test of each of those skills?" It's really an elegant way of developing this list, thanks for the thoughts.

    Chip- I like your thought as well, a little different than what I was getting at, but definitely an interesting way to frame the challenge.
    Sure. Why not.

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