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Neil
10-05-2004, 11:30 AM
Bushwhacking Classification System
There's a certain amount of interest in bushwhacking on the forums. In order to facilitate communication amongst the 'shwacker community here's a proposed classification of increasing levels of bushwhacking difficulty. Let me know what you think.

Classes of Bushwhacking

Class 1
No real path. Old trails fallen into disuse fit this category. Forest is open, walking is easy with few to no obstacles. There may be any or all of the following features: Distinctive geographical features visible or audible (creek) aid in navigation. Old blazes and/cuttings may be present. Map and compass unnecessary.

Class 2
There is no old trail or man-made features. There are occasional detours around obstacles such as blowdown and hands are occasionally used to push branches away from one’s face but most of the going is easy. Map and compass are consulted occasionally. There may or may not be a distinctive geographical feature visible or audible (creek) to aid in navigation.

Class 3
Views are limited to approx. 10 feet. Detours around, over or under obstacles are frequent. Pauses in order to decide the best route are frequent. Hands are almost constantly in use to push branches away. Care must be taken in placing one’s feet to avoid holes. Compass is in constant use.

Class 4
Very difficult. Members of party must stay close together in order to maintain visual contact. Forward progress is impeded by brush that must be pushed aside in order to advance. Every step is taken with caution as one’s own feet are obscured by foliage. Long sleeves and pants essential to avoid cuts. Compass in constant use. GPS very helpful.

Class 5
*!?&$_)$&*É
Steep uphill through dense cripplebush that requires intense, heroic efforts to advance as much as one foot. Cothes are torn, eyes are gouged, blood may flow, some unstable marriages may not remain intact. Members of party experience episodes of fantasizing about sunny beaches, luxury hotel rooms, 5 star restaurants and the like. Phrases such as, ‘never again’ and ‘whose idea was this?’ frequently heard.

Nadine
10-05-2004, 11:56 AM
Hmmmm, so Elephant from the AT would be a Class 5 :D :D

RoySwkr
10-05-2004, 12:20 PM
Originally posted by Nadine
Hmmmm, so Elephant from the AT would be a Class 5 :D :D
Closer to 3 as I remember it :-)

That is one of the problems with any system, terrain can be vastly different 50 feet away

Now what would you call a logging road overgrown in briars, which if Nadine tries in shorts in July would rate a @3$%*& but if she tries on skis in January is a wide clear path?

Neil
10-05-2004, 12:46 PM
Hmmmm. Good point. What if we use the convention that the ratings pertain only to the summer time?

Wild
10-05-2004, 12:48 PM
Distinctive geographical features visible or audible (creek) aid in navigation.

I'm guessing that you have done most of your creek hiking in the High Peaks. I had, too, and was most unpleasantly surprised when I went bushwhacking in the Five Ponds Wilderness this last August. We expected nice rock beds to follow, perhaps a few cataracts to scramble up, so we planned our route along numerous creeks and pond outlets. Much to our chagrin, the majority of creeks in that part of the Adirondacks are labyrinths of wildly meandering channels that flow through low, skeeter-ridden marshes. We spent an awful lot of time wading through water up to our waists, hoping the leaches spared us long enough to reach the next brushy spit of mud. It was nearly as difficult as some of the cripple-brush thrashes I've done in the high peaks.

It's a good classification system, but I'm not sure if I would want to know how difficult a bushwhack was going to be. Not knowing is part of the adventure. I've gotten myself into some nasty situations because of this stubbornness, but getting myself out - planning an alternate route by headlamp, taking a compass bearing and striking out across a blank spot on the map, stumbling on nice little spots in the middle of nowhere - these things are what makes it exciting, and keeps me coming back for more.

bobandgeri
10-05-2004, 12:51 PM
Scar Ridge is a definately a class 5!

Neil
10-05-2004, 01:15 PM
Wild, you're right about my classification being a dry land system only. I have been in a creekwhacking situation with a canoe that we hauled and lugged through shallow waters, over logjams, under willow canopies and so on. What made it so bad was it was the last day of a 17 day trip and were hoping to come out at a lake where our friend's cottage was and join the party. We never made it.

spencer
10-05-2004, 01:23 PM
Originally posted by rbhayes
Scar Ridge is a definately a class 5!

As Roy pointed out, one of the flaws of a system like this (not specifically yours Neil, just in general) is that conditions and experiences can vary so much.

When I did Scar with some others, we had a pretty easy time of it, but I know that's not always the case. I've done White Cap via a really easy route, and via a really nasty route. All depends on approach, time of year, party, and of course, luck!

I like the system in theory, but I'm not sure how effective it would be.

spencer

Tramper Al
10-05-2004, 01:30 PM
Originally posted by spencer
When I did Scar with some others, we had a pretty easy time of it, but I know that's not always the case.
I agree. If our Scar Ridge were to be rated a 5, then we would need a scale that goes to 11.

So much luck involved.

Nadine
10-05-2004, 01:30 PM
All valid points.

While I had a dog of a time doing Elephant, I had a pretty easy time of Scar Ridge. Sometimes 50 yards makes all the difference.


And in the winter, even East Turner might be a pleasant hike... (highly unlikely though).

masshysteria
10-05-2004, 01:38 PM
Neil, lets put a for-instance to this system.

What would you rate the wack from Iriquois to Shepards Tooth as?

How about some other famous bushwacks?

Perhaps Tim and Brian will offer their opinions on this, but my freshest wack memories of the Basin Amp assault was that the push from the trail to the Amp was a class 4. While the stroll out was a 4.5. I can't honestly give the outbound a 5, because it doesn't fit the criteria of being an uphill climb. Plus the phrases we were muttering were along the lines of;"whose f....ng idea was this!?" Not in exact keeping with the proposed system.

I think with a little fine tuning Neil, this may become as big as the Richter Scale or Moh's Scale.

Neil
10-05-2004, 01:50 PM
Originally posted by masshysteria

I think with a little fine tuning Neil, this may become as big as the Richter Scale or Moh's Scale.
What's the name of that operating system that is fine tuned by the users? Linux?
Feel free to edit the original. I also forgot to take into consideration the presence or abscence of blood sucking insects. Imagine a class 5 with hordes of black flies in your nostrils.

As for the Tooth (ie. Catamount Peak) I would put the thickest parts at class 4. From the tooth to the Iroquois - Marshall col : class 3.

The top of Wright Slide and the top of the wrong (left) East Dix slide?: Class 5 all the way.

John's Brook to the base of Bennie's brook Slide on LWJ?: A classic Class 1.

Adk LOj to Marcy Dam?: Class -1000

Wild
10-05-2004, 02:19 PM
The ridge from the top of the Ermine Brook Slide to the summit of Santanoni was a five when I did it five or so years ago. As someone else on this site eloquently put it, it was like trying to squeeze through snow fence. Not only did I mutter all of the four letter words in the English language, I actually had my partner, who I had just met, fearing for his life. :D

WalksWithBlackflies
10-05-2004, 03:01 PM
Shepard's Tooth from Iroquois: Class 5 when I did it from the south(east) side, north(west) side seemed easier. I agree that the whack from the Tooth to col is Class 3.

Sod holes should be added to the classification system. The whack of Hough/Pough col to Bouquet River Basin at base of E. Dix slide varies from Class 1 to Class 4, but knee to waist-deep sod holes in some areas had me checking every footstep.

WalksWithBlackflies
10-05-2004, 03:10 PM
Forgot to mention:

I just did some whackin in Colorado. I was nervous to begin, but it was a joke. More open than most maintained trails here in the northeast... like strolling through a park. It would be a -2 on your scale!

AMF
10-05-2004, 03:26 PM
There was a whacker out in the PNW who had a website devoted to a bushwack classification system... he included the number of unbridged stream crossings, and extent of salal thickets to be pushed thru (its wicked stuff, kinda like rhododendron and forms tangled, impenetrable masses). I think he also had something about sod holes.

Pete_Hickey
10-05-2004, 08:19 PM
I've done a few that fit yoru description of class 5, but I've also had ones much tougher.

Cripplebush so thick that it is impossible to get through standing. I've had to crawl on my belly to make it through.

Maybe when you're going through thick stuff, and then you look down, and realize that you've climbed 8 feet above the ground.

When you come to cliffs, and need to grab onto a tree and climb down, in order to descend.

mavs00
10-05-2004, 09:19 PM
Originally posted by masshysteria
Perhaps Tim and Brian will offer their opinions on this, but my freshest wack memories of the Basin Amp assault was that the push from the trail to the Amp was a class 4. While the stroll out was a 4.5. I can't honestly give the outbound a 5, because it doesn't fit the criteria of being an uphill climb. Plus the phrases we were muttering were along the lines of;"whose f....ng idea was this!?" Not in exact keeping with the proposed system.


Ever see two rock climbers debating the difficulty of a route?

As mentioned, this is a perfect example of the problem that any clasification system has. I walked (in front) on the same hike as Tom (masshysteria) mentioned to the Amp, and I'd say 5+ all the way. Look,,,,,, if it's so thick, I can't see a steep 20-25 feet sheer drop unitl I'm within inches of falling off it (which happened 5-6 times on that one). it's a 5 in my book. Upslope, sideslope, whatever, those conditions are extreme.

Also, just because it's not steep uphill, shouldn't automatically omit it from the Class 5 catagory. some cross slope traverses in real thick brush (like that one), can be quite a bitc....... I mean pain. How about slides, they are bushwhacks. Thickness and navagation aren't a factor but steepness and exposure sure can be.

Another thing, on another recent bushwhack (Avalanche Mt.) it was alternatly a 2, 3, 4 and on a few brief occasions, a 5. Hell, at one point, I'm pushing through the thickest, nastiest stuff and my son is about 30-40 feet away calling me over. I mash and crash my way over to him, expecting to find more of the same, and SHAZAM, he's sitting there in Snow White's friggin fairytail forest where the trees are all 10 feet apart :)

My point (as others mentioned) is, the nature of the woods (random) makes a classification system of this sort tough. On a true bushwhack, your not gonna follow my exact prior path anyway, so landmarks, rocks, soil type, vegitation thickness all may vary a bit (in the matter of mere feet no less).

Good concept, just tough to impliment. Perhaps with some refinemt, until then...........I'm good with a "yo, what's the whack up XXX like" ----- "Dude, like sqeezing yourself through a snowfence".

It's worked so far ;)

audrey
10-06-2004, 05:18 AM
You never know. One of my almost-class 5's was a snowshoe through acres of mountain laurel in Leominster (MA) State Forest. We were just trying to get a nice view of the reservoir!

You could use the rating to save having to describe the same thing again and again: balsam-blowdown-falldown-balsam-balsam-laceration...that would be a variety of class 4.

Neil
10-06-2004, 05:25 AM
Ever been through an area that was clear cut and now has a 'lawn' of small trees about an inch in diameter and about 10 feet tall growing as tightly together as grass? Now that's a 5. On snowshoes make it a 6.

So far I've never had to crawl on my belly, lucky I guess.

And Mavs, isn't it neat about a bushwhack how frequent the changes in the vegetation are?

sardog1
10-06-2004, 05:54 AM
My wife would probably say that an "experience" starts at Class 5. As in, "I don't want an experience on this hike." She started using this dictum after two Class 5 sojourns within months of each other. One involved a fair amount of bleeding. The other? Crawling for a goodly/ungodly distance through skunk habitat. :confused: :rolleyes: :eek: :mad: :mad: :mad:

Ned Kipperson
10-08-2004, 12:53 AM
I'd like to hear of what bushwacks that were done over class 5. Sounds like a doozy!! Or hyperbole! Proud