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Thread: Bushwhacking trailess peaks

  1. #16
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil View Post
    We're pretty much ignoring the OP.
    Don't think so--he mentioned GPS and navigation with-or-without a GPS is a key set of skills for bushwacking.

    IMO one should learn and use multiple techniques of navigation to provide cross-checking as one goes and backup in case a particular piece of equipment or technique fails, becomes unusable, or becomes unavailable.

    Also many people on this BBS learned and practiced navigation before GPSes became available. Use whatever set of techniques you prefer--it doesn't matter as long as you get were you need to be. Ultimately the GPS is just another tool (as is a map, compass, or altimeter). All are useful, can fail (or be lost), and need to be learned to be used effectively.

    Doug

  2. #17
    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca M View Post
    ????? I'm not ignoring the OP - I'm suggesting actually *learning* topography and map skills first
    Sorry for confusion, I wasn't referring to your post above, was pointing finger at myself and a couple other guys.

  3. #18
    Senior Member 1SlowHiker's Avatar
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    Based on other posts I probably rely on a gps track too much. Normally only when I think I may have lost my intended path/trail. However due to preplanning, boyscouts, the marine corps and jungle survival training in panama, Im pretty confident my gps dying wouldn’t be a problem. Actually I use its altitude feature more than the tracks. I’ve only been hiking the peaks 4 years and am still learning. When I started I’d just type in waypoints I pulled off maps for main turns in trails (Especially for winter hikes). It would take me hours and my lat/lon accuracy wasnt always good. Now I’m lazy and just download them from wikiloc or other sites. You have to be careful that you note the date, time of year, and experience of the hiker of the original hike. I used a gps track for Stratton that evidently was done when the drawf spruce field I had to fight though was evidently deep under snow when the track was made.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wet Willie View Post
    Hi: I'm new to the forum and I'm from the Providence RI area. I'm seeking to climb the 100 highest NE peaks and have reached the trailess peak stage. I'm a newbie GPS user. I have 18 peaks to climb and 12 of these are trailess. What is the best way to approach this without charging off into the woods half cocked. I would like to start off with one of the easier bushwhacks such as Mendon if anyone is game. Thanks, Bill
    Hello fellow Road Islander:
    Don’t be misled by some of the post that suggests that most if not all of trailess peaks have heardpaths. Maybe I’m just not that good at finding them or staying on them or even caring about staying on them, but in my case quite a few were truly bushwhacks. I don’t think there are nearly 14 trailess peaks, but for me there was at least some bushwacking involved for; Scar, PAN, Vose, Fort , Elephant , Mendon.” (Mendon wasn’t “one of the easier ones” for me but that was due to heading off the peak in the wrong direction). On the other hand none of them were really that bad and could be easily done with M&C and a little common sense.

    You kind of hint in your OP that you do not hike solo. Do you winter hike?
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  4. #19
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    My wife and I did the NE Hundred Highest without a GPS. My feeling is if we can do it, anyone can. We got lost a few times, significantly lost only once. The distances for bushwhacks aren't that long, the summits are all easily recongizable (that is, not much wandering around looking for canisters), and in most cases the margin of error is extremely relaxed. Most of the bushwhacks are straight shots without major turns, just up to the summit and back.

    The feeling of getting back onto a marked trail is exhilarating, so is the sense of climbing a mountain with just map, compass and altimeter. That said, hiking with a GPS is really seductive, sort of like switching from a typewriter to a word processing program. In a place like Harriman State Park in NY, which is criss-crossed with woods roads, abandoned trails, and herd paths, a GPS made route-finding a snap. I hope I don't get too lazy.

  5. #20
    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    I've used an app on my phone and its GPS on some bushwhacks as a confidence tool and for general curiosity. It's helpful and it makes things easier, but 99% of the time I just use it to get an idea of the distance and vertical, as well as pacing.

    To me, appeals to tradition only illuminate how impressive it is that people used to get by with so much less. It by no means dissuades me from taking advantage of the tools currently available. If the patch has rules, and the rules say no GPS, then you'd be cheating. Other than that, it seems like fair game. I certainly agree that people entering the woods off trail should know how to use a map and compass though.
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  6. #21
    Senior Member Stan's Avatar
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    I don't own a GPS other than the one that is built into my car and, frankly, that one only reinforces my indifference to GPS while hiking. I have used one on the trail when my son worked for REI and we got to try new products but to me it was a distraction not worth the detraction that over reliance on technology plays with basic navigation skills. I think it is safer to rely on one's skills with map and compass. To me it is also more fun as I make a closer connection with my surroundings than with a small screen.

    I could envision parts of North America where I would not venture without one ... but not in the Northeast. Even if "lost" here, good skills will get you out safely and that should be part of any backwoods plan.

    On the other hand, there have been times when I've said to myself, "That was interesting ... I wonder how I did that?" and envy those who return home with a GPS track.

  7. #22
    Senior Member iAmKrzys's Avatar
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    Some people are really good at using a map, compass, altimeter and landmarks to figure out where they are. I am no stranger to maps and compass and recognizing landmarks albeit I never owned an altimeter. Yet there situations when telling accurately where you are may not be so easy, especially if you go off trail in flattish terrain or when visibility gets extremely low. In such situations a gps can be of tremendous help.

    While I carry both paper maps (whenever I have them) and I download digital maps to my gps I tend not to fully trust either. New trails are added, old ones are re-routed, logging roads get abandoned, trail blazes change, private landowners revoke permissions to use their land and I have seen many paper maps not matching what I encountered in reality. Same holds for my gps maps.

    One clear advantage with my gps is that I know pretty well where I am, I know my progress, and it is much easier to change plans or make a bailout decision.

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  8. #23
    Senior Member Raymond's Avatar
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    I also finished the New England Hundred Highest before I owned a GPS.

    My method was to look on Views From The Top for trip reports and copy and print out the ones that had good directions.

    I have been using a GPS since 2008, however, and, as Stan mentioned above, it is nice to be able to look at the track later to see just where the heck I went. It is also nice to know that the summit is still some distance away, so no need to scour this particular knob for a canister, no matter how summit-like it may appear. That saves time.

    DougPaul seems to have overlooked that obvious fourth way to use the GPS: to keep an eye on where the summit is and how far you are from it. If the contours look inviting between you and the summit, that may be a good route to take. I will usually get as close to the summit as I can on the trail, then look for a convenient place to enter the woods and just follow the path of least resistance from there. The GPS can also keep you from straying too far in the wrong direction because of misleading terrain. I had two failed attempts at East Scar Ridge before the GPS guided me to the canister on my third try. I think it took me three hours to go three-tenths of a mile to the canister, but at least I got there.

    I have never bothered with putting routes (donít know how) or waypoints ó aside from the summitís ó into the unit ahead of time.

  9. #24
    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond View Post
    I have never bothered with putting routes (don’t know how) or waypoints — aside from the summit’s — into the unit ahead of time.
    Another related great use is you can drop waypoints on your way out so you have them if needed for the way back. "I left the trail here", "Avoid this cliff band there", etc.

    Tim
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  10. #25
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond View Post
    DougPaul seems to have overlooked that obvious fourth way to use the GPS: to keep an eye on where the summit is and how far you are from it. If the contours look inviting between you and the summit, that may be a good route to take. I will usually get as close to the summit as I can on the trail, then look for a convenient place to enter the woods and just follow the path of least resistance from there. The GPS can also keep you from straying too far in the wrong direction because of misleading terrain. I had two failed attempts at East Scar Ridge before the GPS guided me to the canister on my third try. I think it took me three hours to go three-tenths of a mile to the canister, but at least I got there.
    I would consider that to be a form of method 2. The summit or goal is just a waypoint whether actually entered into the GPS or not.


    While I am on the subject, for those who have proposed method 4*:
    4) Don't carry a GPS.
    5) Don't carry (or even consult beforehand) a map.
    6) Don't carry a compass.
    7) Don't carry an altimeter.
    none) 4, 5, 6, and 7
    * These don't actually belong on my list since my list was titled "IMO, there are three basic ways to use a GPS on a bushwack". They are, however, valid ways of navigating.

    Prior to European contact, the local inhabitants must surely have visited many of the peaks and places we hike to using method "none". Each item is an advance in technology and as each is introduced there are usually traditionalists announcing "I did it without". Wait a while and everyone will think its use is normal...

    We should note that trails, guidebooks and trip reports (whether verbal, written on paper, or on the internet) are aids too.

    Doug

  11. #26
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikehikeskifish View Post
    Another related great use is you can drop waypoints on your way out so you have them if needed for the way back. "I left the trail here", "Avoid this cliff band there", etc.
    Essentially an augmented version of flagging:
    * you can "see" them when physical flags are not visible
    * you aren't littering up the woods and don't have to remove your flags

    Also good on glaciers for marking crevasses and gear dumps. Very helpful in whiteouts...

    Doug

  12. #27
    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    Essentially an augmented version of flagging:
    Except nobody cares if I don't pick up my waypoints on the way out.

    Tim
    Bike, Hike, Ski, Sleep. Eat, Fish, Repeat.

  13. #28
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    Essentially an augmented version of flagging:
    * you can "see" them when physical flags are not visible
    * you aren't littering up the woods and don't have to remove your flags
    Quote Originally Posted by bikehikeskifish View Post
    Except nobody cares if I don't pick up my waypoints on the way out.
    As noted in my second bullet.

    Doug

  14. #29
    Senior Member Raven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil View Post
    I used to carry my GPS in the bottom of my pack on whacks, just in case, but then I found that without the GPS I was in a more aware state of mind.
    A subtle and very important difference in the need to stay focused and present. I find it similar in some ways (if less dramatic) to a tightrope walker with and without a harness. If you are aware you have a harness, the consequences of your decisions become far less meaningful than when you are aware that you die if you fall even when performing the same act.

    I always enjoyed planning routes with the USGS maps using some old photocopied trail notes with advice on the NEHH for example. For me personally, using a GPS would not have been letting go enough for what I was personally seeking on these hikes.

    Cool technology for sure, but it can get in the way of the mind's work.
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  15. #30
    Senior Member Jazzbo's Avatar
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    I guess I'll share my experience doing the NE100. I visited Dorset Peak in VT twice due to my lack of GPS at the time. I thought I had Dorset in the bag, but when I re-read someone's description of their trip to Dorset they mentioned certain details I never saw so I doubted I had actually "gotten" the peak. I don't recall if next time I went I had GPS or not. I think not. I ascended from the north side which I found to be really beautiful way to approach Dorset and saw the features they had described so now I knew I had hit it (oh yeah there was a canister i think). I think that was the events where I resolved to obtain a GPS and learn how to use it. I'm still learning to use all of its features. It is a great toy and I've had lots of fun with it. Yes it does malfunction, batteries die and you realize you used up your batteries, the chip came loose one time, or you forget to bring it all together, or like time I went for Boundary Peak from Canadian side and I had no maps for Canada.

    Besides map & compass there are environmental knowledge you pick up wandering around off trail. Such as why you can get thick spruce in lowlands and how to avoid. Hardwoods vs softwood forests types. Learning about logging history so you can take advantage of sled roads and where they might lead.
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