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Thread: Bushwhacking trailess peaks

  1. #1
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    Bushwhacking trailess peaks

    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

  2. #2
    Senior Member Sherby's Avatar
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    Nearly all of them have a herdpath now, if you do some online research, you'll find where they start. You may want to skip it on PATN (it is illegally maintained) and go up the slide instead (and don't forget to visit the Nubble/Haystack itself, quite impressive).

    Btw, on Mendon, try to find the very nice view point, it's not at the highest point, but not a long way from it.
    Last edited by Sherby; 10-30-2015 at 09:47 AM.

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    There are individuals who have published GPS tracks for the majority if not all of the "trail less" peaks. If you regard following a GPS track as "bushwhacking" then this is the easiest approach and AMC will gladly issue you a scroll at the end. If on the other hand you want to go "old school" then you need to obtain USGS maps of the area and layout the path of least resistance possibly with the assistance of google earth and other resources. From there you can use a map and compass approach or you can establish a GPS route and follow it in the woods. Although there are certain points in the woods that develop herd paths using the "old school" approach as they are the path of least resistance, the "old school" approach tends to spread out the impact to the woods. Unfortunately the GPS track approach tends to concentrate the impact into what effectively has become a trail on many if not all the trail less peaks. I recently have had chance to revisit Reddington and was amazed at the condition of the so called herd path from South Crocker. It was far better defined than many of the lesser used official trails in the whites. When I had first done this hike 20 years ago, it was a dense walk through the woods unfortunately littered with the remnants of plastic flagging.

    My preference is the "old school" method as it more of challenge in the field. I modify my route as I go along depending on conditions in the woods. The GPS approach adds risk as the owner is overly dependent on technology. I personally witnessed this occurring on a trip to a NH 100 where the group had laid out a track on mapping software and then downloaded to GPS and were following the track blindly, they unfortunately missed a point where the contour lines were touching each other and had significant issues dealing with the fact that there intended route went over a cliff. Using my approach when I detected that the terrain was dropping off precipitously I would elect to change my route.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Sherby's Avatar
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    I'm clearly not in favor of sharing GPS tracks for bushwhacks (i.e. dispersed usage approach), but once a herdpath is already well defined, isn't the best LNT practice a concentrated usage approach ?
    Last edited by Sherby; 11-01-2015 at 10:49 AM.

  5. #5
    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    If on the other hand you want to go "old school" then you need to obtain USGS maps of the area and layout the path of least resistance possibly with the assistance of google earth and other resources.
    Did you say "old school" and google earth in the same sentence?

    FWIW, only Scar Ridge is virtually devoid of herd paths, except near the very top. Everything else was nearly trivial. If you want some guidance for the Maine 6-pack (and Elephant) look at this thread.

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

  6. #6
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    Okay, old school would be looking at the USGS orthophoto quads. Google Earth is the same concept, just a far more readily available source of aerial photos or in the past cooperative extension aerial photos. There used to be folks stopping by the Brown Company Woods department asking to see the company maps and aerials for planning hikes.

    I did purchase a few aerial photos over the years, it took weeks so planning had to be done well in advance.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Becca M's Avatar
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    My 2 cents: don't look up any routes online. Use the Gazetteer (or topo map if you can easily get a copy) and go to the nearest road or trail and nearest approach (sometimes very different - I tend to shorten a drive and do a longer bushwhack). Study how to use map/compass and set compass & reset altimeter to correct starting altitude. Carry a GPS for backup and start a track then throw it into the pack when you leave your car.

    Have at it and enjoy the woods!!!! When the sun sets or weather rolls in and you're afraid of getting totally lost and have loved ones waiting, that's the time to use your GPS to get back to your car!!!!
    Yay for winter!!!!!

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    Wow, a kindred spirit. I am not anti GPS but feel that is should be a safety tool or a means of reviewing a track after a fact. I routinely use a GPS for corridor boundary work as my goal is to retrace the boundary.

    Unfortunately many folks are far more interested in checking a box off a list than actually enjoying the day out in the woods. This is probably an extension or the recent lists thread so a guess it comes down to "to each their own"i

  9. #9
    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    "I'm getting up and going to work everyday and I am stoked. That does not suck!"__Shane McConkey

  10. #10
    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
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    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. Finally, I bought an altimeter, and using it with the map it's pretty much like having a gps.

    If I'm going to attempt following an unmarked trail, say in the Seward range in the Dacks, that might be hidden by fresh snow then I'll use the GPS.

  11. #11
    Member DougBates's Avatar
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    I like this app: http://topomapsapp.com/

  12. #12
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
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    IMO, there are three basic ways to use a GPS on a bushwack:
    1a) Follow someone else's track. While the travel may be rougher, navigation-wise it is little different from following a trail.
    1b) Make your own track at home and follow it. (Ie the same as 1a except for the source of the track.) As peakbagger noted, there are things on the ground that may not show (of may not be noticed) on maps...
    2) Use the GPS to provide headings to some intermediate and/or final pre-planned waypoints and travel between the waypoints using the path of least resistance. This is essentially the same as traditional non-GPS bushwacking except that one can include electronic reference points and can be combined with non-GPS methods.
    3) Turn the GPS on at the trailhead, reset the trip computer, throw it into your pack and leave it there until you get back to the car where you check the trip computer. You can think of the GPS as a super pedometer... However, it is a form of safety gear and you may be bolder because you know you have a navigational backup it your pack. (Also known as carrying your security in your rucksack... ) After you get home it can also be nice to check your tracklog so you can see where you actually went.

    I personally generally use 3), rarely look at the GPS while hiking, and finally check the trip computer to see how far and fast I/we went. If the route was unusually interesting I may check the tracklog, but often don't bother (particularly if the hike was on mapped trails).

    I have used 2), for instance when solo hiking Isolation from Rte 16 in winter. I was following a traditional largely off-trail M&C route and placed waypoints at the turns of the bushwack portion. (I also carried a written list of the leg distances and headings.) I didn't actually try to hit the waypoints exactly--just get near enough to them. I did place a waypoint at a good stream crossing to make sure that I could find it on the way back if need be. My GPS was off most of the time and I only turned it on a few times for a few minutes to get a heading to the next waypoint which I then dialed into my compass. If necessary, I could have done the route without the GPS, but I was happy to have the backup.

    I have also used 1a) using the WMNF-published GPS trail tracks, but that was on a long (27mi) overnight BC ski on what turned out to be semi-abandoned unmarked overgrown trails in spots. We only used the GPS in a few spots but it saved us an enormous amount of time searching for the route and may have saved us from having to turn back. On a long trip such as this one (28 hrs), one cannot afford to waste too much time routefinding...

    I have never used 1a) using someone else's track or strictly 1b). I might place a few waypoints for general guidance or to mark critical points or goals, but would find my way between them on the ground.

    So while I generally prefer to do my own navigation or follow trails and use 3), 2) can be useful and I view it as a blend of traditional non-GPS navigation and GPS navigation. Or in 2) one can use non-GPS methods while occasionally checking the GPS to verify that you are indeed on the intended route. In all cases, it is a good idea to research the region, route, and escape routes before going out. One can never tell what one may find...


    Some accident reports have described situations were a hiker gets confused (lost if you prefer...) and "bends" the terrain to match where he thinks he is. A few seconds with a GPS can cure or prevent such confusion...

    Doug
    Last edited by DougPaul; 11-01-2015 at 01:46 PM.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Nessmuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    IMO, there are three basic ways to use a GPS on a bushwack:
    1a) Follow someone else's track. While the travel may be rougher, navigation-wise it is little different from following a trail.
    1b) Make your own track at home and follow it. (Ie the same as 1a except for the source of the track.) As peakbagger noted, there are things on the ground that may not show (of may not be noticed) on maps...
    2) Use the GPS to provide headings to some intermediate and/or final pre-planned waypoints and travel between the waypoints using the path of least resistance. This is essentially the same as traditional non-GPS bushwacking except that one can include electronic reference points and can be combined with non-GPS methods.
    3) Turn the GPS on at the trailhead, reset the trip computer, throw it into your pack and leave it there until you get back to the car where you check the trip computer. You can think of the GPS as a super pedometer... However, it is a form of safety gear and you may be bolder because you know you have a navigational backup it your pack. (Also known as carrying your security in your rucksack... ) After you get home it can also be nice to check your tracklog so you can see where you actually went.

    I personally generally use 3), rarely look at the GPS while hiking, and finally check the trip computer to see how far and fast I/we went. If the route was unusually interesting I may check the tracklog, but often don't bother (particularly if the hike was on mapped trails).
    And of course there is the option to not bring the GPS at all. These days when on recreational bushwhack trips I may bring a GPS as Neil and Doug do in mode 3), but if I don't bother to have a GPS with me it is not a big deal at all. While it is certainly a great safety device and operational tool, I grew up navigating without needing one and that remains true today. With a bit of map study and understanding of how to truly navigate, it is not terribly difficult to know your position to the degree necessary at all times from compass and map with terrain observation, using dead reckoning in the more difficult areas, and to then draw your own real-time or post-trip track log. It is always a good idea to do both pre-trip and post-trip navigation analysis, as both will improve your navigation skills immensely.

    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    I have used 2), for instance when solo hiking Isolation from Rte 16 in winter. I was following a traditional largely off-trail M&C route and placed waypoints at the turns of the bushwack portion. (I also carried a written list of the leg distances and headings.) I didn't actually try to hit the waypoints exactly--just get near enough to them. I did place a waypoint at a good stream crossing to make sure that I could find it on the way back if need be. My GPS was off most of the time and I only turned it on a few times for a few minutes to get a heading to the next waypoint which I then dialed into my compass. If necessary, I could have done the route without the GPS, but I was happy to have the backup.
    When I pre-trip-plan a bushwhack route of a fair distance, there are almost always reasonably spaced visually identifiable natural terrain features that will mark intermediate points on the way to the destination. They may require a slightly zig-zag course, but to me that is the point of recreational off-trail hiking. Find one after the other to verify your exact intermediate location, then follow a measured compass headings and terrain to the next until the final destination is reached. My trip memories are often more filled with what I saw and experienced (and learned) all along the way than when I got to to the end point. If changes from the pre-plan, such as recent beaver meadow floods or blow downs or any other number of reasons determine otherwise, just alter course and deal with it.

    On the other hand I can't do my job as a SAR Crew Boss without a GPS in my hand and recording tracks. When the operations chief gives me responsibility to lead a search crew team in a particular assigned sector block of land, there is no substitute for a GPS in mode 2) to ensure I arrive at my assigned block and perform a thorough search of the entire precisely defined area. If my assignment begins some distance away from the staging area and no transport is available, I plot the best course on the GPS (always with a real map reference) for my team to walk to the closest corner of my block to begin the search sweeps. Reference to the assignment on the SAR topo map and terrain observation confirms what the GPS is telling me is correct throughout the process. At the end of the assignment the incident command planners will download my GPS track to verify the area coverage. Since this is such an important function to efficient SAR, I often carry a second backup tracking GPS to be sure data is recorded. The GPS is fast and efficient as the best tool to use for such a time-sensitive job, and with all the other backups there are no real consequences to myself by primarily depending on the electronics if the GPS unit fails. I'm not really out there to enjoy the sightseeing or to find a destination as the only goal.

    I guess you could say that I use 1a/b) during canoe races. For most races I know the route well enough so that I have my own finely detailed route memorized, to avoid subsurface rocks and stumps, for example. In those cases I use the GPS for speed maintenance only, to ensure I and my crew are paddling at a target speed (or higher). There is an unofficial night time non-race that I have been paddling for the past several years. Essentially the Adirondack 90-miler route start to end, done unsupported and the whole route all in a single day. Beginning at midnight the first several hours are paddled in complete darkness, more often than not in thick fog in the wee hours of morning. So in the fog my well trodden GPS route comes in handy there, following an exact known route between invisible waterway obstacles and turn points.

    When I first paddled the Yukon River races (440 mile and 1000 mile), as a planning start I used charts from the old paddle wheeler days of the early 1900's to get the basic route in the complex river channels and fast currents. GPS mode 1a). But in reality I knew I could take several obvious shortcuts around turns and between islands in a canoe, so I modified the paddle wheel route somewhat to significantly shorten the distance. Now after 4 races on the river with making experienced improvements to the route each time, I'm happy with the route i have modified, many places trading off shortening the route in sometimes slow current versus staying in fast current over longer distances, to be successful for a 5th return the Yukon. Coordinate registration from Google Earth tends to be excellent with reality, but the Yukon changes from year to year, with shoals and islands and currents often significantly different from the most recent available maps. 793 precisely targeted waypoints make up my Yukon 1000 mile race route in GPS mode 1b).

    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    So while I generally prefer to do my own navigation or follow trails and use 3), 2) can be useful and I view it as a blend of traditional non-GPS navigation and GPS navigation. Or in 2) one can use non-GPS methods while occasionally checking the GPS to verify that you are indeed on the intended route. In all cases, it is a good idea to research the region, route, and escape routes before going out. One can never tell what one may find...
    Good advice that I can't argue with at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    Some accident reports have described situations were a hiker gets confused (lost if you prefer...) and "bends" the terrain to match where he thinks he is. A few seconds with a GPS can cure or prevent such confusion...
    I read the weekly SAR reports from the NYSDEC. There are usually several incidents each week, most of them minor. The vast majority are resolved in a few short hours using a couple of rangers only, without calling out other SAR resources. I am convinced that a high percentage of those cases could have been self-rescued if the people would only have done some combination of:
    1) Study the route on a map prior to making the trip.
    2) Bring a map and compass and understand how to use them.
    3) If confused ("lost"), don't panic and immediately resort to using the cell phone. Use the old (pre-electronic age) advise - relax, sit down, review what you did to get there, figure out where you are, and find your own way out to a known location.
    4) GPS? Consider it as a tool to get a job done. Understand why you went into the woods in the first place, be it to do a job or rather to enjoy the journey, or just to blindly reach the destination. Use when necessary, but don't rely on it as a your only primary aid.
    "She's all my fancy painted her, she's lovely, she is light. She waltzes on the waves by day and rests with me at night." - Nessmuk, Forest and Stream, July 21, 1880 [of the Wood Drake Canoe built for him by Rushton]

  14. #14
    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
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    We're pretty much ignoring the OP.

    If you already have a GPS and have figured out how to make the computer, the mapping and the data manipulation all work together then you can surely download (from Wikiloc or everytrail) existing tracklogs for every peak you need into Basecamp and then load them all at once into your gps. You'll probably discover that the peaks are indeed trailed (as mentioned above) but you'll have fun following along with the gps. It's a fascinating technology to learn even if it's a bit frustrating at first when nothing seems to work.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Becca M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil View Post
    We're pretty much ignoring the OP.

    If you already have a GPS and have figured out how to make the computer, the mapping and the data manipulation all work together then you can surely download (from Wikiloc or everytrail) existing tracklogs for every peak you need into Basecamp and then load them all at once into your gps. You'll probably discover that the peaks are indeed trailed (as mentioned above) but you'll have fun following along with the gps. It's a fascinating technology to learn even if it's a bit frustrating at first when nothing seems to work.
    ????? I'm not ignoring the OP - I'm suggesting actually *learning* topography and map skills first
    Yay for winter!!!!!

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