Maine: Defying the laws of science

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May 26, 2015
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Brattleboro, Vermont
I would have thought that the torrential Noah's Ark rainstorm we had last week, with subsequent dropping temperatures, would have consolidated and hardened up the snow. So I trucked up to Maine on Saturday to climb Elephant Mountain 3772'.

Defying the laws of science, I quickly found that last week's rain had virtually no impact on the snow. There was negligible evidence whatsoever that it had even rained up there, yet, I know it did. So bizarre.
Instead I encountered almost all powder, making it a deep-sinking trek to the summit of Elephant.
I couldn't wear my mammoth "canoe" snowshoes because of the whacking, so instead wore MSRs with tails giving me 35 inches of length and good traction.
I wish I could have brought my behemoth snowshoes, but they would have tangled and broke.

I was able to drove 1/2 mile or so up the so-called Old County Road. From there I took a secondary log road which was slow going through the deep rain-defying powder. Then I popped out on the main unplowed Elephant Mountain log road higher up. The snow was better here because a lot of it was wind blown off, so I didn't sink in much. I took the log road off to the left near height of land on Elephant Mountain Road between Elephant and Old Blue. I followed this log road for about 1/2 mile. There is supposed to be a cairn at the end of this log road marking a herd trail to Elephant. I didn't see any cairn and I also knew that trying to follow a herd trail in these conditions would be pretty impossible. So I started the whack to Elephant. I was able to follow moose channels for a while and then I encountered some ridiculously thick stuff. I fell into the biggest spruce trap of my life at one point - up to my chest. I had to dig and roll out of it to more stable snow. My pole had gone all the way in with my arm included to my shoulder!! That's how deep it was. Worst spruce trap I have ever encountered.
It was the spruce trap equivalent of falling into South Africa's Mponeng Gold Mine.

I was about to give up and bail, but I said "I'll go 100 feet to the right, and if it gets better, I'll keep going."
Luckily, I went to the right and the woods opened right up! From there, it was nice open woods (albeit deep unconsolidated snow). That is, until I reached HELLS HALF MILE, aka SATANS CORRIDOR, aka Leavenworth Balsam Prison No-Escape. (See photo). It was actually only 75 yards, but this class 5 spruce section slowed me down to 4-5 steps per minute! It was nearly impossible to get through. By the grace of God, at the end of 75 or so yards, the woods just opened right back up for about another 75 yards to the canister - which would have taken dynamite to open.

I followed my tracks back down to the log road where I had ditched my skis. Then I got a nice ski run back down to my car. 4 hours up, 2 hours down.

Open woods on the bushwhack to Elephant mountain, looking back at Old Blue:

75 yards unsurpassed in awfulness:

The only way I was getting this frozen canister open is with heavy industrial explosives:


Mar 15, 2018
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Jackman, ME
That’s nuts! I moved up to Jackman ME 4 months ago and it’s right in the middle of the mountains of western Maine. A friend & I bushwhacked up Boundary Bald Mountain and there were a few spots that were a real struggle, including one where we had to crawl on our bellies (never easy with snowshoes), but nothing like that spruce section!