I have been itching for another bushwhack after continued weeks of consolidated snowpack and no real new snow. So it was a choice between joining the fun crew and getting some great views from Pierce and Eisenhower, or doing something potentially nasty solo with probably no views. Soooooo, East Scar Ridge seemed like a good fit for low miles and not a long whack. I had been looking at a different route than the usual one, going up the north ridge and hopefully skirting the infamous thick spruce/fir and blowdowns around the summit. This would also be my first solo winter bushwhack. I hadn’t even considered winter whacking at all before this year (which has already gone by the wayside), so this quick transition was a bit surprising to me. And as it turned out, it was an enjoyable day regardless.
I had planned on a leisurely day, so I hit the East Pond Trail at 9:50 with one other car in the lot. That would give me 7 ½ hours of decent daylight, and a headlamp finish wouldn’t be an issue as long as I was on trail. The Pine Brook ice crossing was in great shape, and the Cheney Brook crossing wasn’t an issue. The trail is in great shape, and I was able to bareboot with no problems.
One thing I noticed was at the Pine Brook crossing, a well consolidated, well tracked trail went straight past the brook crossing. Anyone know what’s up with that? Best I can figure is going up to the Osceola slide, but I can’t imagine that many people have been going up that way.
I left the trail at 11:10 at 2750’, finding 2-8” of granular snow on top of a consolidated pack. Ugh. I have cheapo shoes that provide the necessary flotation, but only a 3-point broad crampon on the bottom for traction. I was a-slippin’ and a-slidin’, but used the trees to pull me up where I could. After open and moderate woods, I finally ran into thick woods or blowdown fields at 2900’. I was getting frustrated shortly after this point, but was OK with the progress thus far. So I sat on a convenient blowdown for a long break to get my head together. Again, I told myself it’s not physically impossible to get the top, but your mental state will determine it.
So with my mindset straightened out again, I set off only to hit firmly thick woods at 3000’. I wandered around a lot trying to find a way through to no avail with only 100’ of gain to show for it. Worse, it was now 12:45, and I was only ¼ of the way there. I knew there was no way I could get this done today without finding some good woods quickly, which was very questionable, so it was time to turn around. Today it wasn’t physical or mental. It was that 3rd thing I never had an issue with – time! Normally this would bum me out, but I was quite happy with the day. Warm temperatures and a perfectly sunny sky probably helped with my mood, and some interesting views didn’t hurt either. Having felt perfectly comfortable on my solo winter whack boosted my spirits. I got to try an unknown to me route, yeah, things didn’t work out, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I had to admit it was a fun day despite some frustrating moments.
So of course, on the exit, I found wide open woods from 3000’ down. One problem I had on the way out was a lack of trees to hold onto, as I’d take a step in the loose snow only to slide 2-4 feet with every step. This was OK until I tried to step around a large tree, fell, and came within a few inches of sliding my crotch into said tree. Yoiks. I don’t want to be known as High Pitch Salty. My shoe was caught in a small blowdown, so it was an interesting experience extricating myself. I popped out on the trail lower than where I went in, and it was a quick descent, getting home at an equally leisurely 4:00, feeling good about just getting out in the woods for the day, getting some more experience, and getting some miles on before Owl’s Head on Monday! I think there’s hope I may turn into an optimist someday. HA!