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 Vose Spur Bushwhack kinda failed attempt 2-17-07 
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Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2006 10:51 am
Posts: 136
Location: NH
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 Vose Spur Bushwhack kinda failed attempt 2-17-07
Date(s) Hiked: 2-17-07

Trails(s) Hiked: Sawyer River Rd, Signal Ridge, Carrigan Notch, Bushwhack

Total Distance: ~13 mi RT

Difficulty: Highest degree of difficulty

Conditions: well pack trail, however bushwhack had between crotch deep and chest deep snow.

Special Required Equipment: Snowshoes, Crampons, Snow Blower would have been nice…

Trip Report:

Have you ever gone so far for so long and come so close… like, I’m talking ridiculously close to your goal but not made it? This is one of those stories…

This trip is one that won't soon be forgotten, if ever.

The goal: Vose spur. The date: Saturday February 17 2007. Not three days after the Valentines day Nor'easter dumped over two feet of snow on the Whites donna, dRitter and I (vftt) all embarked on this wacky adventure.

Arm had broken out the Carrigan Notch trail the day before in an attempt on Vose spur. He made it to the big rock at which most people commence the normal bushwhack, but had to turn back due to a lack of time. As Arm described and I would soon experience, breaking a trail in 2 feet of snow is no walk in the park.

We began the trip at 8:15 at the 302/Sawyer river rd intersection. We started the hike shortly before another group of VFTTers began their ascent up Carrigan. The trip went for the most part smoothly up to the intersection of Carrigan Notch Tr and Signal Ridge. Donna and I had been smoothing out the "moguls" in the trail on the way up (this was important later). The other group caught up to us just before the intersection. We stopped briefly before going our separate ways. My feet hurt badly from the snow shoes. I have no idea why considering they were fine the weekend before. I had a nasty blister growing on my heel too which attempts to path were unsuccessful.

Carrigan Notch trail was pretty flat; luckily Arm had broken this out otherwise it would have been a complete nightmare. Some spots were drifted over, by by and large the trail was clear and mogul free. We reached the rock after hiking 3 hours and about 5.5 miles.

Damon led the way into the thick spruce as the horrid bushwhack began. It didn't take long for us to get into open woods. Our pace was painfully slow. Snow at this point was a good 2 feet deep and not easily packed through. I don't know how long it took us (I think about an hour) but we came upon a set of boulders about 300 vertical feet from the start of the bushwhack. It was decided at this point that we should proceed without the snowshoes and instead bare boot the deep snow. This was a wise decision as it increased our speed considerably. I took charge and literally swam through the crotch deep snow making our way through mostly open woods (there was the occasional spruce mess but they weren't overall too bad). Great care was taken to observe which ways were best to get us out of the spruce traps.

It took us a while but we finally happened upon a herd path which was made obvious by the broken branches and semi clear path. At 3000' we happened upon a ridge with a herd path which we followed up through ever deepening snow. At some points the snow was chest deep. We had to fight for every foot of gain. Some places it took a whole minute just to go two feet. I bulldozed a path up the ridge until an open spot appeared. It was the fabled Talus field! A small "field" of vegetation free rocks! This would turn out to be the deepest snow we would encounter. It was over my head! I had to cut blocks of snow from the drift (with my hands) and toss them down the hill to clear a path, sort of like making snow bricks! As I cut through the drift special care needed to be made not to trigger an avalanche. It is important to note that during the entire whack we would encounter times where a 10+' diameter section of snow around the leader would "crack" and sink a fraction of an inch accompanied with a "woomph!" sound.

The talus field was a welcomed sight as it meant we were getting near the top. But the worst was yet to come. After the talus field we proceeded up the hill only to find an insanely steep section. The sight of this was quite demoralizing but we trudged through anyways. More of those sinking circles of snow would occur in this section, only it was more nerve wracking since they would sink deeper here as the terrain was much steeper.

Numerous times passed where we thought we were at the summit only to notice once we rose over the hill that there was even more to the climb. Blue skies were visible over the "horizon" which further enticed us.

Finally we reached a flat area which was the "summit area" It had taken us 4.5 hours to go .9 miles and climb about 1600 feet (yes the whack rose 1600 feet in .9 miles! I told you it was steep). At this point the three of us were completely burned out. I had broken trail most of the way since we ditched the snow shoes and I was completely out of steam. Even following my trail break wasn't easy for Damon or donna as even though I had moved a lot of the snow still a great deal of packing was to be done!

This is where the story takes a turn for the worse. We were at the flat summit area but time was running out and we needed to turn back very soon. Donna and Damon gave me 5 minutes to find the canister before we turned back. I dashed into the snow on my search but found nothing. After a while I was called to turn around and come back. I had no idea how far I was from the true summit or if I was actually on it. The canister was nowhere to be found. It looked like there was a small mound maybe 50 feet away from me that was a few feet higher than where I was, but there was a stand of spruces which resembled prison bars standing between me and that spot. But seeing that I didn’t know if this even was the summit or not I had to do what was right, I had to turn back.

We descended very quickly using the time honored butt-slide method. It took us about an hour to get back to the boulder, then another 2:40 to get back to the car. We didn’t run out of usable twilight until about a mile from Sawyer river road. This is where the mogul squashing is important because we didn’t want to be tripping on them in the barely light twilight hours!

Later I would find out from donna who had spoken with Arm that we were a mere 30 feet from the canister (Arm climbed Vose Sunday along his and our trail break and found it). Its an awful feeling knowing that you traveled so far and through such difficult terrain to only miss your goal by 30 feet!

There is still debate as to if this should count as a NE100 peak considering how ludicrously close we were or not. Tentatively I am not counting it, and instead planning on getting it next weekend.

Pictures are here:

It's really just glorified walking in the woods.

Mon Feb 19, 2007 1:14 pm
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I Spend All My Time on This Forum
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Joined: Tue Mar 01, 2005 8:52 pm
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Damn dude, with all that effort I would count it TWICE!!!!!

Glad to hear you made it out safe and sound. Turning back is not all that bad. Earlier this year my sister and I attempted to make North Lafayette, but heavy winds and dropping temps pushed us back a mere 75 yards or so from the summit.


Mon Feb 19, 2007 4:06 pm

Joined: Tue Oct 24, 2006 10:51 am
Posts: 136
Location: NH
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It really is a tough call, I did not want to turn back but my partners did. But you cant just ignore people like that :evil: There is always the "what if" the summit was actually further. I had no idea that I really was that close or not.

I have a friend who needs Vose and is interested in hitting it Saturday weather/snowdepth permitting!

It's really just glorified walking in the woods.

Mon Feb 19, 2007 4:49 pm
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