Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Scar Ridge - June 1, 2014

Route: Access Road to Camp III, Lower Walking Boss Ski Trail, Upper Walking Boss Ski Trail, herd path, bushwhack, blue square ski trails back to Camp III
Peaks: West Scar Ridge (3774', NEHH)
Mileage: 8.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 3200 feet
Book Time: It's a bushwhack (actual time: 6hr 10min)

Scar Ridge. The bushwhack that bushwhackers dread. But the West Peak, the one that counts for the New England 100 Highest, is not supposed to be too bad from Loon Mountain. The general route is to follow a series of ski trails up to nearly the top of the ski area and then pick up an obvious out-of-bounds ski trail that follows the ridge to Black Mountain. When the herd path swings North to go to Black (about 6/10-mile in), the bushwhack begins, more or less following the ridge, though it sounded like we did not want to end up on the South side of the ridge. There are 2 sub-peaks of West Scar, but the Western-most one (West West Scar if you will) is the recognized highpoint. There is apparently a canister on East-West Scar too from when it was thought to be the main summit.

Greg YEAH!, who I've hiked with once before to Owl's Head a couple winters ago and I ran into on the Kinsmans this winter, wanted to come along which was great as I didn't really want to do this one solo. We had talk of also doing another easier hike after this one, so we met early at the Loon parking lot 9No issues with parking space when there's no snow!), and headed up around 7. The ascent to the gondola station near the summit of Loon went well enough, though it should be noted that the Upper Walking Boss Ski Trail is a black diamond trail, and thus is STEEP! We zig-zagged our way up in a few spots to ease the strain on the calves.

The herd path was easy to find, and we set off. We slightly overshot the typical starting point of the bushwhack as the turn to the North was not as obvious as expected, but we backtracked to the right part and started in. The short descent to the col was scratchy but not horrible, and the col was really swampy and took some poking around to get through without sinking down to nothingness. From there we 'whacked roughly SE to the upper ridge, then went mostly due East to the summit. The going was never all that great, and at times was fairly thick, usually with dead branches that poke, scratch, and otherwise are a pain. At times there were herd paths, but they never lasted long, though there were far more near the summit. We did find the canister on the summit, in the most open woods we saw on the whole day...

Camp III with Big Coolidge and Whaleback Mountains in the background

Big Coolidge Mountain (L), Whaleback Mountain (C), Potash Knob (R)

The pointy peaks of Liberty and Flume peeking up behind Whaleback. Black Mountain on the right.

Going back was worse than coming up. We started off on a herd path going the right direction, which almost immediately ended, and then we generally tried to follow the "better" woods while keeping to the ridgeline. Unfortunately we fell a bit off to the South side of the ridge and every attempt to get back to the main ridge resulted in impenetrable woods. The bright spot was that we missed the swamp in the col, but getting from where we were about 50 feet vertical below the col back to the herd path was extremely difficult and resulted in spruce swimming where we couldn't always see each other a mere couple yards apart. Finally getting back to the herd path, we quickly went back to the ski slopes, took a short break, and then headed down, using a few blue square ski trails (not as steep) to get back down to near Camp III. With it now early afternoon and us drained, we called it a day and so I got home nice and early for a change.

Looking back and comparing notes and the GPS track to that of those that had helped with some of the beta information, it appears that we just missed the line of decent woods heading up. I was sent a picture of one of the thicker sections one person ran into, and it was akin to one of the better stretches we saw. Apparently we missed the right line, though not by much. Going back, well, we knew we were off, so that is what it is. At least we made the summit, and this one is checked off now! Thanks Greg for coming along and sharing in the misery.

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