Aug 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm #1278190
I've always been interested in bushwhacking. I do it a lot in my local woods, mostly during the cooler months.
From what I hear you really have to know what you're doing if you're going to bushwhack a mountain.
Then I got to wondering, do people out there teach this stuff?Aug 17, 2011 at 2:41 pm #1770461
Yeah, it's called the United States Army.
On the serious side, bushwacking pretty much is another word for navigation by terrain association. It's quite easy to teach yourself so to speak. I could go into a huge write up, but I'm not sure as to what you already know/don't know. It's how we used to navigate in the Army, map, compass, protractor(before it got soft and let troops use GPS's).Aug 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm #1770462
"Yeah, it's called the United States Army."
Yes, R. S. nailed it.
(U.S. Army, Advanced Infantry Training, summer of ???)
We had to go over dirty mountains and down through the black water swamps. No trails.
Be an army of one.
–B.G.–Aug 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm #1770463
That's pretty interesting. Thanks. I don't think I would have thought of it with that angle. It wouldn't surprise me, now that you mention it, if a teacher out there has a military background.Aug 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm #1770484
"I could go into a huge write up"
Oh, please do! I for one would love to read a series of forum (or blog) posts on "navigation by terrain association"
On second thought these would make wonderful BPL articles (hint *cough* hint)Aug 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm #1770519
@daviddrakeLocale: North Idaho
+1 on a write-up/article, RS. And I like "navigation by terrain association" a *little* better than "bushwhacking," which doesn't sound particularly skillful, or LNT. Maybe "off-trail navigation"?Aug 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm #1770525
@footeabLocale: Pacific Northwest
School of Hard Knocks
Here is a perfect write up describing this unpleasant necessity.
The Brush and Bushwhack Rating System
by Mark Dale
For years there has been something sadly lacking in the climbing world. Something necessary to help describe the total mountaineering experience in those areas blessed with challenging peaks surrounded by primeval forest. That something is a brush and bushwhack rating system. After years of the hand-to-limb combat encountered in below-timberline approaches, one comes to realize that this part of an ascent can be half or more of the battle. (Notice the use of fighting terms.)
And yet, just how does one accurately relate this important facet of a climb in words? "It was ugly, real ugly," "Brutal," "A freaking flail," "Oh, not too bad, but I did lose a pint of blood." Well, these are pretty good subjective descriptions, but what's missing here is something more definitive. What we need is a way to portray in a more precise manner those endearing struggles with the brush.
Therefore I propose the Cascade Brush and Bushwhack Rating System. This system is so named because most of my experience in the past ten years of climbing has been in the Washington Cascades. It's perfectly applicable, though, to other ranges of a similar nature, e.g. the Olympics, Northern Selkirks, British Columbia Coast Range, Alaska Range or any mountain group where below-timberline approaches necessitate brush-beating and bushwhacking. This system rates both difficulty and grade much like the technical climbing ratings in use today.
Before defining system nomenclature here are a few guidelines for describing your favorite flail:
1. Conditions described must be when the approach is snow-free, since snowpack greatly affects most bushwhacks, reducing their difficulty considerably.
2. More demanding terrain, e.g. cliffy or steep, will increase a bushwhack's difficulty and grade as compared to one with the same vegetation on level ground.
3. Both the density and the type of brush are important factors. I'll take an open area of mature devil's club over a dense stand of slide alder any day.
4. Grade is determined by both time and distance involved in completing the approach, as well as the duration of the difficulties.
5. Since creek and river crossings play an important part of many approaches, a special sub-rating has been devised for these.
6. When a mechanical device such as a machete is used the bushwhack is no longer "free," and an aid sub-rating must be used.
These apply to the "free" difficulties (no aid used) and range from BW1 to BW5, where BW stands for "bushwhack." Difficulty ratings apply to those areas of worst brush that can't be avoided.
BW1 Light brush. Travel mostly unimpeded, only occasional use of hands required (e.g. mature open forest).
BW2 Moderate brush. Occasional heavy patches. Pace slowed, frequent use of hands required.
BW3 Heavy brush. Hands needed constantly. Some loss of blood may occur due to scratches and cuts. Travel noticably hindered. Use of four-letter words at times.
BW4 Severe brush. Pace less than one mile per hour. Leather gloves and heavy clothing required to avoid loss of blood. Much profanity and mental anguish. Thick stands of brush requiring circumnavigation are encountered.
BW5 Extreme brush. Multiple hours needed to travel one mile. Full body armor desirable. Wounds to extremities likely, eye protection needed. Footing difficult due to lack of visibility. Loss of temper inevitable.
When artificial means are used to penetrate brush, then an aid rating should be used to describe the device required. These ratings range from BA1 to BA5, where BA stands for "brush aid":
BA1 Machete or sickle
BA2 Gas-powered weed-eater
BA4 Agent orange
Creek and River Ratings
These ratings are used to describe the difficulty in crossing watercourses. The range is WA1 to WA5, where WA stands for "water":
WA1 A dry crossing is possible by using rocks or logs.
WA2 Possible wet crossing, but a dry crossing can be accomplished with some finesse.
WA3 Wet crossing, ankle- to calf-deep.
WA4 Wet crossing, calf- to knee-deep.
WA5 Wet crossing, greater than knee-deep, possibility of getting swept downstream.
Grades range from I to VI and follow the same general guidelines as climbing grades:
I Brush beating can be done in a few hours or less.
II Generally will take less than half a day.
III Could take most of a day, but hardened parties will be able to complete in a short day.
IV Will take a long day and involve continuous battle.
V A 1+ to 2-day bushwhack, difficulty rarely less than BW4, large quantities of bandaids and wound dressings will be needed unless properly attired.
VI The most extreme of bushwhacks, requiring over 2 days to complete with probably a BW5 encountered along the way.
Following are some examples of rated bushwhacks:
Picket Range, Goodell Creek approach — Grade III – IV, BW4
Mt. Shuksan, White Salmon approach — Grade I – II, BW4-
Mt. Spickard, Silver Creek approach — Grade V, BW4+
Mt. Blum, Blum Lakes approach — Grade III, BW3+, WA5
Devils Peak, Coal Creek approach — Grade I, BW2
Monashees, Thor Creek approach — Grade VI, BW4, BA1
Chimney Rock, standard approach — Grade II, BW2
And there you have it. No longer must one try to decipher the deranged mutterings of a victim of jungle warfare. A person needs only to apply the appropriate brush ratings to relate his brutal experience to others. And who knows? With advances in bush technology and the competitive nature of climbers, we'll probably see difficulties pushed to BW6 and beyond. And there just HAVE to be some Grade VII's out there!
So come on, folks! The next time you report a mountaineering trip that involves green hell, use the Cascade Brush and Bushwhack Rating System to tell others about it. They'll be glad you did!Aug 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm #1770532
Thanks Brian. That's a great article. Actually, really funny and entertaining too.
It's kind of hard to believe that something like this hasn't been created yet (or at least I don't think it has).Aug 17, 2011 at 7:46 pm #1770576
I leave tomorrow for Bozeman until Tuesday evening. If people are truly interested, I could explain it in much better detail in some type of article form. No problem at all.
I'm a 9 year Army veteran and "Land Nav" was my favorite thing. I took an advanced land navigation course also. You want an experience (and yes it may SOUND easy), try making it from one point to another that is a measly 2000 meters away, at night, using "dead reckoning", ie using a compass and an azimuth and pace count. Fun stuff. Haha.Aug 17, 2011 at 10:03 pm #1770602
" try making it from one point to another that is a measly 2000 meters away, at night, using "dead reckoning", ie using a compass and an azimuth and pace count. Fun stuff. Haha. "
I still remember the night land nav course at Fort Polk Louisiana. There was a nice long horseshoe shaped ridgeline, and then there was a shortcut through the middle. What the map did not show was that the middle was a swamp. It was nasty.
–B.G.–Aug 17, 2011 at 10:55 pm #1770615
@davidadairLocale: West Dakota
Now thats funny- a bushwacking rating system loosely based on the expected frequency of swearing. Might be as accurate as any though.
Hopefully not too far off topic – when I expect to be off trail a lot I really like a Silva Ranger 27 compass. It is a small mirror compass that weighs 22 gm. What makes it special is the big safety pin built into the hinge that allows it to be attached above the shirt pocket where you can see it at all times. It folds down flat to view or folds up out of the way for brush work. 'Cause if you keep track of which way you've been going it's easier to figure out where you are!
"From what I hear you really have to know what you're doing if you're going to bushwhack a mountain."
No so much about staying found. At least in the mountains there's usually something prominent to get a bearing on. I tend to get lost in terrain with less relief. Finding yourself in the middle of a steep loose boulder field can be a bit of an eye opener though.Aug 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm #1770617
"At least in the mountains there's usually something prominent to get a bearing on."
Maybe. Maybe not. Inclement weather can really destroy visibility of anything beyond your arm reach, and it is really hard to shoot bearings at night. I've been caught in clouds on Cascade volcano summits, and about the only direction you can figure out is Down.
–B.G.–Aug 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm #1770776
@tom_murphyAug 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm #1770809
Hey Tom. Thanks for your help. I'll check out the links and head over to Hike-NH for a bit to see if I can learn more about those guys.
Edit: I found a couple of threads there. It's great to find a group that's into this.
Now, though, I'm starting to think about the challenges of not sweating profusely, obtaining high fitness levels, and owning outer wear I don't mind beating up :)
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