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Bushwhacking Vose Spur

Mt Tremont from Vose Spur, Carrigan Notch

Mt Tremont from Vose Spur, Carrigan Notch

Vose Spur (3774′) is a sub-peak of Mt Carrigan, located in Carrigan Notch at the southern end of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Densely wooded and trail-less, it is a bushwhack peak on the New England Hundred Highest peakbagging list.

Randy at the Summit of Vose Spur

Randy at the Summit of Vose Spur

I bushwhacked Vose Spur last weekend with my friends Pam, Trey, Matt, Ian, Anne, and Randy. In addition to bagging the peak, we were on hand to celebrate Randy’s 100th NEHH peak. Including mountains in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, it is no mean feat to finish hiking all of the trail hikes and bushwhacks on this peakbagging list.

The Rock near the Start of the Bushwhack

The Rock near the start of the Bushwhack

Despite being a bushwhack, there is a fairly standard route to the summit of this peak. We started the hike at the Sawyer River Road lot and hiked up to Carrigan Notch via the Signal Ridge and Carrigan Notch Trails, diverging from the trail at a large rock which signifies the start of the bushwhack. You really can’t miss it. It’s in a level area in the Notch across from Mt Lowell, where people have obviously camped before.

Trey at the bottom of the Talus Field

Trey at the bottom of the Talus Field

We hiked past the rock about 50 yards before turning left and entering the woods. Randy led, hiking up an increasingly steep slope through woods, which grew denser the farther uphill we got. Skirting blow downs and rock cliffs, we eventually found a rock cairn which marked the beginning of a very faint herd path which we followed to the large talus field on the west side of the Vose Spur.

Anne climbs through the boulder field. The Signal Ridge Trail travels over Mt Carrigan behind her.

Anne climbs through the boulder field. The Signal Ridge Trail travels over Mt Carrigan behind her.

Out of the woods and exposed, we all bundled up for warmth, donning hats, gloves, and hard shells during this stage of the ascent. After climbing through the talus field, we re-entered the woods above it, climbing steeply climb to the summit herd path, passing through a narrow band of spruce below the summit.

Blow Downs on the Summit of Vose Spur

Blow Downs on the Summit of Vose Spur

Once atop the peak, Pam broke out the red wine and we toasted Randy on his achievement while munching on cheese, bread, olives, and summit cookies. But getting into the canister to sign the log book proved to be rather difficult. Randy finally prevailed on loosening the top with a rock – the cap was jammed on – so we could sign the log book and beat feet. The temperature felt like it had dropped significantly during out ascent and we wanted to get moving again to warm up.

Unnamed Sub-peak of Mt Carrigan

Unnamed Sub-peak of Mt Carrigan

At that point Matt and Ian, split off from the group and continued up to Mount Carrigan, bushwhacking from Vose Spur to an unnamed peak on Signal Ridge and to the new firetower on Mt Carrigan. Matt reported this second bushwhack was 1 mile long and passes through a second smaller talus field. It took he and Ian 2 hours to hike the extension, following a very faint herd path for half the distance and skirting the worst blow downs.

Descending the Talus Field

Descending the Talus Field

The rest of us descended in the general direction we came from, back through the Talus field and eventually back to the Carrigan Notch trail. About half-way down we found a different herd path which we followed until it vanished in the thick scrub. I was leading during this section of the hike, weaving through the brush trying to find the clearest path while avoiding the cliffs we’d bypassed on the way up.

Anne descends through the brush

Anne descends through the brush

I didn’t need a compass for this section of the hike because we were descending into Carrigan Notch, a narrow valley with a trail running up the middle. I knew I’d run into the trail sooner or later simply by descending ¬†and we came out of the woods just 50 yards beyond our starting point.

From there, it was just a 4 mile walk back out to our cars on a chilly evening in November. A great hike. Vose Spur is a peak worth coming back for in warmer weather.

Total distance: about 9 miles in 7  hours with 2300 feet of elevation gain

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18 Responses to Bushwhacking Vose Spur

  1. Doug Knox November 14, 2013 at 7:48 am #

    Sorry, seeing the last picture of Anne whacking her way through the brush… I just can’t see the fun??

    • Philip Werner November 14, 2013 at 8:36 am #

      When you’ve hiked the same trails and peaks over and over, bushwhacking gives you the opportunity to access the 99% of the White Mountains not accessible by trails. The hiking is much tougher and you need much better technical skills, such as map reading and compass. But the satisfaction of achieving your goal is even better than on a trail hike. Perhaps you’ll try it someday, but to each his own.

      • Spelt November 14, 2013 at 11:04 am #

        Plus you get to practice your swears. ;)

        • Philip Werner November 14, 2013 at 11:06 am #

          Every hike requires a blood sacrifice, too.

          • Chris G November 14, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

            Is that an official AMC policy? How enforced is it?

  2. Pete M November 14, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    Are canisters and log books on all/most of these bushwhacking peaks? Who maintains them? Is the information from the log books collected? Thanks.

    • Philip Werner November 14, 2013 at 9:28 am #

      The peaks on the major lists tend to have canisters or mason jars or jars of some sort but it can be hit or miss. Maintenance is usually done by the organization that sponsors the list but some of these lists just “exist”. There’s very little “information” in the log books except names, dates, and personal reflections. It’s a very social thing among people who often never see one another in person but recognize each others names. There’s a long tradition of this kind of canister use throughout the Northeast’s mountains. Like AT lean-to registers it’s a highly localized collection system. Much better than having people carve their initials in trees and spraypaint rocks. There is very little traffic on a lot of these climbs with maybe a half dozen summits per year so it is very low impact,

      • Pete M November 14, 2013 at 11:14 am #

        Thanks I will have to keep an eye out for these. I did my first(and only) bushwhack as part of the AMC Map and Compass class in September. Didn’t care for it at first but then started getting into after 20 minutes of so. Need to bring clear glasses next time as I thought I was going to lose an eye to one of the branches that “whacked” me in the face. ; ) Navigating by compass was pretty cool though.

        • Philip Werner November 14, 2013 at 11:20 am #

          You learned from the best. I co-led that class with Joe and Anne (above) the previous year and bushwhack with Alex regularly. The hardest part isn’t using a compass, but finding people who are willing to go slow enough to note the speed of walking different segments, and matching what you see with what’s on the map. But I degress. Practice, practice, practice. If you don’t, you lose the skill.

  3. Trey November 14, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Great report Phiip! It was a great weekend.

  4. Trey November 14, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Oops. *Philip.

  5. David November 14, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    I’m envious of your day out. Looks like a great time. Would this be a good bushwhack for someone who has not done much off-trail recently to begin to get re-acclimated? Looks like it would be pretty difficult to get lost in Carrigain Notch as long as you have some idea how to navigate.

    • Philip Werner November 14, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      There are a few nuances to this hike. Try Big Bickford instead (Franconia Notch) and go with someone who knows what they’re doing (recently). The problem with Vose is that your 4 miles in. With Big Bickford, you don’y have to hike to the start of the bushwhack. It’s right off I93.

  6. Matt November 16, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    Great to finally meet you Philip! It was a fun day, Vose was pretty straight-forward to get to which was nice. Carrigain was a bit tougher, but a really cool talus field with some awesome views and a neat alpine shoulder near the summit of Carrigain too. Thick, but doable with only a tiny bit of blood loss. See you on the trails!

  7. Shawn July 28, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

    Nice pics and a useful post. I was determined to start my 7/24/2016 bushwhack farther north on the Carrigain Notch Trail, having decided a more direct route at a different location might give me a new experience and, if luck had anything to do with it, a shorter bushwhack. Looking at the eastern slope of the notch and reviewing USGS topo maps suggest there would be steep climbing. There turned out to be no herd paths, very thick vegetation, and I ran into some vertical cliff faces and other rock outcroppings farther up the toward the summit that would require 5th class climbing (even that would be risky with the poor, crumbling quality of the rock). I traversed to the south a bit before I was able to navigate around the rock and make progress up the mountain, which was still very steep and thick with spruce and other trees (both friend and foe). Higher up, blowdowns became a more significant challenge. I never saw a herd path or scree/talus slope on my route up this face. From the summit of Vose Spur toward Carrigain, I didn’t come across a herd path worth following, except for a small section just off the summit. I probably would measure my rate of travel in tenths of a mile at some points and at others I was simply stopped in my tracks trying to figure out a way past the cliffs

    The next two minor peaks on the route to Carrigain were also thick and steep, though not as steep. Again, with blowdowns becoming a bigger problem with increased elevation. The first minor peak had a short section of talus that provided some views, respite from the trees, and a chance to dry out. It had rained the night before and I was waterlogged from the water that still clung to the trees.

    I was able to find a herd path from the minor peak closest to Carrigain, making the last 15 minutes or so significantly quicker and more pleasant. Surprisingly, I think that I would have chosen the bushwhack over my descent of Mt. Carrigain by the Signal Ridge Trail simply because of all the traffic that was headed to the summit on that day. Can’t say I would recommend my bushwhack route over the traditional route due to the steepness (think ladder steep) and risk of needing to downclimb or traverse around the rock hazards, but I certainly got a new experience and it’s a good option for those looking for a challenge like this.

    I hadn’t found any info on the east face of Vose Spur and thought this might help some folks avoid this approach or at least provide an idea of the difficulties so they can weigh the risks and time required to deal with them. My RT time was about 8 hours for the roughly 10.5 miles. Even considering the descent of a portion of Carrigain via Signal Ridge Trail can be a bit slow due to the rockiness (and people traffic), the rest of the trail hiking is fairly easy and quick. I had no issues with navigation route finding. This gives some perspective as to how slow I was on my bushwhack route.

    • Philip Werner July 28, 2016 at 2:39 pm #

      Interesting route. Sound burly! But I’m sure others will find your beta helpful. Have you considered bushwhacking The Captain on the other side of Carrigain?

  8. Shawn July 29, 2016 at 1:55 pm #

    Thanks for the suggestion of The Captain. Just read your trip report and it seems to be a cool spot to see – made me wonder what Carrigain Pond is like so I added that to my “to do” list. Your phrase “clawed our way up” Captain was priceless! I’ve always liked traveling offtrail, but didn’t seriously consider bushwhacking mountain peaks until starting the NEHH list. Definitely intrigued to do more bushwhacking to get to those “lesser” peaks or other interesting places without trails. Your Bushwacking list is a great resource.

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