I bushwhacked West Scar on Saturday which has the reputation of being one of the most difficult bushwhacks in the White Mountains. It’s not. Still I had a fun time hiking with some old friends, I got some more off-trail hiking in, and I came home smelling like a spruce tree.
Our trip on Saturday started at the base of the Loon Mountain Ski Resort, just outside of Lincoln, NH. The first part of the hike starts with a climb up to the top of Loon on the Brookway and Walking Boss slopes, which are quite steep, a black diamond, someone said. We walked mostly up on the grass, switch-backing back and forth to help reduce calf fatigue.
But the views were stunning from the top of Loon Mountain! We could see the Kinsmans, Cannon, Garfield, Galehead, the Bonds, Hancock Notch, Franconia Ridge, and two 3000 footers I want to bushwhack named Big Coolidge and South Whaleback, right across the road.
We climbed Loon to get to a herd path located at 3,000 feet, which runs to the start of the bushwhack portion of the hike. The entrance to the herd path isn’t marked, but it’s obvious if you look for a gap in the foliage. Once you get on it, the herd path is marked with orange tape and very easy to follow.
There’s not a lot of online intel about the route to West Scar, but we’d found two trip reports that we’d based our pre-trip research on:
My friends had also obtained two GPS tracks from hikers who’d previously climbed West Scar.
While my preference is not to use a GPS track to navigate, this wasn’t a hike that I’d organized and the people on it didn’t have the same purist navigation aesthetics that I do. We ended up using a combination of GPS and compasses, if only because it’s easier to follow to a compass bearing when bushwhacking. Still, I was happy to make this a reconoiter for future reference, knowing that I’d probably come back to this peak at a later time from a different direction.
The bushwhacking portion of the hike to West Scar traversed mostly open forest and it was pretty easy-going. We came across quite a few herd paths to the summit, which I tend to be leery of because I’ve followed them in the wrong direction before thinking that they “must” lead to my destination.
Stil herd paths can be a good way to save energy rather than scrambling over blow downs or bashing your way through thick spruce if they head in the right direction.These herd paths headed where we wanted to go and we made great time, summiting after 90 minutes of bushwhacking, shortly after 1 pm.
After signing the log book, we headed back, trying to find the way we’d come in. That’s when the bushwhack got more fun for me because we had to do quite a bit of “real” bushwhacking and navigation. We’d come off the peak at the wrong angle, trying to follow an easy heard path down, and gotten way off bearing. We corrected by staying on the contour and looping around West Scar before reacquiring the herd path out. There was a point though, where I was willing to say “f*ck the herd path, let’s just bushwhack back to where we need to be.” I just don’t trust herd paths, I guess.
Once back on the path, we flew back out to the Loon Mountain slopes and quickly hiked down the mountain slopes to our cars From there it was a short drive to the Woodstock Inn for burgers and brews before the trip back to Boston. A great day back in the hills with good friends.
Total hiking time was 7 hours with 7 miles and 2779′ of elevation gain.
Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:
- Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Guide
- AMC White Mountain National Forest Map Set
- Exploring New Hampshire Map from the Wilderness Map Company
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