Mt. Clough bushwhack from Long Pond Road

Posted on March 23, 2016 by Chris Lumens in bushwhacking, hiking.

On Sunday, Tim and I set out to do a hike. We originally planned to hike Cannon but changed our minds on the drive up to Lincoln and decided to do Moosilauke instead. At breakfast, Tim got out the map and started looking for routes we could take. While doing that, he saw Mount Clough across from Moosilauke and said that looked interesting. After a few minutes of reading trip reports, we decided it looked doable and set out to bushwhack this New Hampshire Hundred Highest peak instead.

Once again, my apologies for no pictures. I really need to start taking my camera hiking with me. I think it would spice these reports up a lot more.

Bushwhacking is basically hiking through the woods with no trails, using map and compass (or a GPS, or both) to guide you. It requires a lot of map reading and terrain reading skills, a sense of humor, and a lot of persistence. The major dangers are getting lost (though we had a GPS and trails or roads on all sides of us so that would be pretty hard to do), finding yourself in terrain you can’t hike through like cliffs or ravines, extremely thick spruce trees you have to push through, and blowdown patches where you have to climb over and under all the fallen trees.

These were all reasons I’d never had any interest in bushwhacking, but with my recent increasing interest in the Hundred Highest I was more open to the possibility. Plus, everyone said Clough was pretty easy as far as bushwhacks go and it had also never been activated for Summits on the Air. I might have also just been in just right mood for it.

Anyway, here’s the GPS track for our route. You can click on the image to go to an interactive caltopo map with the track overlaid on it.

I’ve also marked an alternate route near the summit in blue dashes. I’ll discuss this route later on.

We started by driving over to near the Glencliff trailhead the long way, from Lincoln. We made a couple wrong turns once we got close but eventually found the trailhead. Basically, you turn left on a dirt road before Glencliff that is signed as the AT. Since this was winter and they are actively logging in the area, the road was gated pretty much immediately. We parked off to the side, geared up, and set out.

Ascent

It was cold so the road was frozen. We made good time on it, passing both the Tunnel Brook trailhead on the right and then the Blueberry Mountain trailhead on the left. I also noticed periodic numbered signs attached to trees along the way. I thought they might be marking off campsites but none of the locations looked any good.

Our only direction was to leave the road at a high spot around one mile after the start and head up the ridge. Well, if you’ve been down one of these forest roads before, you know it all kind of looks the same. We didn’t like the looks of things at one mile, but at about the 1.5 mile mark we decided we’d gone far enough and dove into the woods. This was just after the #9 sign on a tree and near a couple little streams coming down from the right. At this point, we were also about 1.25 miles from the summit.

At first it was pretty steep, but it quickly flattened out before turning gently uphill. The woods were open, there was almost no snow on the ground, and the grade was moderate. We made good time on basically a straight line path towards the summit. Along the way we crossed a couple old logging roads in various conditions. We put down a waypoint at the most obvious one but ended up not really needing that later. Here and there we hit a steeper spot, or a slightly thicker spot, but it remained very easy walking.

Somewhere around 2700’, we hit a much steeper open area followed by a short band of icy cliffs around the 3000’ contour. We considered just cutting north and following the cliffs along their western edge but didn’t really like the look of the ravine on the topo map. Plus, the cliffs looked pretty short. So we picked the least icy, least steep spot we could see and headed up through the cliffs. After maybe 50’ of scrambling, we were at the top and into the thickest trees we’d seen all day.

I was concerned for a minute, but it ended up being a very narrow band of thick stuff. We pushed straight through and into a very open, meadow-like area. There were footprints in what little snow was on the ground and other evidence of herd paths. There were also tons of little prickly bushes. This wouldn’t be fun in the summer with shorts. Luckily I was wearing snow pants. We climbed quickly through this section and went back into the trees at the top. It was here that I think we made our first big navigation mistake of the day. This is right at the southern end of the blue dashed line. I’ll discuss this later, though.

While we had occassional views of the summit from here, the going also got a whole lot harder. The trees really closed in and got much pointier, and there were several big blowdown patches we had to climb through and over. At the least, these patches gave us the only views of the day. We could see over to the snow-covered summit of Moosilauke, over to Jeffers Mountain across the Long Pond Road, and out into all the western NH and VT stuff I don’t know about. I also felt our track was taking us well north and past the summit, but that ended up not being the case.

Anyway after one particularly nasty blowdown patch, it levelled out and it looked like we might be at the summit. That turned out to not be the case, but the woods were much more open and there were several obvious herd paths leading off to the east. After another minute or two of walking, we arrived at the summit canister.

Summit

Tim sat down to eat while I got the radio gear out. I quickly assembled the Arrow antenna and into a tree, got the log out, and hooked my HT up. Even though I’ve got portable HF gear now, I didn’t know what the temperature would be like so I wanted to do something that required less use of hands - hence the HT again today. Running portable HF would have made the first activation better, but I guess that’s just something for the second activator to do. Anyway, after calling CQ just once or twice, my friend Rik (AB1KW) came back to me. He was over 60 miles away in Concord, but he came through just fine.

It then took me 30 minutes to get the next two contacts, N1GB and W1GJG. During this time I tried increasing my profile by spotting myself with the great cell phone signal at the summit and by talking on the Mt. Washington and Berlin repeaters, but nobody responded to me. I couldn’t hear the North Conway repeater on Cranmore, and while I could hear the Westford MA repeater I thought it might be too far away for simplex.

After how long it took to get those three contacts, I was starting to lose hope for this activation. I also lost Tim, who had gotten bored of me playing radio and had gone off to search for a better route down. After another 15 minutes, I was finally able to get N1YBX and KC1SS bringing me up to five contacts and making it an official activation. N1YBX in particular spent a while hooking things up under his desk to be able to contact me, so I really appreciated the effort.

I made the last two contacts quick because I was anxious to catch up to Tim. I packed up in a hurry and started off after him but couldn’t figure out which way he’d gone. After wandering back and forth around the summit for a few minutes I was able to get in touch with him and have him come back up to meet me. So I sat down and ate my sandwich while I waited.

Descent

Turns out, he’d found a much more open route off the summit by going to the northwest - basically, go through the flat clearing on the summit but where we came in through blowdowns to the left, bear right and continue following the most gentle slope of the mountain. We had really good success following this route for several minutes until we got to a confusing spot just on the edge of much thicker woods. On the track, you can see this where we turned straight north and then went straight south following a contour line. It was here that we made our second big navigation mistake. This is the northern end of the blue dashed line. Again, I’ll cover that later.

At this point, not knowing what to do, I suggested we just drop straight down the mountain. I knew as long as we went west-ish, we would hit Long Pond Road. There was basically no way for us to get lost. Unfortunately, going straight west and down ended up being both very steep and very thick. Sometimes there were also icy patches. We very slowly fought our way through this stuff down to about 3200’ where we broke into a marshy area. Here we took a break and considered our options.

We knew where our logging road GPS point was so we decided to generally follow the contour over towards that point. We knew it was much more open woods there so if we even got in the area of it, we’d have a much easier time of it. So we turned more southwest aiming for that point. It unfortunately stayed pretty steep and thick, though not as awful as it had been up higher. After quite a long time we popped out into the ravine between two forks of the stream, at around the 2700’ contour. It was a whole lot more open here and there was snow on the other side of the ravine, so we decided to just turn back to the west and head downhill.

We made much, much better time all the way down to the main crossing of Jeffers Brook and very shortly after that the road. There really wasn’t much to say about this part - it was all the open walking we’d enjoyed at the beginning. We hit the road that had turned into slop during the warm and sunny day and followed that a couple miles back out to the car.

Suggestions

About those two big navigational errors we made - continuing straight up into the thick stuff somewhere around 3200’, and dropping straight back down into the thick stuff just below the summit… I think the blue dashed line might be a much easier route. I think instead of turning northeast into the thick stuff, we should have kept going north and left both the blowdown patches and the summit on our right side. I think we would have eventually hit the spot on the way down where we turned west and the going got much more difficult. From there, we could have curved back around following the easy terrain to the summit. On the way out, we would have just followed our track back out.

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