Bushwhacking ratings

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Mark Straub

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Bushwhacking ratings

by Mark Straub » Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:09 am

Came across these today after hearing about them a while before on a scramble; these would be really helpful when describing a route!

http://www.alpenglow.org/themes/subalpi ... tings.html

They apply especially to the Cascades, but I suppose they would work anywhere brush is encountered.

Difficulty Ratings

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.

The worst I've hit is BW3 on Mt. Baring (we were kind of off "trail"), what about you?


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Peak Freak

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by Peak Freak » Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:19 am

I love this :lol:

Recently did a bushwhack from Squamish to the Pitt River Hot Springs. My regular adventure partner & I were trying to evaluate bushwhacking levels for our friend who had (perhaps foolishly) joined us. We used a scale from 1 - 10 but fairly similar concept.

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Peak Freak

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by Peak Freak » Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:23 am

Ooops..... forgot to answer the question.

According to the scale in your post, I've definitely done BW5. Fortunately not on my last trip though. The first attempt of the Squamish to Pitt River Hot Springs that we did was pretty close to a BW5. Usually it's bushwhacking in adventure races or similar situations that can get the most intense.

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by Sierra Ledge Rat » Fri Sep 11, 2009 8:07 am

In Yosemite I did some utterly henous bushwhacking is off the scale. After climbing El Capitan, we descended the canyon that ends at Manure Pile Buttress. In that canyon we ran into the worst bushwhacking I have ever experienced.

The bush was so thick that we couldn't even get to the ground. We were in the tops of the bushes. In order to make any progress, you had to throw your haul bag ahead of you. The bag would get caught in the branches, and then you had to climb through the branches to get to the bag. The process was repeated in agonizing slow motion, over and over.


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Mark Doiron

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by Mark Doiron » Fri Sep 11, 2009 1:55 pm

BW3 exiting the north summit of Sunset Peak, bordering on BW4. Don't need leather gloves, but there's plenty of greenbriar, poison ivy and, in the right season, ticks. You'll also circumnavigate to keep your less than one mile per hour pace up. Hiked this with Alan Ellis and The Lower Marmot last year, and it was definitely the worst I've seen (Trip Report). --mark d.

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Pyramid peak

by cdog » Fri Sep 11, 2009 2:37 pm

a couple weeks ago, we encountered BW4 conditions descending from Pyramid Pk to State Route 50, in CA. Luckily it wasn't far enough to earn BW5, but there was loss of blood due to no "leather gloves and heavy clothing".

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by Sierra Ledge Rat » Fri Sep 11, 2009 2:54 pm

Dingus Milktoast wrote:BW4 when I started, BW1+ when I finished. Took 6 or 7 days work, total.


There is nothing worse than bushwhaking through manzanita, eh DMT?

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Bill Kerr

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by Bill Kerr » Fri Sep 11, 2009 3:20 pm

Vancouver Islander did an article on bushwacking here


Similar rating system.

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by SpiderSavage » Fri Sep 11, 2009 3:41 pm

I've done some BW3 in Yosemite. Back in N. Idaho I've definite done BW4. It should be added to the definition that at BW4 you no longer are touching the ground.

Sometimes in the California chaparral you have to tunnel. Get down and crawl and slide through the rattlesnake zone.

Some people fail to see the aesthetic experience of bushwacking. I've often pondered starting a glossy magazine like "Climbing" and calling it "Bushwhacking." Or, how about "50 Classsic Bushwacks of North America."

Hand in hand with the BW rating would also be the "tick count." eg: BW3/TC105.

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by Andinistaloco » Fri Sep 11, 2009 4:07 pm

Love it. Made me instantly think of Sedona. Manzanita, catclaw acacia, yucca, scrub oak, and countless other painful things so thick that you can't see ahead. I've worn two pairs of pants and STILL come out bleeding like a stuck pig.

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by rpc » Fri Sep 11, 2009 4:55 pm

hateful fu.king manzanita in yos:


out of the bush & into the light in columbia gorge:

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by drjohnso1182 » Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:02 pm

I can't recall a bushwhack that matches the density of the brush most of you have described; if such bushwhacks exist in the east, I haven't found them yet.

I have found fields of stinging nettle up to my armpits (I turn around when it reaches neckline). I'm not sure how to rate that since my hands were most definitely not used. No blood, but lots of burning. Add in thorny vines at ankle height and you've got to be getting close to BW3, right?

Chiggers and ticks - chiggers I just accept since I'm too lazy to coat my clothes with insecticide. Ticks I do look out for, though I only recently learned that the tick larvae will bite you too. They're tiny - like period-at-the-end-of-this-sentence tiny - and you don't see them until you go to wash the dirt of your legs and discover, to your horror, that it's not dirt. Still, bugs shouldn't count in the bushwhacking rating since they don't really hinder your progress...

...with one exception, which I'm going to call "webwhacking". Only once have I had to resort to carrying a stick held upright in front of me - like it was the Olympic torch or something - so that when I went through a web every 50 feet on that God-forsaken southeastern Missourah trail, at least the spider wouldn't end up on my face. Every couple miles I had to stop and unwrap myself.

I don't think I can compete with the sheer brutality of the bushwhacks you guys have out west, but if you can work in an "ickiness" factor...

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by jniehof » Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:17 pm

Catamount wrote:Worst 'whack I recall was on the backside of Redington in Maine.

What's the rating for "walking on blowdowns ten feet above the ground and you might run into guys with M16s"? (I'm not sure which would be worse, actually...the armed guards or the hungry naked trainees.)

I'm not sure I can match the ratings up to my experience. Certainly Peak Above the Nubble involved some serious quarter-mile-per-hour bits with atrocious footing, but the bloodloss wasn't nearly as bad as the BW5 description. I spent some time crawling on Vose Spur and my arms were pretty scratched up, but body armor?

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by JHH60 » Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:21 pm

Off trail travel in the Ventana wilderness (or even on-trail if the trail isn't well maintained) involves some pretty severe bushwacking. It's partly because the area is so steep and rugged, and partly because the low altitude and microclimate encourages growth of chapparral.

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by JHH60 » Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:23 pm

PS Thanks DMT - nice note!


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