3.13.2008

People get lost in the woods, with or without tracklogs posted here

Ricker Basin, from Waterbury Center (more images here).

From the Callout (incident) Log of Stowe Mountain Rescue (these actually make interesting reading if one spends time in the outdoors):
March 1, 2008: Bolton Valley Ski Patrol again requested our assistance, this time looking for an overdue backcountry skier, last seen in the area of the Cottonbrook Trail. We deployed teams to Bolton Valley, to the bottom of the Cottonbrook Trail, and requested a local snowmobile outfitter to sweep the VAST trails in the Cottonbrook area. The outfitter located the subject skiing toward Waterbury reservoir and transported him back to Stowe where he was debriefed and waited for a ride back to Bolton.

February 13, 2008: Bolton Valley Ski Patrol called to request assistance looking for two snowboarders who had reportedly gone down the back side of Bolton ski area toward the Waterbury reservoir. Before deploying the subjects called back and reported that they could hear a grooming machine at the ski area. They were eventually able to follow the noise back to the ski area and our response was cancelled.
I am pretty confident that the parties involved in both of these events hadn't been reading some of the recent postings on this blog and then decided to explore (apparently without enough knowledge of the area) the trackless woods near Waterbury reservoir. I point this out because I received an unsolicited email from someone I have never met criticising me for posting detailed GPS information about Ricker Basin and possible backcountry ski routes (and here) online.

I have mixed feeling about this. I don't think my posts are particularly irresponsible as they make it very clear that the area is remote and that to get to the Woodward Mountain Trail from the reservoir is a pretty significant project involving climbing on skis for many hours and 1,500+ ft of elevation gain to get to the ridgeline. Also required is some basic ability to read a map, use a GPS & compass, and read the terrain because there are few trails in the woods -- I when first started bushwhacking, I plotted out some nice straight but dangerously impractical routes -- and this was in a wilder patch of land than Ricker Basin. But, it's not exactly a full blown expedition to Antarctica if one is prepared, experienced and somewhat fit.

Although I described the glade I ascended on my second trip as 'steep and deep' I don't think that there will be hordes of snowboarders descending the glade anytime soon because it is located probably right about the halfway point of the Woodward trail and it took me 4 hours of skiing from the reservoir side to get there. I'm guessing (a pretty informed guess) that it would take a good 2.5 - 3 hours of hard skiing from beginning of the trail at Ricker Mountain to get to the same spot. The area is remote -- that is its appeal.

Lastly, I know that even if I am prepared and cautious, bad (possibly fatal) things can still happen in the woods. I, however, think that sitting at home eating too much food and endlessly watching television/being online etc. is probably more risky in the long run than being in the outdoors.

By posting this material here I'm not trying to incite people to do stupid, irresponsible things, or to encourage unprepared hordes to ski or tramp through the trailless woods until they need to call for help on their cell phones. It's just a recounting of my experiences and the places I've been, my misadventures along the way, and trips that I may plot out in the future. Anyone reading this should use my impressions as the roughest of rough guides only and should be sharply aware that their experiences may vary significantly from my own. That's all.

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