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Define Crosscountry

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Define Crosscountry

Postby maverick » Wed Aug 01, 2012 2:09 pm

After having an interesting discussion with some fellow backpackers who mention
that on a recent trip about a month ago they were ascending a class 2 pass but
could not find the descent route (use route). No evidence (boot prints) of other
backpackers passing through that area was to be found. They decided to go back
down the way they had come up and continued on to a trailed pass not to far away.
All member have been backpacking for years and have crosscountry experience.
One member voiced his frustration that he had seen several possible descent
opportunities but the others were adamant on following the official route and
not deviate.

Does crosscountry have to be a defined route for you?
If it is not a Secor pass/route do you not use it?
Is crossccountry travel not about the freedom to explore the unknown instead of
being locked into a route that many have done before us?
With good map skills and Earth Google have you done more, or considered some
liberated route planning?
After doing a Secor pass/route that you have done before, have you later done it
again but this time deviating from the described route official route and found it
to be easier?

Too clarify, I am not advocating that someone who has no or little crosscountry
experience all of a sudden throw caution in the wind, but rather addressing those
who have been doing this many years or decades.
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Re: Define Crosscountry

Postby SSSdave » Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:34 pm

A person hiking where there is no visual trail.

There are more visually obvious use trails that are not on official maps than there are maintained trails. Almost every popular lake has one where fishermen regularly follow obvious worn foot paths. Unmaintained use trails however tend to be inconsistent, usually obvious but sometimes through hard surfaces indistinct. Also there is the tendency for multiple parallel paths. And sometimes those multiple paths don't lead back to the main trail paths but rather to side destinations like short campsite spurs or viewpoints. Thus a hiker cannot always mindlessly stumble along without paying attention to what they are doing.

One distinction between maintained trails and unmaintained trails and or use paths is only the former are signed thus on unfamiliar use trails one very much must start to pay close attention to a map.

Climbers often move across rocky terrain that cannot develop an obvious visual footpath. Instead such routes if heavily used may merely be a sequence of cairns and ducks. A person following such a route is not really navigating cross country in the pure sense.

Use trails always come in relative degrees of visual obviousness with deer trails at the lower extreme. Following such animal paths can be efficient through some types of terrain like traversing steep forested slopes where the path usually affords more level footing. However such trails usually do not persist that long before wandering off in directions we humans have no interest in following like right through brushy slopes. Thus when following deer trails, one must continually be considering whether to follow the faint path or vector off on one's own.
Accordingly the difference is somewhat blurred between cross country hiking and trail hiking. In some cases one may from minute to minute be switching between use trails and pure cross country.

Personally, once off official maintained trails, I only bother to follow primary use paths if such appears to be the most efficient route. As someone carrying heavy backpacks and or daypacks, I do not like needless inefficient yo-yoing along a route. And I have a talent for smoothly moving over awkward terrain like boulders thus where trails bother to avoid, I sometimes prefer to go. Thus am quick to strike out on my own routes. And with strong topographic map skills, my planned routes usually end up being the best general routes upon actually encountering terrain. Once on an unfamiliar though planned route, I also have the skill to efficiently refine through the vague map zone of a planned route, the small scale variations of route choices step by step.

For those that think they have good cross country skills, a good class 2 challenge is Waterwheel Falls on the Tuolumne River via the non trail side in mid June when the falls are powerful. One might start at Pothole Dome and wander back and behind East Cottage Dome. From there to the gates of a route down the east side of Cathedral Creek requires compass skills through a dense lodgepole pine forest. North of crossing the Glen Aulin to May Lake trail the main task is crossing Falls Ridge while maintaining a class 2 route as there are many steep class 3+ slabs blocking the way for those without strong topographic map skills.
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Re: Define Crosscountry

Postby Troutdog 59 » Fri Aug 03, 2012 9:48 am

maverick wrote:Does crosscountry have to be a defined route for you?

Quite the opposite. Cross Country is hiking with no defined trail. Defined my not be the best term, as many cross country routes are marked with ducks and hence defined, and sometimes you follow game trails for awhile, but in my mind there is no obvious trail. It doesnt need to be difficult, just without a visible trail. Some routes are both like Lamarack Col. Its hard to call the eastern side cross country as theres a good use trail practically all the way to the top. The other side however, appeared all cross country on my visit although there were lots of ducks to be found.

[quote="maverick"]After doing a Secor pass/route that you have done before, have you later done it
again but this time deviating from the described route official route and found it
to be easier?

Sure. I often modify my route based on what I encountered on the first journey. I consider myself quite adapt at interpretting terrain from topo maps, but theres no replacement for seeing it with your eyes. I'll plan a route for a ceratin area due to the terrain depicted on the topos, but modify the route in field due to things like the jointing patterns creating those pesky little 20' ridges that are difficult to cross and dont show up on the 7.5' topos (aerial pics help with this one). Also sometimes pick a different route for the way up than the way down based on steepness of terrain, exposure, etc.
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Re: Define Crosscountry

Postby paul » Sat Aug 04, 2012 5:38 pm

To me, it means off any trail. Use trails to me are kind of in-between. I don't like use trails much, except when ascending a peak, since then they are usually going the right way. But often they are so vague as to be just a distraction from actually finding your own route.

I've never followed a route description. I have read some while planning trips, but I've never had one with me on a trip.

I have very often found a better way down than the way I came up, or vice versa - you often can see the route better from a different perspective. And sometimes I just want to go a different way on the way back to see what there is to see.

Thee are usually several workable routes on a pass or up a drainage, sometimes one is a lot easier bu sometimes there's not much difference. Of course, there are some passes that have only one practical approach, but there are a lot more that have several.
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