Hell Brook: It Never Fails To Deliver

Mad Dog and I braved Hell Brook today. As the title of this post states unequivocally, Hell Brook never fails to deliver. We started out at 9am, and 1.5 miles and over 5 hours later topped out on the ridge. We hammered another 1/2hr or more and turned back not 100 yards from "The Adams Apple" of Mt. Mansfield. I'll attempt to describe just how gnarly this trek was, but the bottom line was we wished you guys were here. This hike so kicked ass in so many ways it was just plain fun fun fun fun. For the PM, who's been up there in the shizzle, this was no better or worse ... just different for reasons I'll get into in a sec. While I'm typing this my pics and videos are uploading from my camera. I'll get to those later and post to picasa or youtube. In the meantime...

Mutha's Trip Report: At the cars, we seriously considered taking our snowshoes (which we both brought). Just like the last time w/ the PM, maddog and I decided NOT to bring them - but I promised that this time, due to my bronchitis I was not going to run back to the car to fetch them. No snowshoes. Great idea.
  1. We didn't need snowshoes, praise Allah... for the first 1000 vertical feet. Then we needed snowshoes. The snow varied between 1 and 8ft deep in long drifts that filled in the ravines in unpredictable ways. We broke trail the whole way up, moving so slowly that at times it seemed like we were never going to make forward progress again. Hours passed, while the conversation kept going, and going, and going. The pace slowed to a nearly glacial rate. We had crampons on, but each step could result in a plunge to crotch depth. Each pole plant could result in the pole dropping down, plunging an arm to elbow depth. It was agonizingly slow.
  2. We developed a technique we call "The Hell Brook Crawl" or "The Hell Brook Swim". It's a method to get up steep snowfields that aren't strong enough to support your weight. The technique is like crawling on all fours, using your knee-to-foot surface (shin) for flotation and plunging your fingers/fists into the crusty snow. In really weak snow you can belly crawl, but UP a VERY steep incline. I can't estimate the slope, but it's pretty damned steep. All told there was more than an hour of this crawling, so my shoulders are shot.
  3. As MadDog phrased it, thankfully we have crotches. In many cases this was the only thing keeping us from dropping deeper. We had many instances of standing delicately, bellybutton deep, and suddenly one foot starts to drop. We freeze, holding balance, drop again... then again...start swimming.... minutes pass and no progress has been made but we didn't smother.
  4. After topping out on the ridge, we made an attempt at "The Adams Apple". This final ascent was through krumholz filled with drifts. The decision to turn around came at this point: I was leading, breaking trail. MadDog followed, also breaking trail because things were so unstable that my progress barely helped. The grade was very steeply pitched and I was using the little tree-tops for support when the snowpack began to collapse under me. I ended up on my back (it's hard to explain why) with both cramponed feet jammed into treetrunks, my pack resting on the remaining snow, my hands holding little tree tops. I was on my back, spread-eagle over a collapsing crater. The cavity under me wasn't any more than 5ft deep, but to drop into it meant only being able to continue back downhill. I made the decision to turn back - it was already about 3pm (6 hours into the trek, a little over 1.5 miles from the trail head.).
  5. The trek down was a different world from our trek up. There was another couple on the trail (more on that later, or from MadDog) so the trail was well packed in and could almost be walked casually. I don't recall the time, but I don't think it took more than an hour to get down - and that was walking, not glissading!
  6. Great conversation and great companionship. It was adventure of the highest quality.
MadDog's Trip Report: Once again we were beaten up (badly) by that trail they call Hell Brook. How bad you ask? Well, it was post holing for just about the whole day, and so deep that I relied on an improvised crotch-stop technique most of the time to prevent me from going completely under the spine of the Greens. It was just another absurdly hard HB hike. Like the last we (PM, MZ) bushwhacked it, but different. today it took us about 5+ hrs to travel something like ~1.5 miles. We were just shy of crossing over to the LT before calling it quits. The decision came when Mutha was suspended above the snake pits, spread eagled, with nowhere else to go. Another way to envision the day is - if you can imagine this, it was like being armed with spears, then getting locked in a UFC cage and being pitted against 5 fast moving midgets, in a fight to the death, all the while, the fight producer is pulling levers on secret trap doors causing you to fall and thrash. I'm not much of a fighter, but we managed to pull on trees, stomp holes, swim, and crawl our way up that thing today. Kudos to Mutha for being the lead plow. We also met up with a nice couple (Bob, Jess and Ramble) at the tail end near the turn for the LT and then later on the return...we have some beer drinking rain checks to cash in at some point. And finally, on the return back to the bungalow, I met up with the Morton's Fisherman and returned his suit. I told him I wouldn't need it any longer. He asked, why? I said four Xmas great and generous Xmas elves had upgraded me. THANK YOU, Xmas elves!!!!!
Pics Posted Here.


  1. MD make sure you actually wear it!!!

    So looking at extended forecasts that mean absolutely dick squat...Thursday looks like a descent day. If people are not hung over anyone interested in doing something?

    remember we also have spungie day this Saturday...

  2. I won't be hung-over - possible good day out. I forgot about Spungie Day... thanks for reminding me.

    I assume I'll be over this bronchitis thing. It hit me hard yesterday and I was SHOT. Today I got out for about 45min of xc skiing and am just beat. It's like having mono.

  3. I don't think I'll be able to make either one. Andy's visiting with us for that timeframe.