Mt Whitney Webcam
Mt Williamson Webcam
Feature Topics
Who's Online
0 registered (), 19 Guests and 2 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
3773 Members
10 Forums
5596 Topics
51215 Posts

Max Online: 382 @ 11/07/12 05:45 AM
Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 >
Topic Options
#9263 - 11/29/10 06:09 AM help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
I'm seriously considering to do the JMT in late winter or very early spring (April or early May), using snow shoes. I looked at touring ski but a) I haven't been on ski in 20 years and b) this stuff is really expensive - like almost $2000 for ski, boots, bindings and skins. I've used touring ski in the 80s and it was really great for ascents, but I have never done a serious downhill outside of the Wisconsin "bunny hills" or the German Black Forest, so before I break my neck going off Mather Pass, I figure I will do the snow shoe thing. I feel more comfortable at walking speed. It's mostly the downhill stuff I don't want to even get into, especially since I have a hunch that I will most likely be alone on this trip, so injury is not an option.

So here's where I need some input:


Pulk Sleds

What about pulk sleds? Anyone ever use them in the high country? I guess they may not be stable enough in the steep terrain and then there are the stream crossings where you need to carry these things. Plus, unless it is the middle of winter, I suppose there is a good chance that down below 9000 feet on a southern slope, I may find terrain that is snow free. Not good for pulling a sled. I could go earlier in the year, but was hoping to have at least 12 hours of daylight, so anything before late March won't cut it. The reason I am looking at the pulk sled idea is the need to bring more food that normal (no resupplies unless I can wing something), more gear than in summer, so my pack would be rather heavy. Put all that weight on snow shoes and progress on soft snow may not be easy. Perhaps I could go with a hybrid setup - a medium pack and a small sled to complement the pack, small enough so I can strap it to the pack when not needed or for crossings.

I may even have to build a sled myself, because most units I can find are rather large (15,000 cubic inches for the Granite Gear sled... 17 pounds empty!). It also is amazing how much more you pay when you get them from an outdoor company like Granite Gear compared to the ice fishing version from Shappell. I found some info on available "fins" to stabilize sleds in steep terrain, which makes me think this may actually work. Maybe I just have to build one myself - plenty of instructions and variations on the idea out there, plus a vendor that sells lots of parts.

Thing is - sleds don't makes sense if April regularly brings snow free zones on the JMT between Whitney and Tioga Pass (east entry and exit, also not sure what direction makes more sense). I guess a lot has to do with what type of winter it is, but if April means snow down to below 7000 feet for sure, the sled may be the way to go. Any locals who can shed light on that issue?


4-Season Tents

I also need suggestions and experiences with 4-season tents in the Sierra. The only one-person 4-season I found is the Hilleberg Akto, but I am probably too tall for it. Maybe I'll go plush and get a 2 person tent. Extra space comes in handy if you're not going anywhere, plus there are a lot more options available. All are much heavier, though. Just based on internet research, I'd say the shortlist for me includes the TNF Mountain 25 (8.8 lbs, small for two people, bombproof choice which is what I usually pick), Hilleberg Nallo 2 (6 lbs - roomy for one, not free standing) or the even bigger Nallo 2 GT. There is also that Norwegian Helsport line - Greenland-approved, but expensive.

Snow Shovel

I will need a good snow shovel (for camp building, avalanche condition checking, etc)

Snow Shoes

snow shoes - I think I'll need the MSR Ascents for the terrain I am going to be in. I followed a recent snow shoe discussion on the Muir Trail mailing list and feel I need the aggressive snow shoe more than load capacity. "Sierra cement snow" and other terms were brought up. Much of the terrain is above tree line, so larger snow shoes should be ok to carry a heavy pack.

Poles

hiking poles? Special touring ski poles? - guess for the hiking poles I owuld need real snow cups - the snow cups they sell for my REI carbon poles barely worked in June on really hard snow

Crampons

I assume there is no way around them that early in the year. I have some heavy duty crampons but feel that for most of the trip I would not need them. I'd probably get some aluminum crampons to save weight.

Footwear

I assume that for weeks of walking in the snow, a high altitude mountaineering boot is best - warm, with inner boot for tent use, crampon compatible and waterproof. Anyone ever hike in snow shoes with something like that? Other ideas? I am used to heavy boots, so I don't really care about weight. With gaiters, those things will go through rather deep water without a problem either. problem is that these boots are expensive ($600+) or I need to find a pair that fits on ebay in time. Expedition gaiters are also great and should make any plastic boot as good as the high dollar Everest-style boots, possibly better when things get so warm you want to go without gaiters

Clothing suggestions

Clothing - layers... Heavy gore tex outers, down, fleece, thermal underwear, gloves and overmittens, etc. Most of my gore tex gear is for summer use - I'd have to get a warmer shell, some down layers, etc - need some suggestions from folks who have been up there in April.

Sleeping Pads
ground pad(s) - double up I suppose - closed foam and some thick warm thing on top.

Sleeping Bag
sleeping bag temp rating? I have nothing warmer than 20 degrees, so I would have to get something new. April temps at 12,000 feet? down or synthetic? I don't mind buying a $600+ bag if that's what it takes. I hate to be cold...

Cooking
fuel - propane or liquid fuel? how much? will I need to melt snow for water? I know the propane/butane stoves get slow when it's cold, but then I know Everest climbers still bring that kind of stuff along. What's the word out in the Sierra? don't want to start a big discussion about what's the ultimate lightweight stove in winter, just need to know what is reliable.

Food storage
bear canister - bears will be hibernating and what ranger will check if I have a can or not? I think I'll bring it anyway. Anyone ever have a Bearikade freeze shut on them? How to prevent?

Communication

Right now I think it's gotta be a sat phone with Spot as backup. GPS with summer tracks loaded for navigation just in case there's a whiteout.

camera gear

I'll bring far too much again, need that sled.


and although this is gear corner - since I got your attention some related questions about trail and weather:

About the trail that time of year: what should I expect the water crossings (Evolution, Bear) to be like in April? Theoretically they should be pretty low, but I assume that may change on a daily basis with the weather warming and cooling. However, even if warm for April, the water should not be as deep as in June but if it requires real fording, I guess I need to have a plan for my sled (a backup pack frame?)

The preferred direction in April? south north or the usual north south? I assume that mornings mean crisper snow even on the south flank of passes, so climbing northbound in the morning and then descending on the cooler north slopes in the afternoon may be the better direction regarding snow stability. Sun in the back with all that white stuff around may also be a good idea. Thing is, I know the trail way better southbound, the orientation in that direction would be dramatically easier for me, even if everything is completely covered in deep snow. Then there's the obvious altitude stuff with southbound being easier. Starting in the south from Horseshoe Meadows may be the best option for northbound, with Whitney left out of the route, but what fun would that be?

Resupply

I am not sure how to handle that with all the usual places not in operation in April. I may just have to find some volunteers to meet me on some of the more accessible passes and give them a good excuse to get out there early in the season.

Anyone interested to do a JMT with snow shoes some time around April 2012? I doubt I'd be able to pull this off in 2011. There's just too little time to get this all sorted. Too much stuff to test out before and far too much expensive gear to buy in a hurry. Another extra winter to test gear here in Wisconsin may not be bad either.
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#9266 - 11/29/10 09:59 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Sounds like an interesting and amazing adventure should you pull it off.

A sled sounds great for areas it can be used but a few thoughts come to mind such as when your climbing straight up it seems very dangerous to attempt to pull the massive weight of a sled up a steep slope. Assuming your considering South bound a few places that come to mind are Bear Ridge, Golden Staircase, Mather Pass & Glen Pass. Then down hill seems very dangerous also, many areas sound like it would be a blast riding down hill and burning up miles in minutes but what about very steep slopes? I can't imagine having to dangle a sled below me as I try to descend unless you use ropes and anchor points. Some slopes to consider would be the slope into Tully Hole, Mather Pass, Glen Pass, Forester Pass and of course up and down for Whitney slopes.

Considering all the snow travel you may want to play it more safe and use a synthetic sleeping bag to have the safety of some warmth if it gets wet since drying will not be an easy task.

I think you will need to take a very careful look at when you plan to leave with water crossings, many of the streams you come across you may find them completely impassible. I was amazed time and time again this summer as I looked at drift wood piles on creeks that showed the water levels 15 feet higher and wall to wall through canyons. Add the idea of having a sled to get across and you might be in trouble.

I like the way you think though, dream big & play big. wink


Edited by RoguePhotonic (11/29/10 10:05 AM)
_________________________
FlickR

Top
#9268 - 11/29/10 10:30 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
more details on the "sled" type I am considering

here's one in action:



more info here

http://www.skipulk.com/index.html

I also have no intention to "ride" any sled downhill - the pull system uses poles so you keep the sled behind you (it pushes against the harness).

Whitney may not be part of my route - been there, done that. I may hike in/out at Horseshoe Meadows instead. going north, I save myself the killer climb with full gear, while going south, I don't have to worry about the crazy descent, although southbound I'd probably do Whitney as the destination over bypassing it.

thinking out of the box - happens when you have more than a dozen summer and fall JMTs behind you, plus, it would be something very few have done before. Searching online, I have found some info on skiing the JMT from about 15 years ago, so few ever try this. Even that report showed some snow-free valley bottoms, so the sled may have to be small enough to just unload the pack where it makes sense.
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#9269 - 11/29/10 10:40 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
saw this video linked from one of the pulk sites:

http://www.grandshelters.com/video/MVI_2580.mov

shows a pretty heavily loaded sled being snow-shoe'd down a powder hill side. Not as steep as some of the slopes on the JMT, but from what I see here, it's probably easier to go down loose powder than to keep this stuff straight behind you when the snow is solidly packed

I figure that I can bypass some nasty hillsides by changing my route, such as Bear Ridge, but ultimately, I gotta be able to get my gear across steep terrain. Maybe I should just plan on a big pack and get used to that idea.

Water in April - unlikely to be the time that brings the highest water. I recently looked at the monthly fill data for the reservoirs and they really don't start start filling up at all before May. I think if I am on the trail around April 1, I should be able to dodge the beginning of spring in the high country. All the wet crossings on the JMT are at higher elevation, which buys me a few more days - down low we usually get to use bridges for the bigger streams (Woods Creek, Piute Creek, Fish Creek, Mono Creek). If anyone knows from experience that April is getting too late for lower water levels, I guess I gotta go earlier and bring more batteries for the headlight.
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#9271 - 11/29/10 12:02 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Looks like a cool system but I still envision going over a steep slope and having the sled slide sideways picking up speed and rip me off the mountain side lol.

We seem to both be planning a hike outside normal standards but on opposite ends of the spectrum as I have been working on a multi week hike around Death Valley, probably 150+ miles.
_________________________
FlickR

Top
#9276 - 11/30/10 05:58 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: RoguePhotonic
Looks like a cool system but I still envision going over a steep slope and having the sled slide sideways picking up speed and rip me off the mountain side lol.


where's your sense of adventure? I could add a parachute?

Originally Posted By: RoguePhotonic

We seem to both be planning a hike outside normal standards but on opposite ends of the spectrum as I have been working on a multi week hike around Death Valley, probably 150+ miles.


Death Valley - been there once in August. Not a good idea. Furnace. Using the logic of a friend who grew up in Green Bay and moved to Tuscon: you can dress for the very cold, but when it's hot, you're quickly running out of options.

Only issue with my cold weather plan is that all that gear you need is rather heavy, and although I am sure I can somehow put together a pack that will hold it all, possibly make hte food load work out with a cache at Taboose and somehwere around VVR (may need to negotiate with them to leave something for me at the end of season in a place I can access), I am not sure how well a 55-60 pound pack travels on snow shoes.

I may not need a sled to pull me straight off the mountain if I am top heavy and the ground is soft. Last summer, just below Forester, we came across a large snow field. Just traversing, and actually dropping down to a visible section of trail when I broke through the snow with one leg. Nothing below, deep hole, and my body swung around with the pack wanting to pull me further around and downhill. Leg in the hole was jammed against a large boulder (the reason for the sub-snow thaw) and if it had not been for my kids helping to pull me back around, I have no idea what I could have done to get out of that position. Could not pull me up, my leg was being twisted pretty badly. I could have cut the pack, and later retrieved it a few hundred feet lower down smile

Stuff like that moment have me wonder about the sanity of a solo trip in winter. Doubt there's going to be a lot of those "thaw holes," but running water under the snow could cause all sorts of nasty surprises. It's not like a glacier where you fully expect those things - dangeron a trip like that could lurk be at almost every corner, and probably more at lower elevations than higher where it remains colder.

Why go when the conditions are like that? Can you imagine the JMT and not seeing a single person on the entire trip? No horseshit anywhere, no skeeters...
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#9278 - 11/30/10 07:00 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7739
Loc: Fresno, CA
If you pull this one off, Fish, it will truly be an epic. One of a kind. Something nobody else has tried.

As for a resupply, you might consider VVR at Edison Lake. They are accessible by snowmobile after a good storm. Road gets dry though, after a few days in the Mono hot springs area. VVR would be a 10-mile r.t. slog, though, from the JMT.

I think I'd want to try later times -- more consolidated snow the later you go. In fresh powder, you might only make a couple of miles in a day!

If you had a sled, some way to strap it on the back of the pack for steep descents might be worth trying.

I agree that water levels would be low. Not much melting going on in that part of the year.

I tried x-c skis, going into the Pear Lake hut in Sequoia. Unless you have lots of experience on them, mastering the telemark turns, they're treacherous on the downhill. They would sure make your up-hill and level travel more pleasant, though. Say.... I can put you in touch with someone here who has done a number of April trans-sierra trips. They always used skis.

Top
#9281 - 11/30/10 08:36 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Steve C]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
I'm going to have to chat with Ned Tibbits - he's done Kennedy Meadows to Muir Trail Ranch this spring on MSR Ascent snow shoes (no sled). He recently posted about that on the JMT mailing list.

pix from the first half of their May 10 - June 15 trip here which ended at Onion Valley.
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=35009&id=157155614308934

part two is later in June it appears - starts out with a heli rescue before Kearsarge Pass, then takes you back on the JMT northbound past frozen Rae Lakes and generally spring-like conditions most PCT hikers run into
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=36078&id=157155614308934


and based on what I am seeing, even in May there was a ton of snow. Maybe going in late April through early May without sled is the way to go, or bring a mini-sled to supplement the pack where it is possible. Forester looks gnarly even in May, and there's no way I'd be pulling a sled up that thing.

I am hoping to beat the melt and find the conditions these ski bums encountered in 1992 but I can't get a time of year from the text:

http://www.jamesalutz.com/index_JMT1.htm

Also - resupplying at VVR isn't so bad detour-wise - I usually head that way in the summer anyway, sometimes taking Goodale Pass instead of Silver and no ferry. That way I can also bypass the Bear Ridge switchbacks as an added bonus. I actually know the Bear Ridge Trail better than the regular JMT in that area.
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#9285 - 11/30/10 10:48 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Quote:
Death Valley - been there once in August. Not a good idea


Where's your sense of adventure? =P

If I can manage in winter or early spring the average temperature is in the low 70's. My planned route also has me only going two and a half days with no water once.

I hope you don't feel strange about walking over frozen lakes as that will be your only realistic option in areas such as the Palisade Lakes since the trail goes high on the cliff sides but that will mean a quicker and easier route and if you stay near the shore line you should be fine. Just be careful as an old man was killed in Sapphire Lake by falling through the ice.

You will get some amazing shots if you bring some good camera gear!


Edited by RoguePhotonic (11/30/10 08:41 PM)
_________________________
FlickR

Top
#9296 - 12/01/10 07:25 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: RoguePhotonic
Quote:
Death Valley - been there once in August. Not a good idea


Where's your sense of adventure? =P

If I can manage in winter or early spring the average temperature is in the low 70's. My planned route also has me only going two and a half days with no water once.

I hope you don't feel strange about walking over frozen lakes

You will get some amazing shots if you bring some good camera gear!



I've driven my truck on cracking frozen lakes, so walking across isn't such a big deal for somebody with a Wisconsin background smile

here's what that spot looks like in early June - doesn't seem to be a big deal to get past that small cliff along the northern shoreline of Palisade Lake

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1...157155614308934



Yeah, Death Valley in winter - was considering that back in the 80s already when I had a few weeks off and reallyw anted to get out of Wisconsin in January, but I had really no clue about conditions. Probably a good thing it didn't work out, as I clearly was not very concerned about water, something I always had in abundance in the mountains I had been to before.

Camera gear is definitely coming along on my coming Sierra trips. I just bought the Automate 1.0 panoramic bot for some gigapixel deep zooms. Not sure if that would come along in winter (2 pounds + tripod weight), but my next summer visit will see a lot of use of that thing.




Edited by Fishmonger (12/01/10 07:27 AM)
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#9298 - 12/01/10 08:47 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1255
Loc: Atlanta
Originally Posted By: Fishmonger
Yeah, Death Valley in winter - was considering that back in the 80s already when I had a few weeks off and really wanted to get out of Wisconsin in January, but I had really no clue about conditions. Probably a good thing it didn't work out, as I clearly was not very concerned about water, something I always had in abundance in the mountains I had been to before.


Death Valley in the winter is one of my favorite things to do - I try to get out there every year in late February or early March. It's just an amazing place - the air is crisp and clear (no Hades-haze like in the summer), the temps are 50s to 70s in the daytime, 30s to 40s at night, and the colors in the rock strata (that are typically hazed over in the summer) jump out at you like a kaliedoscope. Telescope and Wildrose peaks are covered in snow from about 8000 feet on up, so there's plenty of crampon work available if you want it. It's a completely different park in the winter than summer.

The downside is that it's not a backpacking park, even in winter. There are no long trails to speak of other than the Telescope and Wildrose Peaks hikes, and the water situation is still extreme. To backpack below 8000', you'd need to carry all your H2O, and there would go most of the fun. Also, I believe all of the natural springs in the park are reserved for wildlife use and are off-limits to humans. It's mostly a place where you have to set up camp (Texas Springs is my favorite) and do dayhikes. Most of the established trails in the park are up the alluvial fans, through a gazillion small canyons and fissures, to some high point or overlook.

There are some really great hikes in the more secluded areas of the park, but it takes 4WD and high-clearance to get to many of them. Being in a rental situation after flying in to Vegas, I've never had the vehicle to negotiate some of those roads. Someday I'll spring for a rental Jeep and get to those areas.

Strangely enough, the crowds in the park in the winter - the best weather - are significantly smaller than the summer - the worst weather - but I suppose that has to do with school dates and through-traffic patterns. Let's just say that you can absolutely find solitude for most of the day if you want it. The only big crowd-pleaser in the winter here is the early March wildflower show, which is definitely something to see.

Anywho, it's well worth the effort if you decide to give it a shot some day. Looking up at the night-time DV sky in winter is as impressive as anywhere I've ever been.

Top
#9307 - 12/01/10 03:13 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
You may find this guys site interesting about Death Valley:

http://rogerhomrich.com/deathvalley/

He did a hike the whole length of the park.

If your backpacking most trips are planned around the Panamints such as Surprise Canyon to Panamint City.

I have never heard anything about people not being able to use the natural springs, if you visit Butte Valley there are a few camps still completely intact and the indoor plumbing is still functional to the near by springs.

To avoid going any more off topic maybe I will just make my own thread about my proposed route since there seems to be a few Death Valley fans on this forum.
_________________________
FlickR

Top
#9332 - 12/02/10 09:38 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: RoguePhotonic]
bill-e-g Offline


Registered: 12/01/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Loch Tablae, YNP
Hi.

Couple comments.

No way I'd drag a sled. Just shoeing is hard enough.
I love the MSR Lightning shoes although don't have the
"ascent" option. Highly recommend them, although I
also recommend you get a spare pin or two to take along
(I lost a pin on a trip once... and had to use cord
to fix the shoe so it didn't move at all)
MSR said it happened rarely... although I think they now
sell a kit so you can read what you want into that...

Grew up in GB... graduated from UW Madison... smile
But I know what I got here w/Yose and the Sierra... not
going back to Wisconsin (knock on granite).

With that many miles I'd start Mid-May to have a chance
of being able to walk w/o the shoes.
Good Luck

Top
#9333 - 12/02/10 10:55 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 595
Loc: Manchester, NH
I've put quite a few miles on sleds. As a recent transplant to the Eastern Sierra from New England, we often used sleds there for hiking daytrips where the first several miles were mostly flat, placing our daypacks (4-4,500c.i. typically), well-secured with bungies. Once we hit the steeps, the sleds would be stashed for the return trip. These sleds were beefed up kid's sleds, using similar techniques/materials as your reference lists (I didn't read it in its entirety, but it looked solid). For multi-day trips, typically into Baxter State Park in Maine, we used a sled usually sold to ice fisherman as in addition to our packs, we'd be packing in extra food, clothing and gear for a multi-day.

Regardless of which sled I used, both would be modified using similar techniques as your reference. You'd also need a repair kit w/tools. Vibration is often a factor, so Locktite and locking nuts are essential.

Sleds are notoriously tippy, so the best commercial ones have a fiberglass shell over the top - like a clam shell - so the sled will still go if it's on it side or even upside down. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to have a poorly balanced sled which tips over frequently, or to have crusty conditions which flip even a well-packed sled.

Sleds are great for flat/mostly flat or rolling terrain. They're not so great on constant, prolonged grades as the weight of them pushes/pulls continuously - there's no relief, as they don't have brakes. A few years ago I had the idea of using one to climb Shasta from Bunny Flats via AV Gulch as an overnight. My intent was to use the sled up to Lake Helen. I managed to make it to Horse Camp and began to have some doubts. Once I left Horse Camp, and began heading up the mild, but steady grades, I realized it would be far more work than slepping the pack on my back. So, I ditched my sled in the trees near Horse Camp, picking it up on my return the next afternoon.

I'd suggest you use this winter as a shakedown, and make several trips, preferably over terrain which has some prolonged steeps, and see for yourself what you might be getting into. My hunch is you'll see for yourself why you don't see people pulling their gear up mountain on sleds.

A few comments on your other gear:

Snowshoes - MSR Ascents are good, as are other brands like Tubbs and Atlas (now owned by the same company) - look for models rated as Backcountry or Expedition. I have a couple of pairs of Tubbs and a pair of Sherpas (no longer made), and recommend them highly. Buy snowshoes approx. 30" long - don't get 36" unless you're at least 6'8". Always carry a McGyver kit for repairing 'shoes - including tools.

Poles - Extremely useful if you're snowshoeing, even more so if you're dragging a sled. Get good ones, made by either Black Diamond or Leki. Most of the house brands of REI/EMS are made by Komperdell, which is a good pole for dayhikes, but not as durable as the other brands. Use the larger baskets - in New England I used the larger basket year-round, as in milder weather it helped flotation in mucky/muddy conditions.

Crampons - buy steel crampons, like a Grivel G10 or Black Diamond Contact Strap. Aluminum may save an ounce or two, but they don't hold up, nor grip, nearly as well as steel. If you get into a dicey situation, the last thing on your mind will be "Thank God I saved a couple of ounces on gear that may keep me alive".

Footwear - on a long trip like this, a double plastic boot may make sense, not so much for the cold as the ability to bring the inner boot into your tent/bag at night and help dry it out. They don't have to cost $600, either. My Scarpa Inverno's still run around $325, and they're often discounted. Am not sure if Koflach is still making boots, but their Degre and warmer Artis are also excellent boots.

Clothing - if you do lots of winter hiking/camping this winter, you'll sort out what works best for you.

Sleeping pads - use two when on snow, preferably a self-inflating and a closed foam. Some get by with one - always a tradeoff between comfort and weight.

Sleeping bag - a -20F down bag. Lots of choices - will cost $250 on up.

Those are some of the high points. I may update this later. Feel free to PM me also.



Edited by KevinR (12/02/10 11:05 AM)

Top
#9338 - 12/02/10 02:11 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
SoCalGirl Offline


Registered: 12/06/09
Posts: 225
Loc: Spring Valley, CA
Originally Posted By: Fishmonger
... I guess I gotta go earlier and bring more batteries for the headlight


I don't know how feasible it would be for you... but instead of carrying 400 lbs of spare batteries might look into rechargeables and one of those solar chargers gadgets. I know they sell them... and they're fairly lightweight. It would save weight on having to carry 3 weeks worth of spare batteries that are going to fizz out quickly in the cold weather.

Top
#9350 - 12/03/10 05:05 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: SoCalGirl]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: SoCalGirl
Originally Posted By: Fishmonger
... I guess I gotta go earlier and bring more batteries for the headlight


I don't know how feasible it would be for you... but instead of carrying 400 lbs of spare batteries might look into rechargeables and one of those solar chargers gadgets. I know they sell them... and they're fairly lightweight. It would save weight on having to carry 3 weeks worth of spare batteries that are going to fizz out quickly in the cold weather.



I have gone through the solar charger phase and it has been shelved with all the other gear labeled "sell on ebay"

I went through this 2 years ago to power an HD camcorder on the trail that ran on expensive rechargeable batteries I didn't want to put into depots. So I bought a $300+ Brunton SolarRoll - 9 watts output, about 3 square feet, 12V cig lighter plug, you just add your 12V car chargers for whatever you want to charge. Well, in theory, I was all set - it worked on my patio. In real life use on the JMT in July, things were a little more problematic. Just to charge two AA batteries, I had to stop for 4 hours during the middle of the day, moving the charger along on the ground to keep it as perfectly 90 degrees to the sun as possible to maintain max output. Then when the AA charger said it was all done, these batteries lasted about half as long as a regular pair of alkaline batteries, which in turn only last 1/4th the time a Lithium battery lasts that weighs less than half of the alkaline type.

The weight of all the charging gear I had with me in 2008 is equivalent to about 40 AA Lithiums. Even with heavy use in my camera and GPS, we used a total of about 25 last summer, plus we had them in the depots, so we never carried more than 10. The weight of these things is 14 grams a piece, or two per ounce. Hold an 8-pack of alkalines and you get the idea of how much power that ounce packs. Example - Garmin 60csx GPS will run about 18 hours on a pair of Duracell AA in power saver mode. With the Lithiums, I get 60-70 hours before I need to change them.

Anyone looking for a good deal on a Brunton SolarRoll? Used on one hike, mint ;-) Great for base camp bums.

The sled idea, based on the info just above your post, may also have to be abandoned. Amazing that all these new ideas tend to go up in smoke once you dig in deeper and it all boils down to traditonal gear and modes of transportation being close to ideal. At least with the battery power thing I have first hand experience and know what worked best for me.
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#9352 - 12/03/10 05:37 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
bill-e-g Offline


Registered: 12/01/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Loch Tablae, YNP
Couldn't agree with you more on the Lithium batteries.
My solar charger is only used to recharge an Archos device
which doesn't take normal batts.

For me I use rechargables for my GPS and carry spare Liths.
For 20+ trips this year I went thru a total of maybe 4 Liths.
Enelope rechargables are the bomb.

Interesting to me is that people don't want to carry a lot
of weight and complain about the weight of a water pump...
so they look into the Steripen (have one, really like it)..
Go look at the Pen with recharger.. and look at what it
weighs.. lmao

As for other gear, if you go early enough you certainly don't
need a bear can. I can't remember the no can needed dates
off the top of my noggin though. It may be March 31.
O well.

Second the Leki w/ Snow Baskets...

-20 bag. Wow. In April I've used a 15 bag... although no
way I'd go this long without at least 0. I just bought -10.
(I don't have such a huge aspiration as u yet... Wanna
do solo traverse first.. wink)
Have fun

Top
#9357 - 12/03/10 07:49 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: KevinR]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: KevinR

Sleds are great for flat/mostly flat or rolling terrain.


that is all I needed to hear from somebody who has used them. I can barely find any info on these things beyond the ice fishing and flat-country winter camping users. It makes sense, and to be honest, I feel much more comfortable with all my gear on my back, especially with the prospect of wet crossings. I can't imagine dragging a sled up Forester's south side, so it would really just add weight and hassle.

Originally Posted By: KevinR

Snowshoes - MSR Ascents are good, as are other brands like Tubbs and Atlas (now owned by the same company) - look for models rated as Backcountry or Expedition. I have a couple of pairs of Tubbs and a pair of Sherpas (no longer made), and recommend them highly. Buy snowshoes approx. 30" long - don't get 36" unless you're at least 6'8". Always carry a McGyver kit for repairing 'shoes - including tools.


I'm able to rent some of these at the local REI, and hit the steepest hills in the area. Snow is coming in starting tonight

Originally Posted By: KevinR

Poles - Extremely useful if you're snowshoeing, even more so if you're dragging a sled. Get good ones, made
by either Black Diamond or Leki. Most of the house brands of REI/EMS are made by Komperdell, which is a good pole for dayhikes, but not as durable as the other brands. Use the larger baskets - in New England I used the larger basket year-round, as in milder weather it helped flotation in mucky/muddy conditions.


I have used REI/Komperdell for the last 4 muir trail - in fact we used three pairs of these and none ever failed. Other than sometimes being annyingly difficult to adjust and lock again, they were fantastic poles. All of them needed new tips after about 1000 miles or granite pounding use and now are good to go for more miles. However, the "large baskets" they make for them are anything but large enough for soft snow. Last June they didn't provide the support on late season snow that I would have expected. I'll have to do some research to see what they other makes offer for real winter use.


Originally Posted By: KevinR

Crampons - buy steel crampons, like a Grivel G10 or Black Diamond Contact Strap. Aluminum may save an ounce or two, but they don't hold up, nor grip, nearly as well as steel. If you get into a dicey situation, the last thing on your mind will be "Thank God I saved a couple of ounces on gear that may keep me alive".


I have some Chouinard steel crampons from the 80s, but I will probably get some step-in style crampons like the Petzl Sarken Crampons, rather than mess with the straps the old pair relies on to hang on to your boots. I have seen some aluminum stuff, but the weight difference is nothing I am concerned about. I believe in bomb proof gear, and for a trip in winter conditions, even more so than in summer.


Originally Posted By: KevinR

Footwear - on a long trip like this, a double plastic boot may make sense, not so much for the cold as the ability to bring the inner boot into your tent/bag at night and help dry it out. They don't have to cost $600, either. My Scarpa Inverno's still run around $325, and they're often discounted. Am not sure if Koflach is still making boots, but their Degre and warmer Artis are also excellent boots.



Koflach is currently coming back - have a web site, but no product as far as I can tell. Used maybe - but shoes and buying used is rarely a good idea. A long shot to get the right size and in good shape.

To get the inner boot with plastic shell type mountaineering boot, you're looking at a pretty large range of models from $949 down to under $300. The removable booties sound like what I would want on such a long trip in the cold - you can keep them in the sleeping bag and have warm feet in the morning. On the other hand - the other boots are lighter and you could pre-heat them with some hand warmer packs Everest-style or just deal with the cold. To be honest - this trip is also an excuse to finally buy that high altitude gear get me up to Rainier, Hood, Shasta, so I have to keep that use in mind, too.

Here's what is out there in that double boot class, sorted from most expensive to cheaper than my summer boots - currenlty I lean towards the upper end of this list, following my bomb proof approach. I wear La Sportiva Trango GTX in the summer on the Muir Trail, and have done 150+ mile hikes in '70s style 7 pound leather mountaineerin boots, so weight and bulk don't scare me:

Lowa Expedition 8000 GTX $949
La Sportiva Olympus Mons $900
Millet Everest GTX $899
Kayland 8001 $849 reg - sale $600 Phantom 8000 $800
La Sportiva Spantik $629
Scarpa Phantom 6000 $600
La Sportiva Baruntse $600
Lowa Civetta Extreme $424 ($199 ebay my size right now)
Scarpa Omega $389
Scarpa Inverno seen for less than $300


To go lighter you need to drop the inner boot idea. There are a number of models out there that look warm and water-proofed enought to possibly work on a trek through 200 miles of snow (I'd add a tall set of gaiters to all boots here, possibly the Berghaus expedition gaiters that cover the whole boot and add warmth). Not sure what I'd gain with a combo of these lighter boots plus gaiters - easier to walk in? I am not going ice climbing or rock climbing, so technical capabilities of these boots below aren't really important for this trip, and for climbing something high and cold in Alaska or Washington, I probably wouldn't use these either. They look more like the ice climber's choice, although with these special low temperature gaiters from K2 , they may just be two boots in one, albeit probably heavier than some of the dedicated cold weather boots above.

Phantom Guide $529
Batura $525
La Sportiva Nepal Evo $475, very similar to my summer boots
Scarpa Phantom Lite $450, appears discontinued


Originally Posted By: KevinR

Sleeping pads - use two when on snow, preferably a self-inflating and a closed foam. Some get by with one - always a tradeoff between comfort and weight.


I have both kinds, and both on their own have their flaws. My inflatable loses pressure overnight - even in summer - enough to have me touch the ground by 3am. The foam pad is bulky and nowhere near as comfortable. For the winter trip, I am pretty sure I'm doing foam as the base, and something inflatable on top, but not the pad I have right now. Heard good things about the new Thermarest and then there are down-filled inflatable pads as well.

Originally Posted By: KevinR

Sleeping bag - a -20F down bag. Lots of choices - will cost $250 on up.


I'm getting a vapor barrier liner for sure - still on the fence with down versus synthetic, but knowing now that I will need to pack/carry the thing, down is probably the only choice. So a warm down with goretex fabric bag most likely - been looking at the Marmot and Western Mountaineering options and in either case, $250 won't get me what I am looking for. More like $600 I guess.

also - backpacks - considering going back to a frame pack to have the capacity for all that heavy gear I now will not be tugging behind me in a sled. I have a large Gregory internal frame pack and may just go wtih that, but 95 liters may just not be big enough for this trip. Their Denali is 107 liters, but $$$ like anything else that's really good smile
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#9358 - 12/03/10 07:54 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: bill-e-g]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 595
Loc: Manchester, NH
While I'm a proponent of PV cells (installed them on my house in April in a grid-tie system), the small-scale technology for making them practical for recharging batteries, powering radios, etc, isn't quite there yet. Two summers ago I bought one of those PV-powered radios as I was at a base camp in the Oregon Cascades for a couple of months and wanted to listen to NPR in the evenings. Even when exposed all day to sunlight, the PV cells provided only about 5 minutes of radio time. Fortunately, it had a hand-crank generator as well. REI's excellent return policy allowed me to return it on the way home as I drove thru Bend.

As for lithium batteries vs. NiMH and alkaline - I don't think lithium have an inherently greater capacity than the others. Their primary advantage is that they are not nearly as susceptible to reduced output when exposed to cold temps. The down-side is they're rather pricey and single-use only, unless rechargeable lithium AA's and AAA's are now on the market. The Sanyo Eneloops are excellent rechargeable NiMH batteries as they use the newer technology while allows them to hold a full charge for longer periods.

Follow-up:

I checked out the Petzel crampons - for general mountaineering (which your proposed trip is) less is more when it comes to crampons. Those 12 pointers are designed more for technical ice climbing. Unless you've experienced (and very lucky) you stand a good chance of either stabbing yourself and/or shredding clothing over an extended trek like the one you're considering. Even the BD Contact Strap are overly aggressive, IMO, but Grivel G10's are tough to find. You might check the Mountaineer shop - can't recall the name of the town, but it's in the Adirondacks. They had quite a stash of them. (Grivel had contracted with a company to do their North American distribution, and it went out of business a few years ago. I think that is getting resolved, but refilling the supply channels seems to be taking some time).

Personally, I think you're overdoing it on the boots. You really don't need to spend more than $300 or so on double plastic boots. I believe that Scarpa Inverno's are still the gold standard on Everest.

You can extend the warmth of plastic boots with gaiters - not the type OR and MH sells, but the type with a neoprene bottom. They come either insulated or non-insulated, and are a bear to get on, but ... once on, you leave them there (some hardcore types glue them to the boot) but they can add 10 degrees to the boot. Even a good pair of insulated ones from Wild Things only runs about $100.

- Just looked at MEC's website - here's a link to the type I describe above - above.


Edited by KevinR (12/03/10 08:19 AM)
Edit Reason: add additional info

Top
#9359 - 12/03/10 07:58 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: bill-e-g]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: bill-e-g
Interesting to me is that people don't want to carry a lot
of weight and complain about the weight of a water pump...
so they look into the Steripen (have one, really like it)..
Go look at the Pen with recharger.. and look at what it
weighs.. lmao



yeah, I don't carry any filter (and I had my giardia experience, so I know what I am risking) - but in winter - damn, these buggers die in frozen water, but I will have a much bigger issue with forzen water sources than polluted sources - so more fuel, heavier pack, can't win...




Originally Posted By: bill-e-g

As for other gear, if you go early enough you certainly don't
need a bear can. I can't remember the no can needed dates
off the top of my noggin though. It may be March 31.
O well.


it is a nice stool for camp use and I like the sense of having my food in a safe place, so I may just bring it, at least for the bulk of my food.


Originally Posted By: bill-e-g


Second the Leki w/ Snow Baskets...


checking them out now

Originally Posted By: bill-e-g

-20 bag. Wow. In April I've used a 15 bag... although no
way I'd go this long without at least 0. I just bought -10.
(I don't have such a huge aspiration as u yet... Wanna
do solo traverse first.. wink)
Have fun


gotta plan big - I have to drive 2000 miles to get there, so I usually don't mess around with the warmup hikes ;-) The warmest bag I have right now is a 10 degree and it's really not that warm. I do plan on high camps along the way - there's no way I can be sure that I will reach lower elevations each night, so April at 12,000+ feet on a cold windy day is possible. I was freezing in July on Forester this summer (very cold day - about 30 degrees on the pass at 10am and very windy).

regarding a traverse - I never planned anything like that having to return to my vehicle at the end of the hike. Crossing the Sierra in winter means you can't even get back via Tioga Pass. Just makes sense to do something along the spine of the mountains and enter/exit on the east side.
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 >