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#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.
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#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)
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#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.
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#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.
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#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.
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#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...
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#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.

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#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.
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#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)
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#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)
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#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.

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#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.
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#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

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#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)

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#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.

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#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.
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#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

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#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
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#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

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#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.
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#9360 - 12/03/10 08:19 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
> 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.

Dude!  If you do something as wild and crazy as this could be, you might find you have some willing local help in the shuttle/transportation department.   wink



(Any thoughts about moving this thread to "General Discussion"?)

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#9363 - 12/03/10 09:44 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
Originally Posted By: Steve C
> 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.

Dude!  If you do something as wild and crazy as this could be, you might find you have some willing local help in the shuttle/transportation department.   wink



(Any thoughts about moving this thread to "General Discussion"?)


I've spent over $1000 with Bob Ennis in Lone Pine over the last few years (I have him on speed dial)-- maybe I should get some sponsors for this trip grin
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#9364 - 12/03/10 09:45 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Steve C]
bill-e-g Offline


Registered: 12/01/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Loch Tablae, YNP
Re the bear can...

uh..

You realize you can build yourself a barcalounger with
cup holders in snow? Or chair, or..
But... if you wanna carry extra weight... knock yourself out. I'd carry 3 pounds of extra food instead of a bear can...
or another can of fuel to use for the huge amount of
snow you'll be having to melt.

If you haven't hiked big distances in the snow...
I'd highly recommend a late May hike ... there still
won't be hoards out or bugs... but the streams are more
of a concern... depending on snow pack year

Have fun

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#9366 - 12/03/10 09:59 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
Re the bear can...

uh..

You realize you can build yourself a barcalounger with
cup holders in snow? Or chair, or..
But... if you wanna carry extra weight... knock yourself out. I'd carry 3 pounds of extra food instead of a bear can...
or another can of fuel to use for the huge amount of
snow you'll be having to melt.

If you haven't hiked big distances in the snow...
I'd highly recommend a late May hike ... there still
won't be hoards out or bugs... but the streams are more
of a concern... depending on snow pack year

Have fun


Yosemite NP requires bear canisters year round. Can't find anything online about it for Kings Canyon, but I bet where it's required it is required year round. I'm mostly worried that the damn Barikade will freeze shut on me rather than those 2 extra pounds

will consider the snow lounger on a slow day - would make a good photo, too smile

fuel - still no clear word about what's better in the cold - liquid or gas - but I already know that if you need to bring a lot of fuel, liquid in a bottle tends to be lighter.

Hiking in snow? Well, I live in an ice box here. We have snow from early Dec through March, 100+ inches a year in a good winter. My kids build snow caves in what I shovel off my driveway. I haven't used snow shoes much, but you just become used to this cold stuff living here. And if I am about to go for a big long white JMT, I'll just have to spend some time in the cold Wisconsin outdoors "warming up" for it. The good thing if spending a winter here before heading there in April is that I will be acclimated to the cold to some extent and not see that as a major obstacle. Moving across the snow with a heavy pack on sometimes sketchy terrain is enough to worry about.

Late May isn't what I am looking for - would be too similar to my early summer hikes in big snow years except for the bugs. The idea is to experience real winter conditions. Hey, at least I am not planning a winter yoyo hike but knowing how these things go, somebody will eventually do that, too.
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#9367 - 12/03/10 10:25 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
I have no idea where you got that cans are req'd in Yose
in Jan and Feb.

As for the cold... I grew up in Green Bay...
Everything I have said or not said has nothing to do with
the cold. Sierra is the Bahamas compared to Wisconsin.
It's the simple fact that snowshoeing is
easily 4x harder than hiking on a nice trail.
If you haven't shoed any then you are in for a rude
awakening. Keeping your pack as light as possible will
greatly help. Not using monsterously large shoes will
greatly help. And busting trail by yourself... you
are gonna go "wtf was I thinking".
You can maybe do 10 miles a day... maybe. a big maybe.

Wish you a lot of luck.

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#9368 - 12/03/10 10:40 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
> fuel - still no clear word about what's better in the cold - liquid or gas - but I already know that if you need to bring a lot of fuel, liquid in a bottle tends to be lighter.

You're going to be carrying more fuel than usual, and those pressurized disposable canisters can add significant weight over the Aluminum bottles of Coleman fuel.

I am not sure about all the pressurized fuels, but for some types, the cold temperatures will reduce their pressure to the point your stove won't put out much flame. Of course, you're in Wisconsin, so you can better test out that problem with your equipment there.

I'll bet a hand-pumped Coleman fuel stove would beat the pressurized stoves for both weight/fuel volume and heat output in sub-freezing environments.

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#9369 - 12/03/10 10:46 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
googled the caninster stuff - backpacker.com had some article about it. Can't see it on the official site, however, there's also no info that you may not be required to use them in winter. I bet anywhere above 9000 feet I'd be ok. In fact, with Tioga Pass most likely being my northern terminus, I would not camp in the low country in Yosemite at all, and the only other canister required areas that are low are Woods Creek (lockers under the snow if I should stay there) plus the low areas of the Whitney Zone. Lockers are near Rae Lakes and Tyndal, but I bet those areas are in deep winter in April. So, I guess I really won't need the thing. If I do place some caches out there, I may use a can for those, especially if low around VVR or Reds. I defintely don't want to get into silly hanging of food in winter - I'd rather carry the can.

10 miles a day is about what I am aiming for, but I may go slower if I can sort out some resupply around Taboose Pass or Kearsarge. Still don't even know if I am going north or south.

Once I settle on the foot gear I will be doing plenty of local shoeing to get the body used to it.
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#9370 - 12/03/10 10:53 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
Originally Posted By: Steve C
> I'll bet a hand-pumped Coleman fuel stove would beat the pressurized stoves for both weight/fuel volume and heat output in sub-freezing environments.

very possible - but that's not necessarily the main advantage. Guys like Messner carried butane/propane burners up the 8000m peaks in the 70s and 80s already, and they should be worried even more about temps than me. I know they do drop pressure when they cool down, so you may have to heat them up in the bag before cooking.

The real benefit of liquid fuel is the light container for fuel, but it will take a lot of days to make up for the weight of the stove - still - cold weather performance and if you cook a lot to melt water and you may have enough reason to go liquid:

http://www.thru-hiker.com/articles/stoveweight_vs_time_14days.php



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#9371 - 12/03/10 12:31 PM 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
Not using monsterously large shoes will
greatly help. And busting trail by yourself... you
are gonna go "wtf was I thinking".


having second thoughts on those snow shoes - because I now remember how easy it was to move with heavy gear on touring ski through the snow, even up pretty steep slopes when using skins. Still scared of the big downhills, but maybe if I ski the more level and uphill stuff, and snow shoe the steep downhills, I can get the best of both worlds, except for the extra weight and even higher cost of that gear.

I have enough time to refresh my ski skills before that trip to be ok at least on the generally easy slopes that dominate the majority of trail miles.
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#9372 - 12/03/10 01:26 PM 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
It's not a well know fact about the can in winter.
It's from Dec. 15 to Mar. 30. And I couldn't find it so I
gave the wilderness center a call. There's some other
stipulations about not using the can but you are not w/i
those realms.
The ranger lady I talked to shares my passion about
winter camping (you'll find that a large number of
the rangers know how spectacular winter is in the sierra
and love it too if you ever ask them about it) and
she would be more than happy to talk to you.
Her name is Ray Santo. and you can call her at
2093720200 and follow the instructions to get ahold of
a ranger. Just leave a message and ask for her perhaps.

re the stove... no way I'd use canister.
white gas with a good base plate for winter is the way to go imo.

Since I think you are not doing this for quite some time
you got time to get some experience ... and find out
what you really are getting yourself into.

Good luck


Edited by bill-e-g (12/03/10 01:29 PM)

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#9373 - 12/03/10 01:29 PM 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
Couple of thoughts:

Fuel - the lower the temps, the harder it is to get a gas stove going. Having said that, I've used isobutane (I think that's what the combo butane/propane mixture is called) on lots of "summer" glacier climbs - not unlike your trip - and it works OK. Sometimes I've needed to put the cannister inside my jacket to warm it up. Sometimes the piezoelectric lighter doesn't work, so be prepared to light it by hand. I always pack a couple of cigarette lighters as well as wooden safety matches. But, those trips were only 1-3 days - relatively short. For something like your adventure, I'd use an MSR Whisperlite, a liquid fuel stove. Some of the models will burn nearly any flammable liquid.

Bear cannisters - independent of whatever the USFS/UPS regs are - you might consider some form of protection. A year or two ago I was at the Portal on the first day the road was passible all the way to the store, getting ready for a dayhike up to Trail Camp, and made a comment to the fellow parked beside me that we probably didn't need to worry about using the bear lockers and clean out vehicles since it was so early. He told me he worked in the backcountry all winter long, and frequently saw active bears, so ... I guess not all of them hibernate. I put my stuff in the bear locker...

Finally - an observation or two on pads. Am pretty sure yours has a slow leak, and I'd replace it. They shouldn't lose air overnight like that. Also - and you (and others) may be highly skeptical of this, but ... several years ago a mountaineer with lots more experience than I told me you sleep warmer if you put the air mattress down first, then the closed foam and then your bag. It seemed quite counterintuitive, but ... this guy had quite literally been to the ends of the earth, so I kept my mouth shut, and tried it. I found he was right. YMMV.

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#9375 - 12/03/10 01:37 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: KevinR]
bill-e-g Offline


Registered: 12/01/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Loch Tablae, YNP
Ok, I give up re. the can. If you see a bear above 9K feet
in Jan or Feb I'll give you 20 bucks though.

wrt to the pads... yes that is the way to do it.

Warm - closed cell on bottom (or nothing), sleep on infatable
Cold - inflatable on bottom, sleep on closed cell

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#9380 - 12/03/10 07:10 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: bill-e-g]
gmisk Offline


Registered: 12/03/10
Posts: 5
Loc: CentralCal
By the way...this winter trek was fist accomplished by Orland Bartholomew, a CentralCal guy from Big Creek, in 1928 on cross country skis. It is documented by Fresno author Gene Rose in the book "High Odyssey."
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#9389 - 12/04/10 11:15 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
lynn-a-roo Offline


Registered: 08/14/10
Posts: 627
Loc: OrangeCounty
At Costco, they sell snow shoes. I wonder if the snow shoes they sell would be good for your trip, plus, personally, I'm curious about these snow shoes for myself. Would anyone care to comment on the quality of the snow shoes at Costco. Below is a link to where they sell them online. Thanks.


http://www.costco.com/Common/Search.aspx...&lang=en-US

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#9392 - 12/05/10 05:42 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: lynn-a-roo]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 595
Loc: Manchester, NH
Am not personally familiar with the Yukon Charlie brand (it's relatively new) but have heard good things about the company. That particular model is rated as "Recreational" - great for occasional snowshoeing over flat/rolling terrain.

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#9394 - 12/05/10 08:11 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
for goofing around in the snow in the midwest these Yukon Charlie (he's from China if he exists) shoes are a good deal. Wouldn't go up a steep mountain with shoes like that. It's all about grip and bite when you're hitting slopes, and MSR has some of the most aggressive snow shoes, but obviously with a price tag as steep as the slopes they are designed for.
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#9395 - 12/05/10 08:14 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

Warm - closed cell on bottom (or nothing), sleep on infatable
Cold - inflatable on bottom, sleep on closed cell



great info - but why? You'd figure it's going to be the same overall insulation. If not, why not bring two of the warmer kind? Two foam pads?
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#9396 - 12/05/10 08:42 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
A good pad below you is vital especially if you're on snow. The second you touch ground below you in a down bag, it's so cold you don't feel like your even in one.

I spent a hellish night sleeping on snow near the top of the Kaweah gap on a Thermarest pad because between the smooth floor of my tent, the smooth face of the Thermarest and my smooth down bag I would be off my pad with the slightest movement. To make it worse I was on a hill. I never used a Thermarest again after that trip. wink
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#9401 - 12/05/10 03:23 PM 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
I use the Neo Air shorty and a long Z-Rest year round
if camping above 9K-ish.
I like the extra cushion ... if you are young and
are comfortable with only closed cell then that's
the way to go.
The closed cell next to your body is warmer more or less
b/c a mass of air is gonna move around in an air matt.
and you are going to have to continually heat it.
Something like that and thermodynamics... wink

I completely agree with the shoe responses above.
On multi day trips you have to rely on the shoes not
failing. I wouldn't entrust a "recreational" shoe
to a huge endeavor.

Just a note ... if there is any misunderstanding... I am
very very pro Bear Can. I follow all the rules for food
storage and never have lost food to any animals.
You will see bear tracks in April at high elevations.
I wouldn't go then w/o one. And one of the caveat for
no can in Yose in Jan/Feb is that you need to be
above 7200 ft.

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#9419 - 12/06/10 08:29 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
Since I just did a JMT with single foam mat in summer without throwing out my back, I may do dual foam for winter. I will do some testing in the snow this winter once I get the tent and sleeping bag sorted, since I have several Z-Rests (short to long) and two inflatables to choose from.

Re tent - starting to turn away from the bombproof Everest shelters in favor of a lighter single wall tarp tent (MSR Twin Peaks or Twin Sisters) based on the advice from somebody who has been out there in April to May on ski. Saves easily 5+ pounds over a full tent, costs a lot less, and uses the poles you already carry for support. I know there's probably going to be that 100-year storm when I am out there, but when it gets really bad, I'll just have to dig a snow cave, something I've done before and didn't enjoy much.

I think in the coming weeks I need to head out to the local ski hill to see if I can still do it - that snow shoe thing is starting to sound like a lot of work and possibly too slow for the distances that need to be covered. I'd still need to bring a pair for the parts I won't dare to ski.
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#9421 - 12/06/10 09:44 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
MSR Twin Peaks looks nice.

I've used a bunch of different stuff, bomber Winter Tent,
regular old tent, GoLite Shangri-La 1, tarp, and no tent at all.
All depends, who going with, where, what time...
Twin Peaks looks like a winner. I'm not totaly in love with
the Shangri-La 1. It does great in wind, it's just somewhat
of a pain to setup. Problem is is that if I bring it I
don't set it up on account it usually nice out...
I personally need to use it more in the snow to give a good
assessment.

So perhaps you don't think I'm making everything up, here's
a couple of trips from this year:
http://picasaweb.google.com/yosemite.chick.on/StarrKing
http://picasaweb.google.com/yosemite.chick.on/Nance

Favorite was to Echo Lake but that's not on the chick-on account.

I have some knowledge, but by not means claim to be an expert.

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#9451 - 12/07/10 09:58 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: bill-e-g]
lynn-a-roo Offline


Registered: 08/14/10
Posts: 627
Loc: OrangeCounty
I love your photos of Yosemite in Winter. I've never been to Yosemite in Winter, but I'd love to see it in Winter time IN-PERSON. I sure hope there is a person taking these photos and not a tripod. I could never camp in snow that deep without someone to snuggle with. I don't think the Pink Chicken will keep anyone very warm, but she sure is darn cute. LOVE YOUR PHOTOS LOTS! OOOPS, just saw a picture that called the Chick-On a Boy, now that's just not right, pink is for girls....my favorite color.


Edited by lynn-a-roo (12/07/10 10:01 AM)

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#9455 - 12/07/10 01:10 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: RoguePhotonic]
CaT Offline


Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 694
Loc: Blacklick, OH (formerly SoCal)
RP - The few times I have used a Thermarest (supposedly their best - i.e., thickest -- one), I wasn't at all impressed with it. It still seemed paper thin to me. So what do you use now instead of Thermarest?

CaT
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If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracle of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.
- Lyndon Johnson, on signing the Wilderness Act into law (1964)

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#9457 - 12/07/10 01:25 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: lynn-a-roo]
bill-e-g Offline


Registered: 12/01/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Loch Tablae, YNP
Lynn, here's a couple more:
Echo Lake / Matthes Crest - Yose, Early April 2010
Copper Creek - SEKI, Late May 2009
The second one shows just how much snow lingers...
2009 was not a huge snow year...
In actuality the Nance set above was late May of this year.
Huge snow year. Only one of the 4 I put here that is
really winter is Starr King.

Chicky is not a blue bird. smile

Re. other options for shelter... the wife is prob. gonna
try winter hammocking over Xmass when we go into the
backcountry for 4 days. If anyone is interested I can post
the results... (I'll be bringing a single-wall 2 person
so she can bail into that if need be)

Since I'm babbling... if I was doing a REALLY long trip I
would def. wait until late March. By then the weather isn't
as unsettled and the days are much longer...

Have fun

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#9462 - 12/07/10 02:51 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
Quote:
So what do you use now instead of Thermarest?


Back when I first started backpacking I bought a cheap pad from Big 5 that is black and I continue to use it. It's not very thick but has good durability.

Years ago I ditched my bed at home and began sleeping on the floor for multiple reasons but one of them was I wanted to train my body to sleep on any hard surface so that I could sleep any where and it worked just fine so I don't need any actual padding I just need insulation.

Earlier this year I bought a 2.2 ounce 1/8th thick pad to try and cut down on weight but it had no durability and got holes in it after a single use in Death Valley.
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#9465 - 12/07/10 03:59 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: RoguePhotonic]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 595
Loc: Manchester, NH
RP - If you want the "most for the least" in foam pads, get one made from Evazote. It's the warmest foam, most durable and most resistant to ultraviolet. There's an article at the MEC website here. MEC is like the REI of Canada - excellent stuff at a reasonable price, and they haven't forgotten their roots. I bought an Evazote from them years ago - still going strong.

As for durability of foam pads - blue foam is rather low. OTH - I bought a military issue pad thru an Army/Navy store a zillion years ago, and it just won't die. A friend and I used it one time as a sled to help a woman would had wrecked her knee. Granted, it was downhill, and mostly over snow and ice, but there were a few rocky spots, and she sat on it, held the sides, and we slithered her down the mountain about 1/2 mile on it and met the SAR unit coming after her. The pad survived fine - just a few nicks. I like it because it has some light nylon straps glued to it so it can secure it quickly.


Edited by KevinR (12/07/10 04:01 PM)

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#9475 - 12/07/10 06:44 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: KevinR]
bill-e-g Offline


Registered: 12/01/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Loch Tablae, YNP
Not sure exactly what CaT means by paper thin.
The thickness of the pad? Or the material it's made of?
The latest Neo Air from thermarest is very light and
pretty darn thick (9oz 2.5in thick)
Although it seems like it wouldn't hold up well...
I've been using one for a couple years now
(whenever they first came out with it) (2008?)
and it's still running strong after easily over 30 trips.
As for closed cell... my Z-Rest is easily 10 years old,
if not older... still works a treat ...
I prefer to sleep right on granite... so a air pad is a
welcome part of my kit.

Have fun

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#9476 - 12/07/10 08:58 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: bill-e-g]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7739
Loc: Fresno, CA
> Not sure exactly what CaT means by paper thin.
I'm pretty sure CaT is talking about the original Thermarest self-inflating pads. Pretty thin if you aren't accustomed to sleeping on them. "Paper-thin" is an exaggeration, and if you don't take what you read here with a grain of salt, we could wind up with another huge debate. wink

The Neo-Air from Thermarest is an inflatable air mattress, completely different from the "original" Thermarest pads. Neo-Air is super light weight due to the high-tech material they use.

BTW, bill-e-g, I enjoy your unique "wild animal" pictures.
.....Oh, I just "got" the meaning of your name. grin

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#9484 - 12/08/10 04:25 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Steve C]
CaT Offline


Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 694
Loc: Blacklick, OH (formerly SoCal)
Steve is correct as to the particular pad I was referring to. Also, I meant the fully-inflated thickness of the pad.


Originally Posted By: CaT
...seemed paper thin to me...
...was merely my perspective upon using it compared to my expectations of what it would be like prior to having actually used it, but was not an exaggeration of how it felt to me.

I'll have to take a look at the Neo-Air next time I'm in the market for a sleeping pad.

CaT
_________________________
If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracle of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.
- Lyndon Johnson, on signing the Wilderness Act into law (1964)

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#10136 - 01/19/11 07:59 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: CaT]
JohnCurranLadd Offline


Registered: 01/19/11
Posts: 5
Loc: San Francisco, CA, USA
You might look at Exped DownMat 7. Ned Tibbits seems to like them a lot and I trust his judgment. It's a down-filled air mattress that uses a pump so that moisture from blowing in it doesn't get the down wet. I just got mine so can't fully review it. One thing that I do know is nice is that you can fully inflate it, thereby maximizing the R-value, and it's still pretty comfortable. Most air-filled things get too hard when you blow them all the way up, but the down seems to keep it soft. Fabric appears quite durable. Not cheap, not UL. I think REI now carries at least some versions of it, so you could return it if it doesn't work for you.
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#10152 - 01/20/11 06:24 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: JohnCurranLadd]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
what's wrong with just using a double set of foam mats? I sleep on a single in summer, so that'll be extra comfy and double warm, and from what I read the foam pads have the better r-value anyway, don't get me into trouble with water freezing inside, possibly puncturing, and I really hate to pack these things in the morning as it is, even when it's warm and easy to do.

The only drawback I see with double foam is the size of these things.
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#10560 - 02/02/11 07:32 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
George Offline
Woodsy Guy

Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 202
Loc: California
Hmmmm. I worked at Ostrander ski hut for 20 years; taught xc skiing; have taken the National Avalanche School course; and done snow surveys for 8 years. Some assorted thoughts:

yes, definitely abandon the sled idea. There's no way it'll work. I dragged a sled on Denali, but only on the Ruth glacier and up to 14,000 on the Kahiltna. When it gets steep, you can't use them. People will use them in the Sierra on roads, but never twice off-road.

I'm a little concerned with trying to re-learn skiing. Ski mountaineering is a hard-core skill for the trip you're proposing. I would recommend 3 - 5 years winter experience before attempting it on skis -- especially solo. If you're not at least an Intermediate ski mountaineer now, stick with snowshoes.

Unlikely you'll make more than 5 - 7 miles per day average on snowshoes (and probably not much better on skis either).

White gas stove. You might find open water here and there, but you might not... . A stove that has a good record for field maintenance (MSR multi-fuel or something). Whatever you use, you'll go through a LOT of gas melting snow for water. I don't think you can carry enough.

Get a good 4-season tent with a vestibule. You can find one a little over 4 lbs (check Black Diamond and North Face).

Resupply. Very few good choices: Have someone meet you at Reds Meadow. That's it. There's nothing until Kearsarge Pass.

Emergency beacon: I'm not a big SPOT fan, but for consumers, that's about all there is. They've got an app now where you can send a text (outbound) using a cell phone to the SPOT. There are few places you'll have cell coverage. Look at the GeoPro Messenger. Two way texting via Iridium satellite. It's designed for agencies to use, but can be adapted for a consumer. You should use either in tracking mode but not sure how long the batteries last. Not long enough, I don't think...

Not sure what to say about bear canisters. Bears occasionally poke around in April and May, but the odds are low.

I don't want to rain on your parade, but this is a difficult and very dangerous trip to be done solo in winter. The fact that you're asking basic questions indicates not quite having the skill set necessary for it. What's your avalanche training? You will be going through some serious avalanche terrain.

Although attractive as an adventure, these "go for it" trips rarely work out well. How about a really nice test drive: Yosemite Valley to Reds Meadow & out to Mammoth?? It's an outstanding trip; not as technically demanding; gets some travel in the spring so you might have tracks to follow; and, though there's definite avalanche hazard, it's not as bad as when you move south.

Look for a guided trip. Maybe the Sierra High Route or something.

Bartholemew did it solo in '28, but he pre-placed caches and had years of ski-mountaineering experience. Also, he'd planned to go with a partner, but the other guy had to drop out.

Oh PS: in 2007 (??) a guy doing part of the JMT on snowshoes was found in mid-June in Evolution Lake. Probably went in when the ice gave way. Something else to think about.


Edited by George (02/02/11 07:53 AM)
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#10573 - 02/02/11 01:17 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: George]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
good points - but you probably know that I won't listen grin Essentially, I am bored with 3 season backpacking and always wanted to get out there in winter. This is a goal that gets me started.

I've done quite a bit outside in the cold over the years, but never in the Sierra. Ski or snow shoe - having tried both, I know the ski setup will move better across the primarily low incline slopes of the JMT. I don't plan to ski any area that may be potentially dangerous for a less than experienced backcountry skier (e.g. Mather, Glen), but for 95% of the trail, I should be alright on ski. There's just no way I will even try to do a downhill run with a 60 pound pack on slopes you find switchbacks on in summer.

I also won't head out on this trip until I feel that I am ready for it, and that does involve a few smaller trips prior to the full JMT. It may be 2013 or later before I am ready for it, but the goal is the JMT and therefore I am working on gear and logistic issues that are specific to that trip.

Avalanches - not enough first hand experience beyond 10 days of backcountry skiing in the Alps in the 80s, when I was up there with a military training course, sleeping in snow caves, skinning and skiing while carrying 80 pounds of weapons and pack while doing so. We did the block tests, learned about slope angles, weather patters, etc - but I know I will need to do some refresher course. I also know I won't travel after a snow storm for a day or two at least, unless I am in a wooded valley to begin with. All a matter of having enough food so you can wait for more settled conditions. Hiking out before the storm and waiting for better weather is another thing - Sat phone will be with me to get daily detailed weather forecasts; Spot as backup at best. Forget the cell coverage up there.


As for the dead guy in Evolution Lake - he drowned June 13, 2005 - not the time of year anyone should dare to walk on ice. Maybe he slipped off the rocks above the lake, but that's more a thing to worry about at Palisade Lake. Some folks think he may have been out there to get water because he was found with empty bottles on him. Darwin Canyon - fitting name. I don't plan on crossing any lakes, frozen or not, even if it is a tempting shortcut (Palisade being the only real temptation in that respect because the trail heads up on a rock ledge high above the lake)

http://www.backpacker.com/survival_guide_skills_a_dozen_ways_to_die/special_article/12228?page=3

Stove - I will go with a winter-ready canister stove (inverted can), and a lightweight wood stove as backup and supplementary heater for water melt. I don't like the liquid gas stoves - complicated and not something I like to operate inside a tent - here's a very intersting read about winter use of canister stoves

http://www.fjaderlatt.se/2007/02/caffin-on-canister-stoves-in-deep-cold.html

Tent - currently I am leaning towards real tents with vestibule - Mountain Hardwear's EV2 or EV3, plenty of room and idea for winter use. Nemo Tenshi may be another option, but I can't find it for a reasonable price and it seems to have been discontinued. I've never liked tarp tents that require hiking poles, and somehow I don't really want to deal with that in snow when I may need the poles to anchor the tent.

resupply - it's not as bad as you say. If I can have somebody meet me at Reds, the same thing can be done at Muir Ranch, at Taboose Pass, at Tuolumne Meadows, etc - just gotta find the volunteer(s) who want to see some backcountry in early season.


since I first posted here, I've accumulated some new gear:

- Atomic Kailas ski with Dynafit bindings (still waiting for the skins - backordered at REI)

- Scarpa F1 boots, new Intuition liners, plus spare parts for field repair of the boots

- aluminum snow shovel

- Mountain Hardwear Wraith SL -20 degree sleeping bag (Conduit fabric to keep it dry)

- Acrteryx ski touring shell pants

- Mountain Hardwear FTX Ultra shell jacket

- Burton thermal underwear

all this was ebay stuff - paid a fraction of retail in most cases.

still need to decide on tent. Looking for a good price on a Gregory Denali pack. May get an Exped ground pad, get a wood stove (Bushbuddy or similar thing), need a down layer, sat phone can wait until next year. Also need some decent touring poles - my summer REI peak poles are ok, but I want to get something that is a lot easier to length-adjust, especially in cold conditions.

other items I still need: good gloves/mitten shells, gaiters that cover the entire boot (I may DIY what I need, as it only matters for the smaller stream crossings, the commercial products are all made for super cold climates), decent touring poles that are easily adjusted. My REI peak poles are nice, but near impossible to adjust sometimes. Need to get some CAMP XL390 ultralight crampons - my old Chouinard steep crampons are too heavy. My 1980s Stubai ice axe may also be a bit on the heavy side, but I like it since I have a custom camera mount on it.
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#10576 - 02/02/11 03:04 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
George Offline
Woodsy Guy

Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 202
Loc: California
Well, good luck. I'm a little happier to know you're not going this year.

Quote:
I don't plan to ski any area that may be potentially dangerous for a less than experienced backcountry skier (e.g. Mather, Glen), but for 95% of the trail, I should be alright on ski.

You don't have any choice. Mather & Glen? What about getting over Whitney or Forester? Bear Creek if it's open and running? Getting down the south side of Muir below 12,000 can be really bad. The Golden Staircase?? Jeez. You can't avoid avalanche terrain on the JMT. Avalanches do not just happen on the steep passes, though those can be very dangerous. Most all of the southern canyons of the Sierra are swept side to side by avalanches that start 3,000 feet above the canyon floors. Avalanches are very local knowledge specific. There are good general rules, but different regions (pacific, interior ranges, Rockies etc.) all have their own tricks. I would never ski in Utah without an experienced local with me.

Wait, you're not implying you'll carry snowshoes for the steeper terrain? As if that's somehow safer (insert icon of guy banging head on brick wall...)? Maybe I misread 'cause that's not an improvement... .

Quote:
As for the dead guy in Evolution Lake - he drowned June 13, 2005 - not the time of year anyone should dare to walk on ice. Maybe he slipped off the rocks above the lake, but that's more a thing to worry about at Palisade Lake. Some folks think he may have been out there to get water because he was found with empty bottles on him.


No. He was found with his snow shoes on and had been dead for quite sometime. The ranger had just come on duty for the season and found him. There were no "rocks" or slope to fall from. He was in the upper end of Evolution Lake and was most likely crossing the ice. After about late April, I wouldn't cross any lake ice (though I have, it's just a really bad idea however tempting).

So ok. If you're going to come up to speed over a few years, that's great. But I would really, really encourage you to get better at skiing then take a guided trans-Sierra. Either the High Route with one of the Bishop guide services, or the Yosemite trans-Sierra by yourself or with Yosemite Mountaineering School. The High Route will be as realistic intro to the JMT terrain as you're going to get and the Bishop area guides are all good. You'll learn a lot, absolutely guaranteed.

There's a reason only a handful of people have skied the JMT solo. All of them I know have been incredibly experienced mountaineers. In my semi hard-core skiing days, I was lucky because I skied with a group of really experienced people. We learned from each other and, as important, lived where we skied. We knew the changes in the snow from storms and melt on a day by day basis. We had a great feel for the terrain but all of us have made near-fatal mistakes.

With far more experience than you'll have in two years, I took a "simple" fall near Tuolumne and broke my femur. Had to be medivaced by helicopter. But the good news is I at least had someone with me to go for help.

Quote:
good points - but you probably know that I won't listen I am bored with 3 season backpacking and always wanted to get out there in winter.


The two are not mutually exclusive: listening to experienced Sierra mountaineers does not stop you from going out in winter. The only point I'm making is to do so safely -- Not putting others at risk who may have to rescue you because you've chosen a trip that has a high probability of being beyond your skill level, even in two years.

If you don't do a couple of trips before hand that require a similar skill-set in that type of terrain, you won't know you're not ready.

Sigh.

George
_________________________
None of the views expressed here in any way represent those of the unidentified agency that I work for or, often, reality. It's just me, fired up by coffee and powerful prose.

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#10584 - 02/02/11 04:57 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: George]
Mike Condron Offline


Registered: 11/05/09
Posts: 215
Loc: Now Manteca, CA
"Not putting others at risk who may have to rescue you"

Very likely a recovery.

I've done the JMT in late summer. I wouldn't dream of doing it solo in winter. The south side of Muir is scary even in summer. I wondered "How in the hell do they get horses to go down this thing. There was another pass that had a south side slope where the trail was barely cut out of a very steep slope. I wondered while on it what it would be like in winter.


Edited by Mike Condron (02/02/11 05:01 PM)
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#10595 - 02/03/11 05:43 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: George]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: George
Quote:
As for the dead guy in Evolution Lake - he drowned June 13, 2005 - not the time of year anyone should dare to walk on ice. Maybe he slipped off the rocks above the lake, but that's more a thing to worry about at Palisade Lake. Some folks think he may have been out there to get water because he was found with empty bottles on him.


No. He was found with his snow shoes on and had been dead for quite sometime. The ranger had just come on duty for the season and found him. There were no "rocks" or slope to fall from. He was in the upper end of Evolution Lake and was most likely crossing the ice. After about late April, I wouldn't cross any lake ice (though I have, it's just a really bad idea however tempting).



Maybe we aren't talking about the same event, but this guy was dead for about 2 weeks when he was found, and the ranger did not find him.

Quote:
http://www.kaweahcommonwealth.com/07-15-05-2features.htm - about mid page you find:

Fateful journey:
The life and times
of a Sierra backpacker

He was discovered because of hikers who saw his red backpack floating in Evolution Lake and reported it to Bob Kenan, a Kings Canyon National Park backcountry ranger. Bob, who has been stationed at various posts in the backcountry of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for more than 30 seasons, is stationed this year at the McClure Meadow Ranger Station along the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trail, about five miles from the lake.
As was reported in the July 1 issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth, the backpack was too far out in the partially-frozen lake for Bob to retrieve, so he radioed for assistance. Rangers, equipped for a dip in ice water, were flown in the next morning and discovered this was more than a recovery of someone's pack because there was a body attached to it.
The body was retrieved and delivered to the Fresno County Coroner and identified as Peter Spoecker, age 64, of Joshua Tree. End of story, right?
Not so fast. As I wrote the story that week, the victim's name — Peter Daniel Spoecker — sounded hauntingly familiar, but I couldn't quite place it... a musician, perhaps? But I was on a deadline and didn't have time to research this hunch.
Another item that nagged at me long after the story was published was the fact that Ranger Bob noted that the last entry in the logbook at Evolution Lake was June 13, suggesting that this was when Peter arrived there, yet his body was not discovered until two weeks later on June 27.
In answer to my question, the local Park Service information officer responded that there were no reports of overdue hikers in the parks. But she did verify that the backpacker was well-equipped for the current snowy conditions.
An Internet search revealed that there is a musician and music producer named Peter Spoecker, who specializes in making and playing the didgeridoo, an indigenous musical instrument of Australian Aborigines. Upon discovering his website, I was able to determine that this Peter Spoecker was also from Joshua Tree and in the same age range as the Kings Canyon backpacker.
After a couple of tries, I made contact with Grahm and Trish of The Didgeridoo Store in Oakhurst.

"Yes, it is the same Peter Spoecker," they replied sadly. "We are still in shock about his passing as he was a very dear friend, like family to us."
When asked why Peter would not have been reported as overdue when he failed to return as scheduled from his backcountry trip, they explained: "Peter would always go out hiking for weeks at a time, sometimes coming home from trips early and sometimes extending his trips without notice."

"We never thought anything of it when he was two weeks late on his 'scheduled' return from this trip," they continued.
Although an official cause of death has not yet been released, Peter most likely drowned or succumbed to hypothermia after falling through ice into the lake.
According to his trip itinerary, filed when he obtained his backcountry permit from Inyo National Forest, Peter set out from North Lake in Inyo County. He would have traveled southwest on-trail to Lower Lamarck Lake, then cross-country to Lamarck Col, a pass that, at 12,900 feet above sea level, would have required 3,500 vertical feet of scrambling over snow and ice.
Still off-trail, he then descended into Darwin Canyon before meeting up with the John Muir Trail on the north end of Evolution Lake — often described as one of the most beautiful locales in all of the Sierra — and directly beneath Mount Darwin, which, at 13,830 feet elevation, is the highest summit in the area.

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#10607 - 02/03/11 01:01 PM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
George Offline
Woodsy Guy

Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 202
Loc: California
Quote:

Maybe we aren't talking about the same event, but this guy was dead for about 2 weeks when he was found, and the ranger did not find him.


Same incident for sure. For whatever it's worth, you're right that the ranger, Bob, didn't find him. But when it was reported, he went up that evening. There was little doubt in his mind it was a body under the backpack but he couldn't tell for sure. Also, he was two weeks overdue (and unreported). Good chance he'd died even before that.

As noted before, there's nowhere around there to fall in from. He was likely crossing the lake.

But critical to this discussion is:

1) solo hiker
2) on snowshoes
3) crossing frozen lake
4) bloop

g.
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#10661 - 02/06/11 09:58 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
catpappy Offline


Registered: 03/06/10
Posts: 120
Loc: acworth, ga
Fishmonger, I think you'll be fine with a remote canister stove. Of course you know about keeping the canister warm by sleeping with it or keeping it in a deep jacket pocket. One trick that I've used in the past is to stick a chemical toe warmer to the side of the canister. This works great, but only if you place canister and toe warmer in a sock or wrap in some sort of cloth. I spent two nights out last Jan. where morning lows were 6 and 8 degrees. I purposely did not sleep with the canister to retest the toe warmer idea. Had a rip roaring output each time. On the down side, toe warmers can be heavy if you are on an extended trip and have to carry a lot. Also, altitude is a canister stoves friend. Higher altitude = lower atmospheric pressure = easier for pressurized contents to free itself from container. But, you've got to have some warmth for vaporization.

To conserve fuel, be as efficient with your cooking as you can be. Use a windscreen and on the ground heat reflector. I've read wind can increase boiling times by three. Use a black pot versus a shiny pot. 25% better heat transfer they say. Take black trash bags and fill with snow. On a sunny day you will get good melt from this, taking the melting time out of the equation.

For any extended trip, test your canisters before you leave. Make sure they screw on correctly and you get fuel delivery to the burner.

I've been using a MSR Windpro for the last 4 years and have had no problems with it.

John

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#10861 - 02/15/11 05:46 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: Fishmonger]
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2248
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
Does this hybrid look interesting to you?
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#10865 - 02/15/11 07:49 AM Re: help me get ready for a Muir Trail snow shoe trip [Re: wagga]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1033
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: wagga
Does this hybrid look interesting to you?


I think I had something like that when I was 10 years old grin
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