Spring 2017 Backpacking Cautionary Thread

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
Locked
User avatar
boognish
Topix Novice
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2016 6:15 am
Experience: Level 2 Backpacker

Re: Spring 2017 Backpacking Cautionary Thread

Post by boognish » Wed Jun 07, 2017 5:19 pm

Thanks guys/gals.








User avatar
Tom_H
Topix Expert
Posts: 789
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 1:11 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Camas, WA

Re: Spring 2017 Backpacking Cautionary Thread

Post by Tom_H » Wed Jun 07, 2017 5:47 pm

Another guide and I were doing an early May scouting trip in Emigrant one time and there was no bare ground anywhere. A storm blew in bringing conditions to near whiteout and we found a guy whose partner had bailed on him, taking the food and stove, leaving this poor fellow alone. He was disoriented, lost, and beginning to become hypothermic. The temperature plunged to about 10 degrees. We made warm soup for him, warmed him up, and had him sleep between the two of us. We escorted him back out the next day. He likely would have died had we not found him.

The Sierra can be a gentle and emotionally uplifting experience in summer after the snow is gone. When it is still covered in snow, that's a different situation. Post-holing is very physically demanding and can injure joints. If you get wet and injured while in the snow, hypothermia can kill you quickly. Streams can be swollen and treacherous. Log and snow bridge crossing are as well. Climbing steep slopes requires microspikes, crampons, ice axes, and the knowledge of how to use them. Some locations can be worthy of belay. Slipping on a steep ascent or in a couloir can smash your body way worse than Humpty Dumpty. Even the ice axe itself can kill you if you don't know how to keep it under control in a fall. Lakes often still have 2 feet of ice on top. Sometimes the only way by a lake is a very steep slope (maybe 75 degrees or more) of slippery ice that runs straight to the edge of the lake. At this time of year, though most of the surface is frozen, there is a melted band around the edge that's about 3' wide. If you slip while traversing the side slope, you can go flying straight into that band of water and the momentum can carry you straight out beneath the ice cap. The clothing and pack will weigh you down. The shock of 32 degree liquid water will paralyze you, the thermal sink will suck the heat out of your brain and torso, and you will be dead before you can even react.

Summer backpacking in deep and continual snow is, in my mind at least, more dangerous than mid-winter snow-packing. That's because in winter you have only one main problem-cold, but it is a continuous cold and everything is likely to remain dry, even in a blizzard. In summer, there is much greater likelihood of becoming drenched in perspiration, rain, and accidents in streams. There are dozens of things that can cause broken limbs and leave you exposed to the elements. The sun can literally cook your face and lips (bringing huge water blisters and multiple layers of peeling bloody skin. You can seriously damage your eyes--permanently. It just is not something to go do on a lark.

Can this kind of backpacking be rewarding or worth it at all? Heck, you bet it can. You just need to know what you are doing. Imagine someone who has never even driven a car deciding to get in an airplane and take it up for some acrobatic maneuvers. That is kinda what snow backpacking with no experience is like. You absolutely have to have the right clothing, boots, and gear. You have to be physically prepared as this can be 5-10 times as physically strenuous and demanding as regular backpacking. At an absolute minimum, you need to go with someone with considerable experience, who has snow survival and specialized mountain first aid training. (It is always best when several in the group have snow-packing experience and all the others have regular packing experience.) Better yet, take classes through REI, Sierra Club, NOLS, or some other qualified instructional outfit. Otherwise, you could very well go and never come back.

Learn how to do it right so that you can manage the risk. If you know what you are doing, are well prepared, and in the company of others with experience, this can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things you ever do in life. But do it in a way that you can come back to tell others of your amazing adventure rather than coming back in a body bag.

Shawn
Topix Expert
Posts: 957
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 9:56 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: Spring 2017 Backpacking Cautionary Thread

Post by Shawn » Wed Jun 07, 2017 10:36 pm

sambieni wrote:How about packing w/ a baby? Yes, this couple is attempting the PCT with what looks like a 4 month old baby!

https://thegoodlatch.com/2017/06/06/up-and-up-2/
This reminded me of seeing a woman with an infant on her back cross the inlet to Ediza lake. The log crossing the water was partially submerged and she had a slip....and nearly a fall when crossing. Seems kind of bizarre that there are so many rules and restrictions to enter many of the parks, yet you can haul an infant on your back. ](*,)

User avatar
Gazelle
Topix Regular
Posts: 348
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2012 11:01 am
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Donner Summit CA

Re: Spring 2017 Backpacking Cautionary Thread

Post by Gazelle » Thu Jun 08, 2017 8:21 am

What is/are the best coordinates to set your GPS/ IN reach/maps to for the best SAR rescue? Or put differently what is the best coordinates to give to SAR...Deg min/Deg?UTM etc?

Thanks
The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before. Albert Einstein

User avatar
AlmostThere
Topix Addict
Posts: 2722
Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:38 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: Spring 2017 Backpacking Cautionary Thread

Post by AlmostThere » Thu Jun 08, 2017 8:37 am

Gazelle wrote:What is/are the best coordinates to set your GPS/ IN reach/maps to for the best SAR rescue? Or put differently what is the best coordinates to give to SAR...Deg min/Deg?UTM etc?

Thanks
SAR teams generally set their devices to WGS84. However, as long as you tell them what you are using they can convert to it easily.

These are datums, and there are lots of different ones - NAD27 is what many commercially available maps like the Tom Harrison and National Geographic maps are using. For navigation you should set your GPS to whatever your map uses - this is in the legend on the map. Just mention what you are using to anyone you contact and that will be sufficient.

User avatar
sambieni
Topix Regular
Posts: 241
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2016 11:24 pm
Experience: Level 2 Backpacker

Re: Spring 2017 Backpacking Cautionary Thread

Post by sambieni » Thu Jun 08, 2017 9:26 am

Shawn wrote:
sambieni wrote:How about packing w/ a baby? Yes, this couple is attempting the PCT with what looks like a 4 month old baby!

https://thegoodlatch.com/2017/06/06/up-and-up-2/
This reminded me of seeing a woman with an infant on her back cross the inlet to Ediza lake. The log crossing the water was partially submerged and she had a slip....and nearly a fall when crossing. Seems kind of bizarre that there are so many rules and restrictions to enter many of the parks, yet you can haul an infant on your back. ](*,)
I like to take my kids hiking - using an infant carrier. I've even done 6-7 mile RT in Angeles Forest here in LA with my 1+ yr old who could walk. I guess its a matter of judgement what is and is not the safest/ideal setting. Personally, I only do very defined, trodden, well-trafficked trails. Definitely agree water crossings, snow, extreme conditions, and certainly thru hiking / desert hiking seem non-optimal. I once saw saw someone heading up Mt. Katahdin w/ 6 month old on their back as a storm approached in the distance. They continued upward, middle of day approaching reasonable cutoff time, while wearing jeans and t-shirt and seemingly little else in their day packs. I only hoped it didn't rain and baby had warm/rain gear.

Can someone answer a practical question - what are basic snow skills one should acquire to "shoulder" hike in the Sierras? Basically need assessment of when can do boots vs need microspikes vs more serious concerns and then how to assess the approach? Personally, not eager for mountaineering coursework, etc - just basics that likely can be picked up in a day or two. NOLS = $$$ and time (although really appreciate the suggestion beforehand and definitely wish were feasible) while Sierra Club classes seem limited. Really curious what is a reasonable skill set (and how to acquire it) for those who basically only summer hike, but realize mountain passes may be under some snow.

User avatar
SSSdave
Topix Addict
Posts: 2963
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:18 pm
Experience: N/A
Location: Silicon Valley
Contact:

Re: Spring 2017 Backpacking Cautionary Thread

Post by SSSdave » Thu Jun 08, 2017 9:55 am

I would like to thank Tom_H for your excellent summary on why backpacking into deep snow areas after a heavy winter at this time of late spring is a serious dangerous undertaking that ought be considered only by those with adequate knowledge and skill.

Obviously we can expect numbers of High Sierra backpacking visitors without adequate knowledge or skills in the coming weeks will visit the snowy backcountry because they don't have the experience and or knowledge to make a wise decision and are more likely to be swayed by other factors like social media inputs and challenge. Those that venture onto such boards as HST with experienced enthusiasts will be few much less to specific threads as this.

Although we can all agree the best way one can attain knowledge and skills in these areas is by formal class instruction or from those with solid experience and knowledge. I will also offer that one may do well by reading current instructional books on snow camping and or mountaineering that can be readily identified by a search at Amazon books. Doing so one will be able to ease into less challenging reasonably safe short trips without class instruction and by doing so gain useful experience. There is much to be learned about one's own gear and clothing in wetness water management that is gained by experience. And then beyond that, there are skills as crampon and ice axe use, belaying, building snow shelters, etcetera, that ought be taught as noted because they involve body mechanics and performance, books unacceptably communicate with mere words. Additionally if one becomes involved in any of a list of winter snow sports, much experience in some skill and knowledge facets can be attained especially about the inherent dangerous physical nature of being out in snow environments and cold weather.

David

User avatar
AlmostThere
Topix Addict
Posts: 2722
Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:38 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Re: Spring 2017 Backpacking Cautionary Thread

Post by AlmostThere » Thu Jun 08, 2017 10:14 am

Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills is a great, comprehensive guide to all kinds of things relevant to backpacking and mountaineering, including moisture management. There are copies at my local library, probably yours too, and it's available in kindle. Something for everybody, and even if you do not plan to scale Everest, having awareness of what might be possible can sway you from 'eh, let's give it a try' when you shouldn't.

User avatar
Tom_H
Topix Expert
Posts: 789
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 1:11 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Camas, WA

Re: Spring 2017 Backpacking Cautionary Thread

Post by Tom_H » Thu Jun 08, 2017 7:03 pm

SSSdave wrote:I would like to thank Tom_H for your excellent summary on why backpacking into deep snow areas after a heavy winter at this time of late spring is a serious dangerous undertaking that ought be considered only by those with adequate knowledge and skill.

Obviously we can expect numbers of High Sierra backpacking visitors without adequate knowledge or skills in the coming weeks will visit the snowy backcountry because they don't have the experience and or knowledge to make a wise decision and are more likely to be swayed by other factors like social media inputs and challenge. Those that venture onto such boards as HST with experienced enthusiasts will be few much less to specific threads as this.

Although we can all agree the best way one can attain knowledge and skills in these areas is by formal class instruction or from those with solid experience and knowledge. I will also offer that one may do well by reading current instructional books on snow camping and or mountaineering that can be readily identified by a search at Amazon books. Doing so one will be able to ease into less challenging reasonably safe short trips without class instruction and by doing so gain useful experience. There is much to be learned about one's own gear and clothing in wetness water management that is gained by experience. And then beyond that, there are skills as crampon and ice axe use, belaying, building snow shelters, etcetera, that ought be taught as noted because they involve body mechanics and performance, books unacceptably communicate with mere words. Additionally if one becomes involved in any of a list of winter snow sports, much experience in some skill and knowledge facets can be attained especially about the inherent dangerous physical nature of being out in snow environments and cold weather.

David
Thanks for the nice words, Dave. Books can give you theoretical knowledge, but some things can only be fully learned when kinesthetic body motion is involved. A parent could stand in front of a kid and lecture for hundreds of hours about how to ride a bike, but the kid still wouldn't be able to get on the bike and just start riding. The kid can get on and fall repeatedly until (s)he gets it. Another option is for the parent to tell a little bit, put the kid on the bike, hold on, and talk to the kid about the feel of different kinesthetic aspects of what is happening as the kid feels the wobble and the rotation of the pedals. Theoretical knowledge and "muscle memory" need to happen together and become integrated. There is nothing like having an experienced person with you to help you learn through action.

User avatar
rlown
Topix Docent
Posts: 7560
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:00 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer
Location: Wilton, CA

Re: Spring 2017 Backpacking Cautionary Thread

Post by rlown » Thu Jun 08, 2017 7:11 pm

Tom_H wrote: The kid can get on and fall repeatedly until (s)he gets it. Another option is for the parent to tell a little bit, put the kid on the bike, hold on, and talk to the kid about the feel of different kinesthetic aspects of what is happening as the kid feels the wobble and the rotation of the pedals. Theoretical knowledge and "muscle memory" need to happen together and become integrated. There is nothing like having an experienced person with you to help you learn through action.
Or you're dad could forget to tighten the screw on your new bike's handlebars and they come off in your hands.. Yes, I felt the wobble. ](*,)
Actually, twice. Once at 3 on a tricycle. That crash with the handlebars. There were more but those were on me..

Everyone, It's a really bad Idea to go out right now with no snow experience. You might actually get stranded and/or die. Wait until you have an understanding of trail conditions for your level of expertise and reschedule to later or lower. Call the ranger station where you're going in and get updates.

Locked

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: bobby49, druid, Google [Bot], Google Adsense [Bot], maiathebee, mort and 8 guests