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Techniques for Early Season Trekking
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Techniques for Early Season Trekking on 04/15/2008 20:39:56 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Techniques for Early Season Trekking

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Techniques for Early Season Trekking on 04/15/2008 21:16:30 MDT Print View

Hmmmm, sounds like any season tramping in NZ southern alps...!

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Techniques for Early Season Trekking on 04/15/2008 21:58:23 MDT Print View

Oh MAN! I haven't read the article yet but the video is fantastic! I am so jazzed to get up high for some spring and summer backpacking. Here in Washington we had record snowfall this year and our July melt might be more like August. But that feeling of "trail clues" is one that we know so well around here. I just can't WAIT to get back out in it!

Hee ya! Thanks Andy and BPL!

Dondo .

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Techniques for Early Season Trekking on 04/15/2008 21:59:28 MDT Print View

Great stuff, Andy! BPL's publication of detailed technique articles such as this is the reason I keep renewing my membership. The video is a very nice touch. It really helps to bring theory and practice together.

Edited by Dondo on 04/15/2008 22:00:43 MDT.

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: Re: Techniques for Early Season Trekking on 04/15/2008 22:09:06 MDT Print View


Excellent reading

Thank you for reminding me why I subscribe to BPL


Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
"Early Season Trekking" on 04/16/2008 06:52:02 MDT Print View

Great article! I agree with earlier postings that this is what BPL is/should be all about. I would like to see Andy follow up with a more gear oriented article on early season trekking and I hope he has time for additional contributions and insight.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Techniques for Early Season Trekking on 04/16/2008 09:44:23 MDT Print View

This article is one of the best I've read on BPL.

It is great to get such comprehensive advice from an extraordinary adventurer.

I agree with Dondo, this justifies the cost of admission.

Thanks Andy and BPL!

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Techniques for Early Season Trekking on 04/16/2008 11:07:24 MDT Print View

Thank you for that fantastic article. I really enjoyed it. I'm finding all of those observations very true as I am spending my first spring season backpacking here in the Front Range in Colorado. That was excellent advice on fording and timing your traverse of obsticals.

Timothy Hortberg
(thortberg) - F

Locale: Midwest
Early Season Treking on 04/16/2008 11:39:36 MDT Print View

Thanks Andy!
Your experiences are lessons for us all.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Techniques for Early Season Trekking on 04/16/2008 11:44:58 MDT Print View

Thank you, that was a great article ! I found myself smiling, nodding, and reflecting as I read. It is incredibly informative to be presented with a collection of wisdom, tips and advice from someone so experienced. Truly, this is content worth the price of admission.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: Techniques for Early Season Trekking on 04/16/2008 12:13:00 MDT Print View

Very nice, with a number of good tips. I have a question on sleeping bags. Do most of you avoid down in these conditions? Also if the bag (syn or down) does get damp or soaked through, what is the best method to dry it out? What if it's raining?

I'd love to see a follow up on off trail navigation including necessary map and compass skills. Maybe it's just me but I wasn't in the scouts and never picked up these skills. Maybe this could be an online/video version of the wilderness trekking II course

The one time I ended up in spring conditions was a few years back on an overnighter in desolation wilderness. The switchbacks up rockbound pass were impassable as Andrew described, so I went straight up the pass. Once I got to the top I tried to pick up the trail again. I found what I thought was the small lake at the top of pass which marked a turn in the trail so I headed off hoping to find a sign of the trail. In hindsight, I really needed to spend more time getting precise compass bearings when I first hit snow pack. I had actually not gone over rockbound pass but an unnamed pass to the south and the lake was just pooling snow melt. Needless to say I never picked up the trail again. Eventually I ended up down in a valley, and knowing only which valley I was in but I could have been anywhere along the 4 mile stretch. It wasn't until about noon the next day that I found a definitive location when I looked down on aloha lake and another 3 hours til I reached a trail marker.

My obvious mistake in hindsight was not taking compass readings at each junction so I would have the major landmarks identified prior to losing the trail. Instead a guessed at where the trail was and it was a good little while before I took out the compass. By the time I did I couldn't identify rock bound pass because I didn't know where I was at the time. Second mistake was not turning back to find a marker as soon as the first mistake became obvious.

Funny thing though. Even with not knowing where I was for about 24 hours I still remember this trip as one of my best ever. My companion on the trip for some strange reason doesn't have such fond memories. Maybe the fact that this was his first time using a tarp and it snowed that night plays into this.

Devin Montgomery
(dsmontgomery) - MLife

Locale: one snowball away from big trouble
Re:Techniques for Early Season Trekking on 04/16/2008 15:29:38 MDT Print View

Thanks for excellent article Andrew! Articles like this, with in systematic, in-depth analysis of technique are the reason I subscribe to BPL. I second the kudos on the video - I find that they add an enormous amount to the articles they accompany.

Scott Christy
(scott_christy) - F

Locale: Wydaho.
Response to Nia. on 04/16/2008 23:12:58 MDT Print View

Down is still very useful in early season conditions. Night temps are commonly below freezing which means there is less moisture to invade your bag. Keeping your down bag stuffed until temps are low in the evening is advisable. Unfortunately if your down gets wet sun drying is still your best option. Typically you can hang it in a tree to maximize wind and sun drying or, if no trees are available, find a large slab of rock to drape it across. If you are using a synthetic bag you should try the same tactics if available, with the addition of being able to dry the bag with you body heat by just being in it.

Nice article Andy.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Don't forget us southerners on 04/17/2008 12:30:07 MDT Print View

And no, I don't mean folks from Louisiana :)

While I appreciate much of the intended audience probably hikes in the continental climates of the northern hemishpere, it would be nice to explicitly state that "spring" or early season conditions also vary with hemisphere (eg spring is September 21-December 20 down-under). Hemisphere also affects route planning with regards to snow, damp and mud, as in the Southern hemsiphere you would choose to stick to northern slopes rather than southern slopes.

None of this helps when you have no land mass to buffer between you and the Antarctic, which means winter conditions can hit any time of year so you should always be prepared for four seasons in these parts. But all-in all that was an excellent article, and more along the lines of what I hope to get out of my BPL subscription.

Frank Perkins

Locale: North East
Re: Techniques for Early Season Trekking on 04/17/2008 18:08:48 MDT Print View

Great article Andy! I'm looking forward to reading it again.

Brian Robinson
(BrianRobinson) - F - M

Locale: California central coast
RE: Trekking Techniques for Early-Season Conditions on 04/23/2008 12:30:24 MDT Print View

Great job Andy. You definitely know what you're talking about. The video brings back a lot of nice memories... although I had a different opinion of some of those conditions at the time. :-)

One important technique you left out for following a snow-covered trail is looking for back-blazes. Blazes are placed so that they can be seen from the trail, often far down the trail. So if you find a blaze on the back side of a tree, it's pointing directly down the trail ahead of you. Not only do you know where the trail is right here, you know which direction to look for your next clue.

Peter Sustr
(czechxpress) - F - M

Locale: Boulder
great article on 04/24/2008 12:33:57 MDT Print View

Thanks Andy! I'm glad I found this article before leaving tomorrow for a 3 day trip to the Lost Creek Wilderness area, I will definately use your advice.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Backstopping? on 04/25/2008 12:25:56 MDT Print View

I was rereading this article and came across this:

"incorporate off-trail navigational techniques (like backstopping, following a bearing, and hugging a contour) to find your way and track progress."

What is backstopping? My searches came up empty or overwhelmed with financial talk that I assume is unrelated.


Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Backstopping? on 04/25/2008 14:40:48 MDT Print View

Gosh it would be nice if the Subject stayed the same,
..... Or if we could get Threading going

hint, Hint, HINT....

Hendrik Morkel
(skullmonkey) - MLife

Locale: Finland
On topic on 05/13/2009 23:52:56 MDT Print View

Great article, really informative and useful tips. Useful to remember, and I will read this again next year in February/ March.

btw, the Video doesn't work anymore.