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NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08
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Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/04/2008 19:27:00 MDT Print View

I just got back from a great trip into the winds.

This greeted us the first night in the mountains
First night rainbow

We went in at Boulder lake Wy into the wind river range. Eight students and two instructors. lightest pack with a 7.5 day ration, fuel and water was 22.3# and heaviest was 28 something, I'll have to look back at the paperwork to get exact #'s.

Word from people coming out of the mountains was that the bugs were bad due to a high snow year and a late melt, so we compromised with our weight vs. camping comfort a bit by taking mega lights w/ mega bugs as shelter for the students, and a golite hut one for th e instructors that I quickly modified with some bug net before heading out.
Hut 1 w/ mosquito net

The mega lites w/ the bug net only came out to 24 oz. weight penalty over golite Hut 2's w/o bug net, it turned out to be a good decision. The one off Hut one worked well with a bit of mosquito tolerance, and a head net.

We cooked on Caldera Cones for the 1.5 oz. MSR tian pots.

Caldera cone kitchen

Note the hoods - that's to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

By day four we were above tree line in the Angel pass area, west of the divide. To get to this basin, we climbed three passes, crossing the diviide twice during the day. The cooler temps and much fewer bugs were quickly appreciated.

Angel pass

We kept moving, climbing Angel Pass the next day and looking back on it during dinner by the cook lakes.


More to come...

Edited by ryan_hutchins on 08/04/2008 19:28:47 MDT.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/05/2008 14:53:12 MDT Print View

The day before we reached the cook lakes, we climbed 3 passes to reach Angel basin. After the first, we contoured around Timico lake keeping it below us. Only two to go...

Three Passes in One Day

This is coming up over the divide from Timico lake, taking the fall creek drainage over Fall Creek pass, the lower of two passes to cross the continental divide into angel basin.

Fall Creek Pass

There was plenty of snow up high still, and even some ice on the lakes as we climbed angel pass the next day.

Heading up Angel Pass

We split into two groups to cross the boulder fields up to Angel pass and met at the top for the descent. We couldn't resist this shot.

Light abd Fast 2008

We then traveled off trail to the cook lakes heading NNW from angel pass to drop down to the lakes. All off trail with students practicing navigation. This is about five days in.

Angel Pass to Cook Lakes

Photos courtesy Janeen Hutchins.

Edited by ryan_hutchins on 08/05/2008 14:53:55 MDT.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/05/2008 15:12:56 MDT Print View

After camping at cook lakes and doing some fishing in the evening, where Kate, one of the students caught her first fish on fly gear, one of our members decided to be evacuated due to a tweeked knee. It had been bothering him from the start of his the course, and we had an opportunity to get him out of the mountains with some horse packers from the NOLS 3 Peaks Ranch. It was hard to see him go, but we had a long way to go to get to our re-ration site at the Green River Lakes trail head. The remaining group said our goodbyes and continued up to lower Jean lake, crushing the remaining miles on trail.

The sun began to fall low in the sky as we climbed to the high lakes.

Shadow walkers

We had stopped for a quick start style dinner and some more fishing some miles back at Fremont crossing. The river crossing over the outlet of Island Lake took some scouting, but after a while we found an appropriate spot, and using good river crossing technique, made it across safely. ;)

Risk management?

We decided to camp as darkness fell, crossing this last stream before setting up camp and hanging our food from a cliff.

Trout in mountain stream

After watching these trout swim in the flowing stream, there was some talk of evening fishing, but we decided to let these fellas enjoy the evening, after the chilly river crossing brought us back to our senses.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/05/2008 16:02:33 MDT Print View

The next day, we continued past Upper Jean Lake, towards Stroud Peak.

Upper Jean Lake

We hoped to climb Stroud in the morning and continue on a number of miles, over Shannon pass to find a place to camp beyond the headwaters of the Green River.

Stroud Mt. on our Mind

We climbed the grassy south western slopes of Stroud to just below the rocky southern ridge. Our travels took longer than we had hoped, and the big day before left many in our group more tired than not. We had a wonderful discussion on Judgment and Decision Making on the shoulder of Stroud Peak. Having many miles to go, we turned back and headed North towards Shannon pass and the Peak Lake Cirque.

Checking out Split Mt.

Shannon Pass Descent

On the way down the pass, a student with a history of meniscal surgery has his knee give out. With our light weight gear it was a simple task to take weight from his pack, and indeed his pack as well. He soldiered on another five miles and two more passes before we made camp.

Travel was slow in the rugged terrain, with recent snow melt running down and obscuring the trail. At Cube Rock Pass, this curious marmot stopped his evening chores to check us out.

Yellow bellied whistle pig

Coming over Cube rock pass from Dale Lake, the headwaters of the Green River, we crossed some steep snow, where one one student took a short ride and executed an excellent self arrest.
We camped that night at beautiful Trail Creek Park, tired and with eleven miles to reach our re-ration the next day.

The next morning we sent a small team ahead to meat our re-ration at Green river lakes trail head. We changed our plans to camp at the USFS campground there that night after the rest of the course arrived, taking thier time walking out with the injured student. Along the way I contacted the school via satellite phone to arrange a ride back to Lander for our friend. He pushed on the eleven miles to the road head, keeping us laughing despite his obvious discomfort along the way. When we arrived a driver was waiting with a vehicle and promises of dinner out in Pinedale for Greg.

The next morning we slept in a bit and did some leadership classes in the afternoon, waiting for the sun to drop a bit in the sky and temperatures to cool a bit before we headed off to the Roaring fork basin to the north. We traveled the five miles quickly in the late afternoon and ate well for longer off trail days the next two days.

Photos courtesy Janeen Hutchins

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/05/2008 16:14:11 MDT Print View

Having only four more days left of the course, we broke our travel into what we thought would be two mid length days and a short day at the end. We traveled up to Gunsight pass from the roaring fork basin, looking forward to a spectacular ridge hike that would take us to Dad's Lake and set us up for our final crossing of the divide.

Ridgeline to Dad's

by this point, Students were honing their off trail route finding and map reading, picking the route from the basin up to Dad's lake.

We snuck our shelters between the rocks, well away from the shore, and not too exposed if the fire we saw building to the south and west began to influence the weather.

Our high elevation and windy conditions were a great test of the Caldera cone and our students wind blocking abilities. Both performed flawlessly, though we did notice a bit higher fuel consumption.

Dinner at Dad's

We had a pattering of rain around 3am, but nothing ever built.

Photos courtesy of Janeen Hutchins

Edited by ryan_hutchins on 08/05/2008 16:14:42 MDT.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/05/2008 17:56:30 MDT Print View

WOW! Looks like a great NOLS trip, with fantastic weather and views. I see that clicking on the inages take us to the larger collection of photos on


Douglas Johnson
(Sponge) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Nice on 08/05/2008 23:51:12 MDT Print View

Looks like an amazing trip! I've always wanted to go on one of those NOLS expeditions...someday maybe =)

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: Nice on 08/06/2008 01:03:52 MDT Print View

Douglas, we have one in the southwest - a lightweight backpacking trip in the Gila range. Check out for dates or PM me for other options or info. These lightweight backpacking trips are amazing and we continue to move forward in almost all aspects of the school in lightening up.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: Re: NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/06/2008 01:08:35 MDT Print View

Thanks Tom,
it was an awesome trip with incredible weather and excellent folks. You are correct that clicking on the images brings you to the flickr pages, just easier to narrate that way, plus, I hope to get some students to post up and share some photos too. There will be more images added to this flickr group soon ...

NOLS lightweight trip photos

Edited by ryan_hutchins on 08/08/2008 09:11:52 MDT.

Christopher Holden
(back2basics) - F - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/06/2008 04:16:37 MDT Print View

Great pics! Thanks for the trip report. Yet another trip out west I'll have to live vicariously through the photos of others.
It looks like everyone had the same design GoLite pack except maybe the second guy on the right.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Re: NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/06/2008 04:41:34 MDT Print View

Pretty sure NOLS strongly recommends the Jam2 on the light trips. Looks like the guy you're referring to was carrying a Granite Gear Vapor Trail though.

Edited by simplespirit on 08/06/2008 04:42:04 MDT.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/06/2008 05:43:29 MDT Print View

Awesome report Ryan

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/06/2008 08:07:52 MDT Print View

THANKS for the great shots, as well as the effort to get them posted.

Edited by greg23 on 08/09/2008 16:28:11 MDT.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/06/2008 10:03:18 MDT Print View

Thanks All,

This trip was fantastic. I'll do a quick wrap up of the last couple days as soon as I hunt down some pictures from students, it seems after 850 shots Janeen and i slacked a little on the last few days!

The NOLS lightweight courses do strongly recommend the Golite Jam2 for a pack, but folks can bring other packs as long as they are appropriately light weight. The guy (Greg) with the Vapor trail did have the heaviest pack weight leaving for the field, but our target weights for these courses is 25-30 pounds and he was under that. I think 25 is an easy target, and most folks reached it. Janeen, the other Instructor was at 22 before adding in our 4# DSLR!

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: Re: Re: NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/06/2008 10:06:43 MDT Print View

Edit: fixed link above

Also for more info on NOLS lightweight courses NOLS Rocky Mountain lightweight course description

NOLS SW lightweight course description

Edited by ryan_hutchins on 08/08/2008 09:19:52 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/06/2008 15:51:09 MDT Print View

What you have are the a> and /a> tags without any embedded URL. (The leading < brackets have been omitted here deliberately so the 'tags' do appear!)

Edited by rcaffin on 08/06/2008 15:54:43 MDT.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/06/2008 19:06:25 MDT Print View

I noticed that too Roger, but I put it in the way it was suggested and that is what happened. I'm pretty happy with myself for posting pics inline. I admittedly struggle a bit w/ the BPL forum interface. Hopefully folks will just do the ole cut and past to get to the flickr page!

Edit: fixed links...finally!

Edited by ryan_hutchins on 08/08/2008 09:20:47 MDT.

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
NOLS Lightweight Backpacking 7/20-8/2/08 on 08/06/2008 19:24:24 MDT Print View

So back to the story...

We hiked from Dad's lake in two smaller groups with students navigating in the high alpine tundra and barren rock of Shale mountain.

One group climbed over Shale while the other mosey'd over to the sick drainage that drops down into Mile long lake to see how much snow was over there, and if it could go. It was still pretty full of snow and we had plans to camp in another area anyway, so after some sight seeing of the Continental Glacier, we contoured around Shale mountain and picked our way through high alpine grasslands and rock down to Coney lake where we camped for the night.

The next day we split up again, hiking over Whiskey mountain. Both groups traveled well, and the second group had the privlage of seeing the Whiskey Mtn. big horn sheep herd graze their way past us not more than 100 feet away from where we sat for a snack!

We reconnected with the other group, and traveled towards trail creek to find a suitable camp. We added a few miles to our planned 7 mile day, ending after 11 miles with great camping 3/4 miles east of Lake Louise.

The next day, after waking to a brilliant sunrise due to the lingering smoke of a fire, some classes prepped students to hike on their own while Janeen and I stayed in camp to write evaluations and finish up course paperwork. Of course they all came back saying it was the most beautiful day yet!

We met with students individually that evening and had a nice in the field closing before heading to bed. The next morning we rose early and hiked silently to the trail Creek Trail head, reflecting on the wonderful trip we had. A short ride back to Lander and a rapid deissue (it is SO much faster w/ lightweight gear) and we split up until our graduation dinner where we read letters from Al and Greg and ate good food with good friends.

This was a great course, and I can't say enough about the wonderful students.

Sorry for the lack of pics, I'll update with more as they come in!

Chris Jones
(NightMarcher) - F
Thanks for sharing... on 08/07/2008 04:50:49 MDT Print View


Great report! Awesome pics! Thanks for sharing!

Might I ask what kind of camera was used to take the pics? I am guessing that the marmot shot was taken with a telephoto lens of some sort...

Ryan Hutchins
(ryan_hutchins) - F

Locale: Somewhere out there
Re: Thanks for sharing... on 08/07/2008 10:15:12 MDT Print View

Hi Chris, the camera is a Nikon D80 10.2 MP DSLR. The lens is a Tamron 28-80 f3.5. Not the greatest lens but lightr and a good range, especially for the vistas.

I have to admit to cropping the marmot shot a bit, but the little fella was actually only about 10 feet away!

We brought two batteries for the camera for the two weeks, but even with a lot of viewing of shots taken I don't think we ever used the second one. 4 GB SD card, which we didn't fill, even with ~850 shots.