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24 Day Ski Mountaineering Course
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Christopher Eldred
(celdred) - MLife

Locale: Mountains!
24 Day Ski Mountaineering Course on 12/16/2008 14:13:12 MST Print View

Hey BPL'ers,

I am taking a 24-day ski mountaineering course this summer in the Wrangell's St. Elias range with the International Wilderness Leadership School and I am trying to fine-tune my personal gear. I have no control over the shelter or cook system used (or climbing gear provided), so I am really looking for a good integrated clothing/sleep system. Items in bold are stuff that I have not purchased yet, everything else I already own. Weights are fairly accurate, I don't have everything weighed quite yet but I will be updating the list as I weight stuff. I have listed other items I own that might be relevant (ie I might bring/switch out for something) in italics underneath each section.

See the list at

Expected Conditions are:
Daytime temperatures between 10F and 40F (it can get really hot on the glacier with reflected sunlight) with nighttime temperatures no lower than -10F. Precipitation conditions can be extremely variable- anything between cloudless sunshine to a full-on blizzard.

Activities we will probably be doing:
-Backcountry skiing
-Snow pit digging
-Lots of mountaineering training- so anchor building, self-arrest, crevasse rescue but with a ski-oriented focus

Course information/Suggested Gear List:
See for a detailed course description and suggested equipment list.

Big questions I am looking for help with:

1. Pack
Right now I have a wild things gear Andinista that I am very happy with. However, it is somewhat heavy (>4 lbs), especially for double duty as a summit pack. I am considering getting either a CiloGear 60L or a custom McHale pack? I figure I need at least 5000ci between my own personal gear and group gear. I am not sure if we will using sleds, which could definitely change that number. Do people have experience with these packs for ski mountaineering? I would like a synthetically insulated shoulder strap for a hydration tube as well (see below).

2. Vapor Barrier vs. Traditional Layering System
I am strongly considering using a vapor barrier system but I have some concerns with it (see ). What do people think? Does anyone have experience with long term vapor barrier clothing use in these conditions? The vapor barrier system as I have it only saves about 1.5lbs over the traditional. Am I missing something key here?- I was hoping to be able to significantly reduce the amount of clothing I carried. With the traditional system I feel like I can get away with less headwear and handwear since both the Arctic Hoody and R1 Hoody provide head and hand coverage.

3. Hydration
Is it possible to effectively use a well-insulated hydration bladder in these conditions (foam around tube and bladder, tube inside synthetically insulated shoulder strap, water blown-back into bladder after each use, filled with hot water each morning)? If not, what is a good way to get easy access to an insulated water bottle without having to remove my pack each time? I was planning on using a nalgene wide mouth cantene and bringing an extra lid so if the tube froze, it could be removed and the cantene used as a water bottle.

4. Synthetic Booties/Overboot System
Right now the plan is to wear dry wools socks and synthetic booties inside my ski boot shells with a modified tyvek industrial boot on top around camp and hang the boot liners and vapor barrier socks inside my DAS next to my skin to dry. The liner are Intuition foam and basically waterproof, so they should dry really fast. What do people think about this system?

5. Legs
Will the VB pants be too hot (I am thinking so)? Does anyone know where to find lightweight full zip microfleece pants?

6. Glove and Mitt System
I am expecting that gloves will get wet. I am concerned that it will be difficult to dry the gloves I am bringing, especially the heavier BD ones with their WP membrane. I am considering bringing instead two sets of quick-drying soft-shells gloves (one lighter, one heavier) along with a lightweight waterproof glove shell to put over them when doing snow work such a pit digging and shoveling. I am set on the N2S gloves as a base layer for the hands, and it seems prudent to bring the Alti-mitts as an emergency/camp layer- I am attached to my fingers and would like to keep them all.

7. Inflatable Pad
Should I worry about frost build-up in the valve/pad body from blowing into the pad to inflate it? Will the 1cm thick evazote + Prolite 3 Short be warm enough for sleeping on snow in these conditions?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: 24 Day Ski Mountaineering Course on 12/16/2008 17:35:21 MST Print View

Hi Christopher.
Sounds like a great trip. I have no experience with the packs you mention, so I can't offer any advice there.

I use a VB system for nightime only. It is a great way to save weight and stay warm. If you are having the problems with your VB system then you probably need to fine tune your technique - it is an art :)

You can do a search for 'winter hydration' and there was a thread not long ago in the winter hiking section that covered alot of different ways available. My experience is that the "blow back" technique and the "insulated tube" are not foolproof enough to consider using. I tend to just stash a wide mouth platy inside my jacket. Simple and guaranteed to not freeze unless I do. I fill it with hot water every evening and put it at the bottom of my sleeping bag...nice against the feet and stays warm all night.

My glove system is a 3 layer approach similer to clothing. A liner(BD Powerstrecth), an insulator (MEC Double Fleece), and then an overmitt (MLD Event). If out for 24 days, I would bring some spare liners. Dry wet mitts out in your pockets while you work.

I can't comment on your exact sleep system, but I consider a Montbell 90 and a thinlite the ABSOLUTE minimum for winter camping (you won't be warm, but you won't die). If I were out for 24 days, I would be going full length Downmat 7 or even 9...were talking 24 days here...

Have fun!

Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
Ski Mountaineering on 12/16/2008 18:01:16 MST Print View

QUESTION: When are you going? What dates? I've spent months in the big peak area in the Wrangles. It's the most amazing place in Alaska. Really, just astounding!

Oh jeeeez, Who knows what they are gunna hand you as group gear and food. It might be a HUGE amount. You'll be flying in, so this creates a "sure, let's take it." mind set.

The Andinista is a bear if overloaded.

I suggest NOT using a hoze for water, if you are there in may, the tube will freeze each morning, and it'll be a hassle. THis is me and my personal biases. During the day, the water won't freeze. But be ready at night for freezing.

VB system, it won't be cold enough to make it worthwhile. THe 24 hour daylight makes drying a down bag easy. Leave it in the strings (gear loft) in the top of the tent during the day wan base camping. It'll be fine.

You'll probably be getting up early, and sleeping in the early evening. It can be HOT in a tent in the summer, even at night. No need for VB clothing or bag liner.

4. Make sure your booties fit in your shells ahead of time! I've seen too many students bring them, only to find that they don't fit once they are on the glacier.

Booties inside shells is PERFECT!

I'm not clear on the tyvec BOOT top? I highly doubt you'll need em.

5. Legs
Will the VB pants be too hot

6. Drying gloves is EASY. If it's sunny, everything dries out inside the shelter! Yes, gloves get wet, but they dry out easily.

7. Inflatable Pad
SHould I worry about frost build-up in the valve?

You sleeping pads are fine (are you serious? 1 cm thick?)

Christopher Eldred
(celdred) - MLife

Locale: Mountains!
thanks for the help on 12/17/2008 10:17:28 MST Print View

Mike- The course starts on May 30th. I am super excited about it- I've never been to the Wrangells before. It will also be my first true extended winter trip- I've done a few overnighters but never more than a single night. Lots of backcountry day skiing experience though.

The thought behind the tyvek covers was to keep snow and such out of the shells when the booties were in them. But taking another look at the shells I really don't think I need them.

I think I am going to go with the traditional layering system given the higher expected temperatures- I have found the VB clothing to get uncomfortable above around 25 degrees, and it will probably be near that during most of the days.

I am planning on doing a shakedown trip on the Bomber traverse this winter, so I might have some additional questions for you guys afterwards.

Thanks for the all the help!

Stephen Klassen
How'd it go? on 10/24/2009 23:55:10 MDT Print View

Chris, I'm curious how things went.