On Thursday, Jan. 21st I snowshoed into the Spring Mountains just outside Las Vegas and near the small ski resort where I'm a patroller.
That day was the beginning of the last - and the worst - of the Pacific storms that hit southern California, and later Nevada, so hard. As a result it was snowing and blowing so much that I had to wear my ski goggles over my glasses.
With a Mt'n. Hardwear 4th Dimension Polarguard Delta -20 F. bag, Thermarest Trail Pro regular mattress, 2 man TNF Tadpole tent, MSR Dragonfly multifuel stove and other heavy winter clothing and a 7.4 lb. Dana Terraplane pack I had 48 lbs. on my back w/ food and water.
Using new 30" MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes and old backcountry ski poles it was slow going as I sank in about 6" on each step (48 lbs. on my back :) so I only 'shoed in about 1 1/2 miles. Also I didn't go farther to avoid walking into potential avalanche terrain.
The storm grew worse as it got toward late afternoon so I chose a high spot in the small, high valley to camp. After stomping out a tent site with my snowshoes I let it settle & harden for about 45 minutes while I explored the area. Then I set up my tent around 4 PM. Next I dug a pit in my vestibule floor area so I could sit inside the the tent door with my legs dangling down in the pit. This is how I had to cook my meal B/C of the heavy wind and snow outside. After finishing my meal I melted snow to refill my hydration bladder.
Then took my felt pac liners out of my boots, telescoped the boot tops, one inside the other and and left them in the vestibule with my stove and cook pot. I put the felt packs & neoprene VBL sox in my (size long) sleeping bag. This is why winter bags need to be longer than summer bags. Also my hydration bladder went in the foot of the bag in a stuff sack. I removed the wet polypro liner sox, put on some clean, dry ones and my heavy "sleeping socks". Now I was ready for bed on a long winter's night
Then I donned my Brigade Quartemaster Thermolite Micro liner jacket, got most of the way in my bag and read 1/2 of a novel while sipping hot chocolate from an insulated mug. I felt very snug as the storm raged outside, snow beating on the tent fly and occasional heavy gusts shaking the tent.
At 9 PM. I finally dropped off to sleep.
At 10:12 I sat bolt upright at the sound of a mountain lion's deep growling not more than 50 ft. from my tent. Scared the hell out of me until I realized it's bears, not mountain lions that mess with tents full of food. I yelled back loudly a few times, turned my headlamp on and decided to read some more to calm myself. It worked and I went back to sleep around 11 PM, the storm worse than ever. I could see the sides of the tent being pressed in a bit with the drifting snow but felt it would "windproof" the tent as the gusts were by now at the least around 50 mph. I have to say, for a 3 season tent the TNF Tadpole is a very sturdy design and shed the wind well. Thinking back on what made the mountain lion growl I feel that it passed my tent, unaware that it was there. Then downwind it suddenly smelled me and was startled into growling.
At 7:15 in the morning I awoke to the sounds of 105 mm artillery being fired for avalanche control over at my ski resort. It was snowing lightly but the sun was breaking through. My vestibule was COMPLETELY filled with spindrift snow but none got inside my telescoped boots. And the tent walls pressed in even more, making it a true one man tent.
So I unzipped the vestibule door and got my avy shovel that I'd prudently stuck in the snow right outside the door the night before.
I shoveled out the vestibule, unburied my stove and 1 L. JB pot and cleaned all the snow out of the burner. Thankfully I had the stove and small fuel bottle attatched to an MSR circular plastic base made for the Dragonfly and it was easy to clean it all up.
I'd modified the Tadpole by basting ripstop panels to cover the mesh door and side panels but left some area above each panel and the top of the door for ventilation. It did a great job of keeping out the spindrift snow but it also kept in condensation. The top of my sleeping bag was entirely wet. That made my decision to break camp instead of staying the extra day I had planned for.
After a good breakfast of Ocean Spray cranberry oatmeal and decaf coffee & creamer I began packing up. It took me 1/2 hour to dig out the tent. And to think I'd debated on whether to bring my avy shovel!
The slog back to my patrol room where my RAV 4 was parked was beautiful with the sun now fully out.
It was a fun but too short trip. I've slept in -22 F. but never camped in a storm like that. It was an epic storm with 2 ft. of new snow by morning, for 5 ft. total for the winter so far. I hope that by next year I'll have a TT Scarp 2 and hopefully better ventilation/less condensation.