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Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
My "storm" camp on 01/24/2010 14:23:55 MST Print View

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.

Edited by Danepacker on 01/27/2010 00:18:12 MST.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: My "storm" camp on 01/24/2010 14:59:19 MST Print View

Great story. Photos?

Michael Crosby
(djjmikie) - MLife

Locale: Ky
RE: "My "storm" camp" on 01/24/2010 16:18:35 MST Print View

Great story. Sounds like fun.
Mike

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: My "storm" camp on 01/24/2010 16:37:00 MST Print View

Hi Eric

I know the feeling! But I do have one question.

> 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.

Obviously I have cooked many many times inside my tent in the snow. But I have never bothered trying to dig a pit in the vestibule. Instead I just recline on some CCF inside the tent and put the stove in the vestibule. It seems just as comfortable to me.

So what's with the digging a pit bit? What am I missing - apart from the labour of carrying the shovel and digging the pit?

Cheers

Andy Berner
(Berner9) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: My "storm" camp on 01/24/2010 17:32:36 MST Print View

Sounds like a blast. Other than the noise from the animals.

I wish we got that kinda of snow here in the lower part of Michigan. That storm is about to us and we are only looking to get 3-5".

Patrick Caulder
(pcaulder) - MLife

Locale: SouthEast
snow on 01/24/2010 17:49:43 MST Print View

3-5 inches of snow would shut us completely down here in SC, and have everyone running to the store for bread and water...lol

Sounds like a great time. I hope to explore some in the west one of these days.

Edited by pcaulder on 01/24/2010 17:51:03 MST.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
VESTIBULE "PIT" on 01/25/2010 21:58:14 MST Print View

Roger,

In "Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book" (p. 96) there is an illustration of a vestibule pit. This book is my fav for winter camping info. My pit was about 18" (50 cm.) deep.

This is also mentioned (as I reckymember) in one of Hilleberg's older catalogs.

This pit makes sitting to cook far more comfortable and puts the stove flame (& pot) a safer distance below the vestibule fly.

I suggest NOT making steps up out of the vestibule pit as this leaves an opening for snow to enter the pit under the closed vestibule door. If you must make steps then place your pack inside the pit so it blocks the steps at night. This means the steps need to be a bit narrower than your pack for a decent seal.

When using a vestibule pit I sit just inside my tent on the head end of my Thermarest mattress for the necessary insulation.

Finally, do as I say and not as I do and build a compacted snow "wall" about 1 ft. high around the outside bottom edge of the vestibule (except at the door) to keep out spindrift. Your vestibule door should obviously be downwind (Ullr being nice to you and not shifting the wind :).

P.S. Matt, I tried to take photos W/ my Samsung cell phone camera but it's battery was DEAD, even though it was off all night. :(

Edited by Danepacker on 01/25/2010 22:00:33 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: VESTIBULE "PIT" on 01/25/2010 23:14:00 MST Print View

Good trip report, by the way Eric.

> This pit ... and puts the stove flame (& pot) a safer distance below the vestibule fly.
Understood, and possibly a good idea with white gas stoves. They do flare during priming - scares me.
But with a good winter canister stove I cannot see any problem. The gas flame never gets anywhere near the fly.
Cooking in the tent


> build a compacted snow "wall" about 1 ft. high around the outside bottom edge
> of the vestibule (except at the door) to keep out spindrift
Doesn't work in a gale. The wind curls around the wall and the spindrift gets in at a great old rate. Then the wind erodes the wall away at 2 am and I have to get out and rebuild it - in the gale. Vestibule ends up filled.
5642SSpindriftInside


Far better imho is a sod cloth with lots of snow on it, smoothed over to avoid wind scouring. I added it after that 'exciting' trip. The blue is the sod cloth, before any snow was heaped on it. But it was a fine night anyhow!
Tent showing corners


What's with the 'wind scouring' one might ask. This photo shows what can happen around a tent - although it is a boulder in this case. The wind deflecting around any obstruction can carve out a lot of snow, especially newly stacked stuff.
5633WindScouring

Cheers

Edited by rcaffin on 01/25/2010 23:16:28 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
a trench by the tent door on 01/26/2010 00:08:28 MST Print View

For some of us who are not terribly flexible, the trench or pit by the front door is good. We can sit and let our feet rest in the trench without stress. We generally have lightweight shovels, anyway, for avalanche safety, so it just takes a minute or two to dig a hole. It just seems easier for crawling into or out of the tent or shelter.
--B.G.--

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Vestibules and spindrift snow on 01/26/2010 21:58:54 MST Print View

Roger,

I agree regarding "sod cloth" but for me that sod cloth would not be a ground cloth covering the vestibule floor. Instead it would 1 ft. be zip-on extensions to the bottom of the vestibule so I could bury them in the snow.

Then the vestibule "pit" would need to be smaller inside than the vestibule perimeter to keep the cloth well buried. I'd say that after stomping out a tent platfom the best way to bury a sod cloth edge is to make shovel slits in the work-hardened snow to insert the sod "flaps". Then make more shovel slits outside the buried cloth & push in against the cloth to secure it. Getting the sod cloth out after a few days may require digging rather than pulling.

As for snow scouring, I've seen it happen in high winds and loose snow. But this night I described had so much snowfall it was not a problem, even with the high winds.

I think I'll sell my present -20 F. synthetic bag and get one with more compactable synthetic fill, no sewn seam "welded" baffles, and a VERY water resistant shell - if such an animal exists.

Carrying an eVent bivy may be just too much extra weight. OTOH an eVent bivy may give that extra 10 F. of warmth that would warrant a bit lighter bag. I ain't sure yet. More research and feedback from experienced winter campers with newer water resistant shells &/or bivys is needed.

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
My storm camp on 01/26/2010 22:03:34 MST Print View

Re: "For some of us who are not terribly flexible, the trench or pit by the front door is good." You speak TRUTH. It's like the difference between eating dinner sitting on a chair, and eating dinner sitting on the floor. P.S. Very clearly written report.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Vestibules and spindrift snow on 01/27/2010 02:13:31 MST Print View

Hi Eric

I think I am a bit lost on your description of how you see a sod cloth. The way I use them is thus:
SodCloth

The blue lines are my sod cloths, sticking outwards, with compacted snow stacked on top of them.

Are you talking about putting the sod cloths on the inside of the tent, or even vertically into the snow?

Cheers

Justin McMinn
(akajut) - F

Locale: Central Oklahoma
Re: Re: Vestibules and spindrift snow on 01/27/2010 08:30:46 MST Print View

Roger,

How is the sod cloth attached to the fly?

- Jut

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: My "storm" camp on 01/27/2010 08:51:06 MST Print View

That's really awesome that you had a mountain lion growling outside your tent. I'd love to experience that!

I too was camped out in the storm, in the mountains not 100 miles away. A little different story though, as I didn't have much wind. Just snow that required pushing off my tarp frequently or else it'd fully collapse. Really pretty mild for us out there compared to some storms. But friends got around four feet not far away in those four storm days.

My bigger worry was the storm that broke out when one group member tried to p1ss everyone else off with some racist remarks.

john flanagan
(jackfl) - F

Locale: New England
Re:"My "storm" camp" on 01/27/2010 11:09:52 MST Print View

I'd like to add my compliments and suggest to the editors that this kind of detailed "day in the life" is a good format for how too articles that can generate a lot of good back and forth. Kind of in the vein of some of Colin Fletcher. Great stuff.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Vestibules and spindrift snow on 01/27/2010 13:43:09 MST Print View

Hi Justin

> How is the sod cloth attached to the fly?
This is a full-on serious winter snow tent. The sod clothes are sewn to the fly. In the next generation they will be integral with the fly.

Being silnylon they can slide through the snow. This can break them loose if there is a gale. I don't have a really great (fabric technology) solution for that yet, except to keep the spans between poles short enough and the pitch tight enough that the sod cloths can't move very much. That seems to work.

Cheers


Cheers

Justin McMinn
(akajut) - F

Locale: Central Oklahoma
Re: Re: Re: Re: Vestibules and spindrift snow on 01/27/2010 21:35:42 MST Print View

Seems like one could have small pockets sewn in to fill with snow etc. to add resistance to prevent the cloth from pulling through. The extra weight would be pretty small burden compared to resetting them in the middle of the night during a storm.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Vestibules and spindrift snow on 01/27/2010 22:46:06 MST Print View

> one could have small pockets sewn in to fill with snow etc
Hum ... an interesting thought. I will think about that one. Need to be sure I can empty the pockets when rolling the tent up.

Cheers

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
SOD CLOTH on 01/28/2010 09:27:29 MST Print View

Roger,

Yes your drawing is exactly how I define a sod cloth. I wasn't sure how you defined it (we being divided by a "common language" and all) :)

I'm trying to decide if zippers are the best way to attatch sod cloths to convert a tent for winter. Snaps would let in spindrift in a vestibule but would work elswhere.

Justin McMinn
(akajut) - F

Locale: Central Oklahoma
Sod Cloth Pockets on 01/28/2010 10:07:02 MST Print View

> Need to be sure I can empty the pockets when rolling the tent up.

Right triangles would probably be easier than squares.
Sod Cloth Pockets
The grey represents the snow

Edited by akajut on 01/28/2010 10:07:57 MST.