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Advice wanted. Long distance ski mountaineering etc...
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Gabriel Pramuk
(gpramuk) - F

Locale: West
Advice wanted. Long distance ski mountaineering etc... on 04/21/2011 20:23:57 MDT Print View

OK! So I had major equipment malfunctions 8 miles into my 300+ mile ski trip... (Tahoe to Whitney) Bent a Voile Cable binding... somehow... Broke a hip belt buckle on my pack, lost a ski pole basket, two water bottles and a gorilla-pod... If anyone finds those in Desolation wilderness, sorry. I found one water bottle on my way out this morning.

I was 8 miles in, cruising, if not weighed down by a much heavier than normal setup, when my hip belt gave way. I was already down one basket and two bottles. So I stopped near Phipp's Pass and did some laps to think it over. Fun steep ski terrain there! On my one my trips back up, I notice my binding was tweaked a bit... Kinda hard to snap into place. Voile Cable bindings aren't made for jump turns on 50 degree slopes, but I didn't think I could bend it!

So discretion being the better part of valor, I bailed out the way I came in. Did I mention I forgot the top pole to my TT Rainbow?

I am now sitting at home, looking at homemade bindings to use with boots... Or trail runners... haha. This failed trip taught me never to stray from my ultra light principles! I had my base weight down to 4,14 on the AT last year...

Here is how my gear worked or didn't work.

Conditions. 25ish and blowing hard. Grapple blizzard. Snow went right through my tent mesh.
Camped ON snow.

Golite Odyssey:
WAY too heavy. HUGE! It was either that or a Jam2. Just bought a 1300$ Mountain bike, no money for other stuff... I needed to carry tons of food, or so I thought. Next time I am enlisting the services of somebody to bring me food.
What might be a more appropriate back pack?

MH Phantom 0. Too warm... Golite Ultra 20, too drafty and cool for early Sierra springs. I used the Ultra 20 with a fleece blankets in the south San Juans in May/June... Recommendations?

Sleeping pads. Roof insulation (bubble wrap with silvery backing, topping), ridge rest torso length, GG thinlite. Maybe too warm. It worked well and as 14 oz total.

underwear and wind pants worn while skiing. Stayed warm, especially when touring. I had fleece pants and thermals. I could probably get away without one of those layers... Thoughts?
Top was thermal, fleece, down inner jacket, and a Marmot Precip. I didn't use the down... Thoughts?

GPS, SPOT, camera, headlight batteries.

Too many... paper for writing, pen.

Toiletries, first aid.
small toothpaste, tooth brush, sunscreen, lip balm, body glide, tape, hair dyer... (j/k still reading?) knife.

2 soda bottles, aquamira, .75 l cup. fire making material. seems like a hassle to have to melt water, but I realized how important that could be after I lost both bottles. I would have drank straight from a creek if I found one...

Skis etc...
Karhu Catamount with Voile cables. ascension skins. I didn't use the cables at all, I didn't use the skins either. I went up some steep pitches too... Grapple is sticky though... I had Camp XLC 470 crampons. Didn't use them. I would rather not carry them. I can wait for snow to melt and keep that 16.5 oz off my back. I didn't need my trail runners either. Wore the Garmont Excursions the whole way... all 15 miles.

Resupply is the biggie for something like this. I had 22 lbs of food. Next time I'll try to find someone to meet me everywhere I can. Highway 50, Try to get near Carson, Ebbets, Sonora...

What am I doing? 22 lbs of food? Crampns? Extra shoes? This SUL-er must have had a stroke... Back to the drawing board. How do I ski the Sierras with a sub 10 lb base weight?
Ideally I would have like to plan for months and do some short ski trips. but my season ended April 17th and the snow is, believe it or not, melting. I felt as though I needed to get going. Pretty much outfitted with what was in the basement in four hours.

My shoulders are sore. I'm gonna take a bath and watch TV.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Advice wanted. Long distance ski mountaineering etc... on 04/21/2011 20:52:34 MDT Print View

"Bent a Voile Cable binding"

I see more broken Voile bindings than bent ones, and they always seem to fail in the very early part of a long ski tour. That's better than them failing when you are fifty miles from nowhere.

I think you are going to have to do some long-range planning and get some food caches planted long in advance. I planted one in October to be used in March.


Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Advice wanted. Long distance ski mountaineering etc... on 04/22/2011 23:18:57 MDT Print View

You asked, " How do I ski the Sierras with a sub 10lb base weight?"
I'd say you don't. Not that it isn't possible, but you'd be pushing things past the edge of comfortable and cutting your margin for error down to almost nothing.
For that kind of trip, I'm at around 21 lbs base weight - including skins, crampons, ice axe and shovel. If I could spend another few hundred bucks I could drop a pound or two from that with almost no loss of function. If I stuck to lower angle terrain I could do without the skins, axe, and crampons and drop about 2 1/4 pounds - but there are cool places I want to go where I need that stuff.
If I gave up a few comforts I could get down another pound maybe.

SO let's say I was going without the skins, axe, and crampons; I spent the simoleons for the lighter stuff; and I gave up a few comforts - all told I'd say that would get me down to around 14 or 15 lbs base weight for trips on lower angle terrain. Now, I still don't have a big margin for error - I'm sleeping in most of my clothes, so if anything gets wet things get dicey. To get down from there to under 10 lbs requires taking everything right to the edge or beyond - something I wouldn't do for snow travel, except maybe for a one-nighter where you can be confident of the forecast. For multi-day trips, where you'll be days away from an exit point, I like a little margin for error.

By the way, how many days was your 22lbs of food supposed to cover?

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Advice wanted. Long distance ski mountaineering etc... on 04/22/2011 23:55:45 MDT Print View

Hold it, guys. I am a little confused. For X-C skiing purposes, what are you calling your base weight?

"21 lbs base weight - including skins, crampons, ice axe and shovel."

This does not include skis, boots and poles?


Gabriel Pramuk
(gpramuk) - F

Locale: West
base weight on 04/23/2011 00:57:46 MDT Print View

I consider the base weight, sans skis, since I am often wearing them, even climbing up a steep pitch.

I agree it is tough to get that base weight down when on a ski trip, especially high into the Sierras. There are certain things that one needs to be safe. I realized in my ill fated not well thought out attempt how dependent on gear a trek like this is. When hiking, it is easy to fake it. The pack weight is much lighter. When skiing, if a binding breaks, you are screwed. I feel like I could get away with less though. I hiked in Southern Colorado with 7.5 pounds, granted slightly later.

Could I use a potty trowel, some sorta toe spikes, and kicker skins instead of 12 point crampons, a BD raven pro and full ascension skins? Maybe a ski pole with an axe attached? One of those whippets or whatever?

I think I would go back to a large tarp... mid style next time. Maybe more like a 15 degree bag or dual spring quilts.

Sample vague gear list: (ounces)
Pack 32 (dunno what)
Sleeping 30 (2 quilts or a 15 degree bag)
Shelter 20 (tarp, stakes, lines, polycro ground sheet)
Pads 14
cooking, hydration 16
ice axe, spikes, skins 20 (or 4 pounds for the heavy stuff I currently have)
toiletries, first aid 6
electronics 16
152 oz so far...

Throw in some clothes and it could be about 12 pounds. Doesn't seem to be pushing the comfort/survival barrier too far... Not a lot of redundancy... but how much is really needed?

Skis/boots and poles are worn of course. Skin out weight is tons higher than a hiking trip, naturally.

I am sorting through "200 pounds of the world's finest ultralight gear" in the garage trying to find appropriate gear right now.

Oh yeah... I was hoping to get from Tahoe to Mammoth without stopping... heh. That is why I need caches.


Edited by gpramuk on 04/23/2011 01:00:30 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: base weight on 04/23/2011 09:11:46 MDT Print View

I can't quite wrap my head around how you wear poles.


(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Is ski race relevant? on 04/23/2011 18:30:26 MDT Print View

"Basic Strategy and Pack Weight
In 2008, we did a 140-mile route through the Wrangell Mountains starting with 38-pound packs (4.2 days). In 2009 we cut pack weight to 32 pounds, which included crampons, axes, and rope for a semi-technical 110-mile glaciated route (3.2 days). Last year we trimmed pack weight to 30 pounds for a 180-mile course with temperatures reaching -10 F / -23 C (4.5 days).
Our basic strategy is to travel light so that we move fast and need less total food and fuel. We wear thin layers while moving and puffy layers when stopped, which eliminates the need for mid-weight gear. We use lightweight sleeping bags (rated for about 20 F warmer than the expected temperature) because we eat a hot meal before going to sleep, sleep with hot water cozies, and don’t expect to sleep more than five or six hours before getting cold. If someone begins to get cold, we start moving. We break down camp quickly and start skiing. Once we've warmed up, we'll stop for a breakfast snack.
Early in the race we take short breaks, five to ten minutes. We carry gear that needs to be accessible on our bodies so that we don’t have to stop and take off packs. Gear that needs to stay warm is carried against our stomachs in a tucked-in shirt or thin backpack worn backwards against the skin. We carry snacks, water, a fuel canister, GPS, and headlamp in these pouches. Hats, gloves, and mitts also go in the pouch so that we can adjust temperatures without stopping."
(The Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic, also known as the Winter Classic, is an annual ski tour through Alaska’s remote wilderness. BPL article was written by Luc
Gear List
oz g oz g
FOOTWEAR Boot Shells Dynafit TLT4 (remove cuff, tongue, etc.) 63.8 1808.7
Boot Liners Dynafit Thermomoldable Liner 18.0 510.3
Gaiters Nylon Fabric Glued onto Shells 4.0 113.4
Socks SmartWool Ski Socks 3.0 85.0
Night Socks SmartWool Ski Socks 3.0 85.0
TREKKING CLOTHES Bottom Base Layer Patagonia Tights 10.2 290.3
Bottom Shell Layer REI Hard Shell, Partial Zip 17.6 499.0
Top Base Layer Long Sleeve Lightweight Wool 7.4 208.7
Top Mid Layer The North Face Softshell 13.8 390.1
Hat Winter Hat 1.8 49.9
Gloves Black Diamond Leather Gloves 6.7 190.5
Sunglasses 0.5 14.2
Top Insulating Layer MontBell Thermawrap Parka 14.4 408.2
Bottom Insulating Layer Patagonia Micropuff Pants 17.3 489.9
Top Puffy Layer Patagonia Down Jacket 22.9 648.6
Top Wind Layer Marmot Wind/Waterproof Jacket 7.0 199.6
Mitts Black Diamond Mercury Mitts 12.6 358.3
Balaclava Thin Fabric 1.0 28.3
GLACIER GEAR Rope 8mm x 30m 48.0 1360.8
Ice Axe C.A.M.P. USA Corsa, 50 cm, w/ Leash 8.8 249.5
Crampons C.A.M.P. USA XLC 390 13.8 390.1
Harness C.A.M.P. USA Alp 95 3.4 96.4
Carabiners 2 Locking, 4 Wire Gate 6.0 170.1
Ice Screw 2.5 70.9
Pruseks and Webbing 3 Pruskes, Webbing, Cord 17.0 481.9
SKI GEAR Ski Poles Swix Skate Ski Poles 17.0 481.9
Skis Fischer S-bound, Waxless 174.7 4952.7
Bindings Dynafit TLT Speed, Toe Pieces Only 20.0 567.0
Skins 0.75-inch 'Skinnies' 6.4 181.4
PACKING GEAR Backpack Osprey Exos 58 w/o Lid 38.4 1088.6
CAMPING GEAR Tent Stephenson Warmlite 2R 41.6 1179.3
Sleeping Bag REI Sub Kilo +20, Regular 36.0 1020.6
Sleeping Pad 3/4 Closed-Cell Foam 7.4 208.7
Insulating Pad Thermarest NeoAir 13.8 390.1
Stove MSR Pocket Rocket OR WindPro (7 oz) 3.0 85.0
Spoon 0.5 14.2
Water Bottle Insulation Outdoor Research Bottle Parka x1 4.0 113.4
Water Bottles Nalgene 1.5 L Water Bottle Bag x2 3.0 85.0
MISC GEAR Repair Kit Duct Tape, Knife, Lighter, Needle and Dental Floss, Wire,
Hose Clamp, Cord, Compass, Straps, Wood Screws,
Nails, Super Glue, Ski-Binding Bit, Space Blanket 14.0 396.9
Head Lamp Black Diamond 3 x AAA Model, Lithium Batteries 2.2 62.4
Toiletry Kit Toilet Paper, Sunscreen, Hand Sanitizer, Wet Wipe 4.0 113.4
Satellite Phone (required) Iridium 12.0 340.2
Maps 0.8 22.7
GPS Garmin Vista HCx 5.0 141.7
Medical Kit Bandaids, Tincture of Benzoin, Unpetroleum Jelly, Aleve,
Prescription Pain Killer 4.0 113.4
Camera Olympus Stylus Tough 6.5 184.3
CONSUMABLES Food 2 lbs/day, 5 Days' Worth 160.0 4535.9
Hand Warmers 1 pair/day (Dump Contents When Used) 7.5 212.6
Fuel 8 oz/day, Maximum Propane, Isobutane Content 40.0 1134.0
Water 0-2 L, Depending on Conditions varies varies
Total Weight (Worn/Carried) 22 lb 6.4 oz 10.16 kg
Total Base Pack Weight 13 lb 12.8 oz 6.28 kg
Total Weight Consumables (w/o Water) 11 lb 14.4 oz 5.39 kg
Total Weight Group Gear (Tent, Sat Phone, Maps, GPS, Glacier Gear) 9 lb 14.4 oz 4.5 kg
Total Initial Weight (Packed) 25 lb 11.2 oz 11.66 kg
Full Skin Out Weight w/ 1/3 Group Gear 51 lb 6.4 oz 23.32 kg
*Note some of the 'standard' winter gear we don't use: down booties, sleds, thermoses, extra clothing.

Gabriel Pramuk
(gpramuk) - F

Locale: West
Ski race on 04/24/2011 20:05:00 MDT Print View

Ski racing is totally relevant.

When I backpack, I have a quasi adventure racer setup, may as well have a ski racer setup.

I am looking over that list and I think I can knock off even more weight not having to carry rope... carry a lighter tent. My favorite winter tent was a hex 3... which was huge. An MLD duomid would be perfect I think.

Helpful stuff here. Thanks!

I'd love to race one of those classics too! How do I find out in advance?

Edited by gpramuk on 04/24/2011 20:13:11 MDT.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Advice wanted. Long distance ski mountaineering etc... on 04/24/2011 21:34:39 MDT Print View

Bob - no, skis, boots, poles not included in the base weight since to me that means base pack weight. They'd be included in FSO weight if I was quoting that. Skins I do include in the base weight because they are in the pack more often than on the skis. So FSO weight on a ski trip is relatively a lot higher than a hiking trip.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Advice wanted. Long distance ski mountaineering etc... on 04/24/2011 21:49:07 MDT Print View

> You asked, " How do I ski the Sierras with a sub 10lb base weight?"
> I'd say you don't. Not that it isn't possible, but you'd be pushing things past the
> edge of comfortable and cutting your margin for error down to almost nothing.

Lost water bottles - they were on the outside of the pack I assume? Yeah, right.

Ice axe and shovel ... make your mind up what sort of trip you are doing. They should not be needed on a light-weight ski tour.

Skins: go fishscale.


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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Advice wanted. Long distance ski mountaineering etc... on 04/24/2011 22:02:40 MDT Print View

"Ice axe and shovel ... make your mind up what sort of trip you are doing. They should not be needed on a light-weight ski tour.

Skins: go fishscale."

Roger, I believe that the thread subject is long distance ski mountaineering. The original poster was attempting to ski in California from Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney, which is a few hundred miles.

Yes, fishscale skis are very practical for California snow. However, there are many slopes where climbing skins are needed also. I would never consider doing a long ski tour without climbing skins. I can skin up a slope steeper than I can ski down, which brings around the need for an ice axe. A shovel is necessary to dig a snow shelter.


Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
At any rate, that people do this impresses me more than anything... on 04/25/2011 03:10:11 MDT Print View

I've hiked that stretch but the logistics of skiing that far with all that can go wrong is quite impressive. Whitney to Tahoe - there is a lot of up and down and I would imagine sketchy slopes in that run. Is there a map of the route? How does it differ from the JMT/PCT routes or does it?


Gabriel Pramuk
(gpramuk) - F

Locale: West
route on 04/25/2011 09:54:03 MDT Print View

A lot is on the PCT, but I thought I would take the SHR to stay high is some spots.

Places like Kerrick Canyon and Evolution Creek seem impossible for skiing. The area around Tully Hole looks rather rugged, but the SHR gets high and stays high there. Staying high eliminates those 7000-8000 foot ravines and canyons. Avoiding VVR does the same.

In the northern Sierra, I would go west and south around Ralston (sp?) Peak instead of north on its jagged edges... I think there a lot of snowmobiles near there and Blue Lakes. One could stay on the roads instead of climbing too much.

The slopes can certainly be steep. Even Phipps Pass in Desolation had some 50ish degree slopes. The PCT may be well graded, but some of those well graded sections are switchbacks on a steep slope.

I didn't have an exact route in mind. I had several, alternates, more alternates, and more alternates. Having never gone that far in winter I wanted to be flexible. I may try some more distance oriented faster trips like that race. In the future, if any one wants to go with me. It has been a bit of a dream to do this trek for quite some time. Count me in! I'll probably hike the SHR later this summer with an eye for skiing.

joe newton

Locale: Bergen, Norway
"Advice wanted. Long distance ski mountaineering etc..." on 04/25/2011 10:45:58 MDT Print View

Check out my gear list from a 7 day ski tour of Finnmarksvidda in Northern Norway:

Myself and Jorgen Johansson used Incredible Rulks! (basically a wearable pulk) to keep our approx 17kg packweight (24kg 'skin out') loads off our backs for most of the touring. When needed (skiing steeps or through trees) we simply shouldered our Incredible Rulks! which took about as long as it takes to put a regular backpack on. I easily fit all my gear and food into a GoLite Pinnacle. You can see a picture with my load on my back here:

Chris Jones
(NightMarcher) - F
Re: Advice wanted. Long distance ski mountaineering etc... on 04/25/2011 22:38:16 MDT Print View

Can I ask, what kind of food are you guys bringing along on your ski mountaineering trips? Does anyone have any ski tour-specific food lists?

Gabriel, What would you think of putting together some sort of field repair kit?

Gabriel Pramuk
(gpramuk) - F

Locale: West
food, etc... on 04/26/2011 01:06:25 MDT Print View

Repairs on my Voiles would have needed two large pliers... I should have something, like I would when biking. Could carry an extra 3 pin binding... Kinda defeats light weightness, but would be safe... What would be good to carry, if anything?

Food for me is similar to hiking. Nuts, refried beans, chips, unsweetened coconut, some dried fruit, snacks. Highest calories per ounce I can find, naturally.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: Advice wanted. Long distance ski mountaineering etc... on 04/26/2011 03:57:34 MDT Print View

Hi Bob

Yes, I know. But I was aiming at the attempt to mix UL gear and concepts with the ski mountaineering. In the interests of survival, I am suggesting the two don't mix very well.

We do week-long ski tours here too, but very few people here ever carry skins. Perhaps the slopes are easier here. Mind you, I have skied over a few cornices in my time, so it isn't all 'flat'.

We don't go for shovels and dug shelters here, preferring tents. Four snow-boarders tried to weather a storm here in a snow cave some years ago. They died, most likely from a sad combination of inexperience, wet snow, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Safety and survival ... good stuff.


Douglas Ray

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Long-Distance Ski Mountaineering... on 04/26/2011 11:11:14 MDT Print View

I can't really speak from experience on this topic, yet. I have been researching it this past winter as I have some ideas to pursue it in coming years. I have done some snowshoe backpacking and winter mountaineering, so there is some crossover of skills and techniques.

I'd say that heading into the mountains in winter without some sort of shovel is a very bad plan. That said, if I'm not concerned about rescuing someone from avalanche debris I will consider taking a snowclaw if I am tenting it. It's not as easy as a real shovel but it can work for setting up camp with a tent of some sort. If the weather is to much for a tent to survive than you can dig a snow-cave with one, although you will probably spend the whole time wishing for a real shovel in that case. 6oz is not much weight for the ability you get.

A light aluminum axe and crampons will do for anyone not set on summitting peaks in winter. When you are using them to deal with terrain you can't ski than conditions will not be hard ice, they will be snow of one sort or another (note: what is ice on skis is generally hard snow on crampons). Camp is spitting out some new crampons this next winter that will be around 11oz and are specifically designed for ski boots. Those and an 8oz ice-axe could save you a lot of risk in some situations.

Generally, with fish-scales in the mix when you need skins you kind of want a lot of grip. So it seems like full skins make up for the weight of carrying them.

The winter ski racing article was very informative. Like many race-related realms of gear what's practical on a non-competitive trip will can be evolved from the race system, rather than copied.

I think that there is grounds to build some lighter shelter and sleeping systems aimed at light winter travel, but the market is not very well developed yet. Vapor barriers, hybrid down/synthetic sleeping systems, and light tents that can keep out spindrift are all somewhat tough to come by, but possible I think.

If you are camping below tree-line than I like floorless pyramids in the winter.

Fuel can be a big piece of the puzzle on long winter trips. Figuring out the most effecient stove/pot system will be key. I'm curious if this might be the new soto liquid-fuel stove with a heat-exchanger pot and good wind-screen.

Careful evaluation of mittens, hats, and spare socks is necessary in the winter. I've been surprised by how much weight I sometimes carry in this stuff.

I'm surprised to hear of your bent binding issue, that's a new one on me. With three-pin bindings it seems like mostly people pull-out that front screw before anything else. I suppose the ultimate set-up for reliability and repair-ability would be to mount your bindings with inserts, and carry a spare toe-piece+screws, along with an appropriate screw driver. I'm thinking you could get buy with a less-burly toe-piece as a spare, so the weight would only have to come to around 6oz.

I don't know that much about sleds but I suspect that in rugged terrain they will often be more trouble than they are worth.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Advice wanted. Long distance ski mountaineering etc... on 04/26/2011 12:23:08 MDT Print View

"We don't go for shovels and dug shelters here, preferring tents."

Roger, it is an acquired taste.


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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Long-Distance Ski Mountaineering... on 04/26/2011 12:30:34 MDT Print View

"So it seems like full skins make up for the weight of carrying them."

Multiple use, right?

You have the weight of the skins to be concerned about. You want to keep the skins semi-warm while you carry them (to keep them sticky and pliable). You also want some extra insulation for your ankles. Combine all three of those, and you carry your skins _inside_ your knee-high gaiters, sort of next to your ankles.