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Advice for a novice in snow?
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b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Advice for a novice in snow? on 12/07/2006 15:54:08 MST Print View

I am a novice at snow trekking, tents, sleeping in it, etc.?

I have a lot of questions and would like advice on how best to approach it.

First step for myself and my partner is sleeping in a tent, tarp, or shelter comfortably in 0 F to 32 F nights.

Second is taking the tent, tarp or whatever works on a short Xcountry ski, mukluk, or snow shoe trek and then succesfully setting up a camp, cooking, staying dry and warm, and returning. We live in an environment where we can leave our house and camp within a 1/2 mile or so in Forest Service lands on Hat Creek in N. California.

Next step is going on the National Forest lands at Lassen on fairly establish snow shoe trails ... I want to do it in mukluks because I am new to them and they are wonderful, warm. Just great things to use.

So if anyone wants to take a novice under their wing I am ready to listen and do.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Advice for a novice in snow? on 12/07/2006 16:26:37 MST Print View

It looks like you've got the process nailed--step by step. I tested various configurations of lightweight clothing and sleeping gear in the back yard in various conditions to well below 0F before I would trust switching from heavy to light in the backcountry. (Good thing I did because I ran into a blizzard. Comfortably :) I now prefer a hammock in winter because it makes setting up camp quick and easy, but then I usually go solo. YMMV.

I'm sure you'll get some good advice from experts here on BPL. If you're into reading books, I have two recommendations: Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book: Traveling & Camping Skills for a Winter Environment (O'Bannon, Allen and Mike Clelland!; Chockstone; 1996) and Backpacker Magazine's Winter Hiking & Camping: Managing Cold for Comfort & Safety (Lanza, Michael; The Mountaineers; 2003). Although Allen & Mike's book has "backcountry ski" in the title it also covers everything else, in a highly entertaining fashion. Backpacker's book isn't necessarily lightweight but there is a lot of good info in depth. I re-read these each year.

The mukluks sound great (I saw your other thread on this subject) as long as you don't end up postholing. I misjudged the snow depth on a one-way day hike on New Year's Eve a few years ago and we ended up moving only 1/3 of a mile per hour, and were almost benighted. But if you're going in, then you should be able to get back out. You might find snowshoes worth carrying in case the snow is softer than you expect once you get off the trail, and they can make stomping down a camping area much quicker.

Some good articles here (under Gear Lists, and Techniques).

Be sure to read Roger Caffin's articles on stoves.

Have fun!

Edited by Otter on 12/07/2006 16:47:28 MST.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
Re: Advice for a novice in snow? on 12/07/2006 16:29:19 MST Print View

One of the better things I've done is to build an igloo a fair trips ditance in from the trailhead then ski there and use it as a base for longer trips.
If you are in an area that has snowmobiles build a little bit off the baeten track so they aren't tempted to "investigate".
If you are setting up a tent a simple snow wall can help with wind and drifting snow. Also pack down your site by tramping around in your skiis or snowshoes. More calories, more insulation, extra batteries.
One of the really neat things about winter is you don't have to travel very far to have a great experience.

Stevan Beer
(PapaBeer) - F

Locale: Gunnison Valley
Maybe some Avy knowledge too. on 12/10/2007 00:21:58 MST Print View

I am not sure if you are going to be on or around avalanche terrain for your winter travels, or if you are a skier, but taking a Level 1 avalanche course might be a good idea. I am a self professed "Snow Dork" and I find the stuff extremely interesting. It really enriches my winter backcountry experience and increases my respect for the power of snow. Level 1 courses are usually 3 days long, cost 200-300 dollars, and are taught by your local mountain guides or avalanche centers.
Also, if you are a skier, backcountry skis are a lot more efficient (AND MORE FUN!!!) than slow shoes - sorry - snow shoes. Whether you "lock the heel - ski for real" or "free the heel - free your mind", BC skis can be nice and light. Food for thought.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Advice for a novice in snow? on 12/10/2007 09:10:12 MST Print View

Do your research about avalanches if you'll be playing in that terrain as the previous poster mentions. I wanted to make a note that some places offer Level I Avalanche courses free. I lived in the Flathead Valley of Montana and the Glacier Country Avalanche Center offered the Level I course free (a series of evening class sessions and two field days).

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Avalanches on 12/10/2007 16:39:16 MST Print View

I don't worry about avalanches, I just send the little wifey and our ankle biters out in front and have them jump up and down on any suspicious slopes.

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
avalanches on 12/10/2007 16:48:01 MST Print View


Edited by rosierabbit on 01/04/2008 12:34:19 MST.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Don't hurt my feelings, please on 12/10/2007 20:40:51 MST Print View

Kathleen, please don't pick on me, I have my own problems. For example, my first wife, who shall remain nameless, recently died. And she will remain nameless forever if I can find some way to drag a sandblaster into the cemetery and all the way to her gravestone.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Don't hate me, pity me. on 12/11/2007 17:51:42 MST Print View

Kathleen, don’t hate me, pity me. I am the way I am because I grew up in tough circumstances and became hard and calloused. My neighborhood was so tough, the name of the local Ice Creamery was “Lick This!”