Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Solo winter backpacking?


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Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
Solo winter backpacking? on 12/08/2012 17:44:40 MST Print View

How many of you do solo winter backpacking?

Doing solo in the summer has its dangers but its usually only a few hours until someone walks along the trail ANYWAY so I figure if I get hurt someone will just find me on the trail.

In winter this will NOT be the case and I will need to be nearly 100% self sufficient.

Assuming one isn't a complete moron, and carries the right equipment, how insane is solo winter backpacking?

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Solo winter backpacking? on 12/08/2012 17:52:10 MST Print View

I do solo winter backpacking, but very little on snow if that's what you mean. I do go for days without seeing anyone else. I leave the wife an itenerary so they can retrieve my body : ) I am more careful when I'm solo.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Solo winter backpacking? on 12/08/2012 18:04:01 MST Print View

done winter solo... I don't feel insane. I will also note that I spring and fall trips I also typically don't see people except in the first and last few minutes when I am getting near the trailhead. I am much less likely to solo in the winter. Not so much from a safety as an enjoyment. Given shorter days, there is more time in camp and less moving / seeing... so having someone to share the evenings with is really nice. Also, it's a lot more fun to build a snow shelter or stomp down a space for the tarp/tent, build a kitchen area, etc with someone else.

--mark

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Solo winter backpacking? on 12/08/2012 18:33:30 MST Print View

If you want to do a solo winter backpacking trip on skis, then go to Yosemite and park at the Badger Pass Ski Area parking lot. The rangers will issue you a free wilderness permit and free overnight parking permit in the lot. Then you ski out the unplowed Glacier Point Road to (oddly enough) Glacier Point. After a night out there, you return. In the event that you break a leg, some stranger will find you within 24 hours since that road is not exactly deserted. Actually, the better place to camp is near Sentinel Dome, which is a mile or so before Glacier Point. The view is about the same, and there are fewer people.

--B.G.--

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Re: Re: Solo winter backpacking? on 12/08/2012 20:01:43 MST Print View

I agree w/ Mark, much less likely to go solo in the winter because of the short days- lot more time spent in camp

my wife also tends to get more anxious if I'm gone by myself in the winter vs summer :)

David Lutz
(davidlutz)

Locale: Bay Area
"Solo winter backpacking?" on 12/09/2012 00:21:29 MST Print View

I went on one short solo overnighter and had a great time.

It started to snow so I retired to the tent around 5:00 pm and didn't come out until 7:00 am but that was ok. I slept and read and watched Treasure of the Sierra Madre on my phone. No biggie.

I was in a spot not far from the trailhead and knew people would be around the next day if something went wrong.

The best part was when a pair of Nordic patrollers came by at around 4:30 in the afternoon and saw me standing there on my skis in a T shirt. I'm sure they thought I would need rescuing in short order until I explained that I was camping out.

I wouldn't go out alone on my first snow trip though.

David Olsen
(oware)

Locale: Steptoe Butte
solo winter backpacking on 12/09/2012 01:05:55 MST Print View

Not in avalanche territory.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: solo winter backpacking on 12/09/2012 06:15:48 MST Print View

How would you determine avalanche territory? I've seen enormous damage from avalanche in a forested valley in June (Weminuche). Can you always avoid avalanche if the conditions are right anywhere in the mountains?

A few things to do may be to check with rangers about the area history of avalanche, know what conditions to look for (recent large snows?), checking with avalanche sites about risk for a given area. Anything else? I have taken no avalanche courses.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Re: Re: solo winter backpacking on 12/09/2012 08:44:39 MST Print View

there are usually sites that will advise on avalanche conditions, some are complete w/ maps (at least Montana, would suspect the same in other states)- doesn't substitute for avalanche training, but can help you avoid known risks

Bogs and Bergs
(Islandized) - F

Locale: Newfoundland
solo in winter on 12/09/2012 09:30:08 MST Print View

I'm sure we'd all like to hear this fellow's story:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2012/12/08/mb-missing-man.html
On November 15 he went hunting alone in the Manitoba woods, was given up for lost, and yesterday he walked out. There are plenty of places in Canada where being alone in the woods in winter is just normal behaviour. Knowledge is everything, and gear is not a substitute. I'll put my money on the well-informed person, over the well-equipped, every time.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Solo winter backpacking? on 12/09/2012 10:23:33 MST Print View

To me it isn't the season that matters, it is one's level of experience in those particular conditions. If you already have considerable experience in the kind of conditions you are going into, then I don't think it is unreasonable to go solo. If you lack experience, then getting that experience in a group is a better way, although you can also gain experience by going out solo but not going far. Doing your first snow camping solo 100 yards from the road is a good way to try it out, because you know you can bail if things go wrong.


But this kind of thinking does have to be left behind:
"Doing solo in the summer has its dangers but its usually only a few hours until someone walks along the trail ANYWAY so I figure if I get hurt someone will just find me on the trail."

There are plenty of places where this is a dangerous attitude in the summer as well, places where you need to be prepared mentally and physically and gear-wise to help yourself because no one is going to happen to pass by. Winter conditions just make that apply to more areas.

As to the mention of avalanche danger, yes, there are places where, under the worst conditions, it is not safe to go - solo or not. Being with a group affords some slight advantage - you might get dug out before you die - but frankly, it ain't much. Being in a group will not prevent your being caught in an avalanche, nor will carrying a beacon, shovel and probe. The only way to prevent that is by your choice of where and when you go. The safe choice is not to travel in risky terrain when the risk is high. Wait for conditions to improve or find safer terrain. Of course, the safer terrain may be no fun to ski, and that is one reason people are tempted to go out when they really shouldn't. So that is not dependent on being solo - it's a mtter of knowledge and judgement.

Charles P
(mediauras)

Locale: Terra
Re: "Solo winter backpacking?" on 12/09/2012 11:36:49 MST Print View

I have two young kids so the thought of spending 14 hours in a sleeping bag curled up reading, watching movies, etc. sounds amazing and luscious. Never snow camped before but its my mission to try it this winter.

spelt the enigmatic
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Ease of bailout on 12/09/2012 13:12:35 MST Print View

Doing your first snow camping solo 100 yards from the road is a good way to try it out, because you know you can bail if things go wrong.

With respect, as someone getting into only my second season of winter camping, unless a person has terrific willpower, making a bailout just a bit more inconvenient is preferable in my opinion. The risk is still lower, but the temptation to bail is reduced. Part of safety in winter is figuring out your limits tempwise and getting your insulation and its configuration down. That's hard to do if it's 1 AM, you're getting uncomfortable, and the car is a hop, skip, and a jump away. Better to stick it out and learn something, which is much easier for me to do when I've deliberately made the walk out inconvenient. A half-mile or mile is plenty, and still close enough to civilization should anything go seriously wrong.

David Olsen
(oware)

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: Re: solo winter backpacking on 12/09/2012 15:04:20 MST Print View

"How would you determine avalanche territory? I've seen enormous damage from avalanche in a forested valley in June (Weminuche). Can you always avoid avalanche if the conditions are right anywhere in the mountains? "

If you don't know, don't go.
The terrain mostly dictates where avalanches occur.
Pretty much any mountainous area with snow.

Take a class. practice your skills, and take partners who do the same.

Chad Miller
(chadnsc)

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Re: Solo winter backpacking? on 12/09/2012 16:29:58 MST Print View

I've been solo winter backpacking for a few years now and while it can be a bit more challenging going solo I've found that if you have the proper gear, skills, and mindset you'll be just fine.

I should preference this statement by letting people know that I had a solid base of three season solo backpacking (five years or so) before I ventured out on winter trips.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: solo winter backpacking on 12/09/2012 17:17:31 MST Print View

> If you don't know, don't go.

+1 to dave's response about avalanche territory... though for some people, "winter" doesn't have the risk because the terrain is too flat to have avalanche or it never accumulates enough snow to be a risk.

--Mark

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Solo winter backpacking? on 12/10/2012 06:54:31 MST Print View

Been doing that for years and sometimes take my old snowmobile to places snow shoers/skiers can't reach. Luckily, the old thing starts even in sub zero temps. Groups are a whole lot more fun, talking and sitting around the kitchen late and in the morning for breakfast. Gear makes all the difference. Not much snow last year, so it wasn't the greatest. I go out every month of the year bping, at least 3 out of the last four years. I worry more about my hands/fingers getting cold and then not being able to do anything.
Duane

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Solo winter backpacking? on 12/10/2012 09:37:10 MST Print View

"Been doing that for years and sometimes take my old snowmobile to places snow shoers/skiers can't reach."

That's awfully hard to imagine.

--B.G.--

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Re: Solo winter backpacking? on 12/10/2012 10:45:22 MST Print View

Mountainous terrain is a whole different ball game. Learn how to use an ice axe, practice tons of times with tons of people. Take avalanche 1 and 2 training. Learn to use your beacon and snow probe and shovel. Even then, 1 wrong step and it's game over. 3 minutes without oxygen, kaput.

If you are flatlanding it. Bring warmer clothes and sleeping bag than you need. Know how to start a fire in the snow. Bring nalgenes to warm up your bag and keep unfrozen water available. Dehydration is easy in winter. Take off clothes before you start sweating and dry off before you put them back on. Have pad/pads with an R rating of 5 or above. Tell everyone where you are going and when you are coming back. Heck, even stay in cell range if you can.

Try out your system in your backyard first if it is cold enough.

Good luck!

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Solo winter backpacking on 12/10/2012 11:29:44 MST Print View

Well, taking the snowmobile isn't exactly bping I guess. Still, I get out, using my old stoves the last few years, that makes it more fun, even for solo trips. There wasn't enough snow last year to ride my sled.
Duane