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Winter Backpacking in RMNP
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Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Winter Backpacking in RMNP on 03/06/2013 15:46:57 MST Print View

No trip report yet, but did post the photos from a trip I was on recently...
Three Days/Two nights on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Fortunate enough to be working as Andrew Skurka's assistant again for a few days on his inaugural guided winter backpacking trip.
The part time gig is much more rewarding than my full time IT Monkey gig. ;)

Nothing like exploring Rocky Mtn NP on skis. :)

More to come after my 10th Mtn hut trip this weekend. Life ain't bad. ;)

Edited by PaulMags on 03/07/2013 13:29:50 MST.

Ben Wortman
(bwortman) - M

Locale: Nebraska
Sweet on 03/07/2013 10:09:13 MST Print View

Your trip reports always depress me!

Why can't I be like PMags???

Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: Winter Backpacking in RMNP on 03/07/2013 10:29:05 MST Print View

Awesome stuff, revs me up for my first snow camping trip ever this weekend. yeah!

Ben Wortman
(bwortman) - M

Locale: Nebraska
shelters on 03/07/2013 11:55:13 MST Print View

I was wondering what everyone thought about the Golite SL2 in the snow. Did anyone come away wanting something more substantial or was it plenty shelter for the group?



Stuart .
(lotuseater) - F

Locale: Colorado
Sponsored by Go Lite? on 03/07/2013 12:08:04 MST Print View

A lot of product placement in those pics, Mags :-) Looks like a great time was had by all, even if it got a wee bit nipply at the end. I really wanted to go on the trip but couldn't get a pass from the tax accountant Mrs who's working 7 days a week right now.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Winter Backpacking in RMNP on 03/07/2013 13:19:42 MST Print View

Looks like fun. I should go on one of those trips (exactly what Skurka wants to hear, I'm sure!). The Rockies are a whole different ballgame from the sort of skiing I'm used to.

Edited by spelt on 03/07/2013 13:21:02 MST.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Winter Backpacking in RMNP on 03/07/2013 13:25:32 MST Print View

Be like PMags? Short and bald? :D

We all took S2s..or rather Andrew provided them. I've only used tarps or snow caves for my own winter backpacking trips FWIW. I am pretty sure the group was satisfied overall. Good campsite placement helped a lot!

As for the product mean my surplus wool gloves and surplus wool pants, of course? ;)

Overall, I think it was enjoyable trip for all.

Edited by PaulMags on 03/07/2013 13:26:24 MST.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
...and here's the trip report on 03/12/2013 10:41:56 MDT Print View

Winter backpacking and ski touring with Andrew Skurka in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Winter backpacking is challenging.

What are routine chores during summer trips are more difficult and time consuming in winter.

Making dinner requires melting snow and using more fuel.  Setting up a snow worthy shelter takes time to get the shelter taut and packing down the snow-covered ground just right.

Managing layers of clothing just right so that you are both warm  and  dry.

But the rewards for winter backpacking are many: Mountains framed by swirling snow and dark skies.  The cold air seeming to make everything around a bit more sharp. A place that is crowded in the summer takes on the aspects of remote wilderness.

Learning the skills and techniques to enjoy winter backpacking can be a matter of trail and error. Fumbling around and trying not to mess up too much.

Or, if you  are fortunate, you can take an introduction session. Learn the tricks of the trade with stumbling along how many us (meaning, ME! :D) did.

This past month, Andrew Skurka offered an introductory trip for winter backpacking with backcountry Nordic thrown in, too.

As with a previous trip, I accompanied the trip as an assistant guide.

The trip would prove to be informative for the clients, a successful one for Andrew's inaugural winter backpacking trip, and a trip was I was glad to share my knowledge and experience with others.

The trip took place on the Western side of Rocky Mountain National Park along and near Trail Ridge Road.   The views from Trail Ridge Road are not only exquisite, but are also much safer in terms of avalanche conditions.

For this trip, we also elected to use skis.  Though skis have a bit more of learning curve vs snowshoes, skis are more efficient for this type of backcountry travel.


The morning went well, but not without a few equipment adjustments along the way.



Progress continued to be made as the weather grow colder and snowier.

We made camp in the snow, set up the shelters and settle in for the night.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Skurka

Some hot drinks (coffee!!!!) and a hot breakfast jump started the crew in the morning.

After the welcome hot meal, we planned out the route for the day.

Backcountry navigation is a pillar of the outdoor experience. Esp during winter.

The constant practice on the trip would prove to be useful to everyone.

We crossed over the divide at Milner Pass and pressed on in the windy conditions.




Further along in a sheltered area, we went over snow layers and the principles of a snow shelter.

We headed up to the cusp of treeline and called it good.

A sheltered spot was found for camp just as the snow really started coming down.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Skurka

After one last snowy morning, we headed out.  The deep powder, though slow going, made for some beautiful terrain and interesting photos.

Some more interesting  than others. :)

After making it back to our vehicles and packing it up, we made it to nearby Granby, CO  for a welcome beer and a hot meal.

A great trip and a very rewarding one.

All the photos


  • We mainly followed Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Though a permit is needed, winter  backpacking is free (sans park entrance) and is based on zones rather than sites.

  • We used the tarp-like GoLite Shangri-La 2 for the trip. Very good weather protection and plenty of room for two adults. I've only used a tarp or snow shelter for my winter backpacking FWIW.

  • The stoves used were an MSR Whisperlite and the MSR Windpro.  The dirt bagger stove stand worked very well (when I was not a klutz. ;) )

  • People were amused, then impressed, with the old school wool pants, flannel shirt, generic fleece jacket and the unlined anorak I was using. For the cold, dry weather typically in Colorado, I find that breathability is more important than moisture protection.  This layering system allows me to stay warm AND dry when in non-technical conditions (ski touring for example).  Wool pants in particular are amazing.  This website is a great resource for old-school, but very effective, winter clothing methods.

  •  Finally, for post-trip chowing, the Maverick Grille  in Granby, CO was fantastic. Awesome fries, good burgers (beef, elk or bison!) and a good choice of beers. I was happy. :)