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The Notch, in the wind, on a platform
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Stephen Parks
(sdparks) - F

Locale: Southwest
The Notch, in the wind, on a platform on 01/07/2014 20:22:26 MST Print View

During my recent hike around the Torres del Paine circuit, I had a very difficult time setting up my Notch at the Cuernos "campground". Most sites were plywood platforms with very few attachment points (just the odd bent over nail), and there were wind gusts of maybe 30-40 mph coming from different directions. I had no extra cord, just 20ft. or so of plastic twine. There were several rocks on every platform that other people apparently used, but extra cord was not available at the store.

I stared at the platform for 15 minutes or so, trying to figure out a way to set up my tent. I finally picked out a few nails and remnants of previous tents that I thought I might be able to use, and started to set up. The two nails for the end stake points were a good distance apart, and I found two attachment points for the side that weren't too bad, but it was still hell to get the tent up because of the wind gusts that were coming every 30-60 seconds. I could get the poles up and start to tighten the lines, but the line tensioners would not hold their position when a gust came and instead would slip out to the knot in the end of the line. And to make it worse, the end of the line would usually cross over the section attached to the tent, making it very hard to get unstuck and retension the line. I thought that maybe this was a locking feature that I was unaware of (hard to describe), but when I tried to use it in my favor, the line just slipped easier. Once I managed to get everything tensioned up properly before the gust came but the tensioners still let loose when a gust hit. To prevent the lines from slipping, I tied a slippery half hitch against each tensioner. This was enough to keep the line from slipping, but made the process of adjusting the tension in each of the lines very tedious. It didn’t help that the plastic handles on the trekking poles were rather slippery on the plywood, making it easy to knock them out of place. Once I did get everything setup, I pulled the lines TIGHT. It took me about an hour total to get the tent setup.

Here's a pic of the eventual setup:

Notch on platform

I used two rocks, one for one of the peak guy lines, and the other to pull out one of the struts that wasn’t behaving right due to the slightly crooked setup.
Once set up, it withstood the winds quite well. While everyone else’s dome tents were whipping around, the Notch didn’t move. It rained overnight so the tent loosened up a little, but the winds thankfully died down some as well after a few hours.

Other tents didn’t fare so well. There were two casualties:

Casualty 1

Casualty 2

My friend had a Fly Creek UL2. He gave up on the platforms and hunted around and found a patch of dirt to set his 11 stakes into. His tent survived, but the tradeoff was having a bunch of dirt blow into his tent (and mouth, nose, ears, etc.).

Scott's tent

So, the Notch seemed plenty strong for these winds, but the line tensioners are not up to snuff. If you ever stay at Cuernos, either book a bed or rent one of their tents that are already set up and nailed to the platform.

Edited by sdparks on 01/07/2014 20:28:33 MST.

David Noll
(dpnoll) - MLife

Locale: Maroon Bells
The Notch on 01/08/2014 06:13:36 MST Print View

My wife and I are headed to Patagonia March 10-28 and are doing the Q circuit over 10 days. I've been waiting for you to get back so I could pick your brain. Any chance you could PM me so we could talk about your trip? I presume a trip report will be coming?


Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: The Notch on 01/08/2014 07:26:34 MST Print View

"I presume a trip report will be coming?"


Do you think the Moment with the extra optional pole would have been worth the weight penalty for this trip?

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: The Notch, in the wind, on a platform on 01/08/2014 07:44:04 MST Print View

A friend of mine stayed at the cuernos as well (we bypassed it on our trip) and he said he ended up prying nails out of the platform and hammered them back in where he wanted them. I can't remember what he used, but the story was pretty funny!!

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: The Notch, in the wind, on a platform on 01/08/2014 08:21:25 MST Print View

hmm in the Whites (NH) we have platforms that are more deck like and have eye bolts on the edges for tying down to. also you can use the slots similarly with a stake sideways. I have also brought small teacup hooks but those probably wouldn't handle high wind.


Mole J
(MoleJ) - F

Locale: UK
linelocs on 01/08/2014 14:14:47 MST Print View

Interesting experience.

It's not the linelocs that are the real problem, but the line that Tarptent supply. It's too narrow in diameter - also the stopper knots are tied so close to the end of the line that the tails are too short/non-existent, making it hard to recover the stopper knot when jammed into the lineloc.

There have been threads discussing the cord slippage in lineloc 3. The Tarptent cord issue seems to be a blind spot of Henry's - The shelters are otherwise excellent.

I had similar issues with my Scarp repeatedly in wet n very windy weather until I changed the lines. (slipping and then the end knot jamming in the lineloc). I also needed to use slippery half hitched to lock the lines with the inadequate cord.

MLD supplies 3mm line with it's shelters - specifically because that is what is needed for those linelocs. (I have owned 3 MLD shelters - currently just a Trailstar)

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: The Notch, in the wind, on a platform on 01/08/2014 14:27:48 MST Print View

I don't understand why anyone would want to sleep on one of those platform thingies. Is it required by law?

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: The Notch, in the wind, on a platform on 01/08/2014 14:42:43 MST Print View

In the Whites they are the only places to stay at many of the campsites... which are sometimes the only places to camp. not soft, but pretty flat and clean. Keeps impact to a minimum in heavy use areas.

i wouldn't like the flat plywood in the OP on a rainy night though.. holy puddles.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: The Notch, in the wind, on a platform on 01/08/2014 16:03:49 MST Print View

The makers of the platforms probably did not have a clue what they were doing. Contractors. Can't blame them: blame the desk jockeys.

So get creative. Take a small Philips head screwdriver, a small spike, and a handful of power-drive screws. Put your own anchors into the platform. Best to retrieve the screws next morning so they aren't in anyone else's way, unless you have LOTS and want to leave them around the edges.

Me, I would camp elsewhere, and ignore the unusable platforms. Dirt blowing into the tent? Point the tent in the right direction.


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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: The Notch, in the wind, on a platform on 01/08/2014 16:14:40 MST Print View

"I don't understand why anyone would want to sleep on one of those platform thingies. Is it required by law?"

Nick, in some established campgrounds, they have all sorts of methods for making the surface more durable and resistant to erosion. For one thing, there are still some people around who were trained to dig a trench around their tent to cause the rainwater to flow away. The hard platform stops that.


Stephen Parks
(sdparks) - F

Locale: Southwest
Re: The Notch, in the wind, on a platform on 01/08/2014 19:03:05 MST Print View

Ian, the Notch was fine except for the rest of the trip. If the line slippage problem can be fixed with larger line, that would be the way to go. It would have been nice to have a freestanding tent a couple of times when I wanted to take a day hike with my trekking poles while leaving my tent set up. Otherwise, I'd rather not have to carry the extra ~9oz. At Cuernos, I'd simply try to avoid setting up a tent at all.

Jennifer, if I could have found anything to pry nails out with, I'd have done the same thing. Maybe plan on carrying a few nails to drive in with rocks if I ever think I'll encounter another platform.

Jake, there were holes drilled in the plywood to let water drain through, so puddles weren't a problem. I had considered using a stake through the holes like you showed with the eye bolt, but I was worried about it slipping out and getting lost.

J Mole, thanks for the heads up. If I can fix this problem by just changing to 3mm line, that will be great. I'll see if I can find some with the reflective threads, as that was a very nice feature. I also like your point about the stopper knots being tied at the very end of the line - just an extra inch or so and another knot would indeed make it much easier to recover from a maxed out line.

Nick/Roger, yes, it is a national park with camping restricted to the campgrounds. Some campgrounds had open areas, some had sites. At Cuernos, most of the landscape was similar to what you see next to the platforms - not suitable for pitching a tent (this isn't a desert!) There were a few open ground spots, but they were mostly higher up the hill and more exposed to the winds. I must admit that it was nice to sleep on a completely level and flat surface for a change.

A little bit of give a sh*t would have gone a long way to improving the usability of the platforms (actually, a "good enough" attitude seemed to pretty common in South America). The platforms themselves were solid, but apparently no one there cares if you can actually set up your tent on it. Just some eye bolts or some bent-over nails would have gone a long way. I don't know that tie-down points around the perimeter would have helped a lot with the Notch, though, as it is fairly particular about the staking points and guyline angles. And I still would have needed extra cord with me. It's not like it was just me having problems setting up. A gust would come through and then you'd hear cursing scattered around the campground. One guy's tent pole broke, and as he was trying to fix it it gashed his hand. At least two people ended up sleeping in the cooking shelter.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
The Notch, in the wind, on a platform on 01/08/2014 21:50:54 MST Print View

All's well that ends well
(Bill Shakingspire)
First congratulation Stephen, many would have failed.

Now for some suggestions .
For the line lock slipping I have a video clip that has various solutions :

Setting up without stakes into ground.
(helps to have extra cordage with you, if not why not ?)

The Notch, Moment, Scarp and Hogback can all be set up without stakes providing you have enough ballast to pile on top of those Pitch Lock corners/ends.
So you could start like this :
Notch on wood 1
Before anybody comments, yes you need about 10 times that weight on top of those ends and I strongly suggest you put some cloth/bag (I use kitchen cloth) over the top tie-out cord to avoid chafing against the rock.

Note that the fabric has some slack in the middle.
I set it up just on instinct , the easiest way to work out the correct distance between the two ends is to do it on reverse. First you set up the tent however you do it, then take out the pole and observe just how much slack you have in the middle and memorise that for the next time.

OK, so now you have 30-40kg over each end.
Insert the pole (note my shoe , a no-slip suggestion...) pull it up on the windward side. This is where having a longer guyline to wrap around rocks (or a stake to jam inside them) helps.
Then you do the door panel and the other side.
notch on wood 2
Note that Stephen's set up is much nicer than mine, I need more bricks...

Now what happens when the tent sags?
You don't want to/ can't use the end tie outs so just lift the poles a bit higher , that will take care of the slack and you can do that from inside the shelter.

If you practice this in your backyard it will be a lot easier to do in the field.

Edited by Franco on 01/08/2014 21:57:59 MST.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
The Notch, in the wind, on a platform on 01/09/2014 00:30:22 MST Print View

I always carry a little extra guy line to extend the lines so that they can reach the ground if needed when I'm setting up on a platform. In the picture below I used rocks on one end, extended a couple of guy lines and wedged stakes into the cracks on the platform. I can usual get a nice pitch but it takes a bit of planning.

As for why they use platform?

In this particular area, when we arrived at the campsite late(ish) there were only six sites and they were all platforms clinging to the side of a rocky slope. The six platforms were all in use by a large group that had walked in together. I searched for about twenty minutes for a flat spot for my tent but there weren't any. The platforms were the only level spots to pitch a tent. One backpacker saw our situation and was kind enough to move off a platform and double up with a friend on another platform (they said they felt guilty for taking all of the spots). I really thought that was a fine gesture and normally wouldn't have taken their spot but it was late and quite a distance (in the wrong direction) to the next decent spot that had water.

Notch on Platform

Edited by skopeo on 01/09/2014 00:34:50 MST.

Stephen Parks
(sdparks) - F

Locale: Southwest
Re: The Notch, in the wind, on a platform on 01/09/2014 20:11:52 MST Print View

I don't know if it is just me, but every time I set it up I'm surprised by how much area the Notch takes up.

Thanks for the video, Franco, I figured you would have something helpful to add, as usual. The half hitches hold for sure, but even once I started adding them, it was still a tedious process because I had to guess how much line I needed at each corner, adjust to that length and add the half hitch, then go to the next corner. With the randomly placed nails I was attaching to, getting the tent "square" took a lot of iteration, and each iteration required untying and retying the half hitches. What made it really chaotic is that the gusts would come from opposite directions - one would come up from the lake, and then the next would come down from the hills. There was no definable "windward" direction. It's like the god of wind was saying "hey, watch me screw with these guys".

I don't mind needing to add the half hitches at the end of setup for added security, but I'd like to at least have a fighting chance to get set up.

As for not having extra cordage, that was just a decision that turned out to not be the right one. I looked at the ~40ft. of extra triptease line that I have while packing, but eventually decided against it. If it wasn't for the completely unexpected platforms, it would have been an ok choice. The plastic twine that I had was just fine for random jobs of tying things up. I also used to it make a clothes line inside the Notch for socks etc. and to hang my glasses up on. I'll choose differently next time, though, and take extra cord.

I need to work on memorizing the right amount of slack, as I often seem to get that not quite perfect.

I did use the "just extend the poles" trick a different night - just need to remember to hold the handle end of the pole still and only rotate the other section so as to not twist up the floor.

Edited by sdparks on 01/09/2014 20:49:47 MST.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: The Notch, in the wind, on a platform on 01/10/2014 01:39:42 MST Print View

When I go on a long walk where I'm likely to have to sleep on a platform, I bring six question mark screws that I twist into the platform and attach my guylines to. I can't remember whose idea it was, but it sure made a difference on many trips!

Rod Lawlor
(Rod_Lawlor) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Pretty sure those aren't drainage holes!! on 01/15/2014 02:21:15 MST Print View

They look very much like anchor points to me. I'm presuming that they are designed to tie a loop in the stake end of the guy line, loop a small stick through it and drop it through the hole. Looks like a rather ingenious system to me!

In Tassie where they use similar boarded platforms to the others shown, I have used climbing RPs (wedges with a wire loop) Next time I would take some ti 'Z' shaped stakes to slot between the boards and turn 90 degrees. I would also take 6-8 medium eye bolts that i would use each night and then remove in the morning.

Stephen Parks
(sdparks) - F

Locale: Southwest
Re: Pretty sure those aren't drainage holes!! on 01/15/2014 08:38:57 MST Print View

Rod, I tried that, but there were no good sticks around. I considered using my stakes in the same way, but I had no extras and the risk of losing one was too high.

If I had taken cup hooks, I could have sold extras at significant markup!

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: The Notch, in the wind, on a platform on 01/15/2014 08:54:41 MST Print View

Thread drift alert.

I'm going to post a few questions here instead of a PM on the chance someone else has the same questions. If you're going to answer these questions in a future TR then feel free to tell me to shut-up and I'll sit on my hands and wait.

I'd really like to hike the Q circuit and am tentatively shooting for either January 2015 or 2016 depending on how another trip pans out. My lonely planet book just arrived and I'm going to order a map next week. From reading through some old TRs here, someone mentioned that the park officially prohibits solo hikers. Did you see any rules confirming this?

Looks pretty sandy there. Would MSR groundhogs work or would I need to look for something more substantial? Other than mice and the occasional fox, I haven't read too many complaints about mosquitos or other pests. Fair to say that a mid sans bug net would work well there?

Tentative plan would be to stay at a hostel one day prior and after the trip. Sounds like Customs is hit and miss on what food they will allow so I've thought about buying everything in country. Thoughts?

Any side trips you'd recommend?

Which pencil?

Thanks in advance!

Stephen Collins
(stephencwcollins) - F

Locale: New England
Torres del Paine on 01/15/2014 09:09:05 MST Print View

I guess this is totally off topic but whatever.

I hiked the Torres del Paine circuit in 2008. I saw lots of solo hikers and it was not sandy. I just used some typical REI aluminum stakes and they worked fine. Chile has nice grocery stores and I suggest buying everything when you get there. Santiago will have the best grocery stores followed by Punta Arenas followed by Natales outside the park.

Happy to answer any questions over email --

[edit: corrected typo]

Edited by stephencwcollins on 01/15/2014 09:10:32 MST.

David Noll
(dpnoll) - MLife

Locale: Maroon Bells
The Notch-Thread drift on 01/16/2014 06:18:32 MST Print View

Check out this site.
My wife and I are going in March this year and will be spending 10 days on the Q. We will post a trip report when we get back. Stephen Parks and Jen Mitol from this site have also been a great help in our planning.