Montana 2002

Ascent of Whitetail Peak Via Whitetail Gully

Ryan ascending the steeper upper sections of the couloir.

The route up Whitetail Peak as seen from our acclimatization day at the high altitude fishing lakes.

Alan Starting up the lower section in classic pied à plat.

On steeper ice and using both tools.

The sun starts to hit the upper section of the couloir. Not good!

Taking a breather.

Negotiating over a step.

Ryan very near the summit.

Success — the top of the couloir.

A short section of class 3 rock and Ryan is at the summit. Fabulous 360 degree view of the Beartooths.

My goat-chewed trekking pole grips.

Our obnoxious camp mascot and eater of my trekking pole grips.

Sky Pilot, the climber’s flower. It only grows between 10,000 and 13,000 feet. These flowers are around 11,500 feet tucked in the middle of a talus slope.



Beartooth Fishing

Ready to start another day fishing and hiking in the Beartooths


With their heads swollen from a successful ice climb of Whitetail Gully and their feet swollen from too many miles in ice climbing boots, Alan and Ryan head off for some relaxing backcountry fishing in the Beartooth Absoraka Wilderness.

Evening Day 3 – Thursday, July 11, 2002

After our long day climbing Whitetail, even after dinner in Red Lodge and a soak in a hot tub, there still was little enthusiasm for hiking in and preparing for a one-day summit attempt on Montana’s high point, Granite Peak. Both of us were sore, and our feet did not relish another 18 mile romp over Beartooth talus, even in trail runners.

On the other hand, there was a lot of enthusiasm for unwinding on a light and fast 3-day backcountry fishing trip. Since I had never fished in Montana’s fabled trout waters, it took little effort on Ryan’s part to convince me to try and catch some Yellowstone Cutthroat from some remote Beartooth Lakes. Ryan bought the latest edition of the Beartooth Fishing Guide in Red Lodge and did some research on which lakes might be fishing well. Before we went to bed we selected an area with some promising lakes to check out.

Day 4 – Friday, July 12, 2002

After breakfast at the motel, we got our morning espresso from a little eatery in downtown Red Lodge and hit the supermarket for extra food. We purchased such healthy delicacies as 70% fat beef sticks and Red Vines. Then we headed off for a trailhead near Cooke City. To get there we drove the Beartooth Highway, one of the highest paved roads in the lower 48. The alpine scenery was spectacular and was a special treat for me who had never been over the road. After fully testing out the ground clearance and traction of our rented 4WD vehicle on a Montana logging “road” we reached Lady of the Lake trailhead around 1:00 pm. (Ryan didn’t seem to understand about slowing down for the frequent drainage chasms that crossed the road. Maybe it’s a regional thing; Ryan’s response: “It-t-t’s a r-rent-t-tal d-d-dude. What the heck is that in the r—! Ow! Whoa!! These climbing helmets are awesome! Alan, why’s yer helmet back in your pack? Is that blood, man?”)

Catching a few brookies at Lady of the Lake

We shouldered our delightful 16 pound packs and immediately forded the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River and followed Lady of the Lake Creek to the lake of the same name. Here we had a snack, sampled respectable fishing for brook trout, and discussed what we should do next. Ryan convinced me that we should head off cross country to some largely unknown lakes under”experimental fisheries management.” The first of these lakes was Swamp Lake, the last Marsh Lake. With names like that I should have known better…

Ryan with Cytomax bottle, trying to figure out where the heck we go next

The route, entirely in the woods and without views, was challenging. Ryan and I navigating together managed to hit our destination, Swamp Lake, right on the nose. I don’t think either of us would have fared as well separately. Swamp Lake is what one would expect from the name, a shallow, warmish lake with a few boggy areas around the shoreline, and with hardly a dry place to put your feet or set up camp. There air was calm and even in mid-afternoon the mosquitoes were plentiful.

Swamp Lake – Ryan’s tarp is the greenish-blue thing on the far shore

Ryan had chosen this lake because it was said to harbor trophy rainbows. As we were eating an early dinner at the lake’s outlet, we did see a massive surface wake that could have been either a US Navy torpedo test or a trout of unknown proportions. We also saw an otter and a porcupine. The otter immediately dove under the water and the porcupine immediately went up a tree.

During dinner we found a ripped hunting guide’s jacket that Ryan thought might be the result of a bear attack – not a cheering thought in grizzly country but then again it could have been the work of a brother of our friend the mountain goat. Ryan took down the name of the guide service on the jacket to make a call when we got back. Since we were in grizzly country, we were careful to cook at one end of the lake at the established campsite where a bear was more likely to come, but to sleep at the other end of the lake.

The fishing guidebook said the fisheries management policies at these lakes had not yet been evaluated, but I can tell you the fishing at Swamp Lake stank. We never saw a rising fish and despite many fishing strategies, we caught nothing. Ryan claims to have spooked two more huge rainbows but I didn’t see a fish, not even a minnow. The water was clear and the surface mirror flat. Our odds of catching large wild rainbows even if they were in the lake were just about nil. Just about any cast or presentation would send them charging to the other end of the lake. Ryan says he may pack a float tube back to Swamp Lake and see what he can do. I say bonne chance. But make no mistake: we did see a large wake…

Our camp on the soggy shores of swamp lake – Ryan is sitting on stuff sack to keep his behind dry

Our camp was so damp that if you took four shoeless steps your socks would get wet. Fortunately the silnylon bottoms of our bivy sacks did keep our sleeping bags dry. Mosquito pressure steadily increased towards dusk until each of us had a personal haze of the hungry ones humming around our heads. We’d already been using our head nets and DEET for hours.

It was then that I began to question Ryan. I couldn’t figure out why we were sleeping (floating?) in a bog on the shore of a windless, mosquito-infested lake. For three uncatchable rainbows? I’d been hoping he had a little more sense than that. But then fisher folk will do a lot of crazy things if they think there’s even a remote possibility of landing that big one. My brother is exactly the same. Been that way for years.

Alan having fun
White things are skeeter wings caught in the flash

“There were a few bugs at this lake.” So great why was Ryan wearing his head net, gloves, and Jackorack in such warm weather?

Ryan’s journal notes about the mosquitoes: “There were a few bugs at this lake. Alan looks annoyed. Maybe he’s frustrated with the lack of spices in our dinner?”

Alan’s note: My frustrated look was more likely envy of Ryan’s bivy with the zip-in mosquito netting. This inequity in accessories may account for much of our difference of opinion about mosquitoes. (Possibly I wasn’t paying attention and Ryan was nipping harder at the bourbon than I thought.) Anyway if Ryan thought the bugs were so great why was he wearing his head net, gloves, and Jackorack in such warm weather and why did he beg me for my DEET (he forgot his) three hours before sunset?

Anyway, without bug netting on MY bivy, the mosquitoes were so intense that even the bourbon didn’t help me to sleep. I like to think I have decent mosquito tolerance, but the hundreds of buzzing skeeters kept at bay just an inch from my face by the head net were too loud for me to doze off. I finally had to zip the bivy hood shut to get to sleep. It was a bit warmer and stuffier inside the bivy that I like for sleeping but better than the drone of the hungry ones. Nice that the EPIC bivy top was breathable enough that I didn’t asphyxiate. As I dozed off, I cringed wondering what lovely destinations Ryan had planned for the next day.

Day 5 – Saturday, July 13, 2002

We woke at dawn, packed, and left in 10 minutes without eating or cooking breakfast. We motored away from Swamp Lake in a hurry, glad to put the worst of the mosquitoes behind us. Unfortunately, on this trip there was no place day or night that was free of mosquitoes, it was only a question of how many.

Enjoying one of Ryan’s excellent meals.
With thundestorms all around we’re also enjoying an ununsual respite from mosquitoes


We returned to Lady of the Lake and had pleasant breakfast. Did I tell you how well we ate on this trip? First, Ryan has these fantastic homemade meals that he puts in Stand and Zip bags. He was kind enough to make a whole set for me. The familia breakfast cereal, with grains, nuts, and freeze dried fruit like raspberries is to die for. We had it hot but Ryan says it’s at least as good cold.

Ryan’s dinners are equally good. He gets these great dried soy chunks from his local coop that hydrate into a perfect texture. The two meals he brought were chili mac and corn chowder. Both were full of sauce, spices and veggies. They are about two the three times better than commercial freeze dried meals and have a whole lot less sodium. For a few more easy calories, I brought some canola oil which we added after our meals had been rehydrated.


I brought some super Café Chiapas Zapatista coffee that I ground fresh the night before the trip. I make a serious cup of trail coffee with a caffeine buzz that helps a man get up and do what he has to do. What the heck do you think launched us up Whitetail Gully? Ryan raved about the coffee all trip and I’m sending him a bag of it this week.

We boiled water for meals in my 1.3 liter Evernew titanium pot. We used it to poach trout and we also used it for brewing coffee. Yes, we brewed about a liter of coffee in the morning and Ryan had another 16 oz cup of coffee in the eve (“Helps focus me vision on them reeeally tiny stars,” he says). The man has a serious caffeine Jones.

After breakfast we headed up canyon to Zimmer Creek and then along Sky Top Creek before going off trail to a couple of small lakelets with good brookie fishing; then we moved on to Cliff Lake.

Fording some swift water. We waded through many steams and just kept on going.Our pants and shoes were dry in a short time.

At this point we were in high spirits — rested from Whitetail, full of warm breakfast and pleasantly buzzing with caffeine. With sub-15 pound packs and fly rods in hand, we were ready to do some serious fishing. Ryan and I hiked and fished our way from Cliff Lake to Peanut Lake and Moccasin Lake, and finally to Weasel Lake. With our trekking poles in our packs and our fly rods ready we cast a line in almost every body of water we came to.

Ryan casting to spooky brook trout in gin clear water.

We had some exceptional catches of brook trout as big as 15 inches in a small, unnamed lakelet along the way. We would never have fished it if we hadn’t seen a few risers out the corner of our eyes. Ryan says Beartooth fishing is like this. You need to be alert. Some of the smallest and most innocuous lakes and tarns sometimes have excellent fishing and some the larger, fishier looking lakes can be disappointing.

Weasel lake at dawn. The glass smoth surface takes a beautuful photograph but makes fishing hard

After Moccasin Lake we moved on in a hurry because thunderstorms had been threatening for over an hour. Nothing like darkening skies and the sound of nearing thunder to quicken your hiking pace. Ryan was looking forward excitedly to a torrential rainstorm in which to test our silnylon ponchos. I preferred getting to the lake before the rain arrived and testing them in tarp mode, over my bag and bivy.

Ryan Exonerated

Weasel lake, our ultimate destination, was large and looked fishy. Ryan picked it because it was in year 5 of its 8-year stocking cycle. Around 4 to 6 years after stocking, lakes have the best combination of large fish and quantities of fish. I was delighted to see rising fish as we approached.

Ryan’s tarp at Weasel Lake

We beat the thunderstorms by about 15 minutes. Just enough time to pitch our ponchos/tarps in low storm mode before they arrived. Luck of the draw, but with storms raging and thundering all around us, all we got was gusty wind and a splattering of rain.

Fishing can be good with overcast skies and rain. Not ones to be afraid of standing around with a 9 foot rod of carbon in an electrical storm (at least when there are rising fish — is this the first time you’ve thought we were a bit demented?) Ryan and I went down to the lake and had at. Ryan struck first with a nice 14-inch Yellowstone Cutthroat in just a few minutes. This was to be the best fishing of the day. The overcast skies and the windruffled surface had the fish rising and our presentations disguised.

Alan fishing Weasel Lake. He’s barely visable on the point.

The wind ruffled surface of the water and overcast from adjacent thunderstorms made for good fishing.
As the storms left, the lake surface calmed and the fishing got a lot harder. By evening Ryan and I were delving deep into our fly boxes for tiny stuff and lengthening our leaders to 10 feet and longer with fine tippets. Ryan kept mumbling about his midge box that he’d left at home. He did have some success with a #22 Baetis Sparkle Dun that he cut down to resemble a midge pupa. I had brought two fly boxes to Ryan’s one and a much larger assortment of flies. I was able to get some fish with a #20 BWO emerger, and some with my old standby, a Parachute Adams in size 20 or 22, which I fished just below the surface. Ryan switched to the Adams Parachute pattern with success as well.

In the end it was a perfect afternoon and evening of fishing. A couple of our fish were 16 inches, maybe a bit larger, which is a good fish by Beartooth standards (Ryan has caught fish well over 20 inches in the Beartooths.) The fishing was challenging enough to keep us entertained but not so hard that we were breaking our rods in frustration (we got close a few times). What a wonderful introduction to Beartooth backcountry fishing and Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout. Thank you Ryan!

Oh, I forgot to mention. As soon as the winds from the thunderstorms died down the mosquitoes were murder. Sounding like a familiar story? At least at Weasel Lake the fishing was good enough to warrant the torment. These mosquitoes were the worst of the trip (Ryan’s journal reads succinctly: “Bugs.” Alan’s response: Yeah, Ryan’s so tough that he chews his way through the thicker clouds of “bugs!”).

Anyway for some reason known only to him, Ryan fished the whole time in a head net and again borrowed my DEET for his hands. I fished in a fleece balaclava with DEET on the exposed portions of my face. Even so, I got dozens of bites on my nose and between my eyes and the balaclava. For my hands I alternated between fingerless fleece gloves (hard to fish in) and DEET. Again, I got quite a few bites. Surprisingly, the mosquitoes for the most part couldn’t penetrate my Rail Riders Ecomesh shirt.

During dinner Ryan and I both got a hundred bites on ankles exposed by raised pants hems. Right through our socks! As at Swamp Lake, the mosquitoes did not abate during the night. This made for some mad dashes for a nighttime pee. Don’t want to keep things exposed for too long. During my stay at Weasel Lake, I think I got bitten dozens of times just about anywhere I could be bitten. Fortunately, I have a fairly high tolerance for mosquitoes, especially when there’s fish to be caught. Again Ryan had the better deal with the zip-in mosquito netting on his Oware bivy.

Ryan heading off towards Moccasin Lake for breakfast.

Day 6 – Sunday, July 14, 2002
We woke at dawn and again left camp quickly without breakfast. The surface of Weasel Lake was like glass and we were not interested in any more midge fishing to selective trout. Besides, we had other plans. Around 7:00 AM we arrived at Moccasin Lake and caught two fat brook trout each. Into the pot they went to be poached with a little oil. A delicious trout breakfast, a large cup of strong coffee, and all was well with the world.

Breakfast: Four brook trout – perfect eating size

Ready to poach.

From Moccasin Lake we traversed over to beautiful Splinter Lake (Sliver Lake on some maps). The lake truly is a splinter. It is so narrow that it resembles a fjord more than a lake. There is an idyllic waterfall cascading into the middle of it. It was so perfect that it looked like the ultimate mountain lake for a glossy calendar photo. Ryan caught a couple a nice brook trout at the far end of the lake and I took a dip. The cold water felt great on my mosquito bites.

Alan swimming in beautiful Sliver Lake

Now it was time to hammer out. I wanted to be back in time to take Ryan, Stephanie and Chase out to a relaxed dinner in Bozeman. We passed three groups of non-ultralight backpackers who seemed almost not to be moving by comparison. One woman was wearing shorts. Her legs looked like what they must have been last night — a feeding station for mosquitoes. Shorts? And still wearing them? She might as well have put up a neon sign advertising “eat here.” Well, on second thought, if I had legs that good I’d might shave them and suffer the shorts too.

Ryan and I stopped at the Grizzly Cafe in Cook City. It’s something of a local color place and it’s Ryan’s favorite place to stop on his way out of the Beartooths. We were sandwiched in between a large biker group in leathers with bandanas tied around their heads and a couple of yuppie families with Orvis hats. A strange contrast but I liked the bikers better (Ryan’s journal: “Hell’s Angels to the left and Orvis catalog models to the right. At least the milkshakes are good”).

Given the venue, I couldn’t bring myself to order the veggie burger on the menu and instead had the special: cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake. It was my first cheeseburger in at least 15 years but I suffered no ill effects. The strawberry malt was thick and superb. Nothing like ice cream after a hot dusty trail. (Ryan: “Alan tried to order a veggie crap something-or-other but I told him that we’d have none of that in a backwoods Montana town. He was to eat meat and like it if we wanted to walk out of this eat joint without getting shot.”)

From Cooke City we drove through the northern section of Yellowstone Park. Ryan had to stop every 10 minutes or so to show me some neat trout stream that we would fish in the future. My jaw just kept dropping lower and lower was we passed one unbelievable river after another. My favorite may have been the Gardner River in which you can soak in sulfur hot springs (“The Boiling River”) where they empty into the river. Ryan says he stops here on the way back from most trips and has a soak while he fishes the river. Unfortunately we were too short on time to for me to have a shot at this dual bliss.

Oh, we did get a good look at a young male Grizzly Bear on our way through the Park.

Far too quickly we had exited the north entrance of the Park at Gardiner/Mammoth (I have a photo of myself here) and now headed out along the Yellowstone River through the towns of Corwin Springs, Chico, Pray, Emigrant, Livingston; finally we were on our way to Bozeman. Along the way we stopped (just to look) at Depuy’s Spring, one of Montana’s legendary spring creeks.

We arrived in Bozeman at around 5:00 PM. I took Ryan, Stephanie and Chase out as a small thanks for their hospitality. After dinner, and after putting Chase to bed, Ryan and I had a couple of stouts with ice cream. Stephanie visited with us but was virtuous and just had ice water. We all chatted until after midnight. Ryan and Stephanie are wonderful hosts.

In Summary

All I can say is a million thanks to Ryan who planned the trip. Between the successful ice climb and the superb backcountry fishing, I don’t think I’ve been on a finer one. Then there’s always our next trip, which may be even better.

– AD, Arlington VA; RJ, Bozeman July 21, 2002




Alan tested out his 27 oz GoLite Speed Adventure Racing Pack on this trip. It was ideal for a light and fast crosscountry fishing trip. He spent a lot of time hiking and fishing with this pack on. The foam-and-mesh back with its air channel was a blessing in the heat of this trip. The pack was so comfortable that much of the time he forgot I had it on. He rarely bothered to take it off.

Alan on the move with his GoLite Speed Adventure Racing Pack and rod ready to fish

The pack has tons of external storage. Its four side pockets held a Cytomax bottle, fishing equipment, camera, and lunch food. All were easily accessible without delving into the pack. Alan put most of my other small doodads in the top pocket of the pack. Oh how I do love a top pocket. I used the helmet holder to secure my Mt. Washington ground pad and put my Silponcho (and trekking poles when I was fishing) in the large rear pocket. With all this external storage, I didn’t have to go into the main bag of the pack except to make camp at night.

The pack comes with a 3 liter Platy Zip Hoser hydration system built in. The bladder is right against your spine for great balance. The large volume was a plus in the hot dry weather of this trip. We went through 6 to 8 liters of water a day. The hipbelt took some weight off of his shoulders and was a nice load stabilizer. In addition the hipbelt pockets were great for packets of Gu and Aleve (vitamins for aging jocks).

One final plus, the more durable fabric on the bottom of the pack is a welcome design change for GoLite (in comparison to the Breeze which has a less tear and abrasion resistant Spectra Ripstop). Alan felt this pack bottom was much better for off trail use. It’s nice not to constantly pay attention on whether you’re putting your pack down on something sharp. Also, one always seems to bump the pack bottom on rocks while boulder while or sharp branches while bushwhacking.

Ryan used his incredibly versatile McHale, stripping it down to include just its frame, top pocket, and side pockets. With his Mt. Washington pad rolled inside the pack, there was room to spare for this 3-day trip (the main packbag is about 2,800 ci).

Shelter System — Integral Design Silponcho and Oware Epic/silnylon Bivy

We were very pleased with our shelter system of ID’s Silponcho as tarp, an Oware EPIC/silnylon bivy and Leki Ultralight Ti trekking poles. Both of us are taking this exact system on future trips this summer.

This is the standard A-frame/lean to pitch we used

Ryan’s tarp in a storm pitch

Both for day hiking and for our climbing days, we put our sleeping pads, sleeping bags and surplus gear in the bivy and staked it to the ground. This kept everything from blowing away while we were gone from camp. With the tarp pitched over the bivy, we had a fully weather resistant sleep and shelter setup in camp. When we came back our bags were fully lofted ready to sleep in—no setup, no fuss, no bother. This works much better than putting everything in a stuff sack and jamming it between boulders or in the bushes. Nice not have to re-pitch camp when you come back from a long day hike or hard climb.

The ID Silponcho and Oware EPIC/silnylon bivy worked well in a variety of conditions from frosty sub-30-degree nights below Whitetail peak to boggy and humid conditions on the damp shores of Swamp Lake. Everything under the tarp and inside the bivy stayed dry. The damp soil at the side of the lake did not seep through the silnylon floor of the bivy and there was no condensation inside the bivy.

Alan’s tarp in storm pitch an well sheltered behind a beak of trees.The green thing under the tarp is his Oware EPIC/silnylon bivy sack

The last few nights in the Beartooths were very warm with intense mosquito pressure that did not abate during the night. Ryan was in heaven with his bugnetted bivy. He had the hood tie-out secured to his tarp. Alan was OK with his spring-loaded headnet poking through the non-meshed hood opening on his bivy. He had a hard time getting to sleep on boggy shoreline of Swamp Lake. The hundreds of buzzing skeeters kept just an inch from his face by the headnet didn’t allow him to doze off. He finally had to zip the bivy hood shut to get to sleep.

The bivys were great on the warm 50-to-60 degree nights because we had bug protection without having to be in our sleeping bags. On still warmer night they were too hot for Alan, who slept in his bivy with only his GoLite Chill vest for insulation.

We had no significant precipitation on the trip although we spent a few very windy hours high on the Beartooth plateau with thunderstorms raging all around us. We got only the gusty winds and a splattering of rain. It was also a few blessed hours where we weren’t tormented by mosquitoes. Both tarps held up well in the gusts in a low A-frame storm pitch. We were both hoping for rain to test the water resistance or our shelter setup and to see how the Oware bivys handled rain spray under the tarp but it was not to be.

We brought only water-resistant jackets and no rain pants. The Silponchos, in poncho mode, were our backup to protect us and our packs in case of torrential rain. The EPIC of the Jackoracks is good but not that good.

FF Jackoracks

Both of us used EPIC Jackoracks from Feathered Friends. At under 9 oz the Jackorakck may be the most versatile shell on the market. They are great windshells, and will keep you reasonably dry in all but heavy precipitation. The Jackorack has a full hood that fits over a climbing helmet, and it has a generous brim. Between the breathable EPIC fabric, huge front vents, pit zips and a full front zipper, the Jackoracks arewonderful at regulating heat and moisture from hard exercise. We also found that they made great mosquito protection.

Ryan: “I found the EPIC fabric to be pretty warm for summer wind wear. I prefer the more breathable microfiber polyester of the GoLite Bark or the Pertex Microlight of a Montane Featherlite windshirt. However, the Jackorak has huge torso vents and pit zips that compensate for this, making it the most versatile shell jacket I’ve ever owned.”


Alan took his GoLite Chill vest. He picked this vest for both his Climb on Whitetail and the fishing trip because he wasn’t taking fully waterproof raingear. The Polarguard 3D insulation in the vest would keep him a lot warmer if he got into some serious rain that worked its way through my EPIC shell. He also likes vests because they leave his arms free for activities like ice climbing and fishing. The Chill is a very efficient insulator. At 14.5 oz it has substantially more insulation than most synthetic fill vests like a Patagonia Puffball. Alan was toasty warm in the vest and Jackorak shell on the frosty mornings at the base of Whitetail Peak.

Alan warming up in his GoLite Chill vest at the top of Whitetail Gulley

Although it was too warm to wear the vest for most of the unusually hot weather on our Beartooths fishing trip—It was 103 degrees in Bozeman one day while we were gone—the vest was still useful. The last two nights of the fishing trip, temperatures dropped into the 50’s. Alan did not use his sleeping bag. Instead he used the Chill vest as his only insulation for sleeping in his bivy sack. He was warm and comfortable. Ryan was impressed enough with the vest that he may buy one for himself.

Ryan’s choice was a PhD Minimus down jacket (12 oz). The only time he really appreciated its warmth was preparing for the climb at 4 am on a 28-degree morning. But it makes a great pillow. Had Ryan let the weather forecast sink in a bit, he probably would have replaced it with a Puffball Vest (7 oz).

Ursack Bear Bags

Since we were in Grizzly country, we were serious about keeping our food away from bears. We both used Ursack Bear Bags for our food. These were light (5 oz) and, unlike bear cans, compress to the size of your food. This was good, given our small and lightly padded packs. We usually camped where there were no trees tall enough to hang food from. With the Ursacks we just tied the bag to a sturdy tree trunk about eye level. It took us about 60 seconds to put up or take down our food. Compare that to the time it takes to do a good food hang. In addition, to minimize attracting bears at night, we cooked most meals away from where we camped.

Schoeller Dynamic Pants

Alan wore a pair of Ibex Alp pants and Ryan a pair Arc’Teryx Gamma LT pants. We were surprised – and pleased – with the warmweather performance of Schoeller’s Dynamic fabric. These pants were the only bottoms we brought and worked well in 80 degree hiking weather. On this sort of trip we’d usually take nylon Supplex pants and expected to roast in the more durable and heavier Schoeller fabric. Instead we were cool and comfortable. We waded through steams in the pants and they were dry in a short time. The Dynamic fabric is extremely tough and survived a lot of bushwhacking with no signs of wear. Finally, the pants were very mosquito resistant, a necessity on this trip!

down bag (Rab Top bag – modified) in silnylon stuff sack 20.0
3/4 length closed cell foam sleeping pad
(Paramount Outfitters’ Mt. Washington) 7.0
bivy sack with EPIC top and silnylon bottom (Oware) 9.5
silnylon poncho-tarp (Integral Designs) 8.5
titanium stakes (9) and Triptease guylines in ziploc bag 3.0
GoLite Speed Pack 27.0
clothing worn (Supplex shirt, Ibex Schoeller Dynamic pants, merino running socks, trail runners, Supplex hat, bandana) n/a
EPIC shell jacket (Feathered Friends Jackorak) 9.0
Polarguard 3D vest (GoLite Chill) lots of loft! 14.5
other clothing (Patagonia R.5 zip-T, 1 pr extra socks, 200 wt balaclava, fingerless gloves) 15.0
personal cook kit (Snowpeak 21 oz ti mug, plastic spoon) 3.0
1/2 group cookwear (Snowpeak GigaPower canister stove, 1.3 L ti pot, lighter, empty wt of 8 oz fuel canister) 6.0
bear bag (Ursack TKO) and mylar liner 5.0
hydration (3L bladder, 1L sports bottle, Aqua Mira Kit) 8.0
emergency kit (blister kit, meds, whistle, pocket LED light) 3.0
toilet kit (toothbrush & paste, headnet, DEET, TP, Purell) 5.0
navigation (map, LED light, Suunto Vector worn, micro-compass) 2.0
camera (Olympus digital w. Li batts & 128 Mb card) 14.0
fishing (4-pc fly rod, cloth cover, reel, 2 box of flies, tippet, split shot, strike indicator, nippers, hemostats, floatant, lanyard) 19.0
breakfasts (2 x 6 oz ea) 12.0
lunches (2 x 10 oz ea) 20.0
dinners (2 x 6 oz ea) 12.0
coffees (2 x 2 oz ea) 2.0
Cytomax (4 oz) 4.0
carbo gel 6.0
1/2 fuel (net wt) 4.0

14.9 lbs

down top bag (Nunatak Arc Alpinist) in 1000 ci silnylon stuff sack 22.0
18″ x 36″ closed cell foam sleeping pad (Paramount Outfitters’ Mt. Washington) 4.0
bivy sack with EPIC top and silnylon bottom (Oware) 11.0
silnylon poncho-tarp (Integral Designs) 9.0
titanium stakes (14) and mason twine guylines (50 ft) in small ballistics nylon stuff sack 4.0
210d Spectra ripstop pack 2800 ci (McHale) with top pocket/fanny pack, two side pockets, and frame 52.0
clothing worn (Supplex shirt, Schoeller Dynamic pants, merino trail socks, trail running shoes, Supplex hat, bandana) n/a
EPIC shell jacket (Feathered Friends Jackorak) 9.0
down jacket (PhD Minimus) 12.0
other clothing (1 pr extra socks, Powerstretch balaclava, nylon/tricot gloves) 6.0
personal cookware (Snowpeak 21 oz ti mug, lid, ti spork) 4.2
1/2 of group cook kit (Snowpeak GigaPower canister stove, lighter, and empty wt of MSR IsoPro fuel canister) 6.0
bear bag (Ursack) 5.0
hydration (1.5L bladder, 1L sports bottle, Aqua Mira Kit) 6.5
emergency kit (blister kit, meds, whistle, pocket LED light, cell phone) 7.0
toilet kit (toothbrush, Dr. Bronner’s, Dermatone, headnet, TP, Purell) 5.0
navigation (map, LED light, Suunto Vector worn) 1.8
camera (Contax T3, case, extra battery, 3 rolls film) 13.0
fishing (5-piece fly rod, vinyl rod tube, reel, 1 box of flies, tippet, split shot, strike indicator, nippers, floatant, lanyard) 16.0

breakfasts (2 x 6 oz ea) 12.0
lunches (3 x 10 oz ea) 30.0
dinners (2 x 6 oz ea) 12.0
coffees (2 x 1 oz ea) 2.0
Cytomax (3 oz) 3.0
carbo gel (3 oz) 3.0
1/2 of fuel (net wt) 4.0

Blue Ridge Hike March, 2002

The day’s summit, Hawksbill Mountain, 4,050 ft.
Glorious views on a mild spring day.

One of the smaller and more intimate waterfalls along the way. Not as large as many of the falls on the trip but no less beautiful

My father at our lunch stop. With surroundings like these one can only eat slowly and enjoy the view.

In one 2-mile stretch of canyon there are no less than six waterfalls over 60 feet high. And countless more small small cataracts. More than enough recompense for the steep hiking.

My father stops at a midsize fall on our way up to the crest of the Blue Ridge.

My father at the top of the Blue Ridge, the Shenandoah Valley thousands of feet below.

With so many waterfalls and grand vistas, if you’re not observant you’ll miss smaller beauty right at your feet.

The falls in the descent canyon from the Blue Ridge tend to have more sloping rock. Two years ago the kids and I had a great time on this waterslide. The fallen tree at the bottom makes reentry a bit uncomfortable.

Hard to believe looking at this photo that I took the same hike a week earlier and it was 15 degrees. I camped out on the summit of the blue ridge at 0 degrees!

All fury and motion at the top and a tranquil pool at the bottom.

The people on the rocks give you some idea of scale. Maybe not big by Yosemite standards but large for something less than two hours from Washington, DC.

A closer view of the same spectacular falls.

A pair of falls each over 60 feet high.

Father and son enjoying some afternoon sun on a warm rock.

Trip report for Tetons
Alan Dixon & Ryan Jordan – August 2001

I ended up with some last minute free time in Idaho Falls. What else to do but go to the Tetons? I called Ryan and he gave me information on how to enter the park and possible routes. We agreed to meet at noon on Sunday. That gave me three days solo hiking in grizzly country (actually I think they already went north, but it sounds good) until I met Ryan. And then three days hiking with Ryan. The following is a picture documentary of one of the nicer trips I’ve been on the last few years.

I’ve borrowed some photos from Ryan where they help the continuity of the report. I’ve credited Ryan on these photos.

View of the “backside” of the Tetons. This what you see as you drive to trailhead. [photo courtesy Ryan Jordan]

It’s an easy hike in from Coyote Meadows. Gentle sub-alpine stream valley meadows go on for miles and miles.This portion of the park is deserted. I saw nobody for two days.

After 8 miles: a nice beaver dam and your first view of Hidden Corral Basin.

It was 5 PM and I decided to climb the 1,500 feet out of Hidden Corral Basin to Camp Lake.
Along the way I met my first moose of the trip (not pictured).

A nice view of Hidden Corral Basin on the descent from Camp Lake the following morning.

View from near the top of Dead Horse Pass. Watch out for this one. It’s steep and aptly named. You’ll feel like a dead horse at the top. The trail climbs almost 2,000 feet in a couple of miles with no switchbacks to speak of. The steepest portion is below the trees bordering the top of an obvious ledge. You still have another 1,000+ foot climb out of Badger Creek ahead of you.

One of the many high plateaus. This one is somewhere between Dead Horse Pass and Green Lakes.

A small glacier fed lakelet on the crest before Green Lakes.

My first tantalizing view of the Tetons just before descending into Green Lakes.

Dawn at a small tarn near my campsite at Green Lakes.

The first of Green Lakes at the junction of trails 008 and 018. I camped here on my second night. The view is looking back at the lake as I start my hike to Granite Lake Basin. I saw my first people at Green Lakes. Both Green Lakes and Granite Basin Lakes are very popular camping areas.

Early morning on the trail from Green Lakes.

The whole route from Badger Creek to Granite Basin is dotted with beautiful lakelets
like this one. Nothing prepared me for what would happen later in the day!

Nearing the crest between Green Lakes and Granite Lakes Basins. The weather changed to cloudy mornings and stayed that way for the rest of the trip.

A neat glimpse of the Grand Teton across the high plateau that divides the two lake basins. By the time I decended the ridge to Granite Lakes I could no longer see it. I would be another day before I would get a full uninterrupted view of the Tetons.


Fireweed in bloom. This is past Granite Lakes and begining the descent to South Leigh Creek.


More trail wildflowers. The trail descends into an impressive set of swichbacks as it drops into South Leigh Creek. This was my major shock of the trip. The creek was dry! Nothing had prepared me for this eventuality. I would end up climbing almost 2,000 feet and going 10 miles before I saw water again. I was so surprised that I fogot to take picures from the bottom of the dry creek bed. I just lit out to find water.

Baked and parched: Nearing the summit and junction with Fred’s Mountain Trail (025). I think this bump may be Fred’s Mountain. I struck out x-country to Leigh Lakes in the hopes that one of them would have water.


Scary drought! My first water in a long, LONG time. Only a few inches deep. I had to scoop water out using a 20 oz plastic bottle. Then filter it for algea and water bugs. Nonetheless it was good. I drank three liters and then retired to the shade to rest.


Another scary lake. This one is only a few percent of its original area. The puddle in the bottom is 20+ feet below where the water level should be.

After resting I hiked on and came to this sight for sore eyes. I immediately went down and took a long swim. This view is from my campsite.


The view from the ridge between South Leigh Creek and Teton Creek drainages. My first sight of the complete Teton Complex. This is where I met Ryan. Meeting time was noon. I was there at 11:00. Ryan was there at 11:30. Not bad for not having talked to each other in over two weeks.


Ryan starting to climb the loose steep stuff up to the ridge dividing Leigh Lakes Basin and the park proper.

The top of the ridge at last and my first unobstructed view of the impressive Mt. Moran.


Ryan getting ready to cross the knife edge to the plateau on the other side.

Over the knife edge and a look north towards Little’s Peak.

Taking in the almost 360 degree views from the ridge top.

Thinking about how long it will be before I can swim in Lake Solitude many feet below me.

Working down some loose steep stuff. [photo courtesy of Ryan Jordan]

Over two hours later I’m finally down but what a view!

Ryan soaking some sore feet after the descent to Lake Solitude. [photo courtesy of Ryan Jordan]

On the way down canyon Ryan and I surprised a bull moose with a rack the size of my dining room table. It was only 20 feet away! All of us were very nervous, but we sorted it out with no problems. Glad he wasn’t in rut! By the time Ryan got the camera out this was all we could see. [photo courtesy of Ryan Jordan]

Alpen glow on the Grand Teton as seen from our camp.

Ryan’s view at sunrise. [photo courtesy of Ryan Jordan]

Hiking up towards Hurricane Pass. Schoolroom Glacier is on the Left. [photo courtesy of Ryan Jordan]

Alan and Ryan at the very windy summit of the aptly named Hurricane Pass.

Taking a last look at the Tetons before descending into Alaska Basin.

Sunset Lake and my first view of Alaska Basin

Breakfast at Sunset Lake with Ryan. My pack weighed about 17 pounds including food and photo equipment for the six day trip. [photo courtesy Ryan Jordan]

Over Mt. Meek Pass and a view back towards the Tetons. They do dominate the scenery in this area.

Finally to the fabulous Death Shelf. I am excited. [photo courtesy Ryan Jordan]

Our amazing campsite. Not good for sleep walking though. It’s over 1,000 feet straight down. This was the first rain of the trip and the only night I setup my Silshelter.

Ryan and I had dinner and watched five moose graze in the meadow by the stream meanders below.

Last light on the Tetons.

View from my tarp at sunrise. Wow! Notice the lenticular cloud over the Tetons.

Down Devil’s Staircase. One the the steepest trails I’ve ever done. It drops 500 feet in the first 1/4 mile. [photo courtesy Ryan Jordan]

End of the trip. Bridge over Teton Creek just before trailhead and Ryan’s car. [photo courtesy Ryan Jordan]



Trip report for Southern Utah – Early May, 2001

The beauty of Southern Utah is staggering. Deep canyons, fantastic rock formations, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, and Ansazi ruins. Frogs singing by desert springs under a full moon, their calls of love echoing up and down the canyon like strange Gregorian chants. There is everything a soul seeking solitude and beauty in the wilderness could desire. Enough of superlatives. The following pictures will do much more than my prose.

Mark taking in a quintessential Utah Canyon.

A wider but no less impressive canyon.

We climbed up to a narrow ledge to check out a perfect square kiva. If you look closely you can just see me in front of the kiva. High up on this ledge I got a brief sense of what it might be like to live like the Anasazi.

A beautiful two level ruin. Actually it’s three levels if you count the sunken round kiva in the foreground. The exposed timbers and twigs are part of the kiva’s roof.


Removal of any artifacts is strictly forbidden. Some visitors have collected pottery fragments and other arifacts and placed them near the ruins for all to see. This is a nice example of the black and white geometric patterned Anasazi pottery.

Mark and Peter negotiating a slot.

This is one of hundreds of fantastic rock formations we saw during the trip.

Day 1 at 9:00 AM. My usual luck with weather. Not what one expects in Southern Utah in May.

Day 1 at 2:00 PM. Mark and Peter are waiting out a squall of snow and sleet under an overhang. We are discussing whether to hike 2 miles back to the car for the tent. We finally decided not to get the tent but to blame me if the tarp is not sufficient shelter.

Alan and Peter warming up with a bit of hot chocolate and a splash of spirits. We never did use the tarp and slept out in the open every night of the trip.

Our water supply: a lush, spring-fed desert oasis. It was near here that we camped and listened to the frogs singing under a full moon.

Adventure Alan getting a close look at particularly nice pictograph. This one is of a breech birth.

Possibly my favorite ruins of the trip. A 100% intact round kiva and dwelling.

A neat slickrock staircase. Part of our route out of the canyon.

Mark and Peter heading down a slickrock route into another canyon.

Getting deeper into the canyon on a steep sandstone face.

Peter at the bottom of a deep slickrock basin.

The pool below an enormous pouroff, fed from the basin in the photo above.

Further down canyon. A natural arch, hoodoos and spires.

Ruins in a seldom visited side canyon.

Mid day: Peter next to a deep, spring-fed slickrock pool.

A familiar sight of desert blooms below the towering rock of the canyon walls.

Mark settling in for some relaxation after a long hot hike up the dusty canyon.

Peter waking up. I’ve just told him that coffee is ready. Not a bad view to start your day with.

Packing up the last morning. The day’s water is in the 2 Platys in the foreground. The dark amorphous shape at my feet is a GoLite Breeze pack (yet to be stuffed).

Mark tackling a bit of class 3 on his way to the canyon rim.

The intrepid crew showing a bit of skin in the parking lot after the trip. Mark and I are demonstrating impressive farmer tans.


Detailed Trip Report Southern Utah

First a pitch for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance ( They are an effective and critically important land preservation group. They do a lot of important fieldwork to provide data for the ongoing battle with the BLM over wilderness status for Southern Utah lands. They were critically important in the work that paved the way for Clinton to create the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (legislation which our current president and his Interior Secretary appear to be trying to weaken). The SUWA is an active and important member of the Utah Wilderness Coalition – the group that has authored the Utah Wilderness Bill (HB 1500) that has for years been doing battle in the Congress. Please support this valuable organization.

Mark and Peter, my hiking partners, are strong athletes. Peter runs a 2:48 marathon and does 100 mile self-support mountain bike trips in the Nevada desert. Mark is an ex-college runner who can still do a sub-40-minute 10K. Against this vigor I had to reduce my pack weight down, down, down if I was going to have any hope of keeping up.

This was the first time in many years that I’ve hiked with a group of in-shape, experienced and independent hikers. I can’t think of better hiking partners than Mark and Peter. Covering ground was never an issue. Most of the time we went at a moderate two mile per hour pace and were good tourists. It’s hard to move too fast with everything there is to see in the Southern Utah canyons. Yet we had the capacity to move very fast if the situation required. Group camp duties were done without any difficulty. People just figured out what needed to be done and did it. If I cooked coffee and oatmeal, the pots were whisked away and returned clean. Water was already filtered and a snack ready for the day hiker returning hot, dry and hungry late in the day.

Mark was fairly convinced by my relentless pitching of the ultralight approach. My guess is that his base pack weight was in the 14 to 16 pound range. He bought a 3+ pound conventional pack and a Thermarest ultralight pad for the trip. I lent him an Arroyo bag and a Cirrus vest. This combined with sharing my tarp, light stove and cookware completed his weight savings. Mark was delighted with the freedom and mobility of his light pack and tackled all difficult terrain without hauling his pack up after him. (So did Peter but that’s another issue.)

Peter benefited from light the tarp and cooking stuff. He was delighted with the lightest pack he’d ever carried. But in my terms Peter still carried a weighty load. Everything Peter brought was heavy. Winter Polarguard bag, deluxe Thermarest, 6 pound backpack, a full set of pile pants and jacket, Polarguard booties, 3 quart Tupperware container for his dinner, etc. Peter was completely prepared for a winter outing. Given the weather the first day, he had a point. But Peter is such a strong hiker, I don’t think his heavy pack even fazed him. It would take a lot more than that to make a dent in Peter’s stride.

Mark and I compromised on the trip itinerary. I wanted to do a longer shuttle trip of 7-8 days. Mark didn’t want to be out that long. He wanted to break the trip into two parts and have a night in a motel with a hot meal and shower. The final agreement was to do the trip in two 4 day, 3 night sub-trips as Mark wanted, with a night in a motel in between. But that the second sub-trip would be would have some more challenging routes to entertain me. This proved an excellent compromise. I enjoyed reduced weight of the two part trip and the ability to get accurate weather reports to fine tune gear selections. Mark really enjoyed the more challenging routes on the second sub-trip.

As usual we got a bit of cold weather for the trip start. At 9 AM of day 1 there was still snow on the ground. At 2 PM on the same day we were sheltered under an overhang in 30 degree weather waiting for a squall of snow and sleet to pass. We were prepared for the weather, but it wasn’t what we expected for early May in Southern Utah. Each day of the trip got warmer until we had 80 to 90 degree highs at the end of the trip. The warmer days had precipitous temperature drops of 50+ degrees at night. Going from 85 in the late afternoon to near freezing by dawn.

Water: I don’t think I carried much more than 3 liters of water at any time. This is light in desert terms. It was a damp spring and the longest we went between water sources was around 6 to 7 miles. This can be a bit of time in canyon hiking terms, but still not bad. We camped near a water source each night and this is where I filtered all my water for the next 24 hours. I purified about 6 to 9 liters at one time using my SWA gravity filter. The 3 liter Zip Hoser for dirty reservoir is a good combination with 2+ liter Platys for clean water. If I quickly switched a full 2+ Platy out for an empty one, I maintained the prime on the gravity system. Just ladled more water into the Zip Hoser and I was off and going towards the next Platy of purified water. I then chained on my 1 liter Platy and was done. This usually left me with around 4.5 liters of water for the morning. I drank about 2 liters before hiking and consumed the other 2.5 liters between camps. Only one time did I filter water mid-day before camp.


Utah Equipment List

1.36 Sleeping Qty Oz Lbs
2.08 Shelter (for three) 1 12.0 0.75 Pat. essenshell pullover
1.03 Pack 1 8.2 0.51 Cirrus vest
0.88 Cooking & Water 1 4.8 0.30 Lt wt Polypro bottoms
1.61 Essentials 1 8.1 0.51 Pwrdry zip T MTS (REI)
2.65 Clothes 1 2.8 0.18 Heavy Poly Balaclava
9.60 Basic Pack Weight 1 1.3 0.08 Lt. poly gloves
1 2.7 0.17 Windbloc gloves
3.83 Food & Food storage* 1 2.5 0.16 Trail running socks (spare)
1.48 Camera and Binocs 2.65
5.00 Water 1 14.0 0.88 Golite Breeze
1 1.0 0.06 Grn Sil Nylon clothes stuff
19.9 Total Pack weight 1 1.4 0.09 Golite sleep bag stuff
4.6 Items worn or carried 1.03
24.5 Total FSO
1 1.7 0.11 OR bug headnet
Qty Oz Lbs 1 20.8 1.30 10×10 silnylon tarp
1 2.0 0.13 Maps & stuff in zip loc 1 0.7 0.04 Tyvek stuff for tarp
1 1.2 0.08 Compass, basic 1 4.5 0.28 Ti stakes
1 2.0 0.13 Prescript glasses w. case 1 5.5 0.34 Emerg blanket ground sheet
1 6.3 0.39 Boo boo Kit 2.08
1 1.5 0.09 Sunscreen & chap stick
1 1.0 0.06 Lighter b’candle matches 1 17.0 1.06 RAB Top Bag
2 0.5 0.06 Pocket brights blu & wht 1 4.8 0.30 Foam pad 20×45
1 1.1 0.07 H2O purify tablets 1.36
1 2.0 0.13 Jungle juice & Bio Soap
1 1.0 0.06 Toilet Paper 3.80 Personal Food
1 2.7 0.17 Toiletries, dental 1 0.5 0.03 Mesh food stuff sack
1 1.0 0.06 Duct Tape 1 0.0 0.00 30′ fishing line (hang food)
1 0.9 0.06 Bandana 3.83
1 10.9 0.68 Olympus & 3 rolls Film
1 12.7 0.79 Nikon compact binoculars
1 2.0 0.13 Notebook and Pencil 1 0.53 SWA gravity filter system
Licenses & Permits 2 1.2 0.15 2+ liter platypus
Wallet and Money 1 1.0 0.06 1 liter platy to make milk
1.61 1 1.9 0.12 Evernew Ti Cup (13 oz cap)
1 0.35 0.02 plastic spoons
Qty Oz Lbs 0.88
1 29.0 1.81 Merril Terrator trail runners
1 2.5 0.16 Trail running socks Group Equipment carried by others
2 9.0 1.13 Trekking poles 1 4.5 0.28 SnowPeak Stove w case
1 12.8 0.80 REI Convert. Travel Pants 1 12.9 0.81 8 oz MSR fuel
1 6.4 0.40 Railriders ecomesh shirt L 1 1.7 0.11 Wind Screen
1 2.0 0.13 Sun Hat 1 6.1 0.38 Evernew 1.9 pot
Watch 1 2.3 0.14 Evernew 1.9 lid
Pocket bright white 1 4.3 0.27 Evernew 1.3 pot
1 1.0 0.06 Whistle w lanyard 1 1.6 0.10 Evernew 1.3 lid
1 6 0.38 30′ 5mm cord to haul packs
1 0.8 0.05 SA Classic Knife
1 1.0 0.06 Prescription Raybans 1.00 * My share of group food
4.59   Carrried by others

Utah Food List

Utah food list for Alan
# days No. people 1
(if blank, No. days 3
Qty Oz tot d=3) oz/pers/d Cal/oz Total Cal Lb total
M&M’s 8.00 2.67 146 1168 0.50
Pemmican Bars 3.00 11.25 3.75 115 1294 0.70
Balance Bars 3.00 5.25 1.75 114 599 0.33
Trader Joe’s Confetti
16.00 5.33 150 2400 1.00
Inst. Oatmeal Maple &
3.00 4.53 1.51 106 480 0.28
Swiss Miss Coca &
6.00 7.50 2.50 125 938 0.47
Safeway Woven Wheats 4.50 1.50 128 576 0.28 3.56
Group Food
Richmoor beef strog w
0.33 3.92 1 3.92 122 478 0.24
Milkman Milk 1.00 3.40 1.13 125 425 0.21
Coffee 2.00 0 0.13
MH Rice w. Chicken 0.33 4.23 1 4.23 122 516 0.26
Jalpenos for chili mac
MH Chili Mac 0.67 3.22 1 3.22 125 402 0.20 1.05
Totals 73.80 3092 9276 4.61
Lb per day 1.54
Calories/day 3092
Calories/oz 126
Actual Fuel consumption
Fuel Cups Liters
Oatmeal (7 packs + .5 cup) 4.40 1.00 40 deg
Coffee 4.40 1.00 40 deg
Dinner 4.40 1.00 70 deg
Tea/HC 4.40 1.00 70 deg
Day tot. 17.60 4.00
Trip segment (3 nights)
(still enough fuel for at least one meal)


Equipment Mini-Reviews

GoLite Breeze Pack, A:
Still a winner. Carried everything I needed including water without a moment’s discomfort. I was concerned before the trip that the Pack would not be up to the extra weight of carrying the large amounts of water required for desert travel from spring to spring. First, it was a fairly wet year and I didn’t carry much more than 5 pounds of water at any time. Second, the Pack just carries beautifully. No soreness anywhere. I didn’t have much difficulty with perspiration between the pack and my back either. The desert is so dry the perspiration evaporated almost as fast as I could sweat.

Rab Top Bag, A:
Kept me warm and comfortable even on the nights in the 30’s. This was sleeping out with a moderate breeze through camp. The perfect desert bag.

Oware 10×10 silnylon tarp, A:
We never used the tarp even though it snowed the first day and rained a bit the second day. It sill gets an A for inexpensive weight reduction for a group of three hikers. The other two people on the trip were not ultralighters. In an effort to reduce group weight I purchased the tarp from Oware. This with the Leki trekking poles provided shelter for the group at around 12 oz. per person, saving each of us around 2 to 3 pounds over a tent.

SnowPeak Giga stove, Evernew Titanium Cookset, A:
Started first time, every time. Very fuel efficient. We boiled over 12 Liters of water, half in 40 degree temps and half in 70 degree temps, at around 5,000 feet altitude. We had fuel left over in our 8 oz. canister. I think we would have been near the sea level, 70 degree temp, capacity of 15 liters for the canister. Not bad for in the field. Titanium cookset was great. Good fuel performance, easy to use lids and handles, easy to clean inner coating. Near perfect. After the trip, I cleaned a bit of desert scale out of one pot with a paper towel soaked in vinegar.

Leki Titanium trekking poles, B-:
I took these mostly as supports for the tarp. They proved fairly useful hiking as well. More useful than I expected.

SWA Gravity Filter System, C-:
The system worked fine for about 4 days. Around day 5 the filter’s flow rate was cut in half. I suspect algae-laden spring water. The filter continued to work at half-performance for the rest of the trip. The system never failed and I didn’t need to resort to iodine for water treatment. I’m still trying to figure out what happened. But… I would think twice about taking this setup in the desert again.

Nikon compact 9×25 binoculars, A:
Great for route finding in canyons. Perfect for looking at those high and inaccessible ruins. Nice for looking at Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcons.

Merril Terrator Trail Runners, A-:
A solid shoe. Great grip on slickrock. Durable sole. The only shoes I’ve used in 10 years that I haven’t blistered in. I’ve already worn out my first pair and am working on my second. Desert sand is amazing stuff. I believe it could penetrate steel. After a 16 mile day hike I discovered 1/8 inch of sand between my socks and my feet!

What I envied the non-ultralighters for having:

It was hot and my feet warm and damp. But since I brought no extra footwear, I walked around camp in my trail runners. Mark and Peter’s feet were nice and cool in their Tevas. To compensate, I did go barefoot around camp some of the time. The desert is a spiky place and I spent a fair amount of time picking pointy objects from my feet. Next desert trip I’m going to do some research into the lightest sandals I can get for camp use. A light covered shoe wouldn’t do, as what you want most is cool and ventilation.

Special Snacks:
Smoked oysters on crackers and a nip of something at dinnertime. Actually, envy was not required here since Mark had brought these as a treat for all of us. I could see bringing a few nips and small can of oysters for each night on my next trip. A wonderful evening routine. Great for esprit de corps.


Extended Trip Photos









If you look closely, you can just make Peter out on the lip of this huge pouroff.








Peter gets technical with his huge pack.




The following is a mix of anecdotes, gear reports, and fishing stories. Hope you enjoy the read. -Alan


Sad to say, as a native Californian and lover of the Sierras, but the Rockies are  better. Lusher, higher and more rugged. I found beauty, solitude, challenging routes, and great fishing.


I hiked about 50 miles in four days. My average hiking speed was between 2.5 and 3.5 mile per hour. The trails were great and the hiking easy thanks to my new  ultralight load. I like the idea of being in the back country multiple nights but only carrying a day hike load. My longest day was a exceptionally beautiful 18 mile circuit from Pear Lake over Cony “Pass” and back via Junco and Blue Bird Lakes. Did have time to fish after I got back but had some sore feet.

The route was rugged and I hadn’t sufficiently tested my Soloman Wind Raids before I left. Bicycling is my form of aerobic exercise. This causes my feet to be tender backpacking since they don’t get the normal wear and tear, blister prevention, and break in, from running or hiking. Normally I take some warm-up hikes up and down the Blue Ridge using my footwear of choice before I leave for a Western multi-day trip. I didn’t before this trip (just ran out of time) and it was a big mistake. My socks were too large and Coney “Pass” really steep. Not enough room for toes on the decent. Blisters. Ouch!

The day was overcast and sputtering. I spent some time fishing Hutchinson Lakes waiting for it to clear. Around 11:30 I figured it wasn’t going to rain seriously and decided to go over the pass. The ascent was steeper than expected and I crested at 1:00. The route down was steep and difficult, the glacier above me had warmed and was putting lots of water on the route and sending down the occasional rock. I started moving fast since I was running out of valuable hiking time. I felt like I had idiot printed on my forehead. Here I was doing just they always tell you not to do. Up high, late in  the day, under a melting glacier, by myself with nobody to come and look for me if I didn’t show up in camp that night. Anyway, moving quickly and picking good routes, I was back on trail by 3:00 with only a few cuts on my hands for the effort. I think I’ve temporarily lost my taste for boulder fields and scree. All other hiking on the trip was beautiful and uneventful.


GoLite Breeze Pack

This pack is a delight. I took about 20 pounds in the pack for 4 days and covered about 50 miles including one 18 mile day with lots of alpine cross country. It carries beautifully. The pack rested snugly against my back – the bottom of the pack nested in the hollow just above my butt. The shoulder straps are very comfortable. I felt no need for a hip belt. Without the belt you are free to move your hips and assume a more natural gait. I’ve always had problems getting hip belt packs to sit squarely. With the Breeze it was easy to “hitch” pack around to balance perfectly on my back and shoulders. It is the most comfortable pack I’ve used.

This mesh pockets are great. The large rear pocket holds rain wear, tarp, water filter, a 2 liter water bottle and more. Stuff is really easy to get in and out. The side pockets are a bit tight for water containers with a stuffed pack. It can be done, but the bladder edges tend to snag in the mesh and the opening is a  bit small.  They work fine for food and small items. If you want to put water in the side pockets, a narrow soda bottle type container would work better than a bladder.

Packing the Breeze as GoLite suggests — putting everything in the middle of your loosely rolled ground pad — didn’t work for me. Instead, I put my ground sheet, food and tarp in the bottom of the Breeze, followed by a loosely stowed sleeping bag and clothing bag stuffed sideways. All my other stuff in zip loc baggies fit easily in the last few top inches of storage. A bit of massaging and the pack has a nice flat back and the main bag a  perfectly rectangular shape. I put my rolled up ground pad on top of the load extension collar and cinched everything down. What could be easier? (If I was whacking through a lot of brush, I could and would, pack it as GoLite suggests or take my Thermarest Ultralite mattress.)

A few suggestions. A heavier fabric on the pack bottom would be worth one or two extra ounces for increased durability. Ditto for a simple top pocket. I miss  this feature. This is where I put my maps, flashlight, first aid kit, etc. I think a top pocket provides useful storage, rain protection for the main pocket,  and abrasion resistance for the load extension collar. A top pocket is great for stuffing things like your ground pad or camp footwear under. Finally, I sweat like crazy under the Breeze. The weather was hot and I was hiking fast. At times the sweat was down to the backs of my knees. I don’t see this as a major problem or recommend a fix. Just noting that a large expanse of waterproof fabric on your back will do this. I wouldn’t be interested in the additional weight for a sweat management system. GoLite recommends that you carry the pack by one shoulder strap, alternating between shoulders, to air you back off.


My Sil Shelter worked fine. It didn’t get a thorough testing since I camped below tree line and didn’t get a major storm with rushing water and raging winds. I did get moderate rain and wind and stayed dry. The Sil Shelter does setup with ease. One night I was sleeping out under the “stars” when I woke to rain in the face. I located the Sil Shelter in my pack and had it pitched in the dark in just a few minutes. Everything under the shelter nice and dry and back to blissful sleep. Integral designs recommends a trekking pole for the center  support since it’s adjustable. I don’t use trekking poles but a couple of tent poles at totaling 41″ worked fine. Total weight of shelter with stakes and poles 17 oz. The shelter can handle two in a pinch but some gear would need to go outside. It is very roomy for one. Also, the rear portion of the shelter does tend to droop a bit low. Might get the end of your bag damp if you weren’t careful. Some creative pitching would probably solve this problem.

I knew my Marmot Pinnacle DryLoft bag (43 oz) was overkill when I left. Just ran out of money to buy a lighter bag. The weather was hot and overnight temps didn’t drop much below 50 even at 11,000feet. I had enough down and fabric with me to keep a whole scout troop warm. Next trip I’ll go for a RAB Top Bag or a WM HighLite. If it gets really cold I’ll just wear my Puffball pullover and a heavy balaclava inside the bag. For heavy rain I will need to figure out some type of ground sheet system to keep the bag dry from water running under the floorless Sil Shelter. With a DryLoft bag this is not a major concern. (Post trip note: I got rid of the Pinnacle and purchased a 17 oz. RAB Top Bag.)

The only good thing I can say about my 20 x 40″ blue foam pad is that is light. So is sleeping on the ground. As far as I can see insulation is the only advantage (but a very significant one) blue foam has over sleeping on the ground. It is hard stuff. I did slept OK and will probably continue to use the foam pad. But I never know when I might be tempted and consider the extra weight of bringing my Thermarest ¾ Ultralite.


I didn’t take a stove. Ate mostly gorp, Power Bars, pemmican bars, Peanut M&M’s, powdered milk, grape nuts and beef jerky. Took caffeine pills for my morning buzz.  I might not take the grape nuts again. Too much trouble to mix and eat. Then I could leave the bowl and spoon at home. No stove, fuel, pots, cups, bowls, or utensils. I realize this puts me on the fringe but it works for me and saves weight. If I were traveling with others I would probably need to reconsider this position. Ry’s meals sound a lot better than mine and I’m sure that I couldn’t convince many others to follow my frugal eating habits.

I brought a 1 and 2 liter platypus. In the future I’d only bring the 2 liter platypus. Most of the time I didn’t carry water. Why use a camel back when you can be your own camel? I can drink 2 to 3 liters at a “sitting.” This is sufficient to get met to the next watering hole most of the time. I still use a PUR hiker. I haven’t gone over to the gravity side yet. Maybe I’ll talk to Ry and see how it works. For the time being, the lack of stove and cook gear should more than makeup for the increased weight of a pump filter.


Fishing was great. I brought a 4 pc. 5 wt. in a fleece rod sleeve. Put my two tent poles in the middle, rubber-banded the whole mess together at both ends and shoved it down the side of my Breeze. It worked just fine. Fish at Pear Lake were easy to catch. “Cookie cutter “greenback cutts in the 10 to 12 inch range. Probably could have used a hook with strike putty molded around the shank to catch these fish. I used a #14 humpy. Fish at Thunder lake were a bit harder. I used woolly buggers, beadhead princes, and some #22 dry and emerger patterns. All worked at one time or another. Got some nice fish 14 to 16 inches. Most effective patterns were #22 parachute Adams and a #22 midge emerger under a bit of strike putty (the 16 inch fish). I had one fish hit a woolly bugger at a drop-off. Went racing along the shoreline flats like a bonefish. My drag was screaming. Survived the first run but on the second Mr. Trout wrapped me around some shoreline rocks and that was that. Nice fish!