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 (www.suwa.org). 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

2001
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
Gorp
16.00 5.33 150 2400 1.00
Inst. Oatmeal Maple &
BrnSug
3.00 4.53 1.51 106 480 0.28
Swiss Miss Coca &
Cream
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
rice
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)
tot.
12.01
(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:

Tevas:
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

ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK TRIP, August 2000

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.

HIKING

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.

GEAR REPORTS

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.

SHELTER AND SLEEPING

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.

FOOD AND WATER

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

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!