This is the winter of snow camping, apparently. At least more than downhill skiing. Well, it is a good thing in this economy.
I just went on my second snow camping trip last weekend (March 6 – 7). It was under the leadership of Mr V this time.
This trip was more educational than heart pounding. We did about 6 miles total. Most of them on Sunday while climbing that Castle peak. The campground itself was not that far from the trailhead.
Since the campground was just a couple of miles from the start we reached it (even with our slow pace) a bit after lunch. This left the group a ton of time to engage in snow-cave building and other snow-camping educational activities. Still we managed to set the tent the wrong way. To be honest I never really payed much attention to the way my tent was set. The most important part was to find the right spot. How the tent was set was secondary. Well, not any more. Most tents are built so that the resistance to wind is different depending on the direction. So it is important to figure out which way the wind blows and set the tent so tat it provides east resistance. Since we were camping on a ridge for some reason the wind was blowing like crazy. My tent was almost folded flat during the night. Good thing it didn’t brake.
I tried to replicate the kitchen that Igor built during the Lassen trip. Well, this one didn’t really turned out as well. Sort of. Since it was on the slope it kept falling. Plus I didn’t make it that well. Well, it was my first time.
It was winter. As a result after the sunset the temperature dropped in a hurry. Water in my bladder’s tube froze quickly. My gloves that were a bit wet after digging the cave (they were supposed to be waterproof) also froze solid. I had to change them because my fingers started to freeze as well. Boots froze solid. Good thing Vlad brought some special high quality water to keep us all warm. Initially it was a bit cloudy so I thought that it won’t be so cold. Then, at night you can see all the stars in the sky – it was going to be freezing.
It was freezing. Wind was hauling all night almost bending my tent to the ground. Surprisingly I wasn’t cold. I was actually warmer than the previous trip to Lassen even though last time my bag was 0F and this time I had +15F. It seems that the tightness of the sleeping bag is important to the warmth. This bag (even though it is a female) is much smaller and fits me like a glove without any holes. Well, perhaps female bugs are rated higher also (+15F female version may be +10F male or something).
Beautiful. Real winter. It was freezing. I could hear the snow making noise under my feet. Aghhhh … nice.
So I put on my frozen boots and kind of walked around. My tent-mate – Debashis – who turned out to be a much more photographer than I am, went up early right at the sunrise to get some good shots. I was too lazy and too warmed up to get up. Shoot, I always do this. Lazy bum.
After the breakfast we started the accent to Castle Peak.
Good thing it was the morning – everything was still cold and frozen. We made good progress in snowshoes to the top. Hm, it wasn’t so bad. Perhaps as it was for the Cinder Cone, ascending Castle Peak in winter may be easier than in summer. Not so much scrambling. It was beautiful. You can see the altitude where the temperature was below 0C. Some trees still had frost on them. The weather was great – a bit sunny, but no too much. Nice. We made it to the top by around noon. Some eating and photos and went down.
Going down wasn’t that much fun. By this time the snow become wet and it was sticking to everything. But we eventually made it to the camp and started packing. Since the camp was on a rather popular trail we saw a lot of people. One was then was actually on the trip to Lassen a couple of week ago. Small world! We were trying to sell the two snow caves to other groups, but without much success. So the caves had to be destroyed. Sad.
The trip back was short. By the time we made it to the cars nasty sleet storm gathered. I’m glad that we were leaving. The storm, however, passed as quickly as it came. It was a nice trip. We had a pretty good Mexican food on the way and returned not so late.
Photos are on Flickr, as usual.
Map is on EveryTrail:
Beginner’s guide to winter camping.