Our weak link at this point, in regards to our March adventure, is our snow camping skills. We're limited in this department, and while there are a lot of carry-overs from our summer skills, there are a lot of differences too.
We decided to do a shake-down trip a few days ago to see where we were and what we needed to learn. As the upcoming trip involves covering some ground, weight is key. An immediate lesson was that skiing with a 30 pound pack is a lot different than skiing with a 10 pound pack. We'll need to work on that, and you can bet the morning sessions are going to be done with a sizeable pack from here on out.
We're definitely good at going light, but carrying things makes you question EVERYTHING. Two pairs of long john bottoms? Maybe not. Where can we build redundancy, what can we do without? Honestly, I hate to much stuff. It clutters systems, and I have found I can do with way less than common thought processes would dictate.
One area we are in serious debate with is our shelter. We have a wonderful Hilleberg Nallo, a 2-person winter tent from Sweden. Problem is, it weighs in at a shade under five pounds – not heavy, but this trip requires light weight. It's a little cramped too. We're debating going with a Mega Mid. Lighter, roomier, but if the shit hits the fan, less protection. It's a March trip, but things can still go wrong in March. Do you prepare for 90% of the time and improvise if things go bad, or feel secure in the 10% of this bad time and carry a little extra weight. Tough decisions.
We need to sample the situation. Condensation was a big problem on the shake down. We need to find a solution or our down sleeping bags will be useless after a couple nights. I've been told we need to sleep colder. Sounds unpleasant, but it might work. Everything needs to be evaluated with a critical eye. Our stove was a joke, and not practical for this trip. That's already been corrected. Learning day-by-day.
The mountains are beautiful at night. More beautiful actually. Coyotes ripping howls across the valley. We went on a sunset ski to warm up before bed that felt more like Alaska than Moffat. I think I've found my favorite local ski. Full on radness. Orion raging overhead. Snow white, full moon lit land above it all. Perfection.
Winter camping, I suspect, will add a whole new level of adventure to our backcountry skiing experience. Simply put, once we learn the skills, we'll be able to go places nobody else does. And the winter mountains are simply divine. And at night – well, they are better than in the day.
Good, learning trip. SIA time sampling next year's gear, and then back at it to give us a shot in hell at pulling this off.