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Re: [John Muir Trail] more snow advice from PCT forum (Mtn Education)

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  • ed_rodriguez52@yahoo.com
    Thanks for that update Barbara, let see how things develop over the next month Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry® ... From: Barbara
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 3, 2010
      Thanks for that update Barbara, let see how things develop over the next month

      Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

      From: "Barbara Karagosian" <barbara@...>
      Date: Thu, 3 Jun 2010 15:59:51 -0700
      To: <johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com>
      Subject: [John Muir Trail] more snow advice from PCT forum (Mtn Education)


      This is aimed at PCTers, who usually go thru the Sierras earlier than many
      JMTers, so hit different snow conditions.

      From: <ned@...>
      Subject: [pct-l] Mtn. Education's advice for KM northbound (long)

      Soon we will be leaving for the trail north of Kearsarge, but before we
      begin repacking new supplies, I want to give those northbound out of Kennedy
      Meadows some advice based on our recent journey in that area and ranging
      from gear and food to techniques and wilderness skills.

      A quick note: Looks like the Thaw is about to start! When the nighttime
      temps stop dipping below freezing and the daytime ones get up into the 70's,
      then watch out for the creek crossings! According to the NOAA forecasts for
      inner Kings Canyon, we all should be cookin' during the day and water
      bottles will stop freezing during the night starting this week. Take good
      and strong sunscreen (spf 30-50) depending on your skin coloring.

      Now, on to the good stuff (abbreviated version of what will be in our Snow
      Guide book to the PCT):

      Traction and balance Control--
      When the mornings offer crusty snow, take advantage of it and start early so
      you can walk on the surface without post-holing. If your ascents are in the
      morning (as they should be), be very careful that your footwear doesn't
      "roll" when you sidestep up the climb. A good, stiff backpacking boot is
      essential unless you plan on toeing in all the way up in a self-belay
      fashion. We would not be here to tell you this after our Forester climb last
      week if we were not so equipped. Crampons and other instep traction devices
      will only clog up in most springtime sierra snow. Don't be convinced into a
      false sense of security otherwise without first testing them for yourselves
      in the conditions present right now.
      Ice axes are a must for self-belay ascents and dealing with hard, crusty
      morning footholds. The Whippet self-arrest pole is great for its limited
      focus (self-arrest) while walking on inclined slopes, but not recommended as
      a secure and predictable anchor while ascending any of the passes in the
      high sierra. The longer the better so you don't have to bend over too far
      and loose your balance carving out footholds. (Sorry, guys, I realize that
      longer equals heavier, but how much do you value your life?)

      Snowshoes are excellent in avoiding post-holing. When the snow starts to get
      soft (the hotter it gets earlier in the day, the sooner this will be) and
      you start suddenly doing those jarring plunges that seize your body and take
      all your energy, stop and put on your snowshoes. They may slow you down, but
      you'll be able to keep on going safely. Beware of all steep descents and
      traverses--many snowshoe models will simply turn into skis and you'll loose
      control. Consider plunge-stepping in these conditions.

      If the creeks are wide and wild, cross them in the morning. The same goes
      for the passes. So, camp at the crossings, usually only a few miles from the
      next pass, and do both early the next morning. We like to cross in our
      boots. What this accomplishes for us is full ankle stability, pain-free rock
      wedging, and a predictable and balanced platform on which to stand while
      "feeling" for each step in the white water of many crossings. This may not
      be what you had in mind, but it keeps us safe and gets us home (not to
      mention to the other side). Once on the other side, change socks (carry
      multiple pairs) and walk your leather boots dry. If you are still on snow,
      as long as you are keeping the exterior of the boots well treated, they will
      dry out nicely from the inside out.

      Do you climbs in the morning and get below snowline before the snow turns to
      mush and you have to put on your snowshoes. If there is still a lot of snow
      up there, say from 10,000 up, this may not be possible. Snowshoes allow you
      to keep going in the afternoons. Otherwise, by doing this, you will still be
      able to get some decent mileage in each day.

      Realize that in snow you will have to slow down. If you can grind out ten
      miles, you are doing well. Our favorite expression to this regard is,
      "Double your food and halve you mileage." Personally, I consume lots of food
      when travelling in snow and can literally eat a 3-man serving and still be
      looking around for desert. If you do not take this seriously, you will be
      added to the list of Sierra thru hikers who starved their way up the trail
      (to VVR). Carry the weight so you have the energy to do the work it takes to
      be safe. Carry more stove fuel, too.

      Depending on the softness of the snow when you come to a pass, the safest
      way up is to self-belay straight up (beware of rocks, ice, etc.), especially
      if the snow is on the soft side. Otherwise, if the snow is crustier,
      consider boot-on-edge traverses with ace in the uphill hand and an extended
      pole in the downhill one. Take your time; the fall could kill you

      Glissading can be one of the most fun things you will ever do in the
      backcountry. "Fun with a purpose," my son "Munch" said recently. The safest
      version is done seated with some form of rudder control like your poles held
      together, baskets (yes, those used for snow) at your hip (take one of our
      free Snow Courses and we'll show you). Next, consider skating on your boots,
      poles out to the sides for balance control. If you choose this standing
      version, realize that you speed up when you place you weight on the balls of
      your feet and you stop when you rock back onto you heels (works best with
      boots that have vertical-front-edged heels). If you loose your balance, just
      sit down. Be prepared to avoid getting wet by wearing full-zip Gore-tex
      pants and tight, low-riding gaitors (don't forget the gloves).

      Although the nights will be getting warmer, a snow storm can blow into the
      Sierra any month of the year, so be prepared with thermal layers for both
      you upper and lower body. When the cold wind blows, carry a good shell. A
      fleece hat and gloves are never left behind. For those like me who get cold
      easily, pack a good down parka like the Mountain Hardwear Sub-Zero (doubles
      as a pillow). You do not want to get cold--ever. Once it starts, it's very
      difficult for many to get warm any time soon without serious exercise or
      pitching to get out of the weather or a hot meal ingested. Solar exposure
      can be a big deal, too, so carry good sunscreen and don't forget to apply to
      the underside of your nose, tops of the ears, and all around the neck and
      forehead. Good mountaineering glasses are priceless, too. I have been
      snow-blinded twice in the past and do not want to go through it again. We
      have chosen the Julbo brand for this Spring's video production along the
      Crest and have been thoroughly pleased (their forward vents and lens color
      we love best). Carry spf 30 lip balm close to your body and use frequently
      (burned lips are a pain, too).

      Gear for the Snow--
      Sleeping Bags: Take one in which you will be warm down to ten degrees (this
      you have personally tested in the snow and know to be accurate for you).
      Most of our nights during the winter and early spring get as low as the
      single digits, but not often. From Kennedy Meadows north, we had temps in
      the range of zero to twenty-eight (May 10 on). If you get hot, simply sleep
      Sleeping Pads: Down-filled versions like the Exped are priceless to comfort
      and a sound night's sleep on snow. They have such an R-rating (insulative
      value) that your sleeping bag can be rated warmer and save you weight and
      Stoves: Yes, the canister stoves work just fine. We have used ours (Jetboil
      and MSR) into sub-zero conditions without any troubles whatsoever. Carry a
      lighter next to your body in case the sparkers fail to work. Use the mixed
      fuel canisters.
      Snowshoes: Choose a design that will handle traverses. The MSR Lightning
      Ascents do the best job of this we have found and are durable enough to go
      the distance (we have had many designs simply disintegrate over the years of
      running our Wilderness Skills Institute). Accept the weight on your pack
      when you are not wearing them. When you need them, you will be thankful.

      Socks/Insoles: Know your feet and their fit in your boots. If your feet
      start "talking" to you about pain, you may be leaving the trail soon. Talk
      to your boot manufacturer about what they recommend; they have very strong
      feelings about boot "fit." It is a very individual issue. We used to think
      two pair of socks, one, a thin inner liner, and the other a thick outer was
      the best way to fill out a boot. Our favorite manufacturer, Limmer Boot,
      recommends only one, the Smartwool "Trekker" to be used inside their boots,
      and that's about the reality of it for our staff. Superfeet "blue" holds our
      heels in place well, too. You have to figure this combination out for
      yourself to avoid on-trail problems. Do lots of hiking pre-trip to iron this
      Boots: We have never had such good experiences with any type of boot
      (leather uppers, medium-weight insoles, and deep-lugged Vibram soles),
      considering the varied foot sizes and shapes of our staff, as we have had
      with Limmer Boots. They are traditionally designed and stiff when new, yet
      none of us have ever had a blister--even with next to no break-in period! If
      you value foot protection, predictable balance, ankle stability, and a
      little free-swinging weight on your feet, these are the ticket to many years
      of hiking ahead.

      Tents: As snow can hit in the Sierra any month of the year, we carry roomy
      three or four season shelters. The design key is that their poles intersect
      at the top of the tent to hold the weight of snow. A large vestibule for
      storage and cooking is oh, so convenient. As we recently had to endure
      during a multi-day snow storm at Tyndall Creek, the extra size of a tent is
      valuable for sanity when you are tent-bound and have to stay indoors all
      day. Forget the footprint on snow.

      Food--Eat often and eat a lot. Not much more to it than that. You have
      license to be a pig. Snow takes a lot out of you and you'll need it, so
      carry everything that appeals to you, then double it. We go heavy on fatty
      foods and meat, the real stuff and not dehydrated. Once you get to the
      Sierra, you'll be strong enough to handle the weight of snow gear and real
      food, so don't worry about it. The route out of Kennedy Meadows is mellow
      enough to build muscle in time for the high passes, anyway. Remember, even
      perishable food like cream cheese does well when you can pack it in snow
      Wilderness Skills--Know how to navigate by topo and environmental awareness
      (take our Snow Course). Know how to find the trail in a forest (clues). Know
      the route ahead and what to expect to see. Practice how to respond when you
      aren't so sure where the trail is. Learn how to use a GPS to narrow down
      trail locations, but don't rely too heavily in case the batteries fail.
      Always carry a large scale map so you know how to get out of the mountains
      in an emergency. Consider carrying a satellite phone for two-way
      communication with the outside world (no misunderstandings).

      Know how to climb, descend, and traverse steep snow slopes. Self-arrest
      practice that becomes a reflex is a must to save your life. You may not have
      a bad experience, but all it takes is a slip.... Know when to stop.

      Know how to find and collect water safely from snow-encased creeks, lakes,
      and buried springs. You don't want to fall in or get wet in the least when
      the outside temps are in the twenties.

      I hope all this helps you have a safe and happy trip through the Sierra
      snows. Take your time. It is an incredibly beautiful Range of Light when
      covered in snow, but dangerous, also. When The Complete Snow Guide to the
      Pacific Crest Trail comes out, there will be lots of the above and more....

      Ned Tibbits, Director
      Mountain Education
      1106A Ski Run Blvd
      South Lake Tahoe, Ca. 96150
      P: 888-996-8333
      F: 530-541-1456
      C: 530-721-1551

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