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   Winter Camping and Activities
      Winter Camping and Training for Verticality     

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keth0601
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07/28/2017 05:54PM
So I'm just coming down from planning and executing a successful expedition to Gannett Peak this year and looking for the next challenging stepping stone on my way to Denali. One area I need to work on is camping in very low temperatures. I've done my share of winter camping in temps down to the single digits with wind chills in the - teens, but hoping I might be able to sample some temps lower than that this year in the "great white north".

I'm currently planning a trip for sometime in January starting around McFarland Lake on the border route trail and heading west. Not entirely sure at this point how much of the border route trail I'll be using VS hitting the frozen lakes and portages and will likely switch it up depending on conditions. I'm pretty familiar with the area and hope to log a good 75+ miles before calling it quits.

In particular I'm looking for new options for a stove and tent. I've been using an alps mountaineering tasmanian 3 and a Winpro II stove up until this point and I'm considering upgrading to a Hilleberg Keron 3 GT and a MSR XGK. I'm mostly worried about the wind handling capabilities of the alps tent I have, and it's my understanding that once you get below -20 or so cannister stoves simply won't have enough pressure for the fuel to flow into the burner (even in inverted mode). The XGK seems to be the standard for polar expeditions and mountaineering.

Wondering if anyone can chime in on experience in the BW with temps well below 0 and hopefully (am I sane?) at -20 or lower, and what gear has worked for them. If you have experience with the specific gear I'm looking at, even better. Keep in mind I'm ultimately looking at gear for mountaineering purposes so things like hot tents and wood stoves are more-or-less out of the question since weight is critical, and trees generally don't exist at the altitudes I'm looking at.

Also on a side note curious to know what people prefer for skis and snowshoes. Been thinking about picking up a pair of Altai Hoks for this trip, but not decided at this point.
 
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Gadfly
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08/14/2017 11:58AM
We have definitely had nights in the -25 to -30 range as for gear we use a hot tent with a titanium stove. We really haven't had trouble staying warm with that although we noticed the stove didn't burn as well on those cold nights. For some trips we bring both snow shoes and skis as the skis work well for wind swept lakes and the shoes work better for breaking trail on portages. If I could only bring one it would be the shoes but only because I'm towing toboggan and the shoes help pack a path for it.
Pinetree
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08/14/2017 10:08PM
Done -35 degrees F. below cold camping and stayed warm. Sleeping bag rating -30 degrees F. and also had layered clothing on while sleeping. Good insulation between you and ground.
The tent with two people will stay so many degrees warmer than outside. Also winter camping you set up out of the wind.

You are really going to the extremes sometime it looks like. Maybe make contact with explorers Will Steger or Paul Schurke(Wintergreen) both living in Ely for advice. If your going for Denali you realize you will be spending a lot of money so even a winter camping trip which Schurke offers might be worth it?

Lonnie Dupre would be another great contact.
NotLight
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08/15/2017 04:41AM
Sounds like you need "pro" advice, like Pinetree says.

If you have a job and a life to hold down, it's not unreasonable to practice in your back yard if you hit a -10 to -20 cold snap. Store your stuff outside in the cold. At night get some activity outside (walk/run/ski), then go straight to the back yard, set your stuff up in the dark, go to sleep, pack up in the morning, repeat. I did this once last year at -19F. I was extremely comfortable in my -25F bag all night. The hardest part was fiddling with the tent in the dark and fingers freezing doing it.

Jaywalker
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08/15/2017 08:49AM
Ivebecome a lazy hot tenter so can't add much, but will point out that in the BW in winter you would face one risk you probably don't see much on Denali - slush on the lakes. Even in deep cold you will likely find water under the snow. Skis or snowshoes should keep you up, but if walking around you could get a boot full. I suggest doing a bit more research and having a plan for handling that - its more serious of an issue cold camping.
keth0601
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08/15/2017 10:54AM
quote Pinetree: "Done -35 degrees F. below cold camping and stayed warm. Sleeping bag rating -30 degrees F. and also had layered clothing on while sleeping. Good insulation between you and ground.
The tent with two people will stay so many degrees warmer than outside. Also winter camping you set up out of the wind.


You are really going to the extremes sometime it looks like. Maybe make contact with explorers Will Steger or Paul Schurke(Wintergreen) both living in Ely for advice. If your going for Denali you realize you will be spending a lot of money so even a winter camping trip which Schurke offers might be worth it?

Lonnie Dupre would be another great contact."




I've thought about an arctic trip, and might still do that but the time commitment is much easier for something in the BWCA for me. I'm also already planning to do a 10 day Rainier trip next year so I'm a bit restricted on time for "other" trips between that and family vacations, etc. Great thoughts on reaching out to some of the pros. So far I've been following advice from an ifmga guide I had for a climbing course I took out in Colorado, but maybe it's time to reach out to others as well.

Thanks all for the thoughts still trying to decide what to do about the ski/snowhoe situation, but will likely bring both. Not too concerned about getting my feet wet. I'm assuming I'll be wearing the snowshoes/skis the majority of the time when traveling and I'll be using an all-in-one boot system that's pretty watertight. If they do take on water the inner boot is removable so I can get it dry if needed and I'll have a pair of down booties for around camp while they dry. :)

Pinetree what -30 bag we're you using? I'm actually working on a design for my own sleep system and that's part of the reason why I need this trip and some really low temps. Planning to post details when it's done...
Pinetree
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08/15/2017 04:04PM
Its like 30 years old and it is filled with quallofill (sp) by Slumberjack. It is fairly heavy.
They have much better synthetic now than back than, Be it polargard or other.
I also have a goose down rated -5 below F from Western Mountain which I really like.
Sythetics won't hold moisture or get padded down like some goose down will but they have in some bags protection for down.
Lot of different choices for different needs.
keth0601
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08/17/2017 11:27AM
quote Pinetree: "Its like 30 years old and it is filled with quallofill (sp) by Slumberjack. It is fairly heavy.
They have much better synthetic now than back than, Be it polargard or other.
I also have a goose down rated -5 below F from Western Mountain which I really like.
Sythetics won't hold moisture or get padded down like some goose down will but they have in some bags protection for down.
Lot of different choices for different needs."


I'm planning to use a -40 down system, but will be using a vapor barrier liner to help with the moisture problem. Can't imagine how bulky and heavy a -40 synthetic bag would be...
jake68
member (13)member
 
08/18/2017 02:36PM
Love my Mountain Hardware Ghost 800 fill down -40 bag. I have actually been in -40 in it with just long johns on and still been warm enough!
poobah
member (16)member
 
08/19/2017 06:04PM
Keth0601 - I have a Marmot CWM Membrain -40 bag with 10 nights of use on it. It's used, but new condition. I'll be in the twin cities in October if you want to check it out. 1/2 price of new. hit me back at cafeandino at hotmail dot com if you are interested.
NotLight
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09/01/2017 06:55AM
Not sure what you've decided on for skis, but I just got a LABORDAY coupon code for LL Bean 25% off. They have the altai hoks with the universal binding in 145cm. That would be a good deal. Probably other sales around too.

keth0601
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09/12/2017 04:38AM
quote NotLight: "Not sure what you've decided on for skis, but I just got a LABORDAY coupon code for LL Bean 25% off. They have the altai hoks with the universal binding in 145cm. That would be a good deal. Probably other sales around too.


"


Man, I wish I had checked this thread again sooner...

Oh well, I'll just have to wait for the holiday sales now.
bigmitch1
member (33)member
 
09/22/2017 05:16PM
Denali training in the BWCA in winter is a very good idea.

You can dial in all of your gear, your sled rigging, hauling and setting up several food depots, deal with hygiene, foot issues, crummy food, etc. just like you would on the mountain.

Use snowshoes and your mountaineering boots because you will use those on Denali. Use double walled boots and dry out the inner liners in your sleeping bag each night.

Suit up just like you would on Denali. Bring a rope, space out your rope team, attach Texas prussiks to your rope and harness, rig and place your sleds into the rope team, haul monster packs, and get used to using heavy gloves while doing it all.

Also, you can determine who in your group is strong, who is weak, and who can suffer.

The Hilleberg tent is a solid purchase, as is any expedition grade mountaineering tent, and the XGK is the go-to cold weather stove.

If you camp on a lake, use ice screws to anchor your tent into the ice.

Think about using a cook tent, just like you would on Denali, if you find an area with deep snow, so that you can carve out a cooking counter, deep floor walls, and benches.

It is great for the weight to have a warm room on demand to hang out in out of the weather. Use your snowshoes to sit on your bench and make a wood platform for the tent pole and your stove.

The Black Diamond Megalight is the standard cook tent, but it does not come with guy outs, which makes it more prone to flapping under high winds. I had to sew on guy points on my Megalight, which reduced flapping under high wind.

Sierra Designs make a better guide tent, and Hyperlight gear makes a very light weight cook tent, both with guy outs.

https://sierradesigns.com/mountain-guide-tarp/

https://www.hyperlitemountaingear.com/ultamid-4.html

The only problem that I see is that the snow in the BWCA is not good, at least in my limited experience, for cutting snow blocks with a snow saw and shovel to use to make monster forts around your tent and for digging your snow anchors 4 foot down into the snow, like you would do on Denali or any mountain, but do what you can.

You should have at least two pumps, maybe three, for your stove because the stove is mission critical. Bring a stove kit and know how to service your stove. The MSR Whisperlite is also a solid purchase and melts snow almost as fast as the XGK.

Also note that MSR makes an arctic fuel pump for extreme cold. Use the MSR pot system with heat exchanger to melt snow.

https://www.msrgear.com/stoves/arctic-fuel-pump

Typically, a -20F sleeping bag is fine for Denali, but you may want to take a -40F bag to the BWCA in January.

I suggest that you download the gear lists from reputable guide services so that you know how to dress in layers for such cold, and add another layer or two.

Unlike the BWCA in winter, it gets very warm on Denali when the sun comes out, so pack more clothes for the BWCA.

After you do this, then you should consider a Denali training class to learn as much as you can from the guides.

All the best!
MackinawTrout
 
11/11/2017 12:05PM
quote keth0601: "So I'm just coming down from planning and executing a successful expedition to Gannett Peak this year and looking for the next challenging stepping stone on my way to Denali. One area I need to work on is camping in very low temperatures. I've done my share of winter camping in temps down to the single digits with wind chills in the - teens, but hoping I might be able to sample some temps lower than that this year in the "great white north".

I'm currently planning a trip for sometime in January starting around McFarland Lake on the border route trail and heading west. Not entirely sure at this point how much of the border route trail I'll be using VS hitting the frozen lakes and portages and will likely switch it up depending on conditions. I'm pretty familiar with the area and hope to log a good 75+ miles before calling it quits.

In particular I'm looking for new options for a stove and tent. I've been using an alps mountaineering tasmanian 3 and a Winpro II stove up until this point and I'm considering upgrading to a Hilleberg Keron 3 GT and a MSR XGK. I'm mostly worried about the wind handling capabilities of the alps tent I have, and it's my understanding that once you get below -20 or so cannister stoves simply won't have enough pressure for the fuel to flow into the burner (even in inverted mode). The XGK seems to be the standard for polar expeditions and mountaineering.

Wondering if anyone can chime in on experience in the BW with temps well below 0 and hopefully (am I sane?) at -20 or lower, and what gear has worked for them. If you have experience with the specific gear I'm looking at, even better. Keep in mind I'm ultimately looking at gear for mountaineering purposes so things like hot tents and wood stoves are more-or-less out of the question since weight is critical, and trees generally don't exist at the altitudes I'm looking at.

Also on a side note curious to know what people prefer for skis and snowshoes. Been thinking about picking up a pair of Altai Hoks for this trip, but not decided at this point."

Sounds like an excellent way to get ready for Denali albeit they are slightly different environments- Alpine vs Boreal Forest.
Your most important priorities will be Staying Dry, hydrated and fueled. The cold isn't the big deal people make it out to be although I wouldn't take too many layers off as I have tried to stay "on the edge of cold" while pulling a sled and have gotten deliriously close to a comfortably numb hypothermic- bonking state. Bring a well rated bag and stick a fleece sleeping bag in it and a plastic tarp over and under it along with an insulated air mattress to lay on. Bring goggles and a face mask for those -20 windy days.
If you make 75 miles and the snow is deep you should get an award as that is a ambitious goal that will require you to carry 10,000s of calories with you. You may want to have plan Bs, Cs and Ds as I have had to parse many an ambition on my Winter treks.

The Border Route Trail may be difficult to stay on in the winter as the trail is not as obvious as in the summer. I have easily wandered off more than a couple obvious trails in the winter,
Lakes are great to travel over if they don't have slush/overlow. The snow sinters well and can be 18 inches deep and walkable without snowshoes while there is 36 inches of hip high soft snow "in the woods". Long Forest Skis aka Sami Skis Jarvinen Lapponia (good luck finding them here) are best to cover long distances over lakes in deep snow. I haven't tried Alti Hoks but the Mohair bottoms scare me in lake slush. Lake slush is your enemy go around it and avoid it!!

Setting up camp protected from the wind, building a wind block of wood and or snow and building a reflector fire that uses a snow bank to reflect heat will go a long ways to making things enjoyable. Do not camp on the lakes ice as overflow can move in at anytime, especially if you drill a water collection or ice fishing hole nearby;)

Having the ability to make fires and bringing fire building materials will help if you get wet by falling through.
Stay fed through out the day!!, as you can slip into a bonk (low blood sugar)mode and be one of those people they find running with all their clothes off frozen.

I don't have any experience with fancy schmancy stoves other than simple propane or a fire but have a back up plan.

Good luck and enjoy your winter camping experience.
I find it more challenging and enjoyable than summer camping.

SaganagaJoe
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11/16/2017 03:10PM
10 day Rainier trip? If you're just coming to do the climb, you can do it in a lot less than 10 days. I've never done it, but know people who have done it in around 2.5 days and believe I have heard and read of some doing it straight through, car to car.

And if you're going to do the Wonderland, better get in line to get your permits.

Sounds like a lot of fun.
bigmitch1
member (33)member
 
11/17/2017 04:29PM
quote SaganagaJoe: "10 day Rainier trip? If you're just coming to do the climb, you can do it in a lot less than 10 days. "

I have done it 8 times on Kautz, DC, and Emmons routes. Give me 10 days in summer and one can easily do two climbs with weather days thrown in. Do it in winter, may not get the chance to do it at all.
 
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