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      Saganaga to Fall Lake Trip Report     
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member (20)member
01/03/2018 12:19PM
Hi all, just thought I would drop a line and let you know we had great conditions for our just shy of 60 mile ski trip from Saganaga Lake (Entry Point 55) to Fall Lake (Entry Point 24) between Christmas and New years in case anyone is planning to head that way anytime soon. We allotted four days and three nights for the trip but figured without too many surprises we would do it in three days and two nights which we did. We had cold temps (never got about -7F and mostly we observed -15F to -25F both day and night with much colder windchill yet), thick ice (the two times we drilled we saw 10" and 14") a fairly even mix of crust and powder (and where you would expect it, crust on the big wind-swept lakes, powder on the narrow wind-sheltered lakes) and very very little slush (and again, where you would expect it, where heavy drifts were compressing and insulating the ice - I think we only scraped three or four times). We missed the Winter route between Knife and Vera (just kind of spaced it - but hey, we needed to get our mountain climbing in on the regular portage), started on the Winter Route between Vera and Ensign then lost the route and bushwhacked through / down and five tier beaver dam complex (one of the most impressive I have ever seen), the Winter Routes between Ensign and Splash and again between Splash and Sucker were in great shape as was Four Mile portage between Hoist Bay and Fall Lake. Anyways, we had a great time, here are some photos should you like to check them out. Photo Set HERE
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distinguished member(13033)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
01/03/2018 03:13PM
That is one heck of a trip with those wind chills. It is nice when their isn't a lot of snow on the lake and you can make good time. With the short days now you made very good time . WOW.
Did much of that route in March in much warmer conditions. Good going.

You must of burnt a lot of calories up.
distinguished member(13033)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
01/03/2018 03:20PM
What was the reasoning to not continue along the border on Birch lake?
01/03/2018 05:54PM
Looks Like Great Skiing conditions as far as snow depth. Not much glide it appears. Thanks for taking us along.
distinguished member(1673)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/03/2018 08:28PM
wow is right, epic trip, wouldn't going the opposite direction be easier with wind, wind chill, fall lake to sag? just curious. nice photos.
distinguished member(2301)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/04/2018 07:45AM
Awesome trip to say the least. A few questions. Did that Patagonia wind breaker come with a fur ruff? What tents do you guys use? Looks like one for sure is a single wall tent if not both? How long do you guys travel in the dark?

Thanks for posting. Great pictures.
member (20)member
01/04/2018 11:48AM
Thanks for all the feedback and question guys.

In order...

Pinetree: As far as the decision to not continue onto Birch Lake... this route was new to us and in our intel gathering before the trip we heard from a couple of Ely mushers that they skip Birch and opt for that series of lakes that we dropped down to (Vera, Ensign, Splash, Sucker - making use of maintained Winter portages) this, due to frequent open water on Birch. While I was a little skeptical about this to begin with and even a little more so after getting out there and getting a feel for things it provided a nice diversion and an opportunity to bag a few more lakes. We did take into consideration that you are inherently going to be more cautious with a dog team than on skis, but again, we trusted the advice from locals who run that a fair bit. In the future we are planning a longer distance trip originating further East and finishing further West and when we do this trip, I would like to use Birch if possible since it is more direct. Have you been up there much in Winter? Any intel?

DanCooke: Yes, conditions were pretty much perfect for skiing aside from the cold. We were using the Altai HOKs which have an intregal skin so they are not all that fast to begin with, but in good conditions you normally get a little glide with each kick but the snow was like sandpaper, sleds were pulling really hard as well. I am not the best skier in the world but have been finding that I am nearly as fast in the HOKs as I am on skis when pulling a sled in the 65+ LB range, what I loose in glide I find I am making up for in kick / grip with the skins on the HOKs... then, when we get to deep snow or the portages we rarely have to take off the HOKs since they are so versatile. All that said, I am totally open to the idea that we may be doing it wrong and should always be grabbing the BC skis!

BWCA Solo: Actually winds were consistently coming out of the Northeast for us so in general were coming from behind our right ear, so that was not too bad. The other reason for starting at Sag and heading that direction is that we felt we were going from remote to less remote. Lots of people enter at Moose and Fall Lakes, the mushers have a trail in up to Prairie Portage already and apparently you can get cell coverage on Hoist Bay (I had my phone in airplane mode so did not confirm this). Finally, if we got to Fall Lake and the car was dead / would not start, it would be easier and quicker to get to services in Ely than it would be to get from Sag to Grand Marais. These are the types of things I take into consideration when trip planning.

SevenofNine: The Patagonia shell is the Houdini Windshirt and no, it did not. I have a cheap Coyote fur ruff that is attached to its own stand-alone hood - so essentially it is more like a hat in that it can be matched up to any jacket, I like that versatility. My buddy has a wolf ruff that I believe is sewn right into his shell jacket. You cannot beat the wind break and air warmth barrier created by a fur ruff. For tents I have had that one man, single-wall, four-season Black Diamond Hilight tent for quite a few years, it has some vents up top so that helps with condensation a bit, the internal pole system is a little wonky where you fit the ends of the poles into the pockets, but it pitches quick and tight and when we camp in sheltered areas, I do not even stake it since I have a ton of gear in it and it is completely freestanding. My buddies tent is one he just picked up, it is really cool, it is the Terra Nova Sotherm Coss one man. It is a double wall tent that picthes much like a Hilliberg with the inner and outer together - the selling point on this tent over a Hilliberg from what I can tell is weight. I am getting a Hilliberg when I am ready to upgrade at some point. Finally, we will ski for up to a couple of hour after dark but not in all conditions or in all locations. If we are on a nice long lake with consistent conditions we will keep going, if there is any question of conditions, we will hug the shore which then opens you up to doing more distance, skiing in drifts and potentially slush so we try not to do that, we will more often just stop for the day. For night we pretty much stop using the maps and navigate by GPS. Preferably there is some ambient light to make out the shoreline, islands, changes in the surface of the lake / snow and I will only turn on my headlamp to spot conditions from time to time, I don't like to overuse my headlamp since it does not allow your eyes to fully adjust - again, without some ambient light I likely won't continue on in the dark.

distinguished member(13033)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
01/04/2018 12:31PM
Nice write up,I will reply on Birch lake etc. when I get a little more time. I will say the Ottertrack area is beautiful in the winter.
distinguished member(1673)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/05/2018 04:31PM
Pinetree: "Nice write up,I will reply on Birch lake etc. when I get a little more time. I will say the Ottertrack area is beautiful in the winter."
for a side note, i found the ottertrack area awesome in aug. as well, beautiful area full of history!
distinguished member(1673)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/06/2018 07:33AM
where did you get the white, slit eye protection?
distinguished member (294)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/11/2018 09:46PM
Thanks for taking the time to post this information. The pictures are excellent. I'm curious what you are using for a sleeping system, and also how you judge the benefits of using the tent as opposed to a bivy camp. Is the tent adding that much comfort in those conditions?

member (20)member
01/15/2018 08:42PM
WhiteCedar. I own both down and synthetic sub -20F rated sleeping bags and I own many bivies and tents including a hot tent setup. For very short, very fast, very light trips, I will choose a down bag and bivy to stay as light as possible while only sacrificing a little comfort since you might just be out a night or two. The longer the trip the more I skew towards a tent of some kind and the synthetic bag - this is a function of moisture buildup due to condensation / frost in cold and humid weather. Synthetic fill sleeping bags and jackets insulate better wen damp and a tent, since it is not in direct contact with the top of your sleeping bag allows the condensation and frost to occur on a surface that is not in direct contact with the sleeping bag, thus keeping things a little dryer on multi-day trips. I hope this is helpful. Let me know if you have any followup questions.
distinguished member (294)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/17/2018 01:15PM
Where can I get my hands on a pair of those fantastic snow glasses?!
01/23/2018 01:44PM
Awesome trip and photos. Just curious what did you use to pull your sleds? Specifically the harnesses, ropes, and connections to your sleds.

My brother and I are going winter camping on the Gunflint Trail in early March and we purchased what I believe are the exact same orange expedition sleds and are trying to decide how to best outfit them for pulling (ropes, attachment, harnesses...etc.). Thanks!
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