Winter Quilt with a Custom Trapezoidal Baffled Footbox.

Winter Quilt with a Custom Trapezoidal Baffled Footbox.

Last year I got tired of sitting out the entire winter then having to struggle to get my 'trail legs' the next summer. I decided to get out and enjoy the backcountry in the winter. . . but the last time I camped in the snow I was a Boyscout and my memories include freezing all night in a canvas A-frame tent.
After hearing about the easy way to the snow via the tram to Mt. San Jacinto I was determined to get out in the winter. I figured that if I could do a few nights in the local mountains I would be ready for a real snowshoe trip in the High Sierra. I would need a much warmer quilt if I wanted to actually stay warm and enjoy the cold winter temperatures.

It was time to make a Winter Quilt with a Custom Trapezoidal Baffled Footbox. 

Shoulder Season in Ionian Basin ~ October 2013

Blackcap Basin - Lake Confusion Pass - Goddard Canyon - Ionian Basin - Finger Col

Storm clouds rolling in above Rainbow Lake

Over the past twenty years my brother Jeff has organized annual backpacking trips in the Sierras for our varied group of lifetime friends. Even as the group has scattered around California and beyond he has found beautiful places for us to meet. A few years ago he scouted out a cross-country route to a secret spot he discovered in the Sierras. . . but the rugged terrain and desire for some dude time meant it was a guys-only trip. 

I will never forget struggling down loose granite slopes in my old boots to this new Sierra destination. As I ran out of water, carried way too much gear and even forgot to bring enough food I realized it was time to rethink my backpacking strategy. Although it was a challenging trip (I ended up loosing several toe nails) that time in the back-country reignited my enthusiasm for exploring the High Sierra. The guys spent most days lounging by the granite pools and waterfalls but I went wandering up the river, always wondering what was beyond the next ridge. 

Fast forward a few years and I was ready to take my own cross country trip far up that same river. . . and beyond.

Heavyweight Ultralight Backpack

After completing the first section of the Sierra High Route last summer I realized it was time to build a much more burly backpack. Since there was nowhere to resupply on these remote trips I needed something that would comfortably hold ten days of food and a bear canister. I also needed a pack that could withstand the beating that comes with scrambling through cross country terrain in the High Sierra. I decided it was time to make my first Heavyweight Ultralight Backpack!

The Heavyweight Ultralight Backpack.

Shoulder Season Gear List 2013

My Shoulder Season Gear List includes extra warm gear for the colder temperatures and high winds typical of the High Sierras in late season. Although it is not yet winter late September and October usually bring colder temperatures down into the 20's. I have used this setup to hunker down for 16 hours at 12,280 feet during a strong snow storm and stayed warm, comfortable and safe.

Much of my gear is homemade (MYOG/Make Your Own Gear). If you are interested in the details check out the Custom Gear section here: Cool Custom Gear.

Sierra Wandering ~ 08/24 - 08/30/2013

Sunset on Darwin Bench.
"Two guys said they could see the fire from New Army Pass today". . . 

I had no idea that the Fish Fire had started the day before I left for this trip. I could smell smoke at the Cottonwood Pass trailhead the first night, but it didn't seem too bad. The next morning I woke to clear skies and what appeared to be another beautiful summer day in the Sierra. . . but the conditions took a turn for the worse in the afternoon.

Custom Quilt with No Cold Spots!

There is nothing worse than being woken up in the middle of the night by the cold because the down in my quilt has migrated to the sides. 

My latest "ultimate quilt". Finally no more cold spots. 

Sierra High Route & Mono Divide: 06/26 - 07/02/2013

Pinecreek Trailhead.

This trip was originally planned to be an 11 day SHR section hike from Merriam Lake to the Silver Divide and back via the PCT. I had planned a few layover days to enjoy Lower Mills Creek Lake and Bear Lakes Basin. . . but by the time I finished a few last minute gear projects (a new backpack, sleeping quilt and stove) the plan was compressed into an 8 day loop with no 'zero' days. 

So with a new more comfortable internal frame backpack and 8 days of food I headed up the switchbacks from the Pine Creek trailhead. The first 2,000 feet to Lower Pine Lake made for a steady but reasonable climb. I enjoyed a nice breeze and long lunch break along the outlet creek. 

For the rest of the day the bugs chased me through Granite Park. 

Whitebark Pass Route Detail

For anyone interested in Whitebark Pass here are a few details of the 'Roper Route' or Sierra High Route and an alternative that I took on the north side. 

This is the view of the approach to the south side of Whitebark Pass. One of the Nydiver Lakes is visible on the right. Ropers description of the two stands of Whitebark Pines was helpful here.

Minaret Loop ~ July 15th - 17th

I have been wanting to get an up-close and personal look at the Minarets ever since I rushed by them (much too quickly) while thru-hiking the John Muir Trail a few years ago. Their dark volcanic spires are beautiful and striking against the collection of small alpine lakes at the base of the range. 

After spending much of the winter diligently studying Steve Ropers cross country route that traverses the area I was ready to hit the trail. . . or off-trail as much of the route required. 

Fortunately a three day window of time opened up on the way back from another trip in the northern Sierra this summer. . . So with permit in hand I was ready to leave from the Devils Postpile trailhead near Mammoth Lakes. 

The first river crossing near Devils Postpile National Monument:

Winter Stove System 2013

Melting snow by a frozen lake at 11,000 feet.
My winter stove setup in 2013 consisted of a Monatauk Gnat titanium canister stove, a homemade titanium windscreen, a 850 ml titanium mug and carbon fiber lid. Although my usual stove setup is much lighter I found this to be the lightest option for winter camping where I would be using the stove to melt snow for water.

Sierra High Route 2012 ~ Trip Report

Marion Lake and Cirque Crest on the Sierra High Route.
The Sierra High Route is a cross-country hiking route, 195 miles long, through the Sierra Nevada. It was scouted by Steve Roper and described by him in his book Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline Country

SHR 2012 ~ Days 8 and 9: LeConte Canyon to Sabrina Basin

LeConte Canyon.

I left my comfortable camp and got an early start up the switchbacks of the JMT along upper LeConte Canyon. I would be leaving the Sierra High Route at Echo Col and eventually back to my car at the Sabrina Basin trailhead. 

SHR 2012 ~ Day 7: Palisade Basin to LeConte Canyon

Dan at the top of Potluck Pass.
Day 7 started with Potluck Pass. This was an easy pass that leads to the rest of Palisade Basin. After an easy scramble we were at the top enjoying some amazing views.

Miter Basin - Cottonwood Lakes 08/10/2012 - 08/12/2012

Storms in the distance along the PCT. 
This was a relaxing trip with lots of scenery and some good lighting thanks to the daily storms.

I took off last Friday morning at 4:30 am and by 7:30 am I was at the permit office in Lone Pine. No problem getting a walk-in permit for the Cottonwood Pass trail.

Cottonwood Pass seemed much easier than NAP and within two hours I was chasing the incoming storms to Soldier Lake.

Glacier Divide Loop ~ Piute Pass, Alpine Col, Lamarck Col 03/21 - 03/25/2013

After taking a few winter trips in the local San Jacinto mountains this winter I was excited to take a real Sierra winter trip. For my first real winter experience in the Sierras I decided to start from familiar ground, the North Lake trailhead near Bishop. The plan was to cross the Sierra Crest at Piute Pass, then cross the Glacier Divide at Alpine Col and finally back over the Sierra Crest at Lamarck Col. I had four days and three nights to make the loop on snowshoes. 

Driving out of Bishop for some big mountain adventure. 

JMT Side Trips in the Minarets Wilderness

The Minarets from Ediza Lake.

After reading some of the recent posts on the John Muir Trail Facebook page I noticed some people asking about side trips on the JMT.

SHR 2012 ~ Day 4: Horseshoe Lake to Marion Lake

Tehipite Dome from Windy Ridge.

On day 4 we got an early start and began contouring north toward Windy Ridge. It was easier than I expected to route find through the sparse forest. I was mostly eager to climb the granite passes and ridges, but the early walk through the forest was peaceful and reminded me of the many fall trips I enjoyed as a kid in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. 

SHR 2012 ~ Day 2: Bubbs Creek to Granite Pass

Kings Canyon.

Day 3 started out easy enough. Just a cruise down Bubbs Creek to Roads End. No problem. But by the time we got to the Copper Creek Trailhead it was 12:00 noon. . and hot. 90+ degrees at the start of this mostly exposed hike 5,000 feet up unrelenting switchbacks. I had been in the Sierras every other weekend all summer, climbing Class III passes and getting lots of trail miles in to stay in shape. Although it had been two weeks since my last trip I thought it would be reasonably doable, and it was a challenge but not all that bad.

SHR 2012 ~ Day 1: Onion Valley to Bubbs Creek/Spinx Creek Junction

The start of our journey at the Onion Valley trailhead.
Day 1 started with some logistics. After leaving our cars at the South Lake trailhead near Bishop we took a shuttle to Onion Valley. Although it was convenient to start and end this section of the SHR from the east side of the Sierra it meant that our first day would be spent hiking toward the official start of the route at the Copper Creek trailhead at Roads End. By the time we made it to Onion Valley it was already 10:30 am.

SHR 2012 ~ Day 3: Granite Pass to Horseshoe Lakes

Grouse Lake
Day 3 was the beginning of the cross country section of the SHR. After hiking a short time to the top of Granite Pass we left the trail and contoured northeast to Grouse Lake. The water in this pristine alpine lake was beautiful.