High Sierra Snowshoe Trip ~ March 2014

Snowshoeing over frozen Emerald Lake.

Last summer I had the opportunity to join a group of ultralight backpackers from BPL on a trip in Emigrant Wilderness. I was fortunate to meet Andrew and Chris on the trip and like most people in the group they were well versed in the latest UL gear, food, techniques and cuben fiber bling. 

During that summer trip we all shared stories about our latest journeys over the UL campfire. After hearing about a winter trip I took last year Andrew mentioned possibly doing a group snowshoeing trip in the winter. He was finishing up a personal challenge to do a Sierra backpacking trip every a month for a year and a snowshoeing trip was a good fit that winter. 

We agreed to get something scheduled for that winter but the busy holiday season came and went and before long it was January 2014. By early 2014 we decided to head out in March, weather permitting. Although it was a dry winter a few late season storms hit the Sierra and there was plenty of snow! 

With about four days available for the trip we decided to try the classic Evolution Loop on snowshoes. The loop is about fifty miles and this seemed like a reasonable distance for a four day trip. I would go in a day early to check the conditions then we would decide which way to start when they arrived the following day. 

Due to the large amount of fresh snow at high altitude our plan turned out to be overly ambitious. The recent storms left two to three feet of fresh powder on the north facing slopes. I spent the first day breaking trail through deep powder and by the time I got above timberline at 10,400 feet it was time to make camp. It had taken six hours to go five miles. Echo Col was six miles away over difficult cross country terrain on unconsolidated snow. At this rate it would take four days just to get to Muir Pass.

By the time Andrew and Chris arrived the next day we decided to follow my tracks back up to Sabrina Basin and see how far we could go. . . 

The road to Sabrina Basin was gated outside of Aspendell so we walked the first 1.8 miles to the trailhead. 

Winter Sierra Gear List ~ 2014

For 2014 I updated my winter gear to include a few new items while still staying lightweight, safe, comfortable and well fed.

To stay warmer at night and even as part of my sleep system I added a puffy jacket that has a lot more down insulation. The Montbell Mirage puffy jacket has 5.3 ozs of 900 f/p down, which means over 40% of the total weight is in down! It allowed me to stay out after sunset and take night photos while still warm and cozy in the 10 to 20 degree temps.