Trial & Error

Sorry for the long delay to elaborate on things I’ve learned and did to stay warm on my previous backpacking trip. I mentioned in my previous post that I originally planned to climb Mt. Sterling, but I opted out. The reason for that was because the night before I went to the creek to get some water. As I was going down the snowy bank to the creek, I slipped and planted my right foot down and grabbed a nearby tree branch while my left leg stretched itself out. I felt pain spike in the ligaments of my left knee. I could feel pain as I squat to tend the fire, getting out of my tent, and felt it throbbing while trying to sleep. So, the next morning I was feeling sore badly in that area and opted out of climbing and descending Mt. Sterling and it would have been a 4,000 feet descent which would have hurt the ligaments even more. Good news is I did not tear a ligament it just got stretched (in a sense it got extended real quickly) and became sore for a few days.

I only made two major mistakes on this trip: one was not putting my gas canister in my sleeping bag and the other was not packing grits for breakfast. I left my canister and food stash on the bear cable which made it vulnerable to the 18 degrees night. The canister got so cold overnight it took me nearly 10 minutes to boil 8oz of water to make hot chocolate. I planned to eat protein bars for breakfast and they were frozen solid; it was too hard to eat so I stuck one in my jacket pocket started walking around and a mile later I ate it as my body heat made it a little softer. (First time I ever done that! lol) Grits would have been heated in hot water, thus, no frozen food problem for breakfast! I probably could have put a Handwarmer in my food sack to keep food from being frozen solid. I’ll test this one night this week. Oh, yeah. My shoes got frozen stiff the next morning too. Winter camping is all about keeping things dry and thawed; I guess that where the fun and challenge is. Ha!

Things I did to stay warm: It is very important to stay dry when hiking in the snow. I wore gaiters the entire time and when I set up camp, I changed into my rain pants. The rain pants shedded snow to keep me dry as I was digging through snow for woods. I found a lot of kindling and I bunch them up, shaved magnesium on it, and I also had a Starter Log with me. I got the Starter Log going first, then put all kindling with magnesium on the log, It blew up! within a minute I had a good fire going and I kept placing small sticks on it with large sticks around the fire to dry and slowly add them. It worked for two hours until I got tired of digging them out of the snow. After that, I turned into my tent and played games on my iPod for entertainment. (really need a new book.) My hat, gloves, insulated jacket, and base layers kept me plenty warm long as I was dry. i cannot wait to go again! I’m also experimenting with alcohol stove to solve my canister freezing problem. Unlike canister and white gas, alcohol doesn’t have a performance issue when cold. I made a homemade stove, but I’m still experimenting with getting a consistent boil time and finding the right amount of alcohol to use to cook certain meals. I just haven’t gain complete confidence in it, yet.

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