Archive for September, 2009

J! E! T! S!

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

3 and 0 — the Jets are looking pretty good…

White Mountains Trip — Gear Report Card

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Since I’ve completed my trip report for my week in the White Mountains, I decided to also post my gear report card. I typically go through my gear after each trip to determine what can be improved, replaced, or just left behind.

Up first is the “Big Three”, my tent, pack, and sleeping bag.

I went with my Granite Gear Vapor Trail for this trip. It’s a nice pack and at two pounds pretty light. However, I think I was pushing the weight limit on this trip, at around 30 pounds, and I had some problems with the hip belt causing some chafing. One thing that worked out real nice was my jury rigged hip belt pockets (see this thread for details. I loved the hip belt pockets. I kept my camera, bug juice, and alcohol sanitizer in the pockets and being able to quickly get to those items without opening my pack was great.

One day I’m going to perform some surgery on this pack and add a front mesh pocket and shorten the way oversized extension collar…

I pulled out the REI Quarterdome T3 for this trip. At about 5 pounds (same weight as my two person Sierra Designs tent) it’s a palace for just two people.

I used my Campmor 20 degree bag in the Whites. More than warm enough, if not the lightest bag. I mostly used it unzipped like a quilt. I used a Prolite 4 torso length pad, which I was more than comfortable with. I also brought along an inflatable pillow, which, when half inflated, was pretty comfortable. Don’t think it was worth carrying though and I’m going back to using spare clothing as my pillow.

My stove for this trip was my homemade Supercat alcohol stove. This was my first use outside of the back yard and it performed great. Brought 8oz of fuel (denatured alcohol) and a wind screen made out of aluminum flashing. The wind screen needs some work, but other than that the stove did what it was supposed to: boil water. My MSR Titan Kettle worked well with the stove as well and the entire kit fit inside the pot.

I used a long handle titanium spoon and one of those origami style cup to eat out of. Most of the meals were boil in a bag style, so the long handled spoon worked well. The origami cup was kind of a pain, but could double as a cutting board or plate and being able to store flat helped. I’m not sure if I’d use it again, though. By the end of the trip it started to retain the cup shape.

In addition to the freezer bag dinners, our lunches were either tuna pesto sandwiches or BMCs (Bagel, Meat, and Cheese). The Meat was both pepperoni and summer sausage. One thing I didn’t bring that I missed was gorp. I’ve decided that I function much better eating small amounts of food often. Three regular meals just doesn’t do it for me.

My base layers were a long sleeve shirt with a pair of nylon zip off pants. I should have gone with the short sleeve shirt I brought, but when the weather was cold and rainy the first morning, I decided to go with the long sleeve base layer. Big mistake, way too warm in it. The zip offs were okay, but I think shorts with wind pants would probably be a better combination in the future. I also had a spare pair of socks.

For insulation, I brought the Montbell Thermawrap. Nice, light jacket. I also brought a thin wool sweater, which I didn’t use at all. A thin insulated hat completed my insulation.

One of the more useful/versatile pieces of clothing was the Marmot Ion wind jacket. Very light and was perfect to pull on at rest breaks or in high winds.

For rain gear, I had my poncho and my waterproof/”breathable” rain pants. As I discussed in my trip report, the rain pants didn’t really fit my purposes (or I was using them the wrong way, like while hiking in the rain, versus in camp in the rain). My poncho worked great after I figured out the best way to connect it to my pack.

I took a cheap Nikon digital camera, mostly because it was small and ran off double A batteries. Took okay pictures, but didn’t do as well on distance shots, particularly in tricky lighting. One plus was ability to record video. With the StickPic, I was able to do some cool SurvivorMan style shots and videos. Definitely recommend the StickPic. A lot easier than finding a rock to balance the camera on for those self portraits.

I forgot my Letki poles at home and had to buy a cheapo pair from Walmart. Aside from cheaply made baskets that gave up the ghost, these poles worked great for just twenty bucks. One nice feature was the clamp style locking, as opposed to the twist locks. I like that a lot more than twist lock poles.

I took my Katahdin Hiker Pro filter, mostly because I’m willing to take the weight for the convenience of quick, easy water. On future trips, I want to start using more chemical treatments, though. For water storage, I had my 3 liter hydration unit and a 20 oz plastic bottle for powdered juice mixes. I also brought a four liter platypus zip water bag, for in camp use. It was nice to filter water upon reaching camp and then having enough for dinner, drinks, and to top off water bottles in the morning.

For light, I brought a Petzl head lamp and a small photon style light. In the future, I think I’ll skip the head lamp and just bring the photon. For a knife, I brought my Leatherman Micra. More than enough for cutting cheese and meat and cutting mole skin.

White Mountains Trip Report — Day 5

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

It downpoured most of the night. When I woke up on the final day of our trip, around 6 am or so, the rain had mostly stopped; only short rain showers. However, the fog had rolled in and if I didn’t know the Presidentials were across the valley I’d never have been able to tell. Visibility was only twenty to thirty feet.

Dan woke up mid morning, around 10 am. We had the last of our pop tarts and some hot apple cider (Clif Shots Hot Apple Cider, pretty good). After that, we took a hike over to one of the self service cabins (“The Log Cabin”) to check it out; we were gone about an hour and a half and got back around 12:30. Our original target had actually been “Gray Knob” but we missed a trail cut off somewhere and ended up at The Log Cabin. It was pretty nice, one room cabin with a porch and open doorway and an elevated sleep platform. It started raining while we were there, so we sat for a while to wait it out. During the rain, a veritable troop of kids came tromping up the trail. The leader stopped to ask us which cabin this was — since I thought this was Gray Knob and they were headed to Crag Camp cabin, the directions were a little…off… About twenty minutes after the troop trooped off for what would be a slightly longer hike than they (or I) thought, Dan and I headed back to Perch.

Once we got back to Perch I called Sue and was basically told that Dan and I had to be at Mt. Washington that day and that the auto road closed at 6pm. The reason was that Sue had borrowed her mother’s van for this trip and didn’t think it would handle the drive up and down Washington. Instead, Sue was using Michelle’s car; Michelle was a friend who had come up with Sue to spend a few days camping with her. Michelle was leaving the next day so today was the last day Sue thought she could pick us up. She also said that the weather report was clear and sunny. As soon as she said that, the sky cleared and we saw the sun for the first time in almost two days. Dan and I immediately started packing and had a quick lunch (tuna pesto wraps) before heading off at quarter after one.

Naturally, twenty minutes after leaving Perch, the sun once again disappeared and it started raining again. I donned my rain gear and was very pleased at how the poncho stayed perfectly in place and gave almost full coverage. We hiked back to the Presidential ridge line and joined up with the AT past Mt Jefferson, having skirted around that summit. The visibility was still down to only forty feet or so and we frequently had to scout out for the next cairn before continuing along the trail. I even had to consult the compass, just to make sure we were heading in the right direction; without landmarks, it was hard to tell. The rain tailed off after an hour or so but the wind was still very strong so I left the poncho on.

Since we only had four hours to cover about seven miles, we really had to hustle. We also had to bypass the rest of the peaks (Adams, Jefferson, and Clay). At one point, while passing Mt. Clay, the fog actually started to lift and for just a brief moment we could actually see something other than the heavy white cloud.

We only met a few people on the way to Washington. One group was the campers we had been sharing Perch with; they were returning from Washington. The other group we met while crossing the railroad tracks. Couple of guys also coming down from Washington. The amazing thing was the shorts and t-shirts they were wearing.

We reached Washington around 5:30 and took a quick summit picture; the wind was much stronger and it was getting pretty cold, so we didn’t stick around long. We met up with Sue and Michelle at the Visitor’s center. Apparently, we really stunk since Sue had the car windows open the entire drive down the mountain…

White Mountains Trip Report — Day 4

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

And here’s where things go all pear shaped…

We woke around 6am on Tuesday. I started packing up immediately because today we were supposed to reach Mt. Washington by the afternoon; Sue would be meeting us there to give us the rest of our food supply so we could continue our trip another two days. I had one big concern, though — rain was in the forecast starting this morning and there were supposed to be thunderstorms in the afternoon; I definitely didn’t want to be above tree line in a thunderstorm.

A slightly smaller concern was that we would be climbing almost 3500 feet in the first two and a half miles, to Mount Madison. I knew this would take a while, especially since Dan’s knee was still hurting and that the earlier we got going the better.

The one saving grace was the AMC Hut just past Mt. Madison. If we ran into trouble, we could at least hole up there for a while.

We got moving around 7:30 or 8 am and it was every bit as difficult as I expected. As we approached treeline and 4000 feet (still 1000 feet short of Mt. Madison’s summit) the “trail” turned into a massive field of boulders with cairns for the trail markers. Walking across the boulder feet made things more difficult, since not every rock was secure. We only saw two other people that morning, coming down from Madison, what I guessed was a grandfather and grandson. The grandfather was carrying a pack that looked almost twice the size of mine.

We stopped for a snack at around 4500 feet. The clouds were starting to roll in and we still had another half mile to get to the top of Mt. Madison. Considering that the entire terrain was broken rock, I definitely did not want to try climbing down Madison in the rain. After eating a couple of BMCs (Bagel, Meat, and Cheese) sandwiches, Dan and I continued on. While we were eating, Dan had asked if we’d head back to Osgood if it started raining. I told him that, in that case, it’d almost certainly be less dangerous and faster to continue and try to reach the AMC hut. If we really needed to, there was at one cutoff trail to bypass Mt. Madison and go directly to the Hut.

We got to the top of Mt. Madison around 11 or so. It was an hour later than I had wanted, but I couldn’t do a lot about that. There was only one other couple there, carrying just camera equipment (they had come up from the hut). The wind was really whipping, making it feel about ten to fifteen degrees colder than it had been climbing up and making conversation almost impossible. In addition, it looked like the rain was about to start at any moment and I started feeling rain drops. I put on my wind shirt and pulled out the camera for a couple quick snaps and a short video. After I finished with the camera, I spent a couple more minutes looking around and then started heading down.

When he had reached the summit, Dan had dropped his pack and taken shelter behind some boulders. As I started heading down I caught his attention and motioned for him to follow. Dan didn’t really want to and I had to wave him forward once more before he started packing up. The other couple were already on their way down. While I was climbing down (Dan was somewhere behind me — I’d stop to keep him in view before continuing down) the rain started and it was a becoming fairly sustained by the time we both reached the hut.

It took us a minute or two to find the entrance to the Hut. Madison Springs Hut was designed in a T shape, with the common room making up the base of the T and the bunk rooms across the top. The bunks were stacked 4 high, which was interesting. We went into the common room and saw a couple thru-hikers (they had come from Lake of the Clouds that morning and had stopped for food) and another family already there. Dan practically collapsed as soon as he landed on the bench. I went to find the bathroom, which was an actual flush toilet; I found that interesting since even the toilets at Pinkham Notch (along the road) had been composting toilets.

When I returned from the bathroom, I asked Dan what he wanted to do at this point. The rain was starting to come down a little harder; I wanted to wait it out and then continue on. Dan said he was beat and had thought we could just stay at Madison Springs hut for the rest of the day. Truth be told, I was pretty much speechless at that. We’d only done three miles, and while the elevation gain had been major, it was still only three miles. We were on a schedule and taking practically an entire day off would cause some problems. The problem was the weather. I definitely didn’t want to attempt Mt Washington in bad weather. I went out to call Sue and update her, and to cool off a little bit after just barely keeping my cool with Dan.

At this point, I had two problems. One was the weather and the other was Dan’s knee. Some ibuprofen had helped one knee on the second day, but the other knee had started hurting that same day and hadn’t stopped. Stopping early at Carter Notch Hut and taking a couple of extended breaks on the way to Osgood hadn’t helped either. Now bad weather had rolled in and I was worrying about what would happen if Dan’s knee gave out altogether. Even without all that, it seemed like Dan was tiring more quickly than usual.

When I came back in from talking to Sue, Dan was having a Buffalo burger. I decided that was a pretty good idea and ordered one myself. After eating I perused the Hut’s library for a few minutes (it was only one bookcase). The rain didn’t show any sign of stopping and it was already almost 1pm. The weather report had said morning showers, but if the rain kept up all day I knew we’d probably have to hole up somewhere — making Mt. Washington today was looking increasingly unlikely. I told this to Dan and then went to check if there were any free bunks left.

Naturally, Madison Springs was all booked. The crew member also checked at Lake of the Clouds and they were also all full. (note to self, next time make reservations). It turns out we had been pretty lucky that Carter Notch Hut was so empty. Since we couldn’t stay at Madison Springs and wouldn’t find room at Lake of the Clouds, I asked about other campsites in the area. The crew member mentioned a couple of self service huts and other camp sites nearby. I headed back to the table to check over the map and after some consideration chose Perch Shelter as our target for the night. This shelter was just a couple miles away and looked like we’d have to do the least amount of downhill to get there. I called Sue to let her know about our plans and we headed off around 1:30 or so.

We reached Perch shelter about 3pm to find the shelter overrun with a father and what I assumed were his sons. Luckily they were only making dinner in the shelter because of the rain, but they took what seemed like forever, making hot dogs, mac and cheese, pop corn, and god knows what else, using two stoves to cook all their food. I put on a couple extra layers as I was more than a little wet from the trip from Madison Springs Hut. Dan pulled out the shelter register and started reading through that. Finally after an hour or so, the family moved back to their tents and Dan and I spread out our wet gear and started preparing our own food.

I forget exactly what we ate, but I do remember that Dan crawled into his bag shortly after and was out like a light; I think he woke up off and on, but that was about it. While Dan was resting I started reviewing my rain gear, which had failed pretty badly on the trip over. First up was my poncho.

Two years ago Dan and I did a trip in Massachusetts during a pretty major rain storm and my poncho worked great, except in high winds. In particular, the back of the poncho kept blowing up and over my pack and was almost impossible to keep in place. I had planned for that by attaching the back of my poncho to the ice axe loops on my pack with carabiners. This had kept the back from flying around on our way to Perch but hadn’t helped the front of the poncho at all. I ended up just taking off the poncho, preferring the ability to see where I was going and move faster than getting wet. After some thought, I came up with a way to rig the poncho to my pack that kept it in place in high winds and would also function better as a pack cover.

After the poncho rigging, I took a look at my rain pants. I’d only worn them a couple times since I’d gotten them as a gift. Every time I’d used them I had ended up sweating out and today had been no different. I’d taken them off 20 minutes away from Madison Springs Hut. I realized that rain chaps or gaiters would be more useful and decided to make myself a pair. I cut the legs off the rain pants. The cuffs had elastic and buttons to keep them tight and by putting the cut off legs on upside down (cuffs around the knees) I could keep them fastened. It worked pretty well for an emergency field upgrade.

After I finished messing with my gear I read through the trail register. Dan had mentioned lots of people recording card game scores or mentioning playing cards, and one post even mentioned the deck of cards kept in the shelter, so I wasn’t too surprised when I found the cards and a set of dice in the box the register had been. Dan had poked his head out of his bag when I found the cards, but I didn’t really feel like any card games. I probably dropped off to sleep around 7 or 8 pm.