Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mount Rainier Here I Come

It may seem silly, but I'm in the market for snowshoes. is of course one of many places to start looking, and after my avalanche training I know backcountry skis have their limitations. read for more on that adventure.

I can hear you all saying winter's almost over and I reply "SALES!"
And now the really big news. I'm going to work at Mount Rainier this summer, the snowiest place on earth. with snow possible any day of the year snowshoes might come in handy for the forth of July parade.
Here's what the National Park Service website has to say about this location:

Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington landscape. An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S.A., spawning six major rivers. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano while ancient forest cloaks Mount Rainier’s lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park’s ecosystems. A lifetime of discovery awaits.

I'll have my motor home inside the park and expect to explore the Wonderland trail as well.

Now, here's what I learned this weekend, good stuff before I go shopping for this essential piece of winter gear:

I learned snowshoes must bear weight of body and gear, have easy on off bindings workable in sub zero, and adaptable to various boots.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Always a Test In Progress

On the journey to perfection, there's always a test in progress.
Currently I'm working on a "terracotta pot gentle heat system" which I first heard about up in McCall, Idaho, on a winter survival training weekend. We shared the location with Boy scouts who underwent inspections of their well built snow caves, shared their chili and listened to our presentation on Search and Rescue Missions.
According to one scout leader, a clay pot inserted and bolted inside another clay pot will gather and preserve heat from one voltive candle.
Of course, I had to take that a step further and try an ultralight burner fueled with denatured alcohol under said contraption.
Once the video is produced, I'll link it here. Test results of burner: inefficient. I had a large candle at home, but in spite of all efforts, the thing kept going out from lack of oxygen. Next test will involve real voltive candles, the kind you find at the dollar store in four packs.

Meanwhile, I was the envy of many with my REI bivy sack, which held my full length closed cell pad and sleeping bag secured inside. That night it rained, but I stayed dry, comfortable and content.
Watch the video at Winter Camp. Also, the multiple guy-out loops on this 9x5 silnylon tarp were  sweet allowing me to anchor it firmly to withstand the snow shoveled against its sides as insulation.

The Crisco candle went out after being douse with heavy rain. However, so far I'm finding it should burn continuously for 100 hours. Not bad for $2.49.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Time to Gear Up

Winter sales have begun and its time to gear up. So, after reviewing my present winter gear I decided to buy a few items. Along with an orange stocking cap I bought snow pants.

Features include: Single Welt zip pockets, Elastic Waistband at sides. Side zip with gusset, interior storm cuffs, rubberized snaps, elastic suspenders, webbing grip strap. Price tag $49.99. Found at Sports Authority at 50 % off, these Slalom Low Bib pants were a "steal".

They have Weather Guard: waterproof, windproof and breathable. The back bib will prevent cold air from rushing up into layers as I build snow caves, etc. On the fashion side, they fit perfectly and look good with blaze orange!

My current gear is under inspection and repair. A favorite jacket of mine is the Brooks Range Down jacket. My two complaints: no hood and the wimpy side pocket zippers which blew out after one season. Yesterday I sewed the pockets shut after another pair of gloves slid out into the snow. This will prevent me from using the pockets and also keep body warmth closer because the gaping unzipped pockets allowed single layer exposure to the elements.
To read more about the Search and Rescue last week up at Idaho City, check out my other blog:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Winter Survival Training In McCall

Last Friday I spent five hours teaching boy scouts about winter gear choices. After asking each of five different classes what they liked to do outside in Idaho Snow, they said, "Skiing and snowboarding, hunting, hiking and snowmobiling."
Sense they were up at camp on an overnighter, building snowforts as their overnight shelter, I asked if they liked overnight backpacking trips. Dumbfounded looks followed.
"How about road trips, like over the pass up to see Grandma.?"
More baffled expressions.

Next we divided the class into subgroups who had four minutes to come up with a gear list/packing list for their adventure.
Spread on three conference tables was gear of all kinds, including 'tricks.'

Once the gear lists were finished, I let them 'tag' their choices on the table.
I was pretty surprised by the conversations that ensued as we devolved into erroneous selections.

Some of the most memorable include:
Several classes chose apples and carrot sticks over ramen and candy bars, even though they realized food was their fuel. So, I asked the class, "How much does an apple weigh?"
"Half a pound?" "Ten ounces?" several volunteered time and again.
"How many calories?" I asked.
"Fifty?" was the general consensus.
"How about weighs three ounces, how many calories?"
No one seemed to realize that one package of ramen had 380 calories and could be eaten like pretzels, raw and these calories would keep them warm or that protein took longer to digest and kept them warmer that fruits and veggies.

Nearly all chose the extra heavy, full bore Columbia Zero degree jacket over various layers. Once I asked them, "What happens when you're skiing?"
"You warm up, you might sweat."
"Problem with a huge jacket like this is its either on or off, or maybe you could unzip it. But layers allow many choices, which end up weighing the same as one huge overcoat."

Many forgot to chose one of several sleeping pads on display, though they elected to carry a 9 pound four season tent over a tarp or single wall. Few considered labels when selecting which pants. And surprisingly, though they chose a sleeping bag, nearly no one selected a spare set of clothes to change into for sleepwear.

After the sessions were over and I asked a young man what he expected his night in the snow cave to be like. Cold and Wet he replied. I frowned, Why wet?
Turns out, he didn't have anything to change into and after digging the cave, just figured to endure the night, or come into the huge dining hall and hunker down, with his friends by the fire.

Clearly  much more time is needed for instructing winter survival skills than the 45 minutes allotted.
Nearly all realized how scanty cell service is in those unforgiving mountains and were warned not to go anywhere alone because both cougars and wolves had been seen right down the road.

But, I love the boy scout concept of gathering youngsters to usher them into the wonders of the great outdoors. Only time and luck will prove whether we've done a good job or made a significant impression.

The main goal of course is to survive without injury. Happy Trails, young men, and eat hearty.