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Topic: YSNP Dec 7-17, trip planning advice?< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 10:47 am  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hi Friendly Backpacking folks,

Calling those familiar with Yellowstone in winter....some friends and I are planning on taking a 10-day backpacking+xcountry ski trip through yellowstone. We're more familiar with wintry conditions in NH's White mountains (Mt. Washington area), and are familiar hiking in zero farenheit temps. We have the weather-appropriate clothes and gear.
What we are not as familiar with is Yellowstone! Given our dates, it appears the roads into the park are closed. So, our general idea was to drive to fly from the east coast to SLC, rent a car, head to the park, and trek on out via skis and week-long camping packs.
We'd like to see some wildlife, some landmarks of the park, and enjoy tackling some elevation gain for the sheer fun of it, and for the views.

After googling a bit, there are still some logistics to be worked out. We're flying to SLC and renting a car to drive to the park. Park roads are closed before the 15Dec, so no car inside and no snowmobile drop offs. I suppose that means we're 100% person-powered!

So, specific questions if you have some advice:

*Can we leave the car at the park any old place while trekking for 10 days? 
*Given that trails will be unbroken, and 9hrs sunlight that time of year, how much ground do you think we can cover in a day (all ppl in good shape)?
*Which treks would you recommend? Should we plan two circuit treks or a single, longer loop?
*Other suggestions on logistics, gear, what-have you?

Thanks very much!
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 28 2012, 11:38 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'll do what I can to help.  First, while most roads are closed in Yellowstone in winter, the exception is the northern road through the park from Mammoth to Cooke City, MT which is an absolutely beautiful drive through my favorite area of the park.  The road takes you right through the Lamar Valley which is probably the best place for wildlife viewing.  The road also makes a lot of territory accessible for skiing and hiking.  If you are coming up from SLC, through West Yellowstone, highway 191 does go through a portion of the park that has some nice areas for sking.  As for parking, you can park anywhere you can find a spot off the road but in the winter that may be a problem because of snow.  The park service does plow a few parking spots at popular skiing and snowshoeing areas but not as many as in the summer. As for distance covered, I'd consider five to six miles a day pretty good distance espeically in unbroken snow but that depends largely on terrain, conditions and your physical condition.  Five is good for me.

As for routes, I'd suggest something in the Lamar Valley uptoward Cache Creek or Miller Creek.  You're most likely to see widlife, including wolves, in that area.  You might also want to consider the Black Canyon area of the Yellowstone although I'm not sure how much snow will the there.  Some for sure, but thus far, sadly, it's been a remarkably low year for snow.  That could easily change by the time you arrive though.  One big dump could do it. You might also so find some nice sking along Big Horn and Fawn Creeks off highway 191 and well as in Black Butte and Daly Creek areas in the extreme northwest corner of the park, again off highway 191.  

If I could make one suggestion it might be to do one trip in the park and then continue on to Cooke City and the Beartooths via the northern road and take a trip in that area.  The snow should be great and the skiing opportunities almost unlimited.  The scenery, although not the wildlife, will actually be much better than Yellowstone.  The only down side would be the snowmobile activity until you get away from Cooke and off the main roads. There are a number of facilities, motels, cafes, etc. open in Cooke in the winter so you could resupply and rest between two shorter trips.  The short drive into the Cooke City area would be well worth it IMO.  Just a suggestion.  One other option to consider is to take a short snowcoach ride from Mammoth (I think they still offer them at a relatively reasonable price) to the Swan Flats area and ski west toward Snow Pass and the Fawn Creekor Sportsman Creek drainages.

As for gear, if you're familiar with winter camping in New England, I'm sure you'll befine.  Just remember that in the winter Yellowstone can be brutal and often has the coldest temps in the country so prolonged periods of below 0 temps are possible, but certainly not for certain. I'd have a sleeping bag rates to at least 0 at absolute minimum.  Gaiters, a four season tent and a reliable stove are also a must.

One other thought. Have you considered flying into Billings or Bozeman?  I would think logistics and distance would be more to your advantage than going to SLC. Could save you some time although I know that schedules and prices are not as user friendly at those two airports as at Salt Lake.  If you did fly into Billings, we might be able connect before you leave for the park as I live there.  I alway enjoy meeting fellow backpackers/skiers.  

Have a blast.  Yellowstone is a pretty special place in the winter.  If you would like to discuss this further, shoot me a PM.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 29 2012, 1:25 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

When would be a question....snow is a little thin around here still.

I'd suggest the Bechler area and the SW corner of the Park.  Also may look into going in on the west side of the park, Island Park, West Yellowstone. The country north of West Yellowstone can be accessed from the state highway...nice country up there.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 29 2012, 1:31 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(bbobb169 @ Nov. 29 2012, 1:25 am)
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When would be a question....snow is a little thin around here still.

I'd suggest the Bechler area and the SW corner of the Park.  Also may look into going in on the west side of the park, Island Park, West Yellowstone. The country north of West Yellowstone can be accessed from the state highway...nice country up there.

Interesting suggestion.  However, I'm not sure about access to the Beclher during the winter.  Great area though.

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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 29 2012, 12:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Access from Ashton - Flagg ranch road on the West side near Cave Falls.  May not be able to drive right to Cave falls but probably get close. .....but he's on a cross country ski trip.

Also a lot of plowed roads go towards YNP from the Island Park area on the West side.  Some decent canyon trails going into the Park start along the highway (open in winter) North of W Yellowstone that might work.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 29 2012, 12:41 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Sounds likea possibility.  I would think the Bechler region would be ideal for x-country skiing.  Gentle and varied terrain, thick forests, broad meadows and of course, the added attractions of frozen waterfalls and a myriad of thermal features.  Oten fantasied about skiing the area myself I'll keep your access suggestions in mind.

Thanks.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 29 2012, 2:24 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You're in good hands when it comes to reccomendations for the lower elevation Northern part of the park. Likely best wildlife viewing opportunities up there in that time frame.

I don't know if you could get a snowcoach to Old Faithfull and then hike over Grants Pass, spend a night at 3 Rivers Jct. and soak in Mr. Bubbles. then head ultimately for Flagg Ranch.

PErsonally I'd be looking into GTNP. Unlike Yellowstone GTNP is often pretty darn empty in the Winter. Moose-Bradley and Taggart-JEnny-Sting-Leigh-Bearpaw...Go up the canyons? GREAT STUFF.


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trail? I don't need no stinkin trail!
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 30 2012, 10:22 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

NM
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 30 2012, 11:24 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Lamebeaver @ Nov. 30 2012, 10:22 am)
QUOTE
NM

OK, I hate to show my internet ignorance  ( I am getting more used to it) but what does "NM" mean?

Thanks.


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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 30 2012, 1:16 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

No more, never mind, no morons, narcaleptic monkeys....

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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 30 2012, 5:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Update: My trip got bumped back 10 days, and goes only until christmas

Pro:this allows for snow-mobile drop-off
Con:looks like i'd be doing it solo, others can't accommodate those dates.



Thanks very much for the trip advice, friends. I'm leaning towards Lamar valley for the animals. I would consider GTNP, but there's more inherent danger of avalanche risk since i'll now be solo.


I suppose the above advice for locations still applies? Speaking of animals, what are the precautions I should take for food storage / self-preservation? I know bears will be sleeping, but would think wolves would mind their own.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 30 2012, 5:16 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

oh, i'm actually more comfortable w snowshoes. is that a silly idea for the area, that i'd be better off w skis to cover ground? i thought snowshoes might be a more versatile all-around option, for example uphill hiking.
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PostIcon Posted on: Nov. 30 2012, 5:37 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The Lamar is pretty flat and open so I would be partial to skis myself - faster and more fun.  Of course, there will be some hills, you can't avoid that.  Then again, in deep powder which you will probably encounter, you're going to sink down enough that speed won't be much of a factor anyway especially if you're by yourself and will not have anyone to trade off breaking trail with you. The same applies to snowsohes.  I'd only consider them if I was going to be in heavy timber but then I just like to ski. But I'd suggest you go with whatever you're most comfortable with.  Snowshoes certainly carry less risk of injury. All this only reinforces what I said in my earlier about the distance you cover.  It won't be much because of the trail breaking you'll have to do all by yourself. That can be real work especially with a full pack and deep soft snow.

I wouldn't worry about animals much.  Like you said the bears won't be active, although that's not a 100% guarentee.  Wolves may be curiouis but I doubt they'll come near you although you might hear them which is always an thrilling and magical experience.  Bison will definitely be in the area and you'll want to stay clear of them alhthough they don't present any problem if you use common sense.

Boy, going solo in Yellowstone in the winter has some inherent risks.  I certainly wouldn't discourage it since you seem to have some experience in the winter but be prepared and well equiped.  And expect some heavy interogation by the park rangers when you pick up your permit.  They'll probably be less than enthusiastic about your adventure especially since you're solo (they don't even like that in the summer) but they won't prevent you from going.  They just don't want to have to preform a rescue or recovery mission.

Good luck.  Have fun and be safe.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 01 2012, 5:39 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yep, that would be the deep end of the pool, Yellowstone solo, December.

Here's some long range weather URL's I find useful for trip planning (nice to know if significant precip., cold or warm fronts are on the horizon).

http://wxmaps.org/pix/temp1.html

http://wxmaps.org/pix/prec1.html

FWIW, this url (above) spotted Flagstaff's second biggest snowstorm (ever) 10 days out a few years back.

http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/qpf/qpf2.shtml

Luck with it, Eric
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 01 2012, 9:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

If you are having any second thoughts you may want to consider motoring south from SLC, do the Grand Canyon. Dec. is prime there. More daylight, mellow temps.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 02 2012, 12:51 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Eric H @ Dec. 01 2012, 9:47 pm)
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If you are having any second thoughts you may want to consider motoring south from SLC, do the Grand Canyon. Dec. is prime there. More daylight, mellow temps.

Grand Canyon in the winter months.  +1.

Just plain great hikiing.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 02 2012, 6:26 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks very much for the weather maps.

I suppose I am considering the do-ability of this trip. slightly sub-zero F I can do, no question. But I'm not used to -20F (before windchill) weather having not tested my gear adequately at that safety margin.

For what it's worth, I here's a rough gearlist, in both xls/pdf formats if you would care to comment?

http://www.sendspace.com/file/qkgd1h

(apologies, the page is confusing, use the "Click here to start download from sendspace" link)


The Grand Canyon would be pretty super, but I'm quite partial to beautiful places which are also cold+snowy places, somewhere physically challenging; that's what attracted me to YSNP+winter, for the wildlife and technical challenge. That being said, the mountains will always be there another day, when there is zero doubt.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 02 2012, 10:24 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I am also considering the option of breaking the trip into two parts for more p2p contact.

For example, here's a six day trip:

1-2: Acclimate w Day-hikes
Snowmobile drop-off at Lamar Valley, set up base-camp. Xfer (or bail) via snowmobile after two days.

3-5: Ready for through-hikes
Xfer to Mammoth springs region for 3-day distance of through-hiking to either North Entrance, or a back-country pickup-location (in the later case, get snowmobile ride to my car).

6: Dayhike in GTNP
Or another Yellowstone day hike.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 02 2012, 10:38 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Two seperate trips might be better. I don't quite understand your reference to snowmobile rides in the Lamar.  You can drive right to any of the trailheads in the valley by using the northern road.  Also, I'm not sure what you mean by bailing by snowmobile.

As for getting to GTNP for yhour last hike, that's not easy from Yellowstone in the winter.  it would entail a long drive around the park via West Yellowstone and down the Teton Valley to Driggs, ID and then over Teton Pass to Jackson and the South Entrance of GTNP.  Quite a drive especially in winter.  I think you might be able to do it by commercial snow coach through the park but it would be complicated and very expensive.  Maybe someone else can come up with a better solution.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 02 2012, 11:20 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Oh, confusing language, sorry. I meant I would inquire with some snow-coach companies about possibility and cost of drop off /pickups within the park if there is a well-defined meeting place (such returning to where they left me in two days time), and then taking me across the park for trip #2, or optionally taking me out of the park if the weather is too harsh.

Well, I have a week to decide on things, and start dehydrating food either way. I will also prepare fallback plans on another park since vacation only comes a few times a year! I must admit to some envy of those who are local to YSNP and may take a jaunt in the region more readily :)


Thanks for your thoughts!

-JD
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 03 2012, 9:49 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE


(frogleg @ Dec. 02 2012, 11:20 pm)
QUOTE
Oh, confusing language, sorry. I meant I would inquire with some snow-coach companies about possibility and cost of drop off /pickups within the park if there is a well-defined meeting place (such returning to where they left me in two days time), and then taking me across the park for trip #2, or optionally taking me out of the park if the weather is too harsh.

I don't know if they do that, but they might.  It'll be expensive.

Good luck to you.


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