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Topic: Winter Bushwacking, any hot tips?< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 29 2013, 3:42 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hey all - going on my 1st winter bushwack (but not my 1st bushwack ever) in a couple weekends.  I've done it a handful of times during the the other 3-seasons, but never in the winter.  

I'll be hiking with a couple of very experienced 'wackers (in all seasons), but I was just wondering if anyone could drop some wisdom on me ahead of time.   :;):


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 29 2013, 3:46 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Patch kits for your shells.

Other than that, have a good time.  If you've winter camped, and you've bushwhacked in the other 3 seasons, you've got the idea already as far as I can tell.


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Don't allow two experienced bushwhackers make your decisions for you.  You are responsible for yourself.

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Don't go blind.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 29 2013, 4:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Smooth snow can hide some treacherous footing — or no footing at all. I was having a great time snowshoeing off-trail one winter — far from any possible tree wells — when I suddenly dropped below my head height into deep snow. The wind had smoothed the snow surface over a natural pit in the ground. The snow was soft. My snowshoes went toe first and anchored my feet into the snow they packed.

Heck of a predicament. Almost like being buried in an avalanche but I had an air hole where I could see blue sky above my head. You never know what is under a smooth layer of snow.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 29 2013, 4:35 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks all - I didn't expect anything earth shattering, but always appreciate the insight that can be gained from folks here.

Travis - so how did you end up getting out of that hole? Remove the snowshoes, and retrieve them afterwards?


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 29 2013, 4:46 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You'll need to have a rating system for the bushwhack before accurate advice is given.  Here's how we do it in the Cascade Range of the PNW:
The Cascade Bushwhack Rating System


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(EastieTrekker @ Jan. 29 2013, 2:35 pm)
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...Travis - so how did you end up getting out of that hole? Remove the snowshoes, and retrieve them afterwards?

Long story. I could not pull either foot up, so I had to reach down and unstrap the snowshoes one by one. Otherwise, I was firmly anchored. So first, I pushed snow around my chest outward, creating a larger hole. Then I reached down blindly and unstrapped a snowshoe at a time.

After pulling one snowshoe up at a time, I used each to create a higher packed "platform" on which to push downward to retract my feet. This all took a while, but I slowly gained enough height to "swim" on the snowshoes with my hands back to the edge of the pit, where the snow was maybe 3 feet deep or so.

I was a bit spooked. Solo by the way.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 29 2013, 5:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TravisNWood @ Jan. 29 2013, 4:49 pm)
QUOTE

(EastieTrekker @ Jan. 29 2013, 2:35 pm)
QUOTE
...Travis - so how did you end up getting out of that hole? Remove the snowshoes, and retrieve them afterwards?

Long story. I could not pull either foot up, so I had to reach down and unstrap the snowshoes one by one. Otherwise, I was firmly anchored. So first, I pushed snow around my chest outward, creating a larger hole. Then I reached down blindly and unstrapped a snowshoe at a time.

After pulling one snowshoe up at a time, I used each to create a higher packed "platform" on which to push downward to retract my feet. This all took a while, but I slowly gained enough height to "swim" on the snowshoes with my hands back to the edge of the pit, where the snow was maybe 3 feet deep or so.

I was a bit spooked. Solo by the way.

Wild...  :O    Thanks for sharing.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 29 2013, 5:11 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(hoosierdaddy @ Jan. 29 2013, 4:46 pm)
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You'll need to have a rating system for the bushwhack before accurate advice is given.  Here's how we do it in the Cascade Range of the PNW:
The Cascade Bushwhack Rating System

Thanks for that link - nice system!!

Based on the PNW rating system, it's probably a Grade II; BW2.5.  Not too bad as far as bushwacks go, but I thought it would be a good start in the winter.

Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your perspective/desire for blood loss) this will be my only bushwack this winter, as I have almost every weekend booked (some winter camping and a weekend mountaineering course) from here on out.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 29 2013, 5:21 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Be cautious of avalanche in steep terrain while snowshoeing, even on short slopes. I've had small ones cause an issue. I will second the caution regarding tree wells. Also, be very careful around water/rivers. Pits and such underneath when the snow is soft will suck you in. Whenever we get near water, we go in teams so we can help each other out. If using a sled, use caribiners to be able to unclip and keep the pack with straps up/out so you can throw it on your back without having to take it out of your sled.

I love the bushwack level link.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 29 2013, 6:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TravisNWood @ Jan. 29 2013, 4:30 pm)
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Smooth snow can hide some treacherous footing — or no footing at all. I was having a great time snowshoeing off-trail one winter — far from any possible tree wells — when I suddenly dropped below my head height into deep snow. The wind had smoothed the snow surface over a natural pit in the ground. The snow was soft. My snowshoes went toe first and anchored my feet into the snow they packed.

Heck of a predicament. Almost like being buried in an avalanche but I had an air hole where I could see blue sky above my head. You never know what is under a smooth layer of snow.

Travis, did you make it out?

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 29 2013, 6:15 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Ginseng @ Jan. 29 2013, 4:13 pm)
QUOTE

(TravisNWood @ Jan. 29 2013, 4:30 pm)
QUOTE
Smooth snow can hide some treacherous footing — or no footing at all. I was having a great time snowshoeing off-trail one winter — far from any possible tree wells — when I suddenly dropped below my head height into deep snow. The wind had smoothed the snow surface over a natural pit in the ground. The snow was soft. My snowshoes went toe first and anchored my feet into the snow they packed.

Heck of a predicament. Almost like being buried in an avalanche but I had an air hole where I could see blue sky above my head. You never know what is under a smooth layer of snow.

Travis, did you make it out?

No, I'm still there. :D

See post #8.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 29 2013, 7:09 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Good point on the tree wells.  Similar story for large talus fields.  I once got my foot/snowshoe stuck in-between two rocks where I visibly thought there was solid footing.  It was near 0*F out, but there was liquid water at the bottom of the hole and my toes were entirely soaked by the time I could get it out of there.

It made an interesting time trying to change socks and recover from that.  I made it just fine, but do watch your step.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 30 2013, 1:11 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Let the other two hikers lead and fall into the spruce traps, while you artfully dodge around their mistakes.

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(WalksWithBlackflies @ Jan. 30 2013, 1:11 pm)
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Let the other two hikers lead and fall into the spruce traps, while you artfully dodge around their mistakes.

See - now that's the kind of advice I was looking for!  :D

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 30 2013, 1:50 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Bring an extra pair of socks.
Don't eat yellow snow.
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(Lamebeaver @ Jan. 30 2013, 1:50 pm)
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Don't eat yellow snow.

But I thought yellow snow had the most electrolytes?

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 30 2013, 4:18 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Carry a collapsible snow shovel. You can't have enough snow shovels in a group (assuming you are spending the night).

Spare gloves and spare glove liners are worth the weight. Same with socks (mentioned above). I bring two spares minimum. Dry feet are worth it.

Spray DWR on anything that might come in contact with snow.

In winter, a ground cloth under your shelter means easy dry shelter from spot to spot.

Bring more fuel than you think you should. Warm food and drinks are worth it.

A candle provides long-term light...with enough heat to take the edge off (be careful where it is stored).

It doesn't happen often but I've seen snowshoes broken (actually witnessed it four times now in the last five years). Bring duct tape that will stick in the cold.


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(Tigger @ Jan. 30 2013, 4:18 pm)
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Carry a collapsible snow shovel. You can't have enough snow shovels in a group (assuming you are spending the night).

Spare gloves and spare glove liners are worth the weight. Same with socks (mentioned above). I bring two spares minimum. Dry feet are worth it.

Spray DWR on anything that might come in contact with snow.

In winter, a ground cloth under your shelter means easy dry shelter from spot to spot.

Bring more fuel than you think you should. Warm food and drinks are worth it.

A candle provides long-term light...with enough heat to take the edge off (be careful where it is stored).

It doesn't happen often but I've seen snowshoes broken (actually witnessed it four times now in the last five years). Bring duct tape that will stick in the cold.

Thanks Tigger.  All good advice.  

I should have been more clear that this is actually intended as a day hike (though it's likely that a portion of the walk out could be in the dark).  We'll obviously carry items needed for a potential unplanned night, however, so I still appreciate the advice.

I actually picked up a nice candle-powered mini-lantern this year (it might have even been one of your comments in another thread that inspired the purchase).  It will get plenty of use in the weekends following, as I have a few nights out planned.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 30 2013, 4:54 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Polycarbonate Safety glasses (also come in tints) to protect your eyes. Home Depot $15

Wear your old n junkie outter clothes n shell so if they get torn you won't cry as much while patching em up.

WD40 will remove pine n balsam pitch from your pack n clothes.

Work gloves.

Map n compass n know your route by heart.

WHISTLE.. always carry one on you.

and my favorite n last of all important items on my list of must haves.....
TOILET PAPER


enjoy your trip!


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 30 2013, 8:37 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Here's a few more ideas about traveling through snow. I don't know how many might apply to your circumstances, but just to round out the thread, if nothing more, I'll toss them out there.

Texture and age of the snow can make a big difference in how well you progress off-trail. If you snowshoe over a packed snowshoe trail, you can make much better time than if you are breaking your own route either solo or with a small group. Snow ages, weathers, and changes texture with environmental conditions. Some snows are easier to travel over than others.

Sun and wind are two big factors in changing how well snow is adapted to hiking or snowshoeing. Wind blowing over a treeless ridge exposed to the sun during daytime can sometimes "pack" even deep snow into a floor-like firmness that holds up well under snowshoes and sometimes boots also. But, of course, hiking on a windy day may make you shun such areas.

Sunshine upon a forest can leave soft places and firmer places in the snow between trees — depending upon how the shade of trees shielded the snow during the day. You may find a method of weaving between the trees to stay on the firmer snow — where the sun has warmed and the night has cooled the aging snow. Areas where the shadow of the trees have fallen may, in the same area, shelter softer snow that is more time-consuming to travel.

Upon a relatively tree-less valley floor, you may find the same principle applied to where the shadow of the hillside has fallen in the valley. The northern side of the valley, where the sun has shone longer, may provide firmer snow. Similarly, north-facing slopes may harbor softer, deeper snow than south-facing slopes where the sun has shone during the daytime. And the south-facing slopes may not have as dense of vegetation and forests.

Some forests around here are practically impenetrable on the North-facing slope. The forest there is dense, and the snow is softer and deeper. If you're lucky, you may even find south-facing slopes where the heat of sun and of rotting pine needles have combined to yield a dry mat to hike upon.

Those are just a few, but there are plenty of variations to the theme of what aging can do to snow surfaces to make them easier or tougher to travel off-trail.


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(TravisNWood @ Jan. 30 2013, 5:37 pm)
QUOTE
Here's a few more ideas about traveling through snow. I don't know how many might apply to your circumstances, but just to round out the thread, if nothing more, I'll toss them out there.

Texture and age of the snow can make a big difference in how well you progress off-trail. If you snowshoe over a packed snowshoe trail, you can make much better time than if you are breaking your own route either solo or with a small group. Snow ages, weathers, and changes texture with environmental conditions. Some snows are easier to travel over than others.

Sun and wind are two big factors in changing how well snow is adapted to hiking or snowshoeing. Wind blowing over a treeless ridge exposed to the sun during daytime can sometimes "pack" even deep snow into a floor-like firmness that holds up well under snowshoes and sometimes boots also. But, of course, hiking on a windy day may make you shun such areas.

Sunshine upon a forest can leave soft places and firmer places in the snow between trees — depending upon how the shade of trees shielded the snow during the day. You may find a method of weaving between the trees to stay on the firmer snow — where the sun has warmed and the night has cooled the aging snow. Areas where the shadow of the trees have fallen may, in the same area, shelter softer snow that is more time-consuming to travel.

Upon a relatively tree-less valley floor, you may find the same principle applied to where the shadow of the hillside has fallen in the valley. The northern side of the valley, where the sun has shone longer, may provide firmer snow. Similarly, north-facing slopes may harbor softer, deeper snow than south-facing slopes where the sun has shone during the daytime. And the south-facing slopes may not have as dense of vegetation and forests.

Some forests around here are practically impenetrable on the North-facing slope. The forest there is dense, and the snow is softer and deeper. If you're lucky, you may even find south-facing slopes where the heat of sun and of rotting pine needles have combined to yield a dry mat to hike upon.

Those are just a few, but there are plenty of variations to the theme of what aging can do to snow surfaces to make them easier or tougher to travel off-trail.

+1

Well said


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 30 2013, 10:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Plus one on snowy talus fields being a broken ankle waiting to happen and Travis did speak well on sun/shade/age aspects.

Not sure if anyone mentioned water running under snow but that can undercut the snow -- always pays to be checking the lay of the land, asking yourself where the creek might be, where water might be running, even if none is visible.

Also, don't use your hands to brush off snow from yourself, tent or bivy.

Use a brush. A wooden handle snowbrush/scraper ( for a vehicle ) shortened is a great big two ounces, keeps damp freshies away from your gloves. Coughlan's also make a little whisk broom/dustpan for camping where the brush is also two ounces.
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(Tigger @ Jan. 30 2013, 2:18 pm)
QUOTE
Bring more fuel than you think you should. Warm food and drinks are worth it.




It doesn't happen often but I've seen snowshoes broken (actually witnessed it four times now in the last five years). Bring duct tape that will stick in the cold.

Not to steal the thread, but what do you guys think about the Caldera stove? I've been thinking about this for winter camping. If you have wood you should always have fuel. I question cleaness and boil-time though.

http://www.traildesigns.com/stoves/cones/caldera-3-fuel-wood-burners


Secondly, save your snowshoe receipts for years, so you can return the broken snoeshoes... :p
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(wycanislatrans @ Jan. 31 2013, 8:39 am)
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Not to steal the thread, but what do you guys think about the Caldera stove? I've been thinking about this for winter camping. If you have wood you should always have fuel. I question cleaness and boil-time though.

http://www.traildesigns.com/stoves/cones/caldera-3-fuel-wood-burners


Secondly, save your snowshoe receipts for years, so you can return the broken snoeshoes... :p

Dude, total thread hijack. :D

I've been using a Caldera Wood stove for several years now, mostly on longer summer trips.



That said, I haven't used it in winter, mostly because I use a huge 4L pot and my white-gas stove for melting snow into water on those trips, requiring a ****-load of BTUs and the blowtorch helps.  I imagine you could use the Caldera Cone provided you can find dry tinder, but it'd take quite a bit longer and require more attention to keep stoking the fire.  If you have liquid water ready to go though, I wouldn't see the problem.  It'd help as well to have a barren (rock, etc) surface... for obvious reasons just setting/lighting the stove right atop several feet of snow would be problematic.

(For transparency's sake I got that stove as a sponsorship back in 2010 from Trail Designs.  I tout it not because they gave me the stove, but because I like it and it works.  If it didn't work I wouldn't keep using it.)


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