It was a long, cold windy night, with gusty winds that would die off and then come back roaring, while creepy shadows from the nearly full moon played across the roof of the tent as the clouds blew past. During one of the quiet spells from the roaring wind, I answered nature's call and walked over to a nearby tree through thick yet sparkly fog, and admired the special-effects feeling of the night BUT IN REAL LIFE! Then I decided my toasty warm sleeping back trumped the glittering subzero mist and crawled back in.
I slept long, and a bit fitfully, from 7:30 until 7. This is the first time I've been in the new sleeping bag, and it worked really well; it's a Zpacks 20 degree bag. For most of the night it was around 26 degrees F, but then the wind stopped and it dipped down to 21F and I slipped inside a silk bag liner for more warmth and put my down booties on my feets. Those poor cold feet always keep me up at night when camping, they're never really warm and they weren't tonight, even though I started off the night wearing my long undies. I was sleeping on a Thermarest NeoAir Lite women's inflatable, on top of a Thermarest Solite something foam pad. No chilly spots in the sleeping bag at all, except when I slipped down during the night and those feet were resting on the tent floor... which is sitting on 3 feet or so of snow and ice. Tonight I'll make a little ski-jump with my backpack at the bottom of the foam pad so I won't dangle myself.
Fired up the JetBoil, made some coffee in my mug, then annoyingly had to wait until I finished the coffee to make oatmeal in the same mug. Hm. Maybe reverse the order next time, or just eat a breakfast bar. Dug around a bit, making a huge gear explosion in the tent trying to find random things (where's my sunscreen? My camera? My water filter? Oh yeah, water filter is down in the bottom of the sleeping bag), and I repurposed my pack into a daypack.
Today we're going to do some snowshoeing and navigation and boot hiking west, towards the eastern edge of the Kirkwood ski area. The day was bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and best of all no wind! We climbed up as Ned did some instruction on how to avoid problem snow areas--convex lumps, avalanche/snowslide mountainsides with 30 to 45 degree slopes and no trees, snow covered creek drainages with lumpy bottoms and snow bridges. We stopped up on a ridge for a bite to eat, and it was super-clear--I could see the north shore of Tahoe, and out to the Coast Ranges north of Napa.
After the break, we headed southwest in our showshoes, walking over Round Top Lake (frozen for the winter), towards 4th of July Lake. On the way, we took off the snowshoes to practice walking across moderate snow slopes, how to cut into the slope with the uphill side of your boot, make a nice platform, don't make too long of a stride. I felt hesitant at first, as did all of us, but we got the hang of it with a bit of feedback from Ned, and after awhile we all felt more confident. The snow had a thin crust and was a bit compressible underneath, so it wasn't hard and icy or waist deep powder, just typical springtime conditions according to Ned, albeit it's January now.
Another break, and though we couldn't see the 4th of July Lake far below we could see a chairlift from Kirkwood, so we spied on skiiers real briefly (seeing none, maybe we were too far away?) and headed back to camp. I chose not to wear snowshoes to see how boring old boots would do when walking across compacted snow with a couple of inches of powder on top. The boots I'm wearing are Sorel Paxton, which remind me strongly of my old school Vasque Sundowners. They did fine, I postholed to my knee once and I slipped on ice that I didn't recognize, and slid downslope a few seconds.
And on my way back, I spotted an unexpected sign of wildlife--mountain lion tracks following a very large set of rabbit or hate prints. I wouldn't have expected that up here, in January, in the snow, at 9000 feet altitude, but there they were. Too large to be a coyote, and what else has paw prints like that?
Back in camp, it was nice and calm, so we all made hot food in a snow bench we build. I decided just to have coffee, and have real dinner in the tent and write a blog post about the day :-) Dinner was AlpineAir Three Cheese Chicken Pasta, and I ate both servings--once again, I find I don't have much of an appetite, but the creamy pasta is super tasty, and a Chocolate Almond Fudge Clif bar makes an excellent dessert as I wonder when to go to bed (it's 6:15pm now, and I don't feel like sleeping yet.)
Hmmm, what else? Some little tips:
For dirty water scooping: Mike mentioned that you can take a Platypus PlayPreserve wine storage bag, cut off the top, and use it to scoop dirty water into a container for filtering. It weighs next to nothing, and folds up nicely. That's a great idea.
I'm thinking I should buy a Nalgene/Playtpus wide mouth collapsible sack for dirty water. I could put a coffee filter over the wide mouth, and scoop water into it for prefiltering. The typical Platypus container has a tiny opening that really doesn't work with coffee filters. Maybe it does, though, with those tiny #1 sized coffee filters, or a #2 filter rolled up. Must investigate.
Add a tube to the Sawyer discharge nipple and you can use it as a gravity-feed filter.
Make a little bag out of metallic insulating bubble wrap that looks like a mailing envelope, then use it to hold a food pouch when you're rehydrating. Another tip from fellow camper mike.
Adding a second pair of socks can make your feet colder. Yep! My feet were chilled during the walk yesterday, so today I wore a second pair of socks... they were a little tight, but more is more, right? Nope, it actually didn't work out well--my feet were really cold, much colder than yesterday. I told Ned and he said "hey, take off one pair. Maybe you're just compressing your feet too much and there isn't enough blood circulation to keep them warm." I did, and my feet warmed up.
Lastly, take fluffy socks for cold nights--like Holeproof Explorers.