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Recommendations for backpacking in mid February

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Recommendations for backpacking in mid February

Postby tro4130 » Fri Jan 31, 2014 11:35 am

My initial plan was to backpack by the Cottonwood Lakes for a few days mid February (15-18) however with the Horseshoe Meadows Rd closed, it would be more of a hike than we are looking for. If anyone has recommendations of fantastic lakes to backpack by that are no further north than Bishop, I would greatly appreciate it. We are looking for more mellow backpacking considering weather and the rapid changes consistent with Feb.



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Re: Recommendations for backpacking in mid February

Postby markskor » Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:00 pm

Mellow backpacking and the Sierra in February...?

Not knowing your experience level and/or gear expertise, any recommendations for entering anywhere Sierra at altitude when heavy snow conditions are eminant, could be inviting major disaster. Postholing for miles, boiling water, carving steps (you do have an ice ax and know how to self arrest?), long nights stuck in a tent, just being cold...do you know what you are doing?

Not being judgemental but...For some, those very experienced, mellow could be X country skiing the HST. For others less knowledgeable, a half mile in could be torture, perhaps even fatal. We need a bit more info in order to make an educated response.
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Re: Recommendations for backpacking in mid February

Postby tro4130 » Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:10 pm

Understandable.

Mellow meaning the chances of disaster are close to none and backpacking at altitude isn't exactly the plan which is why I am asking for suggestions.
Preferably looking for a few miles hiking to a secluded lake rather than an epic journey. I assume most people understand the risks and plan out accordingly. I am not inexperienced and have the proper gear for a February trip however I do not know the Sierras as well as others therefor am hoping I may find a nice area I was unaware of. :nod:
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Re: Recommendations for backpacking in mid February

Postby rlown » Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:14 pm

Feb is sometimes high snow season. So what are you thinking?
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Re: Recommendations for backpacking in mid February

Postby tro4130 » Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:15 pm

Here are a few answers to questions I should have made clear.

What level of backpacking experience do you have?
Level 1- Minimal hiking
Level 2- Some backpacking trips, using trails
Level 3- Numerous backpacking trips, some x-country travel
Level 4- Comfortable with trail and/or x-country travel

What terrain are you comfortable/uncomfortable with?
- Class 1 terrain/trail hiking
- Class 2 terrain/pass/x-country
- Class 3 terrain/pass/x-country
- River crossings
- Snow travel/Glacier crossings

What is your main interest?
- Lakes
- Forests
- Big Mountain scenery
- Photography
- Fishing
- Climbing

How many days/nights is your trip, not including travel to trailhead? 3 Nights/ 4 Days
How many miles did you want to do a day, any layovers? 4-6 Miles
Did you prefer a loop or out and back trip? Out and Back
Is there a particular area in the Sierra that your most interested in(Yosemite, SEKI
western sierra start or eastern start ect.)? Bishop and South
Will you be hiking with a dog? No

Example: How is Lake Isabella in February?
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Re: Recommendations for backpacking in mid February

Postby markskor » Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:34 pm

Good response but obviously naive about Sierra winter conditions. From your initial question, you asked about the Cottonwoods...elevation 10,000'. I live in Mammoth Lakes (town elevation ~8,000'), perhaps have a bit more Sierra nights under my belt than you, and would not even consider any backcountry overnight outing (more than a mile in) until April without either skis or snowshoes - and at that conditioning, gear, and snow-camping knowledge will also factor in big time.

What it sounds like, what you are seeking, might be better left to lower elevations (under 5,000') - unfortunately not the best of the Sierra - or wait until after May. Personally, I would look elsewhere in February - other than the Sierra.
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Re: Recommendations for backpacking in mid February

Postby tro4130 » Fri Jan 31, 2014 12:39 pm

Thank you Mark. Yes, my initial plan to Cottonwood Lakes was naive and quickly aborted. I will take your warnings and save it for a different time. :thumbsup:
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Re: Recommendations for backpacking in mid February

Postby maverick » Fri Jan 31, 2014 1:02 pm

As mentioned in my reply to your earlier PM, wait for better and safer conditions.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Recommendations for backpacking in mid February

Postby sparky » Fri Jan 31, 2014 9:20 pm

There are great low elevation areas on the west side with some big trees.
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Re: Recommendations for backpacking in mid February

Postby Tom_H » Sat Feb 01, 2014 11:30 am

Please read the two related threads below.

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=10388

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=10442

Although I have a great fear this weather is going to remain dry, counting on it doing so is just as risky as playing Russian Roulette. And I am not being metaphorical or hyperbolic. You really are making a death wish.

It's like I said in the "football player" thread above. If you knew what you were doing, you wouldn't be on this forum asking these things. Anyone wanting to backpack the Sierra in winter needs NOLS level winter training. You need the following: knowledge in building snow caves and quinzee huts, igloos would be good too. You need to be experienced in snowshoe packing and nordic backcountry ski-packing. You need training in using snow belay. You need the correct gear for winter weather. Normally that would be down bags and parkas rated at least to -40, but with this bizarre weather you could get drenched in rain and then the temperature plummet to -20; you therefore need synthetic insulation rated to -30 or -40. You need correct layers for a range of conditions, an expedition quality tent, experience in alpine mountaineering with crampons, ice axes, and rope. You need an alpinists snow shovel, gaiters, a number of things you wouldn't think of if you haven't done this before. You need the correct boots that will work for your crampons, skis, and snow shoes, while still keeping your feet warm. You need to know winter first aid, especially how to deal with frostbite and hypothermia. You need a group size of at least 8 people, in which at least 4 need to have all the experience I have mentioned above, with the remainder having at minimum a lot of summer experience. You need some knowledge of the signs of avalanche danger, of how to judge the strength of snow bridges, of how to deal with a crevasse, including detecting one hidden by powder. You need to file a detailed trip plan. You need to have GPS, SPOT, and should also have a satellite phone. You need to take all the gear I mentioned and all be strong enough to haul all of it. If you have all that gear, training, and experience, you would be fine, but on the other hand, you wouldn't be here asking questions. Look, I am not trying to be mean, but this is getting frustrating with person after person asking this same thing, and obviously not having read any of the existing threads on the subject. You are practically begging for a way to kill yourself. Snow packing is not for people who don't have the training, strength, and experience for it. I don't care how much summer experience you have and how brute strong you are, that doesn't even begin to prepare you for snow packing. Such a person can be in the 50% of the group that's new to it, but you have to have at least 50% (and a minimum of 4) who are experienced. And back to this apparent climate change, I don't care how dry it seems it's going to stay. You could go out there on the 90th straight day of sun, go 25 miles into the backcountry, then have 15 feet of snow dumped on you two days later. There is no way to be sure it's not going to happen. GO TO THE COAST RANGE. It's quiet this time of year and it is for the most part safe.

Maverick: It might be worth it to consider the idea of a sticky thread at the top of this forum entitled Warning: Severe Danger-Winter Packing, or something like that. We've had enough reports lately of people dying in the summer. I have a great fear of there being no more water this winter, but I also have a fear of masses tempting fate in the next couple of months followed by threads recounting all those who died when the storms finally arrived.

End :soapbox: rant.
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Re: Recommendations for backpacking in mid February

Postby rlown » Sat Feb 01, 2014 1:51 pm

This makes me want to go in mid Feb now, other than it's Valentines day and my anniv close to that. :) Let's see.. Vaca Russ just went to crystal. no snow. he was ok. I've been out on the east side of 120, I'm still alive and that was one of the best trips of my life! Sure, no snow until i hit Ellery, but then it was heaven and I had to carry my skis up the hill.

Tom, it's nice you care and warn. not our choice and very few are on this site who might go. There is no friggn' chance to get 8 people to go in Feb. Given that there is not a lot of good skiing snow, you are carrying your skis or snowshoes for most of any trip you might plan until you get to snow.

Lost coast is great. watch out for the MJ growers.

Watch the weather and know what is going to happen in your approach window. As Tom points out, be prepared, but go if you know what you're doing. It doesn't require extensive training, but more common sense.

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Re: Recommendations for backpacking in mid February

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Feb 01, 2014 2:04 pm

One trip that may work is to go to the Ashram on Tuttle Creek. It basically is road walking (or nearly level x-country skiing). Not sure where you would park - if you could get to the normal trailhead. There is no water at the Ashram but a creek is located on your way in. If the side creek is dry, you have to drop down to the main river quite a distance, but there is a trail. You could also melt snow. The building is not weatherproof but kind of neat. You would still need a tent. It should be very scenic.

Even though low elevation you still need to check the weather report and have snowshoes in case it snows while you are in there, and have some snow camping experience. Bring chains for the car so you can drive out if snowy. Also, stash some food in the car in case you have to wait a day. Bring sufficient food to wait out a snowy day. Best to hunker down and munch peanuts while it is snowing, rather than getting soaked and cold trying to walk out.
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