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October Backpacking

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Re: October Backpacking

Postby giantbrookie » Tue Sep 30, 2014 4:43 pm

For right now I have not been going up in the fall for a few years (since about 2001), but when I did do backpacking in October (and sometimes into early November) in the Sierra, my criteria were somewhat similar to those listed above.

I aim for the lower elevations of the Sierra and destinations that aren't very deep into the backcountry from the trailhead. My Oct-Nov targets were primarily Desolation and northward in the Sierra. The longest trips were usually 3 days.

This would be the time to hit the fall turnover in the lakes. It is also the time of the year when brookies and browns spawn, so they get more aggressive. Accordingly fall has always been a prime time for going after big fish. The fall fishing was one big reason my wife and I would enjoy fall trips, but it was not the only one. The lack of mosquitoes is a big reason, as is the fall off in backcountry use after Labor Day, which is more important with the late season stuff because our targets are so much more accessible. Fall colors are nice, too.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html



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Re: October Backpacking

Postby Tom_H » Tue Sep 30, 2014 6:43 pm

Once again, Ms. Daisy offers gems of wisdom. Thank you for proffering this timely and sage advice.

I will try not to repeat things already stated that I agree with. I will add:

1. It helps to understand the thermodynamics of various fabrics.

1-a. While cotton is o.k in the central and northern Sierra in summer, it is not a good fabric in the other three seasons. Cotton wicks at a constant gradient of moisture across a fabric cross-section. This allows it to conduct heat away from the body when moist. Wet cotton refrigerates the skin through a combination of conduction and evaporation; this is compounded greatly by convection if there is wind. Wool, silk, and modern synthetics draw most of the water to the outer face of the fabric, leaving the skin relatively dry and pockets of air within the fibers of the material close to the skin. This prevents heat from being conducted away from the body.

1-b Down is an excellent insulator if you can keep it dry. Shoulder seasons are not a good time to use down in any application. In winter, rain is unlikely. In summer, torrential downpours are unlikely and even if a summer bag gets wet, there are ways to survive the night. Shoulder seasons have the potential for great amounts of rain combined with cold. Drenched down is worthless for parkas and sleeping bags, unless you have the highest quality Gore-tex or similar lining. Even then, it is a risk.

1-c Layering principles are critical as temperatures can vary greatly. It is good to have light layers near the body and heavier and heavier layers of synthetic garments to go on top. Don't forget to keep the head and feet warm and dry.

1-d Boots with Gore-tex or snow-seal (on leather boots) help keep the feet dry if it gets wet. Daisy is correct: winter requires a different kind of boots.

2. Having a well developed trip plan that you leave with a couple of knowledgable and responsible parties is a good idea. Make sure to stick to the plan so that if SAR has to come looking, they are looking in the right place.

3. SPOT, sat-phone, GPS, etc. can be valuable assets if snow does come.

4. It helps to understand the signs of frostbite and hypothermia, how they work, how they affect the mind and body, and how to react at the earliest signs of them.

5. Remember that there is safety in numbers. In my own opinion, only the most experienced should consider soloing in the summer. In the winter, there are so many ways another person can keep you alive if something goes wrong. Soloing in the other three seasons is an activity with increased risk.

6. If you do encounter snow in an area where there was not previous snowpack, nordic skis are not the best idea. They will scrape the ground a lot and wax or fish scales either one will be quickly abraded away, allowing for no traction on the kick. You really need a base before using the skis. It is better to take small snowshoes with a set of teeth. If you get rain or a combination of rain with snow or sleet, followed by plunging temperatures, you could wind up walking on slick ice. Hiking on ice (not snowpack, but slick ice) is really no fun in regular hiking boots. For this reason, a small set of ice cleats can be valuable. Having snow baskets to clip on the hiking poles is also helpful.

7. Remember to take extra fuel for the stove. You will need it. While on this subject, remember that you can still dehydrate in the arid and rarified air. Stay hydrated with soup and warm to hot drinks if the temperatures require it.

8. Consider going to places you've been before in the summer. If it snows, you will at least have some memory of the landmarks, even if you can't see the trail. Also, places usually look starkly different in the shallower sunlight. Brisk wind and fall colors add to the drama. The difference in the way the place looks now compared to your summer memories can be really enjoyable.

9. Remember that the shoulder seasons do differ from each other in some ways. Spring can have the danger of very iffy snow bridges and a big rain storm can melt the snowpack, leading to dangerous flooding. Camping in ravines should be avoided in the spring. Fire can still be a danger in the fall if the ground is still dry. Falling temperatures lower the danger, but in an autumn following a summer like this one, in places left dry by the recent storm, there is still the potential for fire. Once the ground is wet, that danger is mostly gone.

Edit-adding # 10

10. Fall, winter, and spring are not the time to take up backpacking as a new hobby. One needs to learn all the basics during the time of year when you don't face the possibility of being buried under snow. Learn the basics during summer, then take it up a notch in another season after you already have something to build on.

Happy fall trails!
Last edited by Tom_H on Tue Sep 30, 2014 8:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby The hermit » Tue Sep 30, 2014 7:25 pm

Great advice, thanks for opening this discussion, and to all who contributed!
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby oldranger » Tue Sep 30, 2014 7:36 pm

Tom

Your reference to locators and someone else's in the past couple of weeks seems to imply that you make choices that you would otherwise not make if you did not have such a device. I think that is wrong. If you don't have the skill and confidence to undertake such a trip without one you should not go with one just because you assume the device will work and someone will come and bail you out. The only reason I carry a device is because my wife insists. It is never a factor in any decisions I make considering go or no go because of weather or choice of route. Either I am comfortable with a route or I change my route-- the spot locator is totally irrelevant.

Mike
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby Tom_H » Tue Sep 30, 2014 8:01 pm

oldranger wrote:Tom

Your reference to locators and someone else's in the past couple of weeks seems to imply that you make choices that you would otherwise not make if you did not have such a device. I think that is wrong. If you don't have the skill and confidence to undertake such a trip without one you should not go with one just because you assume the device will work and someone will come and bail you out. The only reason I carry a device is because my wife insists. It is never a factor in any decisions I make considering go or no go because of weather or choice of route. Either I am comfortable with a route or I change my route-- the spot locator is totally irrelevant.

Mike


Mike, I completely agree with you. What I do not understand, however, is how you drew all that inference from this:

Tom_H wrote:3. SPOT, sat-phone, GPS, etc. can be valuable assets if snow does come.


Those things are simply tools. Tools that can make a difference in a life and death situation. I meant exactly what I said, no less, no more; they can be valuable assets. In my own opinion, it is very foolish to depend solely upon these things. Anyone who isn't able to backpack without them shouldn't be backpacking to begin with. One's own sense of direction, honed through years of finding his/her own way through the woods is infinitely more valuable. Knowing how to survive, knowing how to use map and compass, knowing how to determine direction by the sun and stars, all those are so much more important than relying on electronic tools that can fail. All that being said, being now in my 60s, if I were to go out when there is a possibility of snow, I would take electronic aids, simply because they are an additional backup safety feature. My wife just went through cancer surgery and fortunately, the cancer had not spread beyond the tumor. It really scared me though. She and I have a very close relationship and this made me realize how lost I would be if she were gone. I don't own any of those things, because I don't think I need them in the summer. I'm realistic about the toll age has taken on my body, however; I don't go solo any more and I don't winter backpack any more. But, if I did go out when snow was a real possibility, I wouldn't go without them, because she needs me just as much as I need her. So I would take them, just because I know I am not the athlete I used to be, and I know she wants me to come home to her.
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby sparky » Tue Sep 30, 2014 9:48 pm

fall/spring/winter is for foothills, coastal, and desert backpacking. So many people are so focused on the sierra in the summer, the beauty that surrounds is just ignored.....which is good for people like us!

On topic, when I go out in the high country in Oct, my load is damn heavy :eek:

I love all the nighttime....because I love to sleep!

Fall, winter, and spring are not the time to take up backpacking as a new hobby. One needs to learn all the basics during the time of year when you don't face the possibility of being buried under snow. Learn the basics during summer, then take it up a notch in another season after you already have something to build on.


^^ not the time in the sierra that is.
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby Vaca Russ » Wed Oct 01, 2014 6:37 am

Ska-T wrote:I am planning to head out from South Lake on Thur or Fri. If anyone has any information about snow coverage from the last storm on passes like Thunderbolt & Knapsack related to the hazards of boulder hopping there ... Thanks.)


JB02xjq.jpg


"Got chased out of the high country by the prospect of more snow after waking up to several inches of it covering my tent. Decided to make the hike from 12,000' to the trailhead before the pass was completely impassable. Looked back the way I had come when I got to the parking lot and decided I made the right choice.

Photo taken by me (the author) looking back into Kings Canyon National Park along the Bishop Pass trail."

Story found here:

http://m.imgur.com/JB02xjq

OK, it is not Thunderbolt or Knapsack...but it is Bishop Pass. :nod:

Thanks,

-Russ
” Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports … all others are games.”- Ernest Hemingway
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby Tom_H » Wed Oct 01, 2014 7:55 am

sparky wrote:fall/spring/winter is for foothills, coastal, and desert backpacking. So many people are so focused on the sierra in the summer, the beauty that surrounds is just ignored.....which is good for people like us!

On topic, when I go out in the high country in Oct, my load is damn heavy :eek:

I love all the nighttime....because I love to sleep!

Fall, winter, and spring are not the time to take up backpacking as a new hobby. One needs to learn all the basics during the time of year when you don't face the possibility of being buried under snow. Learn the basics during summer, then take it up a notch in another season after you already have something to build on.


^^ not the time in the sierra that is.


Agree completely.
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Oct 01, 2014 8:35 am

OK, a little off topic, but I will use this post to get a few of you to read my recent trip reports in the Wind Rivers. Late August weather in Wyoming is a lot like October in the Sierra. The Tourist Creek trip turned out to be an exercise in bailing out- out running (descending) the snow. We were in one of the more difficult places in the Wind Rivers to get out of when the storm hit (think of Enchanted Gorge). Although my last Sierra trip it was colder and snowed on me at Pine Lake, the continual wet-cold conditions on Tourist Creek were much worse.
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby Tom_H » Wed Oct 01, 2014 9:27 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:OK, a little off topic, but I will use this post to get a few of you to read my recent trip reports in the Wind Rivers. Late August weather in Wyoming is a lot like October in the Sierra. The Tourist Creek trip turned out to be an exercise in bailing out- out running (descending) the snow. We were in one of the more difficult places in the Wind Rivers to get out of when the storm hit (think of Enchanted Gorge). Although my last Sierra trip it was colder and snowed on me at Pine Lake, the continual wet-cold conditions on Tourist Creek were much worse.


Same used to be true for my trips in Uncompaghre, CO and Pecos NM. Sparky makes a good point, every range has its own climate and a smart backpacker will know what the range of weather possibilities can be for that area and for every month of the year.
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby GoPoly » Wed Oct 01, 2014 4:58 pm

Thanks to all the posts. I'm planning to do my first October Sierra backpacking trip next weekend in Seqouia NP (hopefully). I agree that some of the more popular spots in Sequoia NP and Yosemite are good to hit this time of year as permits are easier to obtain. I'm planning on a short distance, close to the truck, overnighter with cold weather gear (0 degree bag, snow gloves, lots of layers, lots of ebooks). I did a backpacking trip last October in the Death Valley Panamint Mtns and it was beautiful. That is a great alternative in the fall.
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby Tom_H » Wed Oct 01, 2014 5:28 pm

GoPoly wrote:Thanks to all the posts. I'm planning to do my first October Sierra backpacking trip next weekend in Seqouia NP (hopefully). I agree that some of the more popular spots in Sequoia NP and Yosemite are good to hit this time of year as permits are easier to obtain. I'm planning on a short distance, close to the truck, overnighter with cold weather gear (0 degree bag, snow gloves, lots of layers, lots of ebooks). I did a backpacking trip last October in the Death Valley Panamint Mtns and it was beautiful. That is a great alternative in the fall.


Welcome to the forum. Hope you will gain a lot as well as offer lots of knowledge as well!

BTW, does GoPoly refer to Cal Poly?
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