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October Backpacking

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Re: October Backpacking

Postby markskor » Wed Oct 01, 2014 6:56 pm

Not trying to appear harsh but getting a bit weary of these recent "hiker lost - pushed the Spot button - hikers found" reports coming from our Sierra. With any hint of snow in the future, unless you are in great shape, have and know how to use cold-weather gear, and possess extensive previous winter hiking knowledge, you have no business going out. This is not a game folks.

I read all these October trail plans - South Lake, White Mountains, Mineral King, etc. and cringe. Fishing plans to 10,000 feet, quick hikes to try out new gear, last chance trips before the snow flies...people with little experience but possessing/relying on some sort of rescue transmitter...What the hell are you thinking? Seasoned pros here in Mammoth know better than to tempt fate when any foul weather is forecasted...even then we have the knowledge and the right gear. Many posting here seem to have great summer, UL equipment ...just not good enough.

Bettter to choose lower elevations, or stay home than think you can gamble on clear conditions up high for your trip duration, and if something bad happens - just push a panic button where someone will come and rescue you.

IMHO, those SPOT-type devices are just a panacea for loved ones waiting at home...not to be relied on to get you out alive. Be responsible for your own actions. Know what you are doing. Depend on yourself...or die.
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby Tom_H » Wed Oct 01, 2014 9:46 pm

For the record, even though I mentioned electronic aids, I agree with markskor 100%. I have gotten in trouble on this site before for expressing similar views with veracity, but Mark is right. Over and over we read these threads re. searches for lost hikers. There are ways to prevent it from happening to begin with. I won't repeat all the good advice already given about fall hiking, but I will say that it is risky; you need a lot of prior experience, the right equipment, and good judgement. One of the best things you can do is get lots of summer experience first, then go on a NOLS or similar winter trip. There is no substitute for good training. It's like Mark said, if you are not in good shape and don't know what you're doing, don't have the right gear and/or know how to use it, you shouldn't be out in conditions where you could get buried in snow. It would be nice to go a few years without Maverick needing to mount search and recovery efforts.
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby Ska-T » Thu Oct 02, 2014 12:57 am

One lesson from this thread is that with experience you can plan a safe and fun Fall trip, which I believe was WD's original point. If you are inexperienced then it is your job to educate yourself and gain experience before undertaking these trips. But don't succumb to fear because well-planned, well-timed shoulder season trips are memorable.

(Regarding fear, I apologize for mentioning a possible short & safe South Lake trip this weekend by experienced backpackers during warm, clear weather and applying most of WD's principles. I didn't expect anyone to cringe. :confused:)
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby GoPoly » Thu Oct 02, 2014 7:55 am

Tom_H wrote:
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?

Thanks. I wish I had found this forum much earlier. Lots of great advice from some seasoned backpacking vets. Yes, GoPoly refers to my alma mater, Cal Poly SLO :)

I like the advice about watching what's happening in Oregon/Northern Cal. It seems like this time of year, if it looks like weather might start dropping to those locations, there might be a chance for something in the southern Sierra. Seems like that's what happened last weekend quickly.

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Re: October Backpacking

Postby balance » Tue Oct 07, 2014 2:16 pm

Good info Wandering Daisy and others.

I just returned from a five day solo trip into Cottonwood Lakes Sept. 29 to Oct. 3. It was really cold and snowing, with snow staying on the ground Sept 27, so I waited a day and a half before heading up. What a reward I got for my patience! Water bottle still froze an inch or two at night, but the days were calm and sunny, up into the 60's. Places usually buggy or overrun with people were quiet and restful. Couldn't ask for anything better.

Made one miscalculation. Took a Mountain Hardware Phantom 32 sleeping bag. That must be just a model number, because it sure won't keep you warm at 32 degrees, although it was a good deal colder than that. Fortunately, my artificial insulation hooded jacket made up the difference. And I had both a thin and a fleece balaclava, which I believe, ounce for ounce, is the warmest piece of clothing you can carry.

But then, isn't that how it usually goes? We come back from a trip, and no matter how experienced, we can second guess how we shoulda' taken this and shoulda' not taken that. But we manage to be resourceful, make the best of it, and are blessed to experience glorious places and amazing things which relatively few ever do.

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Re: October Backpacking

Postby rlown » Tue Oct 07, 2014 6:09 pm

A nice report back, balance,

Don't take this as normal weather for Oct. ok, the freezing cold, yes, but It just takes one storm and the backcountry rules change, and the door usually opens end of Sept. My rule of thumb is to not go in Oct unless close to exit, Like a Saddlebag Lk trip. YMMV.

Get a real sleeping bag :)
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Oct 07, 2014 6:47 pm

It is the long dark nights that discourages me most in October. Just too much tent time. Cold is fine as long as it does not get cold at 5PM! We are going to do the "Great Eastern Sierra Drive" starting next Wed., staying in our new travel trailer and day-hiking and fishing. The tentative plan is Markleville, Bridgeport, Bishop, Lone Pine- then either backtrack or go around the south end and hit Sequoia and Yosemite on the way home. This will be a new experience for me -light and warmth in the evening. I just hope all the fall colors are not gone by the time we go. Now I just have to worry about snow on the roads.
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby dave54 » Tue Oct 07, 2014 8:55 pm

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

I have never considered those things as last-resort emergency lifesavers. They are toys that are interesting and make life a bit easier, but not essentials.

My emergency backup gear is a signal mirror, whistle, and map/compass, with frequent practice to keep the skills sharp.
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby Cross Country » Sun Oct 12, 2014 1:10 pm

I used to backpack 30 - 40 days a year from May to Sep. I took 2 trips in Oct. to the Kern River at 5K.
It was still too cold and not enough daylight for me. It just felt like I was trying to prove something to myself and I have enough of that in the other parts of my life and those without feeling so cold.

Everyone is different. Enjoy yourselfs.
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Re: October Backpacking

Postby oldranger » Sun Oct 12, 2014 1:48 pm

Cross Country

Welcome back!


Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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