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Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby Hobbes » Fri Oct 16, 2015 4:11 pm

Andy, maybe I should have gone with you - jeez you caught perfect weather/conditions. I've been through each of those areas, including the same loop variations, enough times that I could probably navigate like a circus pony walking back to my shed. At only 3.5 hrs from home - if I'm booking it - it's just such a quick, high value, low time/energy/cost proposition. Some of my favorite hikes are the easy stroll through Miter, and the meadow walk along the old SF trail.

Regarding your pack/kit, I think there's a renewed movement is seeing how minimally one can go, especially for a 2-3-4 day trip where one can accurately determine a good weather forecast. I got some Dyneema 140 that I'm going to use to create a small pack like yours. I decided I'm going to eliminate a hip belt, and even forgo a sleeping pad that can do dual duty as a pack pseudo-frame. (Instead, I'm just going to throw a short 8oz Neo air in the pack as a carry item.)

Handy Andy, the kid who holds the JMT FKT*, just finished the CDT with his own ultra-minimal equipment. I had decided on my no-hipbelt, ultra minimalist approach before I saw his link:

https://instagram.com/p/8E7x--wERn/?taken-by=andy_bentz

Like he says, "it's time to free the hip". Of course, this only works if your pack is under 15lbs, ideally 10, but man, if you can take just enough not to get cold, wet or too hungry, boy you can feel the complete freedom of just walking in nature.

PS Yes, I also prefer the route closest to McAdie over Crabtree.

* Cool backstory:
http://andrewbentz.com/new-blog/2015/4/ ... known-time



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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby Rockyroad » Fri Oct 16, 2015 4:58 pm

Bluewater wrote:...Maybe it's time for me to upgrade to a DSLR. . . but it would almost double by base weight :crybaby:


You do quite well with the equipment you have. Your rainbow photo in the Tablelands is exquisite and among the best I've seen this year.

In fact, after seeing yours and Hobbes's packs, and actually everyone else's at the meetup, I'm on a mission to get my own pack weight down. I may even consider going back to my old point and shoot!
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby markskor » Sat Oct 17, 2015 2:08 am

Hobbes wrote:Andy, maybe I should have gone with you - jeez you caught perfect weather/conditions...Regarding your pack/kit, I think there's a renewed movement is seeing how minimally one can go, especially for a 2-3-4 day trip where one can accurately determine a good weather forecast.
Like he says, "it's time to free the hip". Of course, this only works if your pack is under 15lbs, ideally 10, but man, if you can take just enough not to get cold, wet or too hungry, boy you can feel the complete freedom of just walking in nature.


While impressed with your minimal pack weight carried, your experience, and your luck in catching perfect weather conditions, not so much impressed with your your contingency plan for when the the fecal material hits the fan. Yes under ideal conditions Sierra, you can easily cover 17 mile days carrying 10 pounds on your back... (with a free hip).
However, 3 days/nights of food (for me anyway) weighs ~ 5 pounds, leaving 5 pounds for all the rest? What am I missing? Tarp, sleeping bag, waterproof shell, pad, and backpack...can be done at under 5 pounds under ideal Sierra weather but...what happens if inclement weather blows in or something breaks? What happens if you are forced to stay over an extra day or two...do you starve or beg others for food?

Maybe in mid-summer your UL plans work, but in shoulder seasons like now, I feel that it is slightly irresponsible to venture out to higher climes Sierra, without adequate provisions and /or adequate bad-weather gear. Talking about how light your gear is won't keep you alive.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby Bluewater » Sun Oct 25, 2015 10:56 pm

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Thanks Hobbes for the link to the article about Handy Andy and his FKT JMT hike. It's an impressive athletic achievement on any trail but I can relate to it more simply because I've been on each section of the trail and could almost feel his pain. I remember being equally impressed when I first read the article by Mike Lanza about hiking the JMT in 7 days (http://www.backpacker.com/skills/ultral ... in-a-week/). The comments after his article seemed strange to me since many people criticized his focus on speed. . . but isn't that the point of FKT's? There's no point in trying to enjoy the 'wilderness experience' while hiking 60 miles/day!

I'm looking forward to seeing your new pack. I like the green(ish) color dyneema you used on your last pack. Perfect for the short 3 day trips in the southern Sierra. I'm not ready to ditch the hipbelt yet. I run hot and like to carry the pack slightly off my back for ventilation but I see other people doing it.


Thanks Rockyroad, I just got lucky on that rainbow panorama. It was one of those moments where I turned the corner and it was just there! If you're interested I have a few ultralight packs, quilts, pads etc that I've collected or built over the years and you are welcome to use/experiment with. Maybe we can take a short trip just to try it out sometime, possibly in the local mountains first just to play it safe.


Thanks for your diplomatic comments Markskor. I think describing it as 'slightly irresponsible' to focus on pack weight during the shoulder season without some sort of disclaimer is being very kind, however, in my experience it is possible to venture out into the High Sierra in the shoulder season with UL gear while still carrying adequate provisions and bad weather gear. This is based on UL meaning a base weight of 10 lbs or less.

I made the assumption that most people on HST are typically experienced and would already know this, but maybe in the future a disclaimer at the beginning of a post about a shoulder season trip would be reasonable. Possibly something like:

Do not try this if unless you have the experience and skills necessary to stay safe, comfortable and well fed under adverse conditions in the High Sierra. Always check the weather forecast before leaving, and be ready for the forecast to be incorrect. The high Sierra can create it's own weather, especially during a shoulder season trip like this. Hikers die every year in the High Sierra so if you are unsure, DO NOT go into the backcountry in the shoulder season.

Any input from the regulars here on HST would be humbly appreciated.

To illustrate how quickly the weather can change check out these two photos from a trip I took over Taboose Pass last week:

Bluebird skies at 1:00 pm during a rest at Lake Marjorie:

img_4731-1.JPG


Surrounded by black clouds and thunder by 2:15 pm just below Pinchot Pass. Even though I had snow gear I turned around and sheltered up at lower elevation.

IMG_4743.JPG


Fortunately it blew through by sunset. This happened on a day when the forecast was for clear skies! My thoughts were about Larry Conn during this experience. I ended up hiking out a day early just to be safe.

For anyone new to HST you might find it interesting to read the memorial for Larry Conn who we lost in an October storm in 2012 at the top of Taboose Pass: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=10155


Some thoughts about my own experience using lightweight gear during 5-10 day shoulder season trips;

In October 2013 I took a ten day trip that included Blackcap Basin - Lake Confusion Pass - Goddard Canyon - Ionian Basin - Finger Col (http://seatosummitultralight.blogspot.c ... tober.html). The forecast was for a snow storm in the middle of the trip so I packed accordingly. My gear included a 10 degree quilt, full size inflatable pad, a pyramid shelter with 360 degree protection, puffy down jacket, full rain/snow gear, gloves and w/b rain/snow mitts, merino balaclava & headband, down beanie, stove for hot dinners etc.

My base pack weight was 8.3 pounds. I slept through an all night snow storm in Ionian Basin at the base of Mt. Goddard. While I do not recommend this to anyone new to backpacking I was safe, warm, well fed (and well rested) and enjoyed a beautiful trip solo.

I agree that it is irresponsible for someone who does not have the experience and skill necessary to use lightweight gear and techniques to venture out on a trip in the shoulder season.

I do not venture out into the High Sierra in the shoulder season without adequate provisions and/or adequate bad-weather gear and I do not use my same mid-summer gear during the shoulder season. Talking about lightweight gear can be fun, just like having fun talking about fishing gear. . . and I agree that talking about anything won't keep you alive.

If you are interested in the detailed breakdown of gear and food weights there was a detailed gear list included with the link in the original post and again below:

Some useful links:

Detailed UL gear list for this trip including a bear canister:
http://seatosummitultralight.blogspot.c ... -2015.html

Detailed UL gear list from 2013 ten day shoulder season trip:
http://seatosummitultralight.blogspot.c ... -2013.html


These are the weather forecast links that I check at least twice a day for the two weeks prior to a shoulder season trip in the Southern Sierra:

Current weather forecast for the Miter Basin/Crabtree Lakes area:
http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.ph ... 9278954356

Current snow level for the Cottonwood Lakes/Miter Basin/Crabtree areas:
http://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/interactive/ ... &js=1&uc=0

The current NASA Worldview satellite view of the Southern Sierra:
http://go.nasa.gov/1S5sSRh

24 Hour Western U.S. Water Vapor (GOES West) map:
http://www.goes.noaa.gov/dml/west/nhem/weus/wv.html

High Sierra Topix Conditions Reports:
viewforum.php?f=34

Whitney Zone conditions:
http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthread ... #Post44693

Thanks for reading and have fun:)
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Oct 26, 2015 6:32 am

Nine out of ten times, you probably could get by with UL gear in the shoulder season. There still is a risk. UL does not consider the consequences of getting injured. Additionally, "shoulder season" can turn into real winter. This is the main risk. If five days back in the Sierra and real winter hits, getting out with UL gear may be risky- particularly hiking in trail runners and walking all day in several feet of snow risks frostbite. I am not convinced that UL gear will keep you dry walking all day in a storm. Many times when real winter hits, you had better get out because if you sit it out, you may be stuck in several feet of new snow that is not going to melt. When "shoulder season" ends and "winter" begins is different each year and quite unpredictable.

Nevertheless, we each choose our level of risk that is acceptable based on our experience. I perhaps am more conservative because I have done real winter ski mountaineering. My issue is with people who refuse to acknowledge the small but real risk that is associated with UL backpacking. There is added risk with going solo and I do a lot of solo; I totally acknowledge this risk. Solo and UL in shoulder season adds a bit to the simple UL risk. But I also agree that we have the freedom to choose our own level of risk, as long as we go into it with full knowledge of consequences.

And almost ALL of us can work on reducing our pack weight- maybe not to UL but at least aiming for base weights in the 18-20 pound range. It is good to see what gear you use. Gives me some good ideas. Now I just need a rich uncle to purchase all that :eek: $$$!!! gear.
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby psykokid » Mon Oct 26, 2015 9:30 am

My son bridged over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts earlier this year so I've been slowly upgrading my gear and getting lighter gear as I replace heavier older gear with more backpacking trips coming up. Here's my big 4 that I have upgraded in the last 6 months:

Deuter Aircontact 55+10 (5 lbs 12 oz) to a Exped Lightning 60 (2 lbs 6 oz).
REI Trekker 1.75 pad (2 lbs 8 oz) to a Large Thermarest Neo-Air Xtherm (1 lb 4 oz)
30 degree synthetic bag (3 lbs 5 oz) to 32 deg Northface Kilo down (2 lbs 2 oz)
Northface 2 person tent (5 lbs 8 oz) to Eureka Spitfire 1 person tent (2 lbs 8 oz)

Total weight before for the big 4 - 17 lbs 1 oz.
Total weight after for the big 4 - 8 lbs 4 oz.

That's a 50% reduction in the basic stuff. Made my last trip I took up to Cottonwood lakes much more enjoyable by having my overall pack weight come in lower. I've been able to pick up everything second hand at quite a discount, so while its an outlay I'm not paying retail.
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby Bluewater » Thu Oct 29, 2015 2:56 pm

Thanks for your thoughtful responses WanderingDaisy & Psykokid. I really appreciate you sharing your extensive experience so freely here on HST!

I was definitely thinking about the risks associated with backpacking in the high country during a shoulder season trip last week. I hiked out a day early after getting a little concerned about weather, even though I was carrying microspikes, eVent gaiters and gortex socks. Of course the sun ended up shining throughout the next day and I even met a group heading in at Taboose Pass. They said the forecast was fine for their three day trip!

Psykokid cutting 9 lbs off of your pack weight is impressive! BTW, I love the TAR Xtherm and use it on all my winter and early spring trips. There's nothing like a good nights sleep right on the snow and ice. That pad is amazing. Cutting any more weight off of a 4 lb 'big four' starts to get into the very small (and unfortunately very large $) details.

I understand that UL usually refers to trail runners/tarps/thin sleeping bags and the lightweight gear we typically carry in the summer. While I realize that is the reality most of the time when someone is carrying a UL base weight (<10 pounds) for me I end up carrying what would be considered a "UL" setup (base weight of 10 lbs or less) even on multi-day winter Sierra snowshoe trips. So when I read that a very (very) experienced backpacker like WD is not convinced that UL gear will keep you dry walking all day in a storm I acknowledge that for most people that is true. . . even with groups that are primarily focused on lightweight gear like at BPL.

But for me I can still take all of the gear necessary for a safe winter trip and stay around a 10 lb base weight. I carry full snow gear: 3 layer event pants/gaiters/jacket/mitts, gortex socks, 30" snowshoes, pyramid shelter, TAR Xtherm pad, 10 degree quilt, down parka/beanie/mitts, Whisperlite to melt snow, PLB, GPS, camera etc and keep my base weight at 10.3 lbs. (details here: http://seatosummitultralight.blogspot.c ... -2014.html).

I definitely agree that carrying too much lightweight/summer type gear in the shoulder season could lead to disaster when the first real storm hits (frostbite, hypothermia etc). I have often wondered if carrying a 4 oz PLB would have changed the outcome of the situation that faced Larry Conn in 2012.

I'm not sure I understand how UL does not consider the consequences of getting injured. This may be true for inexperienced backpackers carrying any type of gear, but my UL kit includes a first aid kit, PLB, maps, headlamp, extra batteries, navigational gear, typical 10 essentials etc. In my experience the accidents that my friends have averted were due to the fact that they weren't carrying a heavy load when they fell or tripped.

I agree that it comes down to risk assessment and that regardless of what you choose it should be a conscious decision with full awareness and hopefully preparedness :)
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby Rockyroad » Fri Oct 30, 2015 10:31 pm

Bluewater, thanks for the kind offer. I may take you up on it. If not, I'll see you at next year's meetup.
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Re: Horseshoe Meadows Loop - Sept 25-27

Postby sekihiker » Sat Oct 31, 2015 6:46 am

Thanks for the report and photos. Sometimes I'm jealous of you guys who have easy access to the east side. It seems like you managed to see a lot of high country in three days. Of course the days weren't that easy and you had to know your way around that area to pull it off.
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