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High Winds Rolled Tent in Desert

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High Winds Rolled Tent in Desert

Postby DJG » Tue Nov 29, 2005 11:43 am

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Our weekend ended with some excitement that I think some of you can relate to:
>
> I thought we had a pretty good holiday. Nice family gathering at our place, good eating, etc on Thursday. On Friday, my wife and I then went for a 3 day backpacking trip out in the desert in Joshua Tree National Park, to find a quiet spot in the backcountry to relax and enjoy being out. We had enjoyed some day hikes in the area out of the Upper Covington trailhead so we had planned to make this a simple backpacking out & back trip originating from there.
>
> We had prepped a lot of the gear throughout the week and still left a bit late Friday morning. After getting stuck in lousy traffic (overturned big rig) we got to the trailhead at sundown. Not to be held back, we hiked quickly until just before dark to find a suitable spot to stop for the night. Enjoyed some star gazing and listening to the competing packs of coyotes in the hills nearby.
>
> Saturday morning was peaceful and quiet, only Sue and I in the whole area, lots of sunshine and pleasant temps. We moved on to new site a couple miles more down the trail, up on the side of a valley to enjoy the view and the afternoon sun.
>
> All was going well until Saturday night, after dinner and happy hour, after the sun went down when the wind picked up, from a gentle breeze to steady 20-30 knots out of nowhere.
>
> Windy conditions there are not unusual but this time the wind got stronger by the hour, building gust by gust. At one point our little tent was laying across our bodies as the wind blew strongly. Then a gust came along and rolled our tent with us and all our clothes, boots, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, etc. in it so that after we tumbled we ended up laying on the roof of the tent. Tent stakes pulled, and tent poles bent.
>
> Everything went everywhere. That was at about 1 am. We spent the
> rest of the night clutching the flattened flapping tent tightly over our heads, sprawled in our bags, in order for it to not fill with wind on the next gust and roll us into the nearby ravine. We had to shout to hear eachother for the wind roared so loudly.
>
> With a wind chill near freezing or below we waited and waited for the sun to rise or for the winds to die before trying to piece our gear back together, find our clothes and boots, etc in the tent. This was a long night. Plenty of time to ponder the many ways in which it could turn worse as well as how to avoid that from happening. I figured we were best off staying put, in our bags inside this wildly flapping nylon sack in the dark waiting it out.
>
> When the sun came up the winds still blew strongly but we managed to get dressed, packed (didn't lose any gear, I can't believe it!) and then hiked 4 miles back to the car at the trailhead, which was 15 miles in on a dirt road. Then on to a coffee shop in Yucca Valley for a well deserved hot breakfast since it was too windy for us to use our stove at the campsite in order to have something hot to eat or drink.
>
Our nerves were shattered after all that. All's well that ends well. Once back on the freeway I was able to figure we must have been in gusts up to 70 mph or more, based on the scientific hand-out-the-window test.
>
Home never looked better. Slept like a rock last night. Looking forward to next time.

If anyone has any suggestions as to what we might have done differently I would appreciate hearing. Maybe a more sheltered site might have helped some, or maybe collapsing the tent earlier? Ideas anyone?

Thanks for sharing,
Dan



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Postby krudler » Tue Nov 29, 2005 12:14 pm

Hmmm. Not sure what kind of tent it was, I guess maybe its possible a lower profile or sturdier mountaineering type tent could have helped. Otherwise yes definitely a better sheltered spot, perhaps on the lee side of some big rocks...or maybe consider ditching the tent altogether and going with a bivy?
Wow, crazy night! Congrats!! :)
"Krusty, you know Bette Midler?"
"Yeah we own a racehorse together - the Krudler!"
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Postby DJG » Tue Nov 29, 2005 12:28 pm

Good points. Our site was chosen when the winds were calm and we opted for the view and afternoon sun. Tent was REI Clipper, 3 pole design. One of the selling points was that it was one of the more stable freestanding 2 person tents, we bought that one instead of the 2 pole Half Dome.

Hopefully we can bend the aluminum tent poles back into shape, replace the broken section and shock cords and keep on keepin' on.
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Postby Snow Nymph » Tue Nov 29, 2005 1:36 pm

Glad you survived it! Sounded pretty exciting!

I was in a monsoon in AZ once. It was quiet, but we could see clouds building up. I was setting up my tent, felt a few drops of rain, then a big gust of wind came and pulled the stakes out and the tent got thrown around like a click clack (hit 3 times, with all my gear inside, was held by a big boulder at the foot end). I grabbed the tent from the door end and thought the wind (blowing in the tent) was going to pick me up and blow away. As soon as the wind let down, I jumped in and wrapped it around me til the storm passed (about 20 min). Others were still hiking, and the ones with tents jumped in. For me it was a mistake to start setting up when I did.

Not sure what else you could have done since you were already inside.
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison


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Postby markskor » Tue Nov 29, 2005 2:08 pm

Not in a tent but...
My then 9-year-old-son and I were driving along highway 395, and, on a spur of the moment thing, I decided to visit the Hot Creek behind the Mammoth airport. He had never seen it, and I told him we would certainly enjoy the warm soak. At the little wooden bridge there, we both entered the creek. After a bit, my son (all 75 pounds of him) was maybe 20 feet from me, also in the water, when a very large dust devil came by. It moved and flitted around as dust devils do, and then it stopped moving and settled right over my son's head for the longest time. I looked up to see him being literally sucked up and out, and I grabbed him – at the last minute- about two feet above the water. I never knew that those little tornadoes had that much power.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Postby copeg » Tue Nov 29, 2005 2:53 pm

Wow, what a story. Not sure what you could have don differently. You could have pitched in a more shletered location, but you didn't know the winds would pick up like that. I've spent more than my share of windy nights. One was in late winter in the Sierra - the wind was so strong it would push me forward on the flat on my skis with my skins on - and I was camped in very exposed location (like you, I didn't think the winds would get that strong). Another time was when I camped out on Throop peak in the San Gabriels earlier this year. I had a bivy that time and honestly couldn't have imagined trying to set up a tent in that wind (I also left my stove windscreen at home - another story). My night was surprising more comfortable in the bivy compared to my windy experiences in tents - even with the wind blowing so it would knock you over. I was able to find a nice sheltered area to lay in my bivy - another advantage to bivying in windy conditions - easy to find tiny sheltered spots.
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