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Soloist Anonymous, a TR.

Grab your bear can or camp chair, kick your feet up and chew the fat about anything Sierra Nevada related that doesn't quite fit in any of the other forums. Within reason, (and the HST rules and guidelines) this is also an anything goes forum. Tell stories, discuss wilderness issues, music, or whatever else the High Sierra stirs up in your mind.
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Soloist Anonymous, a TR.

Postby freestone » Sun Nov 04, 2012 8:36 am

I love to go solo backpacking. It doesn't have to be the Sierra, the addiction is not location dependent, but the John Muir Wilderness is always first on the list.

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For the soloist, the hours and miles melt away, always taking the time to look back and admire where you have been just hours earlier.

Taboose from Bench Lake
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One reason that this habit is so hard to kick is because I have gotten very selfish in my old age, and why not? I deserve a little peace and freedom to leave the trail on a whim and visit nameless lakes.

Some nameless lakes below Stripped Mountain
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When you are solo, you know when the fish will take a fly. It's your choice, Fish or bag a peak?

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I have also gotten very good at it, with my pack weight down to the UL level for 5 days with a bear can, a strong heart and work ethic. I am an old billy goat with no fear and a strong desire to roam the wild places.

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A UL breakfast
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I can wake up and daydream for hours or just lay there and soak in the views and watch the sun slow light up the peaks.

Somewhere on the east side of Taboose
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But I've gotta kick it, because the family reads the news, and they read all the stories about missing hikers and SAR rescue and recovery missions and now they are prepared to put me in chains and throw away the keys to the car. They are right, this addiction could be the end of me. I can play by all the rules, and have all the right electronic monitoring gadgets and gear, but one misguided step can be the end of bliss, and the beginning of misery or the end. So what to do?

Dream on, or lay low and let it pass? Maybe reinvent the soloist concept? Some sort of hybrid approach maybe. It's the end of the season now so there is plenty of time to think about it and start reinventing.
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Thanks for listening, I feel better now.

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Axel



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Re: Soloist Anonymous, a TR.

Postby Maddog61 » Sun Nov 04, 2012 1:52 pm

Thanks for the TR. Definitely food for thought.

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Re: Soloist Anonymous, a TR.

Postby vandman » Sun Nov 04, 2012 3:51 pm

Nice. I usually hike with a partner, but solo occasionally, so I can appreciate the freedom of solo. My brother Mike M. is a crazy soloist. Back in the 70's and 80's he would go 20-30 days all by himself, and emerge looking like Ishi and talking like Gollum.
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Re: Soloist Anonymous, a TR.

Postby dave54 » Sun Nov 04, 2012 4:37 pm

Not as much now, but when I was younger I solo off-trailed more often than not. And often without an itinerary. I would draw a big circle on a map and tell my wife "somewhere in there". She put up with my excursions because she knew I enjoyed them and she had confidence in my abilities.

I found I was more cautious and took less risks alone than with someone. The only close calls I ever had were on popular trails or with someone.

The years have caught up with me. The knees are not really up to multi day off trail trips anymore. A good hard day on the trail now requires a layover day the next.
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Re: Soloist Anonymous, a TR.

Postby Tollermom » Tue Nov 06, 2012 5:37 pm

That was beautiful. Thanks.
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Re: Soloist Anonymous, a TR.

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Nov 07, 2012 3:48 pm

Risk can be reduced for any style of backpacking you choose, including off-trail solo. The first step is to recognize the added risk and then compensate (mitigate and manage) the risk. It is winter- sit down and make a list of risks and figure out how to mitigate. In the end you have to either accept the remaining risk or change your style. For example I have decided no longer to solo in winter or shoulder season.

Examples of risk and mitigation (or some would say, risk management):

Risk = "go missing" and cause a big SAR effort, that actually can put others at risk. Mitigate by bringing a PLB or SPOT, have a bright colored tent, bright clothing.

Risk= hypothermia since one seldom recognizes early symptoms in ones self. Mitigate by avoiding shoulder seasons, stop and set up camp earlier than you would if with a partner if you are getting cold, take enough on every day-trip so you can survive an unintended night out.

Risk= getting lost. Learn to be an expert navigator. Practice, take classes if necessary. Never depend on electronic gagets 100%. Know your location at all times. There are books written on this - read them.

Risk= illness. Do not go at all if you are feeling like you are getting sick or have just been exposed to something (like grandkids with strep throat). Take enough extra food to be able to sit out a few days. Have some electrolyte hydration drinks in your first aid kit. As you get older, get regular preventative medical care.

Risk=falling, slipping- be extra conservative. I will wade a stream and get wet feet before I risk jumping slick rocks. I limit my climbing to about half the technical difficulty that I would do with others, and never am too proud to turn around. I have strict turn-around times for my day hikes and climbs and I stick to it. I do not push daylight as much as I would if I were with someone.

Other things to do- take a comprehensive wilderness first aid course, compromise on your "free-for-all" exploring by confining it to one area and mark that area on a map that you leave with your family, avoid going extra UL because you really do need more backup, leave a note in your tent when you do a climb or day-hike.
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Re: Soloist Anonymous, a TR.

Postby SSSdave » Wed Nov 07, 2012 5:05 pm

Nicely put together freestone!

I've always enjoyed solo backpacking also and over the long years, more of my trips have been solo than not. Often for the same reasons you related.

However I've always enjoyed backpacking with other people I came to know well and complement my style of backpacking even more.

Then there are some others I've backpacked with that I didn't have much of an incentive to backpack with again. Not that they were unpleasant in any way but rather they didn't add enough positively per my style for me to bother backpacking with them again.

And I would suspect it works both ways that some of those people would in their future not bother to backpack with me again but might enjoy backpacking with others closer to their style.

Then there are those that have never found anyone they particularly enjoyed backpacking with and were satisfied to simply enjoy backpacking alone each time. Even when I backpack with the other two noted people because we basecamp, we often have considerable hours of time by ourselves while one person is off fishing, another photographing some lake a mile that ways while I'm climbing up a ridge for a view. So even on our backpacking trips we get good doses of being alone with uncluttered thinking and decision making.

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For example when out in the Sierra Nevada, I enjoy natural history whether that is topography, geology, the weather, plants, or animals, and like conversing with others that also have that interest. I stop to examine things and or take photos. I see landforms and speculate why they formed much like Johm Muir loved to do. I see a new wildflower along a route and point such out by species and common name and why they grow in that microclimate. I'm also a photographer, sometimes fisherman, science enthusiast, and offtrail route finder that enjoys conversing with others that have something to say. I see fascinating interesting elements that fit together in a vast complex interlocking world and it makes me wonder in its immensity.

If the person I'm with does not feel like making conversation about such things, I'm quick to recognize such and keep relatively quiet too. Heck many times I'm not in a mood for talking either. Even with those who do tend to be talkative there are times we all hike together for miles without saying much just bearing with the zen of the effort. But if a person on the trail with me hardly ever has much to say either because they don't understand what they are looking at, or are not interested in knowing, or are not much of a conversationalist, then I'm not going to value their company relative to others that do.

Conversely there may be others that are talkative but have other interests like peakbagging that does not interest me. I'm not going to be very interesting to that person versus another peakbagging enthusiast. Or someone may be into a different style of wilderness travel like ultra light trail hikers that hike far more mileage and are interesting in briefly seeing lots of landscapes and reaching named map points along trails versus poking along. Our two styles would poorly mesh. But when others complement one's style well, I would suspect most gregarious people that enjoy the company of others would prefer hiking with those others more than solo.

And by the way, I have an elaborate photography oriented plan backpacking for 10 days over Taboose Pass likely in 2013. Quite a lot of the route off trails so will be thinking of quentinc.
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Soloist Anonymous, a TR.

Postby Bluewater » Wed Nov 07, 2012 10:59 pm

Thanks freestone. I appreciate your tr, photos and especially the insight about solo backpacking. I agree the miles do seem to go quickly while solo. I value the perspective, the connection and appreciation of nature that comes with hiking solo.

Although I like the excitement of exploring x/c solo and pushing my physical limits/abilities the recent events have made me pause and possibly reconsider. Even though I carry a Spot there are situations where it might not help.

Not to appear overly gear focussed, but I'm wondering if you would share some details of your UL kit. Is that a small Bearikade c/f canister?
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Re: Soloist Anonymous, a TR.

Postby freestone » Thu Nov 08, 2012 6:28 am

SSSDave wrote

And by the way, I have an elaborate photography oriented plan backpacking for 10 days over Taboose Pass likely in 2013. Quite a lot of the route off trails so will be thinking of quentinc.


Taboose will be my mantra next year as well. But Dave, please promise me you will get your load down from 80 pounds to a more respectable 30! Have you considered Weight Watchers or titanium cameras? :) Taboose is well constructed and graded, but the tread features endless miles of"mini-talus" that makes the downhill step uncertain, then quickly transitions to "pain in the______." Fill in the blank with whatever body part that is prone to pain on long downhills. Taboose will draw it out!
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Re: Soloist Anonymous, a TR.

Postby SSSdave » Fri Nov 09, 2012 1:44 pm

freestone wrote:SSSDave wrote

And by the way, I have an elaborate photography oriented plan backpacking for 10 days over Taboose Pass likely in 2013. Quite a lot of the route off trails so will be thinking of quentinc.


Taboose will be my mantra next year as well. But Dave, please promise me you will get your load down from 80 pounds to a more respectable 30! Have you considered Weight Watchers or titanium cameras? :) Taboose is well constructed and graded, but the tread features endless miles of"mini-talus" that makes the downhill step uncertain, then quickly transitions to "pain in the______." Fill in the blank with whatever body part that is prone to pain on long downhills. Taboose will draw it out!


A couple years ago I did a complete analysis of all my gear and shaved off nearly 10 pounds by buying light stuff and shedding unnecessary items. Anything more and I would need to not bring my view camera. On the 9-day trip we did this year, starting carrying weight was down to 65 pounds although that did include a couple pounds of fishing gear I normally will not take. That is much more bearable. Going from 65 up to 75 is much more unpleasant than 45 up to 55.

Maverick talked with me last night and related he's considering a group search trip up over Taboose maybe end of July or such too. My own expectation for peak conditions I'm looking for given a normal winter is maybe the second week of August as those areas are rather high.
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Re: Soloist Anonymous, a TR.

Postby Cross Country » Sat Nov 10, 2012 4:30 pm

I always preferred to go with a friend (s). Therefore 80%+ of the time I did, but I always went when I had the time even if I couldn't get a friend to go with me. 10 or 20% of 500+ days is more that 50 days so I went solo a considerable number of days. I knew it was risky because with a name like the one I took you know that my destinations were Cross Country. Everyone should remember this. We read entries on HST from the successful soloists. We don't read entries from the unsuccessful ones because they can't write from the grave!
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