Feb 2, 2010 at 3:20 pm #1254779
Lisa FrugoliBPL Member
@alfrescoLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
I just wanted to let you know about a great resource we have here in Northern California. Mtn Ned teaches a snow course at Echo Lake, which I took this past weekend. It’s mostly aimed at PCT thru-hikers, but it does teach the basics of camping in the snow, route finding in winter and self-arrest skills.
Ned is a great teacher who loves what he does. He has extensive hiking (PCT & CDT) and ski-touring experience in the Sierras. There is no charge for the class – only donations accepted.
More info can be found here:
I posted some photos from the class here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alfrescosf/sets/72157623210148399/show/
I’d love to get the word out about the course, so please share this info. (I have no affiliation, just a happy graduate!)
Happy Trails –
LisaFeb 2, 2010 at 4:10 pm #1569019
Morgan RucksBPL Member
that looks like a blast. I may have to go. this winter is the winter that I committed to getting my winter chops, awesome thanks for posting thisFeb 2, 2010 at 5:00 pm #1569046
Hi Lisa, do you also know about the SF Sierra Club Winter Camping section courses? They run beginner snow camping which includes class time and weekend trips. After two trips they allow you to sign up for a great variety of alumni trips they run. After my wife and I did a similar intro program at the Palo Alto Sierra Club, they allowed us to join alumni trips. Could be that they'd let you do the same after Ned's class.
If you are familiar with the SF Sierra Club Winter Camping program, can you tell me how it differs from Ned's class?
Thanks for sharing info about Ned's class!Feb 7, 2010 at 6:10 am #1570729
Lisa FrugoliBPL Member
@alfrescoLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
I'm not familiar with the Sierra Club Courses, but imagine that they are well done. Ned said his class caters to the PCT thru-hiker – ie, finding a route over a pass when the trail is burried. He also loves to share his long distance backpacking experience. His classes may be a bit smaller, too.Feb 7, 2010 at 9:24 am #1570767
It sounds like Ned's course is more oriented toward long distance backpacking, PCT and route finding. The Sierra Club courses are oriented to 3 levels:
a) beginning course with classroom time, good winter backpacking and safety reading and 1-2 outings to "get your wings." This course is basically oriented toward teaching how to adapt camping to winter conditions and stay safe from cold and hazards like avalanches (at least at the basic level). Participants are on snowshoes or skis.
b) alumni trips open to anyone who completed the beginner courses with outings around themes, like pulling a pulk, photography focus, trips to certain locations like Yosemite, etc.
c) advanced trips such as high Sierra traverses on skis, etc.Feb 7, 2010 at 9:41 am #1570770
Ken T.BPL Member
The Sierra Club stuff always seems to be too much talk/babysitting, and not enough action in the field. Am I correct in that assumption?Feb 7, 2010 at 10:09 am #1570777
For a typical BPLer, the Intro to Snow Camping would feel a bit slow, because most of the participants won't have as much backpacking experience and most won't be lightweight. However, to be fair, the info is good, it's a safe environment in which to learn and the more advanced leaders, some of whom are lightweight or ultralight, will be happy to share more advanced info and tips. The winter backpacking/backcountry skiing book you read in the course is the same book recommended by many on BPL and illustrated by BPL's Mike Clelland.
Alumni trips you can do anytime after the intro course or equivalent experience are no different than the planned BPL Bay Area winter outings – just for fun or learning a new technique like traveling with a pulk or a particular destination like Yosemite. Tony Wong did a Yosemite trip with them last year to a very nice spot and posted photos here.
For winter backpacking trips, the SF Sierra Club chapter has much more going on than the Palo Alto chapter. It runs a large, well organized program with many different beginner and alumni trips. Both chapters have good backcountry skiing groups with regular backpacking and backcountry cabin trips, though I don't know the SF backcountry ski group.
In general we find with the Sierra Club chapters you have to get to know which groups within the chapters are best for your type of trips and then find the ones that are a good fit people-wise.
Just for example, the Day Hiking group from the Loma Prieta Chapter does epic day hikes with sick mileage and elevation gain. Many would be hard pressed to keep up with some of the super fit older hikers in that group. Not what you would have expected based on the name.
Note that I think Ned's program sounds like a nice complement to the SC course and well worth it and he sounds like an interesting person to meet.Feb 7, 2010 at 10:30 am #1570784
Robert BleanBPL Member
@bleanLocale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
> Just for example, the Day Hiking group from the Loma Prieta Chapter
> does epic day hikes with sick mileage and elevation gain.
> Many would be hard pressed to keep up with some of the super fit
> older hikers in that group. Not what you would have expected based on the name.
I don't know about "sick" mileage — it tends to be about 20 miles for a day hike.
That one is counter-intuitive — many of the Day Hiking Section are 60+ and they tend to do 20 mile day hikes. There is another group that does day hikes — the Black Mountain Group. They are much younger and tend to do day hikes of 8-10 miles. I'm always intrigued that the section that is clearly demographically older does the much more challenging day hikes.
— BobFeb 7, 2010 at 10:50 am #1570792
That's 15-20 miles per day for day hikes typically WITH significant elevation gain and loss.
Yeah, I was blown away by the average age of the day hikers given their hikes. I've met people in the group but haven't done a hike with them yet.
Partly explained perhaps by the fact that the older set may simply have more time to pursue hiking and backpacking.
Then again my grandfather swam 50 laps/day in an Olympic-size pool into his mid 90's.Feb 7, 2010 at 11:01 am #1570796
"The Sierra Club stuff always seems to be too much talk/babysitting, and not enough action in the field. Am I correct in that assumption?"
Maybe. Maybe not.
In the local Sierra Club chapter here, they put complete beginners into a "ground school" that runs for about two evenings, complete with printed materials and lists. The only prerequisites are that you have summer backpacked before, and you are capable of traveling on X-C skis or snowshoes.
Once that is completed, then they have a group trip into the Sierra Nevada Range where the beginners get to freeze their asses for one night. Normally, there is some snow cave construction and also sometimes tent use. Once that is complete, then there would be a spectrum of non-beginner winter trips for X-C skiers and snowshoers.
–B.G.–Feb 7, 2010 at 11:11 am #1570800
@davidlutzLocale: Bay Area
Ken – Is that your dog's "quake face"?Feb 7, 2010 at 1:59 pm #1570874
What Bob said is correct, though note that the SF chapter runs many more winter backpacking trips than the Palo Alto chapter. However the Palo Alto STS backcountry ski section runs a bunch of ski trips, mostly to cabins, including a few beginner and advanced beginner to a bunch more intermediate and advanced. I think the SF backcountry ski program may be equal or larger in size, but not sure.
Basically the SF winter backpacking group, including multiple beginner orientation groups and a lot of alumni trips, is much larger and better organized. People travel by either snowshoe or ski. By comparison, last year Palo Alto chapter only ran 1 winter backpacking orientation including class time and overnight weekend, while SF runs many.
Don't get me wrong – love having the Palo Alto chapter nearby – it's just that SF has really built up their snow backpacking trips in addition to their backcountry ski trips, and SF has a lot of specialty trips such as building and using a pulk, winter photography, etc. I've heard only great things about the alumni trips, and they are popular enough that many fill up fast.
The SF alumni trips cost only $20 and they provide extra gear such as shovels and snow saws for those that don't have them.
My wife and I find the many backpacking and hiking groups out here a real boon as we don't have much time to plan trips and this gives us a lot of options to try new places without doing as much planning as we'd have to.
Bottom line – there's good stuff in there, just take a look.Feb 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm #1570892
Yes, I started leading snow camping trips thirty years ago. Some were with the Palo Alto (Loma Prieta Chapter) Ski Touring Section and others.
The advantage of doing your first trip with an experienced group is that (A) severe accidents are unlikely to happen, and if they do, you have somebody to save your a$$, (B) the experienced snow campers typically have some specialized gear that they'll share. You'll have your own basic gear, but then they often have avalanche transceivers, good shovels, snow saws, and stuff like that.
Once you have knocked off a trip or two with a group, then you might choose to venture out on your own or (more safely) with a buddy or two.
It is good to get the moderate trips done and chalk them up to good training. Then when you want to do some serious expedition, you won't freak out. I've camped in snow at nearly 20,000 feet.
–B.G.–Feb 7, 2010 at 2:53 pm #1570894
+1 on Bob's comments. The orientation class/outings and alumni trips are time well spent (not to mention the beautiful locations).Feb 7, 2010 at 3:32 pm #1570910
I am not claiming that it is necessary for everybody to do the classes and do the whole group thing. However, for the average person trying this, it has been a proven way to go.
If nothing else, then teaming up with a group like that will introduce you to the group. Then, if they have some really good trip going a month or two later, they might invite you (unless you are a real wimp!).
All they expect is that you have some basic summer backpacking experience, some basic summer gear, and that you are capable of X-C skiing or snowshoeing. You might need one extra layer or two, an extra warm hat, and all that.
For most beginners, snowshoeing is advised. It only takes you about five minutes on snowshoes to have it mastered. X-C skiing can get a little tricky when you are carrying a pack.
No, you can't do it with a 10-pound base weight. The lightest snow camping base weight that I ever managed was about 25 pounds, but that isn't bad.
–B.G.–Feb 7, 2010 at 11:53 pm #1571034
Robert BleanBPL Member
@bleanLocale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
> the SF chapter runs many more winter backpacking trips than the Palo Alto chapter
Does the Palo Alto chapter even have any winter backpacking schedule (other than whatever the ski touring section is doing)?
> It only takes you about five minutes on snowshoes to have it mastered.
Perhaps, for shuffling along on the flat.
Beyond that, it strongly depends on what you are doing and where. Consider going up a steep narrow trail — where you are kicking steps up (with your snowshoes). Doing that is strenuous for the leader, and of course the others are expected to not destroy the steps (else those behind them will be mighty unhappy). Then, of course, there is the skiing the snowshoes back down that trail when you return …. Fun, but not something you master in your first 5 minutes. Especially with a backpack on.
P.S. I understand where Bob G is coming from — if the issue is just going a modest distance in an easy trail to practice snow camping, then he is correct in saying that you will get used to the snowshoes quite rapidly. Just don't think that is all there is to snowshoeing, especially in certain parts of the country.Feb 8, 2010 at 12:37 am #1571040
There is no dedicated Winter Camping Section (group of people) that I am aware of.
There is a Backpacking Section, but they operate mostly in the summer.
There is a Ski Touring Section, and they do some snow camping, some hut tours, and some cabin trips.
There is a Peak Climbing Section, and they do mostly non-technical peaks, but not much snow camping.
Then about once per two years, there is a Snow Camping Seminar, and it typically has the two evening classes plus at least one field trip. Several years ago, there were three experienced leaders set up for this series. Suddenly about five days before the field trip, two of the three popped up with work conflicts. The third leader could not bear the thought of 18-20 beginners on her hands, so she called me, since I had led beginner trips for yet another activity section. So, I went, and then the work conflicts dissolved, and we ended up with four leaders for 18-20 beginners up near Carson Pass.
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