Bringing up the Rear: An Ultralighter Hikes across the Weminuche with a “Mixed” Group

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Bringing up the Rear: An Ultralighter Hikes across the Weminuche with a “Mixed” Group

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    Benjamin Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: South Texas
    Pamela Wyant


    Nice story – enjoyed it immensely.


    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Hi Ben

    Your Dad is but a young'un. He's got at least 20 years walking ahead of him.


    Miguel Arboleda
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan

    Great story Ben. This is the kind of story I'd like to see more of at BPL, because for me it embodies what it is that I love experiencing out there and brings a very human aspect of walking to the discussion. Sometimes I think we all spend way too much time talking about gear and not nearly enough time telling the stories that have us sitting around the fire until deep into the night. I especially loved hearing about the camaraderie between the three of you. Gear doesn't make a good story, but antics between people do. Thanks!

    Shahrin Bin Shariff
    BPL Member


    Locale: In the shadow of Table Mountain

    Loved the story Ben. Shah

    Jonathan Ryan
    BPL Member


    Locale: White Mtns

    This was a great read. You guys should put more stuff like this out there.

    Miguel Arboleda
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan

    I did want to ask about your beaked tarp. After being anxious about it when you started out and then using it in some heavy weather, how do you feel about it now. Would you happily go on a trip like that again with it, or would you change anything about it, or would you ditch it altogether and get a more enclosed shelter? I'm asking because I'm thinking of making something similar to it for similar use.

    Heather Pisani-Kristl


    Locale: San Diego

    Ben, I loved the story, too — you're a great writer. I enjoyed the psychological angle of hiking with others, as well as the scenery/weather (from the comfort of my air-conditioned room).

    Question about the food: had you tried your meals at home beforehand, and then found them lacking in the field? Or were they untested recipes? I've had the the "completely unpalatable after long day of hiking" experience even with things I enjoy at home.

    Sam Haraldson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Gallatin Range


    Thanks for an article which is written by and for "the regular folk". It is my estimation that members of BPL want to hear stories about both "expedition members tackling the Alaska back country" as well as "three guys on a backpacking trip". Your story is symbolic of this duality in that the members of your trio represent varying levels of experience, fitness, age and more. Your words are down to earth, from the heart and real. Thanks for a peak into your trip and your world.

    – Sam

    Jim Cook


    Locale: Land of Cotton

    It is my estimation that members of BPL want to hear stories about both "expedition members tackling the Alaska back country" as well as "three guys on a backpacking trip".

    Second that.

    Great article, Ben. Your comments regarding "connection" are spot on. You sound like someone I would enjoy backpacking with.

    Frank Perkins


    Locale: North East

    Great job on the article. This is why I subscribe to BPL. My vote is more written stories and less podcasts. Personally, I find I never have the time to sit and listen to a podcast but somehow can find the time to read an article.

    Brian Barnes
    BPL Member


    Locale: Midwest

    Ben, Well done! I enjoyed your report very much. Brian

    Thomas Knighton


    Locale: Southwest GA

    Wonderfully done! I really enjoyed reading it on many levels, and I too hope for more like this in the future. I love hearing stories of people on the trail, regardless of whether it's 20 or 200 miles.


    Adam Rothermich
    BPL Member


    Locale: Missouri Ozarks

    I really liked it too. Stayed up a little late to read it and it was definitely worth it. As much as my nerdy side loves reading the technical articles, I really like reading a nice trip report too. Great job!


    Jim Colten
    BPL Member


    Locale: MN

    and I too hope for more like this in the future

    Ditto that!

    Joshua Gilbert


    Locale: Seattle

    Really enjoyed this, and I have to second the fewer podcasts comment, I could read the transcriptions in half the time it takes to listen to one

    Neil Bender


    Kudos on a successful trip. The Weminuche is an awesome and serious piece of wilderness.

    The last time I tried to ultralight there in early September a few years ago (hoping the summer lightening season would be petered out by then) a freak blizzard drove us down off the divide on the second day. Above 11,000' the snow was piling up quickly, too deep for ventillated trail runners. Waiting for the train to Silverton at Elk Park, I was edified to see traditionally geared-up backpackers also bailing. By the time the train arrived over a dozen backpackers wisely made the decision to get out of the high country. The best piece of gear for that trip would have been an accurate weather forecast.

    Ultralighters and DIY gear users have an emotional investment in their kit that maybe makes successes higher and failures deeper, but I've seen heavy duty factory-made gear fail to perform as well. Nothing like real mountains to test gear and technique.

    I've had a few days at altitude where the only thing I could eat was peanut M&Ms. Kept me going. I love 'em. I deliberately avoid them except on outings so I don't get sick of them.

    I'd trade 5 podcasts for one well written article like this.

    Chris Bogart


    I laughed out loud several times reading the story of your hike and couldn't help comparing it to those I have taken with my own kids. It truly is the experience more than the gear but having a lighter kit has helped me enjoy the times more 30 years after Philmont and scout camp. Hope you can continue to learn from each other and enjoy the trail. Thanks for sharing…

    BPL Member


    for father and brothers hiking together! Great trail and gear report — and thanks for sharing with us!

    Benjamin Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: South Texas

    Thanks everyone, for the kind comments. A couple of responses:

    Roger – that's what I keep telling him!

    Miguel – re: the tarp. Actually, after that experience I'm going with a poncho tarp from now on. The pitching flexibility would have been much more valuable than the beaks, IMHO. And when I was hunkering down dodging lightning, a poncho would have kept me and my pack a lot drier than any rain jacket, regardless of the wind.

    Heather – I had NOT tried these specific recipes at home. I think that the food was pretty mediocre, but the big altitude jump and my fatigue contributed more to my food being inedible than the actual flavor.

    Sam – right on! Coming from a guy who just finished a 1200-mile hike…

    Frank & co – re: podcasts, we actually will have podcast transcripts available very soon. We already have a lot of them transcribed, so once we hash out the details of how to format and publish them they'll be available on the site. I love being able to read the transcripts – gives you a whole different feel for the people and places, and yes, it's much less time-consuming to read than to listen.

    Neil – wow, that sounds epic! We were early for any serious snowstorms. After the storm on the ridge, we spent about 2 hours hiking through a gigantic Slushee – the trail turned into a muddy mix of ice-cold water and hail. Made for cold feet hiking in mesh trail runners. Interestingly enough, what I craved on those hard days was salt – lots and lots of it. On one day, I found myself fantasizing about just eating straight table salt off my hand! I should have brought more Fritos or CornNuts – those seemed to do the trick for me.

    BPL Member


    Locale: SE USA


    Thanks for sharing your experiences! That was such a real, down-to-earth read.

    I'm heading out to do the Foothills Trail in the Carolinas this weekend (my longest trip yet – IF my knee holds up) w/ a more "traditional" hiker than myself, and your interactions w/your Dad & brother have made me think – nice job!


    Sarah Kirkconnell
    BPL Member


    Locale: Homesteading On An Island In The PNW

    It was very funny :-)

    Btw, I noticed you said the part about salt. A big reason you may not wanted to eat was the lack of salt and potassium. (And of being dehydrated as well). Altitude and hard days can add up where nothing looks good.
    The freeze dried meals your brother ate are carbs and salt mainly, easy to eat and easy to digest. A small cup of soup works the same way.

    I carry potato chips for this reason. If I have no appetite and not wanting to drink, I eat a bag of them. The potassium/sodium kick in them often perks me up in a couple minutes and I find myself hungry and wanting to drink. Food looks better, etc. Try it next trip! It works :-)
    A meal of mashed potatoes works similar also!

    dan willhite


    Locale: Southwest USA

    Loved your story. Wondered what little brother was eating?

    Christopher Plesko


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    Yum, tato chips (and salty soup). I eat these smashed to bits on long rides/races to reset the sweet tooth. Delicious.

    Benjamin Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: South Texas

    Sarah, thanks for the ideas! I was not dehydrated (chugging like a camel, in fact), but was definitely low on salt and potassium. I'll have to try potato chips, though corn chips sit better with me. After this experience, I'll be putting a lot more thought into food in the future. Or I may do what my brother did…

    … which was to eat Mountain House or Backpacker's pantry meals every night. He had different ones, but the alfredo pasta and spaghetti were devoured with particular relish.

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