Winter backpacking and cross country skiing at Mammoth Lakes with scouts?
Oct 8, 2019 at 2:37 pm #3613046Ryan VBPL Member
@rvallanceLocale: Southern California
I’m working with Boy Scout troop to plan an outing for the weekend before Thanksgiving (Nov 22-25). It’s a shakedown hike before going to Okpik winter camping at Northern Tier. The troop has lots of backpacking experience in Southern California but only a little winter camping experience.
We are thinking about going to Mammoth Lakes so boys can do some cross-country skiing and backcountry snow camping. I’m looking for some itinerary recommendations.
Are there some backcountry camping options that are not too far into the backcountry that might be suitable for camping but also close enough to the cross country trails near Tamarack Ski Lodge?
RyanOct 8, 2019 at 5:39 pm #3613063Bruce TolleyBPL Member
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Sounds like a great outing for the Scouts.
I do not know of any specific itineraries or locations near Mammoth. Once I was Scouting out at area to take the Scouts snow camping near Ebbetts Pass and I just stopped and talked to the owner of Bear Valley Cross Country on his suggestions. So you could try calling the Ranger station in Mammoth or Bishop.
The US Forest Service “manages” a number of non-groomed cross country trails in various regions. FAFAIK all the Forest Service does is place colored markers on the trees and locate the trailheads for the routes near CalTrans SnoPark areas that are open for parking in the winder. For Sierra areas close to me, I have used this website built and maintained by Marcus Libkind to research areas to go, looking for flattish routes: http://www.backcountryskitours.com
The tours described probably are not located far enough south for you but there might be a similar site for SoCal XC skiers. Libkind has MANY links to other resources that might help.
So this crew of Scouts has absolutely no experience with snow camping? Sometimes the best outing for complete newbies is to car camp in the snow or just go in a mile or two so if one Scout has issues, he can be taken out quickly. (Worst case scenario: Years ago, one Scout in our local council managed to walk over a snow bridge and fall into a stream). If you are traveling on snow shoes, Scouts can average perhaps 1/2 to 1 per hour on a packed trail.
Finally, there might not be any snow at Mammoth by November. So for plan B perhaps a cold weather outing in mountains closer to you or in Death Valley could work?
Finally, given your late November time window, the worst kind of snow camping with Scouts is when there is snow on the ground and rain and sleet falling from the ski. For any one storm, there are weather forecast resource on the web that tell you at what elevation the snow line will be. Know ahead of time under what kind of conditions you will cancel a trip or once at your camping spot, break camp and head back to the trailhead.
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