Snow! Finally!

12:03 a.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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With the forecast of lots of snow this weekend, plus Barb and I being scheduled to lead a Snowshoe Ecology hike this weekend for the Sierra Club's Clair Tappaan Lodge, we headed for the hills. Since I had received a new tent a couple months back, I took it to try out its expedition capabilities. Barb stayed in the lodge, since the tent is a solo tent.

The drive up took a couple hours longer than usual (nearly double the dry weather time), due to the snow dumping already. When we got to the lodge, we dropped Barb's stuff in the room and I set out on snowshoes, sinking about afoot deep in the snow, having to use goggles to keep the glasses clear. When I reached my "tent test site" (less than a km away in the back 40), I stomped out a site (discovering that the accumulation-melt cycle over the past couple of months had left some voids), I set the tent up. Took a bit longer than anticipated, given that I had only read the directions once, done one practice setup on the patio, and left the directions at home. However, it went up pretty easily. I shoved the gear inside and stepped back to take photo 1.


20120317Hille1.jpg

I put the snowshoes back on to head back and found that Barb had come looking for me (Photo 2).


20120317Hille2.jpg
Then back to the lodge to have dinner and make the announcement of where folks were to sign up for the hike. By now the snow was accumulating rapidly. And it was dark. So get the headlamp out of my pocket and head out to the tent. I spotted it after a while (photo 3)


20120317Hille4.jpg
So I settled into my -40F/C bag on the blue foam closed cell and the NeoAir all season for a comfortable night with a recorded low of -4C. I did have to wake up periodically to shake the accumulated snow off and shove the tent walls out a bit.

At 6AM, still dark and snowing heavily, I awoke to find almost no condensation on the tent walls, thanks to the great ventilation system and despite the snow being very damp (well, it was only 4 degrees C below freezing, so of course it was wet). So I got up, packed all the tent contents up, and got out to see about packing the tent. The accumulation during the night was about another foot and a half feet (photo 4, look at the poles and snowshoes).


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I had shaken the snow off from inside the tent. I then proceeded to dig out around the tent, moved the pack out, and packed the pegs and poles in their storage bags, then stuffed the tent into the main tent bag, and put everything back in the pack. Next hike back to the lodge, sinking down in the 18-24 inches accumulation plus the occasional small drift.

After breakfast, I gathered the intrepid group eager to learn about the ecology of the area. We set out up the hill, identifying trees as we went (2-needle pine with greyish white bark is Lodgepole, the 5 needle pine is Western White, the fir with the short needles and reddish-brown bark for the mature ones is red fir, etc, and for most of you, this snow will flow into the Yuba River and will be your drinking water over the next year, ....). I had planned to head over to the really huge Jeffrey pines (3-needle, bark smells like vanilla), but we soon encountered snow soft enough that I was sinking on snowshoes up to mid-thigh. We took turns for a while, but the tall heavy guy began sinking into his waist. At this point, 3 of the crew rebelled and said they wanted to go elsewhere. So, Plan B. We turned around, found a XC trail and proceeded to a a nearby ski resort's back side (they weren't operating that day, since few people could get up the mountain through the chain controls). But they had groomed a couple trails, so out to Litton Lake ("demonstrating the succession of a lake, which accumulates sediment, becoming a marsh, then a beautiful mountain meadow").

And from there we returned to the lodge, and gathered in the parking lot, where everyone dug out their cars, removed a foot or two snow from the windshield, and discovered that 2WD without chains does not work well in deep snow. (the OGBO car has full 4WD with locking differentials, so no problemo).

For the evening's entertainment, I gave an illustrated multimedia talk (slides and video) of my last summer's environmental expedition to the Cordillera Blanca (Peruvian Andes). The night's accumulation on the cars was only about 6 inches, so easy to clear off and drive home.

No big challenge, but a good test for the tent. I approve of this tent, sleeping bag, and inflatable pad.

12:55 a.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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WOW! What a trip! That storm really was big! So big we had snow here in Vegas too!

7:34 a.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Very cool Bill!

8:27 a.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Man!  I wish I lived closer to you.  I'd just follow you around like a lost puppy.

Pardon my ignorance, but what's the brand on the tent?  I read your post twice and didn't see it.

We just got about six inches here finally as well.  'Bout time the snow showed up!

9:25 a.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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That appears to be the Hilleberg Soulo:

http://www.hilleberg.com/home/products/soulo/soulo.php

(Correct me if I am wrong, Bill)

9:28 a.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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I was hoping to test out my Hille in snow this year but it didn't happen.  Great photos.  So about 25º F outside and what was the temp inside the tent?

3:20 p.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Hard to freeze to death in a small, 4-season tent, with a -40°C bag, at only -4°C.

That snow looks NASTY, though. What a pain just to get around! I've sunk up to about my knees with my Denalis with an 8" tail, but never as deeply as you describe. Very light powder? I would have thought it would be more solid with those temps.

8:58 p.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Correct, Caleb.

Rob, temp inside was about 35-40F (didn't measure). I was expecting significantly lower from the forecasts.

Hmmm, seems like lots of folk here think the test was a big deal. Hey, it was just a test out in the back yard, just like we always recommend when trying out new gear. You wouldn't want to get out somewhere serious and find the gear didn't work, would you?

9:39 p.m. on March 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Bill S said:

Correct, Caleb.

Rob, temp inside was about 35-40F (didn't measure). I was expecting significantly lower from the forecasts.

Hmmm, seems like lots of folk here think the test was a big deal. Hey, it was just a test out in the back yard, just like we always recommend when trying out new gear. You wouldn't want to get out somewhere serious and find the gear didn't work, would you?

 HA HA! I like your back yard....glad I don't have to mow it though!

August 20, 2014
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