24 Days in the Cold

11:34 a.m. on January 24, 2014 (EST)
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Okay boys---here's a recent January 2014 trip report in the TN and NC mountains.

ALTERNATE TRIP TITLES

**  Pleasure and Pain in the Garden of Eating.
** Two Grapes for Sister Sara.
** Is That Peanut Butter I See or Are You Just Glad to See Me?

ETC ETC

You can access abbreviated reports here---

http://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/Backpack-2014-Trips-152/24-Days-in-the-Cold

http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?101057-24-Days-in-the-Polar-Vortex


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The trip begins on December 28 in the Bald River wilderness of East TN.  The pack is just around 100 lbs.


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Almost six miles later on Bald River at the Cascades.


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I hike thru the Bald River backcountry and connect to the Kirkland trail which takes me up to Sandy Gap and the State Line trail where I look left and see my eventual destination on Whiggs Meadow and the Citico wilderness.  It's a cold windy walk.


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State Line Ridge takes me to Rocky Top Mt and I descend Brookshire Creek trail to the bottom to prepare for the Polar Rectum which is forecasted to hit so I spend 3 days here on the Brookshire trail having fun with subzero temps---around -8F on Tuesday morning, January 7.  COLD!


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This is why we carry Hilleberg tents.


TRIP%20152%20132-M.jpgOn the morning of Jan 8 I somehow pack up the crap and have two butt cold creek crossings to do at around 0F---not fun as I was barefoot in crocs and had to go slow as there's ice all around the banks.  "Denali Gangrene" comes to mind.


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I head up the Upper Bald watershed to the top of Sugar Mt and bail down the mt to Sycamore Creek trail which takes me 3,000 feet in 7 miles to Whiggs Meadow at 5,000 feet.  On January 11 a major deluge-hurricane hits the mountain with 60mph winds and it's a severe test for the tent.  Ground water was bad---but it's why we carry Hillebergs, etc.


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I leave the Whigg and hike to Mud Gap and 3 miles to Beech Gap where I run into the only backpackers I see in 24 days---a group of 5 guys from Florida who had a rough night down on the South Fork Citico trail and are bailing out to their car.


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I get to Bob Mt and then bail off on Fodderstack Ridge and down the Pine Ridge trail into Citico and over to the Flats Mt trailhead and up it 4,000 feet to the top where I get hit with my last snowstorm at around 12F.  This is getting old.


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I leave the Flats and hook onto the Long Branch trail as shown here.  My trip ends eventually back at Bald River Falls.

VIDEO---

http://tipiwalter.smugmug.com/Backpack-2014-Trips-152/24-Days-in-the-Cold/i-dBKcRRx

12:54 p.m. on January 24, 2014 (EST)
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24 days with no resupply in sub zero temps......wow what a trip!

So, did you have to add more layers than normal when sleeping? I think your Puma bag is rated to -25F....how did that go?

 

On my weekend trips I had a heck of a time keeping my water from freezing as well as being worried about my Sawyer Squeeze filter. I wound up putting one bottle of water and that filter each in a down mitten for the evenings rather than sleep with them.

 

During the daytime while hiking, my water would freeze even inside the belt pocket on my pack. pain in the butt.

1:15 p.m. on January 24, 2014 (EST)
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Nice trip report Tipi Walter! What kind of camera do you use,does it do the video portions too. I use a Canon t3 but have yet to practice with the video part of the camera much, had the camera since June.

You are a brave man getting out in winter, but from all your reports I guess you do it quite often. I cannot seem to bring myself to go winter camping even though I bought a zero degree bag and winter clothing to be able to this winter. And its been a dry one too besides the 14 inches we got Dec 1st that has all but melted away,leaving frigid temps in the mornings and high 50s during the afternoons. For me just cycling to work every morning is my challenge in the cold, then riding home in shorts and tshirt like it was summer.

1:34 p.m. on January 24, 2014 (EST)
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Patman said:

24 days with no resupply in sub zero temps......wow what a trip!

So, did you have to add more layers than normal when sleeping? I think your Puma bag is rated to -25F....how did that go?

 

On my weekend trips I had a heck of a time keeping my water from freezing as well as being worried about my Sawyer Squeeze filter. I wound up putting one bottle of water and that filter each in a down mitten for the evenings rather than sleep with them.

 

During the daytime while hiking, my water would freeze even inside the belt pocket on my pack. pain in the butt.

 My Puma is rated to -15F when I got it several years ago and so they must've changed the specs.  I only had to zip it up once the whole trip, the rest of the time it was draped over me like a quilt, of course my pad system was warm at 7R.

On the coldest days (Jan6-7-8) I was by a creek and didn't even need to store water as I just went down to the creek and got a fresh pot.  Otherwise I filled a Nalgene 2.5 liter bladder and wrapped it in my down parka overnight.  The water filter when needed had to be placed inside my worn parka for 30 minutes and it thawed.

1:36 p.m. on January 24, 2014 (EST)
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GaryPalmer said:

Nice trip report Tipi Walter! What kind of camera do you use,does it do the video portions too. I use a Canon t3 but have yet to practice with the video part of the camera much, had the camera since June.

You are a brave man getting out in winter, but from all your reports I guess you do it quite often. I cannot seem to bring myself to go winter camping even though I bought a zero degree bag and winter clothing to be able to this winter. And its been a dry one too besides the 14 inches we got Dec 1st that has all but melted away,leaving frigid temps in the mornings and high 50s during the afternoons. For me just cycling to work every morning is my challenge in the cold, then riding home in shorts and tshirt like it was summer.

 My go-to camera is the Panasonic Lumix LX5 which is sweet and great on batteries as I was on my second battery by the end of the trip,incredible considering the temps.  Video also from the same camera.

Bicycling in frigid temps is not for me as I did it in the '80s and '90s and it's very tough, wind chill and all.

2:00 p.m. on January 24, 2014 (EST)
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Great pics Tipi.  Looks like a bit of a hardcore trip.  Thanks for sharing.  I like how you aren't afraid to carry around some gear in that heavy pack.  I like to be as light as possible but also enjoy having what I need when I need it.   Looks like you were geared up nicely.  

3:59 p.m. on January 24, 2014 (EST)
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Ergh. I couldn't even lift that pack!

Looks like it was a great trip though. Winter is cold as heck but the scenery can be lovely and the solitude is also nice. Glad you didn't have to melt snow and ice for water.

I was wondering how you could fit in enough food and fuel for such a long trip?

Did you build any camp fires to warm up? 

Hey, are you wearing a kilt in that bottom photo? :)

4:24 p.m. on January 24, 2014 (EST)
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Nice report, as always, Tipi.

4:26 p.m. on January 24, 2014 (EST)
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Jason Ruff said:

Great pics Tipi.  Looks like a bit of a hardcore trip.  Thanks for sharing.  I like how you aren't afraid to carry around some gear in that heavy pack.  I like to be as light as possible but also enjoy having what I need when I need it.   Looks like you were geared up nicely.  

 Yes, a "hardcore trip" means the adrenals get a workout and you're the worse for wear.  These kind of trips verge on mildly dangerous and so the stress levels can wear a person down after some time.  You get that beady-eyed "lizard state" whereby things get pushed too far as you get pin eyes inside the drone-zone animal state.  A good place to be for some, a good place for me at times---shakes up the normal day-to-day snow globe.

The biggest challenge is not to "collapse" and give up and stay in a fetal ball.  I guess giving up on a winter trip pretty much means quick death---like the conditions are overwhelming and you "ring the bell" in SEAL parlance.  Except on a solo trip if you ring the bell it's the start of a serious downward spiral because there's no one around to help or goad.  Not good.

4:30 p.m. on January 24, 2014 (EST)
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EtdBob said:

Ergh. I couldn't even lift that pack!

Looks like it was a great trip though. Winter is cold as heck but the scenery can be lovely and the solitude is also nice. Glad you didn't have to melt snow and ice for water.

I was wondering how you could fit in enough food and fuel for such a long trip?

Did you build any camp fires to warm up? 

Hey, are you wearing a kilt in that bottom photo? :)

 I had to curtail morning hot tea/coffee because the cold was starting to eat up my 44oz fuel load, but by the end of the trip I had enough fuel to last 7 more days, which is always a good thing.

As far as pack volume, well, I use a pack in the 6,500 cu in range which is maxed out at 24 days.  Food load was almost 50 lbs not counting fuel. 

No campfires as I stay warmer atop my pad under the bag, but I did bring 3 inch 3-hour candles to keep my hands thawed out when sitting up under the bag to read and write.  But if we really had a cold snap in the -30F range, well, I had my folding saw and would be ready to stack wood around a large fire---and standing around it all night.

The last act of a desperate man.

No kilt, just North Face shorts.

7:54 p.m. on January 24, 2014 (EST)
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Great trip report (as always Tipi). I really should get around to posting some of my trips from this Fall...but I never seem motivated enough:-(

At 100lbs I would be on the downward spiral as soon as I put the pack on my back...I literally cannot imagine having a pack that weighs that much (the most I have ever carried is 20lbs LOL!)...but you really seem to get along well with it and enjoy yourself...plus 24 days without a resupply has to feel crazy liberating. I never go more than three days without resupply while hiking...but I have done several +10 day canoe trips without resupply...and I really enjoy it...but I am a little crazy the first time I see people after a long isolated trip...no matter who I run into they are the most interesting person on Earth at the time:-)

11:03 a.m. on January 25, 2014 (EST)
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jrenow said:

At 100lbs I would be on the downward spiral as soon as I put the pack on my back...I literally cannot imagine having a pack that weighs that much (the most I have ever carried is 20lbs LOL!)...but you really seem to get along well with it and enjoy yourself...plus 24 days without a resupply has to feel crazy liberating. I never go more than three days without resupply while hiking...but I have done several +10 day canoe trips without resupply...and I really enjoy it...but I am a little crazy the first time I see people after a long isolated trip...no matter who I run into they are the most interesting person on Earth at the time:-)

 Like you say, the first step of a 24 day backpacking, even with serious weight, is the best feeling of all cuz you know you have everything you need for the next 3 weeks and there's no looking back.  So what if you only go 3 miles on the first day? 

Once your ride drives away it's just you and the Woman of the wind---Miss Nature.  She may smile or she may get cranky and po'd---you're only job is to hang out and watch.  Simple enough.

The current Ultralight craze is mostly due in my mind to carrying minimal food weight which means a light pack.  And to not go out at 10F below.  But even a 100lb pack gets lighter day by day as you eat and in my case burn your books.  By Day 15 I'm down to around 50 lbs---excellent.

August 29, 2014
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