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I finally made it up to Badger Pass for my annual (so far) trip. I drove up Sundaym 2/24 and drove out Wednesday afternoon.
Sunday-Got a late start, drove to Yosemite down 99 from Sacramento, mostly in the rain. Took 140 from Merced into the park at El Portal.
NOTE-last year there was a massive slide a few miles West of El Portal. The road is covered with thousands of tons of rock for about a hundred yards or so. It will take years to fix. There is a one-way detour around it with two bridges spanning the river. If you go in summer, avoid this route or expect to wait a half hour or so in heavy traffic to get around it. Either come in on 120 or cut down to Oakhurst from Mariposa if coming from the West, then up 41
It was snowing in the park and by the time I parked, rented some ski boots (more on that later), got my permit, got my gear out and took off down the road, it was late afternoon. The folks who were leaving the long-term parking were digging out their cars.
After skiing down the road a ways, then turning off to the west a short ways, I set up camp at an undisclosed location as it was getting dark. The snow was so deep that once I turned off the road, I could not see my skis.
The rule is you have to be far enough off the trails so the other skiers can't see your tent. I skied about as far as I could, all things considered, and was far enough off the trail (not the road, the trail itself) so that you could see my tent if you looked for it, but otherwise, you probably wouldn't notice.
It took time to stomp out a platform for my tent and as it was getting dark, I did a quick job and set up the tent. Two days later, I notice the fly was on upside down-it didn't make any difference.
I went to sleep early and didn't really cook much-I was too tired. I realized that I had left my parka in the car, but it really wasn't all that cold. It snowed lightly much of the night, but eased off by morning.
The next morning, it was clear and sunny. However, I realized I should have set up in a different place-the trees blocked the morning sun.
I made a light breakfast and decided to ski back to the car and get my parka. Before doing that, fixed my platform-made it flatter, smoother, dug out the vestibule so I could sit in the tent door with my feet below me and dug out a kitchen a la Mike & Allen's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book. I didn't move the tent-too much work to cut a new path through the powder.
I skied back to the parking lot, grabbed my parka and an overpriced hotdog and fries at the lodge and then skied back.
I made a light dinner and called it a night early. Surprisingly, it wasn't as cold as I thought it would be. However, it is seriously dark out there, so a good headlamp is a must. A headlamp is a good source of light for reading-frees up both hands to hold a book.
The next day, I just lazed around, made breakfast, went for a ski down the road a ways towards Glacier Point, but didn't ski all that far. I took a few pictures. Nothing exciting.
I came across another skier who was having a boot problem-blister, so I pulled some Second Skin out of my first aid kit and got him going again. I stopped literally in the middle of the road and made myself a hot drink with my little Primus Micron stove. I saw John, the skier on the way back-both his heels were acting up, so his day was pretty well done.
For evening, made some dinner and retired early. Read my book for a while, then off to sleep.
Wednesday morning-light breakfast, then packed up and skied out. As I was loading the car, John came along-he was on snowshoes this time. He offered me a pack of moleskin he had picked up in the valley. Nice of him. We chatted a bit, then off I went back to LA. There was snow down to about 4000ft.
Try to get an early start. My late start was somewhat unavoidable, but I don't recommend it. You tend to forget things-like making sure your car windows are all up before taking off. Fortunately, someone pointed out this to me before I Ieft. That would have been a real bad thing to come back to.
Once you get to where you want to camp, take the time to check where you are with a compass, so your tent faces eastern facing open space. his way everything dries out in the morning. I thought of this later, of course.
Take the time to dig out your platform and kitchen area-the snow was so deep and soft, that not doing it would be a real problem. I had to work harden a path to my latrine area to avoid walking through knee deep snow just to relieve myself.
Everything takes twice as long as you figure it should.
Tent- I have a five pole free-standing tent. I have no idea how I could have set up a non-free-standing tent. The snow was so deep and soft, I couldn't have anchored it without a ton of work hardening.
Stove- I took my Optimus Nova. I am still not sold on this stove-too many moving parts. It clogged up the second time I used it-may have been old fuel. I was able to field strip it the next morning using the tool that comes with it. I dropped the little white fuel filter while doing this-amazingly enough, I found it about an hour later. The stove worked fine without the filter. I suspect the filter iced over. Also, make sure the line connector snaps back all the way into the lock position when you pull the line off, otherwise, it squirts fuel all over the place.
When the Nova jammed, I cooked with my Primus Micron-works every time. I carried it in my pack for day skiing, as I mentioned above.
Skis-Atomic Rainiers with 3 pin Voile bindings on the release kit-not wide enough for powder, but fined for most conditions. I rented Garmont Excursion boots-my next purchase. The bindings are new so one of the boots didn't fit right on the binding-3 pins are a pain if they don't snap in right away. Skins-absolutely needed on the way back-I had no traction without them. A pain to separate, but definitely worth the time to put them on. If I had realized I was going to need them, I would have put them in my bag the night before to warm them up.
Sled-my homemade sled worked great for the most part. I bought the biggest cheap duffle bag I could find and that was a good choice. Made packing out easy-I didn't have to try to jam everything into tiny bags. I did have a bunch of separate bags for clothes and things, but just folded the tent and stuffed it in last. The sled does need runners-next project-it tended to wander on the icy road back.
Shovel-I have the Voile Mini-I love it. I take it everywhere. Don't go winter camping without a shovel, ever.
Blue pads-I have 3 sections of a blue pad in various sizes-the long one makes a good chair back and seat; the medium one is for cooking and the little one is for kneeling on in the footwell or for standing on in down booties.
Sleeping bag-I have a 23F down bag in an overbag-a pain to keep straight, but warm enough. I put them in a Bibler Winter Bivy to stay dry.
Clothes-same stuff I always take, except I left the big parka in the car and used my Nuptse over my fleece jacket at night. That combo with my GoLite pants and I was plenty warm. I also was wearing my Capilene top and bottom with Capilene socks for sleeping. Down booties for padding around, but only on hard snow.
Gloves-my REI ski gloves are worthless-even with DWR sprayed on them, the ywetted out and froze stiff. My OR liners worked fine and so did my Heat Factory Mitts. I had extra wool gloves and mitt shells as spares.
I kept my camera in my bag-seemed to work. My rechargeable batteries worked on only on set, but I didn't take all that many pics-about 60.
Bear canister-I took mine. Makes keeping track of food easy, plus keeps the curious at bay. I had a bird or some little critter get into my trash bag while I was out skiing, but that was about it.
Food-I took a lot, but didn't eat enough. Try to eat a lot-I don't eat when I am tired-bad idea. Drink plenty of liquids, too, especially at altitude.
Reading material-James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential) is not really light reading-what was I thinking? I took White Jazz, the sequel. Carl Hiaassen would have been a better choice, but I think I have read all his stuff already.
I haven't figured out yet how to link from here to my picture site, but I am working on it.