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hi everyone

Hi Alicia, hi Bill S just dropping a note. I live south of Bend Oregon. Im kayaking, skiing, snowmobiling and have 6 motorcycles. Anyway love to hear from bill was looking at a photo snowcamping with you and Barbarra.

Jim S

Hi Jim!

Thanks for reaching out and coming back to visit us on Trailspace. It's good to hear from you. I hope you've been busy with lots of fun outdoor sounds like it.

Feel free to share any of them with us here in the forums, or in a Trip Report, anytime.

I'll make sure Bill S sees your message here also.


Alicia, Its funny after moving to rural Oregon my whole attitude changed. We used to have to make a special occasion of a trip and drive for 5 hours to the Sierras. We would have to ski in after dark and set up camp and eat. Now I live on land pretty much like where I would camp in the Sierras. Within an hours drive I can be in 3 different mountain ranges. I belong to a snowmobile club that grooms 180 miles of trails on Newberry monument and the snow park where our club house is, is a 35 mile drive on a 4 lane highway most of the way there. One night we were snow camped on Middle Sister and a warm front came through and started melting the snow out from under us. I got up at 3 am, skied to my car and drove home to sleep. I came back in the morning for breakfast and packed up the gear. 

I always had "special gear" for campingNow I live every day in the same environment and I wear cotton sweat pants and wool/cotton $6 long underwar vs the patagonia stuff in my "special" drawer and it works just as well!!! Maybe I would prefer the patagonia skiing and thats what I save the patagonia and marmot stuff for, but only because I already own this stuff.

Also - because stuff is "new" doesn't make it better. I have several pieces of caping gear that are old and still the best ever made, like my kely white phantom pack, my goretex Bibler tent, Kelty liquid feed expedition stove double burner, the original titanium pans....   What Ive been saying is that the whole market place of selling fancy new gear is appealing to peoples desires for fancy pretty trinkets, not neccesarily the best camping gear.

Anyway glad youre still making a living at it. I mostly ride motorcycles in the mountains instead of hiking and I can' climb anymore and downhil is a bit sketchy but I can cross country and I can snowmobile camp wearing my cotton clothes....


Jim, it's great that you've found a way to live your outdoor life every day!

While it can be fun to travel for adventures, I think it's important to find ways to enjoy the outdoors on a daily or weekly level. It may take a different or simple form, but I think the regularity is important, assuming you're lucky enough to have somewhere you can go outside and the ability to do so.

It's important to just get out there and do something with what you've got.

And you're right that "new" doesn't automatically equate with "better." That's one of the reasons I enjoy when people review their older gear that has been well used and well loved. There are often a lot of stories and memories to go with the gear, which can be fun to hear.



Snow camping is one of those skills that is difficult for many to become competent, let alone master, as most don't spend much time practicing the art.  The fact Jim can remain comfortable in the snow wearing cotton layers implies to me he has attained a very high level of skill in this endeavor, akin to keeping one's powder dry in a hurricane.


Ok I'll bite. I used to go the Sierras when storm warnings were to stay away. I always felt that if you were properly clothed, and the weather stayed below 30, you should be able to affect a self rescue after any storm simply by skiing out with the same gear that brought you in. I add a caveat to that - its not a good idea to ski with a sled in really deep snow, you might want to put shoulder straps on yer sled so you can carry it. Obviously you also want a light sled.

So besides being properly clothed (I'm not going into that) blizzard camping requires a clean dry place to sleep and change clothes. If you can cook in your vestibule and have a pee bottle you could remain inside for a long time, but I digress.

Entering a tent in a storm. Notice the photo of my bibler tent, the vestibule is not on it, so it was clear weather. In a storm you enter the vestibule and shake the snow off your coat.remove any loose snow near the door. Unzip coat,bibs pants etc. Unzip tent door a crack and slide into the tent leaving your coat and gear in the vestibule. Remove boots while sitting in tent with boots in vestibule. Set boots to side. Roll up clothes so the dry parts are inside the roll and place over boots to protect them and keep snow out. Then zip tent, put  on thick wool tent socks.

If you cannot melt water and make coffee and oatmeal in your vestibule you better practice. Once we were hit by a freak snow storm with 50 mph winds. I sat outsie the vestibule and occasionally reached into the vestibule, then I got back into the tent with my partner with coffee and food. I had to be outside with the tent zipped up to protect him from the stove exhaust fumes. I suppose I could have vented to top vent in the tent and stayed inside. Anyway we then just packed up and skied out.

Oh yeah you can drop your pack, pull the bibler tent off top, open the tent and pull it over your head with the door around your feet, then simply lie on the snow. You open the poles with their ends sticking out the door and bend them as you pull them in ans set the tent up around you from the inside, When the snow gets deeper than the tent and is pressing in the sides of the tent, sit up (in your sleeping bag) and put your back against the tent and your feet against the other wall and press the snow outward. After doing this once your tent will be set up inside a snowcave and be very quiet. Its easy to sleep in if you are comfy in your sleeping bag.

I only wear my patagonia long underwaer inside my sleeping bag, this allows my warmth to warm the whole bag. Wearing layers inside your bag is uncomfortable, cold, and may bring moisture into the bag. Next morning before the bag can cool, you must squeeze from the bottom and up the top a couple times to push out the warm damp air. Leave the bag open as long as it getting more dry than wet. Sometimes on a sunny cold day you can put a bag on a clothes line in the sun to dry.



Where are you dragging a sled (pulk?)  I found pulks a challenge on slopes and side hills of 20% or more incline; they tended to slip toward the fall line and tug me along.  Am I missing a skill or technique?  Most of my Sierra skiing is up high, originating from the East Side where everything is sloped, versus closed roads and the long valleys of the Western Sierra.

We never use liquid fuel or canister stoves in a tent or vestibule, given the volume of accidents associated with this practice.  These accidents are often the result of equipment malfunction, and handling incidents by very experienced mountaineers and guides, so it cannot be claimed expertise or practice is the solution.  Many get by an entire life time with no mishaps, but it is a lottery I am not willing to play;  I have personally seen enough stove handing incidents to convince me outside in the elements is preferable to the possibility of fuel spills and over pressure events.

stormwalls.jpgAbove:  Cooking dinner outside of tent: Mt Langley @ 13,500’ late January, 
air temp: -6°F (day time) wind speed: ~45mph.  A NF VE-25 tent with vestibule is on the right side of the image. 

I try to minimize sweating into my clothing.  Therefore I tend to under-dress while performing physical activities.  Sometimes this means wearing only gym shorts and a t-shirt under hard shell tops and bottoms in below freezing temps.  And when I get to camp I try to use my body heat to dry out dampened layers before changing into my at-camp clothing.  I usually multitask this activity, preparing my meals during my drying out time. 

I found sheltering in snow shelters or pyramid tarps to be more roomy and easier than traditional 4 season tents.  You need not worry about dragging snow into the shelter, because the floor is the snow, except wherever you ground cloth is placed, usually under your sleeping bag.  But like your tent, these solutions require specific techniques to maximize their utility.

Our approach to sleeping bags and sleep attire are essentially the same.  We also squeeze the warm air from our bag before packing it away.  We additionally bring along large a black plastic leaf bag and place our bag in this out in the open during rest stops, to solar heat-up the bags.  We knead the bags periodically to force the warmed air into the insulation.  When it is time to get under way again, we repeat the process of forcing air out of the bags and repack the bags in our packs.  I wear cotton (!) under my synthetic long johns as I prefer the feel.  Both my undies and long johns are used exclusively for sleep, to reduce the moisture that otherwise would be dragged into my bag.  I will add inner and outer vapor barrier sacks to my bag on longer trips, as condensation otherwise eventually accumulates in the bag in sub freezing conditions.

I bring both a winter use 1/2" blue foam pad and air mattress.  The blue foam pad provides insulation from the ground, and is there as back up in case the air mat springs a leak. 

One way to reduce frost build up in a shelter is placing a candle about 18" below a high vent, to generate a convection draft that will draw moist air out of the shelter, through the vent.  Another way is not sealing every vent and opening to the outside of the shelter.  Tent interiors are only slightly warmer than the outside, once the sun sets, given the low R-rating of a couple of thin fabric tent walls.  A well vented tent provides more utility by reducing frost build up issues, than any resulting loss in heat otherwise retained by sealing yourself into an air tight confine. 

I found bring a pair of those latex dish washing gloves works as a vapor barrier inside gloves and mitts, as well as keeps the hands warmer while performing otherwise bare handed chores in camp.



Its interesting that you will use a candle lit at night, but not cook in the vestibule while awake. Anyway in the west sierra its not as steep and most trails are pretty level. I wouldn't take the pulk if I were really going up a long ways, (or in a long way) I'd just wear a light pack.

I think I can honestly say that besides my first boyscout winter trip, I have never had serious frost in my tent. I tend to use single wall tents but even my North Face 3 man expedition tent has a cover and it stays dry too. I have camped next to buddies who woke up so soaking wet that they charged out to the cars and went home and I was completly dry. Closing up a non-breathable tent to stay warm doesn't work too well. The Biblers have an excellent roof vent that works in most conditions. I often bring the stove completely into the tent and melt snow and cook INSIDE the tent with the door partly open and the roof vent open. I can heat the tent up to 80 if I want. The heat drives out the moisture.

For anyone else attempting to learn these skills, I suggest camping in your back yard in bad weather. perhaps the most important stuff is what you learn to leave out. Traveling light in snow is important and learning exactly what to take is the secret. Jim

My comment on stove hazards addresses liquid fuel that can spill or leak, then ignite, making for a fire that cannot be extinguished quickly, or compressed fuel canisters leaking or bursting, resulting in a fireball that fills the tent, often instantly burning the tent down to its poles and floor.  Note I did not comment on esbit or other solid fuel sources, as the hazards presented by a solid fuel can be manged before they get out of hand.  Folks should also note Jim mentions opening vents when using fire inside a tent - you should do this even with candles, as people have died in tents from carbon monoxide gas poisoning.

The candle I mention is placed in an enclosure that precludes casual contact of the flame with other objects, and is placed high enough in the tent so it is usually beyond contact with most activities occurring in the shelter.  If I am solo, frost and condensation are not an issue, and I forego the candle, but two or three people can get things humid.

Jim suggests backyard trials to learn bad weather skills, but I will add if you can accompany someone with experience on snow trips and such, you can learn a lot quicker with less aggravation.  And there are some skills you should not limit your learning to trial and error or reading from a manual, such as snow safety analysis, and how to negotiate icy or steep snow covered terrain.  There are guide services that can teach these technical skills and will also jump start your knowledge of how to approach snow camping so you can be comfortable and efficient.  In fact I encourage even the well seasoned trekker who travels in snowy mountains to get a refresher safety course every now and then.  I am returning to the sport after a 20 year hiatus, and took a seminar to refresh my memory.  I did not forget much, but enough has changed over the years, regarding the techniques used to read snow pack, making the course well worth the investment. 


whomeworry said:

And there are some skills you should not limit your learning to trial and error or reading from a manual, such as snow safety analysis, and how to negotiate icy or steep snow covered terrain.  There are guide services that can teach these technical skills and will also jump start your knowledge of how to approach snow camping so you can be comfortable and efficient.  In fact I encourage even the well seasoned trekker who travels in snowy mountains to get a refresher safety course every now and then.  I am returning to the sport after a 20 year hiatus, and took a seminar to refresh my memory.  I did not forget much, but enough has changed over the years, regarding the techniques used to read snow pack, making the course well worth the investment. 


Good advice for all of us, Ed!

It is good to see that Jim is back on line again. It has been a long time since we got together.

I have been pretty busy working with training adult Boy Scout leaders on getting the youth out to learning the skills. Plus other personal things going on. For those who haven't heard, my wife, Barbara and I went to the Oakdale get-together a couple months back (that's California). This was a gathering of a lot of climbers, with the main theme being to pay homage to the number of our friends and colleagues in the world of climbing, mountaineering, and others of the woodsy folks who have passed. While a few passed due to accidents, most of our lost friends have been subjected to illnesses due to cancer and other diseases. Many have been active in the climbing world and are well-known names.

Shortly after the Oakdale gathering, Barbara and I drove from the SF area South to the LA region to join in a 60 year anniversary get-together of my high school friends. While many of my friends appeared at the Re-Union, there still were many friends there. And given the timing,  the area in which we all had made our way through a fair amount of aging had also changed in many ways.

Thankfully, some of us are still in good health and able to do challenging and interesting activities in the outdoors. I myself have managed to hike and climb on all 7 continents, with many of the outings being done with outdoors friends who taught us the basics of the outdoors and provided the needed skills for us.


Hi Bill. I bet you still use your 2 door El Dorado. I joined the Lodgepole Dodgers in LaPine Oregon, we groom 180 miles of trails on Newberry monument. I want to start going snowmobile snow camping up there. I live 25 miles from Smith Rock and haven't climbed there, but I still have all of my Yosemite gear.

Some people really like snow mountaineering. 

I would just caution the participants, that besides blizzards, the one thing that can create serious problems are big wet snow storms. 

A friend of mine is a very skilled outdoor person.  He and a friend decided to circumnaviagte Crater Lake one winter.  They were on x-c skiis with small sleds and all the right stuff.  They got 4 feet of wet snow in about 48 hours.  Previously they were easily traveling 10-15 miles a day.  After the big dump, 3 miles took twice as much energy.  They rested.  They tried to travel.  They ran out of food.  There were very lucky to get a phone signal on a primitive phone and were helicoptered out. 

ummm,,,  Jim. first, I don't know what an El Dorado is... no I am not joking. I am guessing it is some sort of vehicle -- snow mobile (sorry, I am not familiar with snow mobiles)

Now, this last few weeks, my son joined me and my wife to go to Alta (Utah) for a bit of skiing. Barbara had to stick to snow-shoes and hiking one of the summer roads in the Alta area, since she had lost vision in one eye, a couple months ago. Unfortunately there is no known cure for that loss. Doesn't stop her hiking, though.

Our son is a very active skier. He lives in Wisconsin and is an atmospheric scientist. The weather we had was pretty brutal for the winds and temperature. We had to spend a day for "InterLodge" (for those unfamiliar, that's when the blizzard is so heavy and creating significant avalanches that most people in the area have to remain inside the buildings. At that, one of the ski patrol managed to get buried by an avalanche. Just because you are a "professional" at dealing with storms and avalanches doesn't mean you always have good judgement, as ppine said. We did get a break long enough and thanks to the plows to dig the 4-runner out and down the hill (nice to have a vehicle with full 4WD to follow the plows - the roads up the hill were blocked for long enough to have the plows clearing the roads going down - about a 5 mile backup below the closure point.

Good thing about having an atmospheric member of the family. He has a few satellites that he works with. A couple years ago when I was in Antarctica to climb Vinson, I called him via radio at his research center since a storm was circling Antarctica. He told me we would probably have to stay in our tents for 6 days or so. His info was dead-on.

He was with us at Alta. On our return from Alta to California, we had a lot of heavy rain and wind. The 4runner worked well in the conditions - that's what it was built for.

So Jim, I will have to see if I can get a break in all the commitments that seem to be piling up on my schedules.


With all due respect, heading into bad weather on purpose can get you killed.  The fact that you like wearing your cotton clothes suggests that you are not as experienced and you claim to be.   

The closest I have come to freezing to death was August 31 on the Alaska/Yukon border.  Last time I was in the Sisters Wilderness a couple of years ago the high was 36 degrees with sleet and snow at night.  That was on Sept 10.  It snowed at Crater Lake for several days over Labor Day weekend.  Watch you step out there, and do not mess with Oregon because it can bite you in the ass. 

ppine I know you mean well but Ive spent over 500 nights out in mountain snow. I do not "head into storms" wearing cotton. I live in storms and I wear cotton. A lot of people do things that are dangerous for others to try. I never suggest that novices should free climb or go alone, however I think Bill has certainly gone into the teeth of far worse weather while climbing at high altitude. To be fair ppine, I came from the alpine side not the hiker side. My gear and approach is ready for the extremes high altitude can throw at me. Bill does it for fun too...

Bill, the Bibler is an eldorado model. Glad to hear young son is doing something scientific. I thinking about sidehillwalkers the other day...


I went to school with a bunch of climbers and alpinists at UW.  Every one of them had some dead friends. 

Oh, those El Dorado's! Yes, I still have mine, and I have used it in heavy weather a number of times, though not recently. IIRC, I used it during a Trailspace gear review of a stove in the Sierra. Right now, it is sitting in my garage, and is in usable condition.

ppine, I would be a bit careful before dumping on people like Jim who really do have decades of experience in a wide range of experience in the outdoors. Although I have spent a lot of time on all 7 continents in a wide range of seasons, I am well aware of my limitations, and I know Jim and a lot of others who are thoroughly skilled who I trust in the "woods" (using the term to give a general view, NOT the full coverage). You mention going to school with "a bunch of climbers who have dead friends". As I noted above, at the Kirkwood get-together, we noted a number of old friends who were expert climbers and mountaineers who had passed, the majority of them due to cancers and other maladies. Yes, there are highly experienced climbers who slip up. Yes, we all make mistakes.

Something I would suggest is that anyone heading into the outdoors be directed to the American Alpine Club's annual publications Accidents in American Mountaineering . There are other similar publications. And there are organizations like the American Alpine Club which do have good training programs.

AND - Trailspace gets lots of excellent information from knowledgeable contributors (except for a few ..... - just overlook us old codgers)


I will always dump on people that head into storms on purpose and think cotton clothes are the right thing to bring along.  They are either trolling or not very smart.  In this case it is hard to tell which is the case. The dead friends I referred to died in snow caves, from exposure, and from falls.  

I get on my hind legs, whenever  people promote unsafe practices in a public forum. 

Boy, I'm staying out of this expertise/foolhardy binary.  I have done my share of adventures, and had a few scares.  Some friends say I am a cat with nine lives, but if they knew all the details, they'd probably say I was the entire litter.

Anyone who has done enough of the more adventurous kinds of activities knows someone who didn't make it to the rest home.  I know of several souls who lost life on high adventures.  One was ice climbing, which if you ask me is a gladiator sport where the objective risk is very significant.  But the others, three of them, all perished in snow avalanches, under nominal circumstances.  A matter of bad luck IMO.  Me thinks if you reach the ripe - perhaps rotting - age of Jim, Bill, Ppine, moi, and a few other old fossils lurking on the forum, well we all must be doing something right, at least when we are out in the BC.


Good one Ed.  All of us have had some luck or we would not be here. 

They say there are old climbers, and there are bold climbers, but there are few old bold climbers. I think us old farts simply wish the best for those who will follow in our foot steps and will make the same blunders as we did and the better luckier ones will live to our age and still enjoying the out of doors.

We (if beginners) used to limit ourselves to going in less than 2 miles from the snowpark so retreating would be possible under any circumstances, but on those farther afield trips you better be traveling light if theres more than a foot of fresh snow. Of course the very most dangerous is when it warms up to 40 and rains. 

Anyway I guess we had some lively conversation, nice to talk to old friends again.


August 8, 2020
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