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Wind River Range Late March TR


Original Post
Sean Tropsa · · Draper, UT · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 25

Went back into Titcomb Basin for some skiing/possible climbing. Lets just say the weather didnt exactly co-operate (despite the forecasts). For those looking for info on what the range is like in winter conditions, read on!
https://seantropsa.wixsite.com/shenanigans/single-post/2018/04/13/WILDerness-in-the-Winds-part-1

Feel free to offer criticism or advice on what we could have done better (besides leaving earlier). Its an amazing range, and a special place in winter. I am looking forward to going back.

splitclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 7

Damn. Hell of an adventure.  Kudos for keeping your wits about you and making sound decisions.  I don't think I would have ditched any food in that situation, but that wasn't me bonking out there.

I'm a big fan of paragraph breaks.  Hard to read with such long paragraphs.

DavisMeschke Guillotine · · Armchair Asshole · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 225

The first few big trips I did back there, I thought bringing a sled was the way to do it. I smartened up and now I just bring a 60L pack. Makes things so much easier than dragging a dead load behind you for miles.

mountain-forecast.com is your friend up there. NOAA and weather.com are ass in the Winds. Honestly, most forecasts are useless up here.

Snow machines are legal up to the Wilderness Boundary. This makes Titcomb Basin doable in a day.

More of the lines up there have been done than you might think.

It's a special place, VERY wild. It's hard for me to see more and more people getting back there, but it's the natural progression of things. Great trip report though! Come back in the spring and lets try and get out to ski.

Thomas G. · · SLC, UT · Joined Feb 2010 · Points: 150

Great trip report - good for you guys for keeping it together. Do you think you would have had issues if you had brought a slightly more burly tent than a Convert?

Snow machines are legal up to the Wilderness Boundary. This makes Titcomb Basin doable in a day.
How far can you get on a sled before you have to ditch it? How many miles does that leave to travel on foot?
Sean Tropsa · · Draper, UT · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 25

sled would cut off, maybe 6 miles? depending on how you did things, but would still leave like 12 miles of walking depending on how you do things, definitely doable in a long day. We looked at hiring one but couldn't find anyone to take us back. Another option that crossed our minds- sled dogs? maybe??

For hauling a sled- ya i am split on this, hauling everything in a big pack works sometimes but if you are going back for a longer period of time and walking substantial flats the sled really helps with fatigue. I think i want to try out a roll up flexible sled system next time so you can haul when convenient, or carry when you need to- i think this might be the best of both worlds.

Ski lines back there- ya i am sure many of them have been done, but it seems, as with the climbing, if you get out of Titcomb/dinwoody or the Cirque areas, user-ship goes WAY down- i am sure there are plenty of lines still ;)

Honestly we looked at all of the above weather sites and added in a ton of the different model runs accessible (SREF, NAEFS, HRR, NAM, GFS, etc) Had NOAA on the radio, etc and all of them didnt mean shit. I think it was a relatively localized weather system that wasnt well predicted by the models, i mean we literally walked out of the system.

As for the tent- ya an EV3 or something may have been more suitable, but those are hard to manage with 3 people for a more extended time and dont breathe well. The benefit of the convert is it is a 2 wall tent so it usually manages moisture pretty well compared to the single wall options out there. I looked at some MSR/Hilleberg/etc options for a team of 3 but all of those were 10-12 pounds for a comparable space vs the 5 pound convert 3. I was expecting to deal with the wind situation which the convert held up to just fine, I was not expecting that amount of drifting snow. No Hoop style tent will hold up to that so it would have to be the more dome style which are heavier and bulkier. Lesson learned on the drifting snow.

@DavisMeschke- i might be coming back up sometime this spring! if i do i will shoot you a pm, i think in terms of hitting objectives, spring and firmer snow definitely makes moving back there much easier!  

Ross D · · Bozeman, MT · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 0

I got back there for 9 days in April/may a few years ago. Had similar experience with sleds. Met 4 guys from Oregon who got snowmobiled up to the boundary, and they still ditched sleds on day one.

We had a sheltered campsite but it wasn't as far up Titcomb as we had planned. Skied a few days around Indian Basin which was pretty fun. I would totally charge up there for a shorter trip without sleds. Do more skiing and save the miles and miles of windy lake traversing that started and ended every day.

We got cell signal on the west ridge above the basin for Wx updates but it seems each basin has its own micro forecast. It is named 'Wind River' for a reason I guess...

Looks like you dug a hole and plopped your tent right in... Rule of thumb I've heard was you want the walls to be as far from your shelter as they are tall so she snow can eddy out and you have room to dig.

Idaho Bob · · McCall, ID · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 450

Sleds work just fine on glaciers.  Other than that my experience with them has been dismal.

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 15,301

Wow...great TR and super good learning experience!

I've used sleds a bunch.  I'd rather have heavy weight on a sled than on my back.  As you discoved, proper loading and positioning of weight is key.

Some folks don't mind a heavy pack for longer, winter-ish trips.  My back just won't tolerate that.

Having a sturdy tent is pretty important...and one that can buck the wind, pitched properly, also a good thing.  I've found that positioning wind walls well away from the tent so they can deal with wind blown snow works pretty ok.  Put a wall to break the wind well away from the wall that you have nearer your tent and leave enough space to shovel.  I've lost a tent in a bad storm...at least you can burrow into the snow if need be...  Some storms require full time shovelling to keep up with.  At some point, a snow cave makes sense...

The Winds in the winter is the real deal!  Good job on gettin' in and out in one piece!

 

Briggs Lazalde · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0

Questions on your pulk sled setup. Which method of attachment did you use for the poles to harness/pack? Were they rigid or Was it rope? Ive made several variations and the only problem I have is attaching poles to backpack waistbelt without leaving any slop which greatly affects how efficient or laborious hauling is.

Sean Tropsa · · Draper, UT · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 25

We just used rope, I toyed with the idea of making it a rigid attachment, but figured that, so long as we could get it to track well in our path, we wouldn't need the rigid attachment because we were going mostly flat, not a whole lot of up/down or side hilling where we would need the rigidity. Having the rigid attachment probably would have helped. I also dont have a backpack with dedicated attachment points. In the past i have tried attaching to a climbing harness, attaching to the backpack harness (waist belt and lower portion of the shoulder straps). This time i just used the rope attached to my backpack waist belt

As with a lot of this stuff, its an iterative process and we are learning. I think one of the problems with the pulk set up is that it is very personal preference dependent, and i have heard a lot of people claim they have the best set up that someone else absolutely hates. Longer term i will probably get a cold cold world pack with some dedicated attachment points for situations where i want to tow gear.

@Brian and Ross thanks for the suggestion! I think the wind break walls might have been a bit too far in. We left 3-5 feet on each side between the tent and the wall, but with all the transport, the wall grew in about 2 feet on top of getting snow falling out onto the ground. I Like the idea of the double wall to let some snow eddy out. I will probably try this next time. If we were going to stay much longer, I think i would have just scrapped the tent for a while and build a snow cave/quinzee. Tent is out for repairs now. Sierra Designs said they would take care of it for free so that's sweet (maybe they didn't realize how messed up it was? oh well) i figured i had pretty much lost it. All part of the learning experience i guess.

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 15,301
Sean Tropsa wrote: I think the wind break walls might have been a bit too far in. We left 3-5 feet on each side between the tent and the wall, but with all the transport, the wall grew in about 2 feet on top of getting snow falling out onto the ground. I Like the idea of the double wall to let some snow eddy out. 

Usually requires some pain and loss of gear to get a handle on some of this...ha ha.

My first trip to a big, snowy place (St Elias Range) we dug a big hole for our tent.  Which, of course, promptly filled completly in with snow burying our tents in a massive amount of snow.  Thankfully we were able to dig out and re-pitch on the flats with no walls for a spell.

Wind drifted snow can really bury a tent quickly.  Difficult to keep up with even trading off shovellling around the clock.

One of my last trips to the AK range we built multiple walls out in front of the wind and still broke a tent pole in a harsh 24 hour storm.  Low enough elevation that we got sleet instead of snow...kinda gross shovelling slush. 

Anyhoo...character building!
Idaho Bob · · McCall, ID · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 450

On Logan we were faced with a 5 day storm at about 5600 meters.  Dug pits for the tents that were about 1/2 meter deep, then snow walls above that.  Used extra tie downs for the tents.  In 5 tent bound days we got almost 2 meters of snow, lots of shoveling opportunities to keep the snow cleared. Worked OK.  But we used all our reserve fuel and had to descend without summiting when the storm broke.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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