First backpacking trip of 2011 season

Friday, June 3, 2011

I went on my first backpacking trip of the season this past Friday. Unsurprisingly, camping in the Colorado Rockies at the beginning of June was cold. Cold, but not really uncomfortable.

I wanted to test out the Jacks ‘R Better quilt I just bought. I woke up cold twice during the night: once at about 2:00 in the morning when my watch said it was about 37 degrees and again at 5:00 when it was about 34 degrees. JRB rates this Sierra Sniveller quilt at 25 to 30 degrees. I’d say it’s really a 35-degree bag for me because I tend to roll from my left side to my right and doing that sometimes untucks the quilt, letting in cold air. Fortunately, it wasn’t enough of an annoyance to keep me from falling back to sleep quickly on the bed-like luxury of my new Big Agnes pad. It’s an Insulated Air Core, and it’s a big improvement over the lightweight foam pad I used when backpacking last year and the standard Thermarest I use on car camping trips. The two and half inches of padding created by the Big Agnes make all the difference.

looking east along a valley in Roosevelt Forest near Lost LakeThe trip wasn’t much of workout or an opportunity to see the sights, but it did a good job of letting me work out the kinks in the new sleep system before my dad comes out for a backpacking and flyfishing trip in a couple weeks. I still need to replace the cheap, emergency bivy sack with something that doesn’t tear easily.

Trip summary

Original destination: Heart Lake at about 11,000 feet elevation, Indian Peaks Wilderness, west of Rollinsville, Colorado. The Boulder Ranger District office advised me that the Indian Peaks Wilderness was way above it’s normal level of snowpack for this time of year.

Destination after calling the Boulder Ranger District: much lower! — On the ranger’s advice I decided to camp in a valley along the Lost Lake/ Devil’s Thumb trail slightly above 9,000 feet, Roosevelt National Forest, west of Nederland, Colo.

Distance hiked: maybe 2 miles roundtrip, if I’m being generous.

Elevation gain: 600 feet (started at about 9000 feet, turned around at about 9600)

Camping elevation: ~9100 feet, ground was dry (snowpack of 3-4 feet was present at about 9600 feet and above)

Temperature range: mid 60’s during day, mid 30’s at night

Trip photos

This footbridge on the way to Lost Lake was still covered in a couple of feet of snow

This footbridge on the way to Lost Lake was still covered in a couple of feet of snow.

Here next to the footbridge is where I eventually turned around before heading down to find a dry campsite. The Lost Lake Trail and Devils Thumb Bypass Trail split here at about 9600 feet. I post-holed up to my calves for a while on the bypass trail as I looked for a suitably dry campsite. It wasn't happening.

For my shelter, I've switched to using a lightweight sil nylon tarp from Equinox, usually supported by my trekking poles or trees. I put my sleeping pad and quilt or bag inside a emergency bivy sack which acts as a good vapor barrier from the ground.

Sunrise. The temp shot up quickly from the 30s to the 40s after that.

This Casio Pathfinder watch is another new piece of gear. I got it for $100 from the REI Outlet. Its altimeter, barometer and thermometer features work fairly well. I don't recall if the measurement of 9100 feet in this picture was accurate, but, when the weather is stable and I've kept the watch calibrated, the altimeter has been spot on for me for the couple months I've owned it. I've had that Photon Micro Light in the top right for about a year. It's great, but I do wonder when the battery will die.

Clothing List:

green wool felt hat

mid-weight wool watch cap

lightweight waterproof bike gloves

Arc Teryx soft shell

North Face synthetic insulated mid layer

long-sleeved Columbia Titanium SPF shirt

short-sleeved synthetic undershirt

hiking pants

one pair synthetic underwear

two pairs socks (definitely needed both pairs even though this was just an over-nighter; first pair and shoes were both very damp from post-holing in snow at 9600 feet)

rain pants (carried, not used)

no rain jacket other than softshell

no long johns (other than a couple minutes hopping around and running in place when I got out of bed, I really did not miss them either)

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