Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Snow Camping 101 - Mt. Rainier Edition

Mt Rainier in all it's glory 

 How much stuff do 2 people need for 1 night in the snow?
Staking out our spots
Thanks for the capture Sarina!
Home is where you pitch it
Our lil village - 25 tents that is
The City of Kinis & Crampons
 Hi moon, it's nice to meet you
Posted up for lunch
 Bear Canisters needed while camping at Rainier
 The other Wang shaking out her tent
Sunrise or sunset?

Dates Camped: January 14-15, 2017
Location: Paradise, Mt Rainier National Park
Permits needed: yes, group permit due to size
Miles hiked: 1/4 mile to campsites, probably around 3 miles total for the weekend

I've always wanted to try snow camping, the 1st time was on Mt Whitney, October 2015, but there wasn't enough snow, where you have to pack it down and sleep on top of it, we were able to scoot the snow aside, and lay our tent on dirt. The 2nd attempt at snow camping was when I road tripped to Mammoth with Tizzy and Sergio last New Year's Eve, but we chickened out and turned to lower elevation cuz we were too cold, even though there was no snow that night in lower elevation, it dropped to 12 degree while camping and we were all still miserable lol. So after 2 failed attempts at truly snow camping, I finally got to experience it this past weekend with a great group of women, a great leader, and I learned so much from it.

We had heard about last year's snow camping trip from numerous people and were hoping to see the event pop up again, and it did! Sarina and I both signed up when the sign up sheet was released. To get ready for this trip, I evaluated the gear I had and made a list of what I needed. I had most of the gear, but ended up buying a couple new items for this trek:
  • Cabin Booties (the alternative to down booties because I didn't want to spend a lot of money, I found these synthetic pair on REI Garage, used a coupon, and only dropped $20 on them. I give them 5 stars, they kept my feet super toasty while sleeping!)
  • SmartWool Midweight Leggings (they say wool keeps you warmer! I found a really ugly hounds-tooth purple/pink pair on REI Garage for $55, I figured I'll probably have another layer on top, so the print didn't matter to me. The ones I bought are sold out, but I linked another pair that's on sale for $70. They usually retail for $100. I rate them 4 stars, they do keep me warm, but they stretch out in the crotch and knees after wearing them for an hour or so)

All the other gear I already had: Kahtoola Microspikes, Redfeather Conquest Snowshoes (I bought these for $80, so not the best but they do their job), gaiters, snowboarding jacket (I don't own a real parka, so I made due with what I had), ski pants (I also brought rain pants, but I didn't end up wearing them), 58L pack, Nalgene water bottles, hand and toe warmers, 3 season tent (was told 4 season not necessary if it's not too cold or windy), etc. Also some borrowed gear, mainly a shovel and bear canister. We also used an MSR stove for the weekend.

 I personally don't own a 0 degree sleeping bag, and just built a sleeping system I thought would keep me warm, and it did! Below is what I used:

  • REI Flash Sleeping Bag (rated at 32 degrees)
  • Down Throw (found this at Costco for $20)
  • Sleeping Bag Liner (got this for $11 at the REI Used Gear Sale, score!)
  • REI Trekker Sleeping Pad (R-Value:5.6, borrowed this from the boyfriend)
  • I wore the synthetic down booties, SmartWool leggings waist down, and on top I wore a fleece pullover and a lightweight down jacket to bed that night
I'm on the left, SmartWool leggings and cabin booties 

Gear can get really expensive. If you can't tell, I try to be as thrifty as possible lol.

Sarina and I arranged a carpool with our new friend Heidi. She owns a Ford Escape and has tire socks for it, if chains were required. (Tire socks is a new thing I learned this weekend, they are a traction for your tires, similar to chains, but fit more like a sock and aren't as bulky as chains) My Mazda 6 is a great car, but not for these conditions. Saturday morning we drove out with Heidi, met the group at Longmire (located 6 miles past the Rainier entrance), listened to instructions, introduced ourselves to the group and caravanned out to Paradise, and all parked in the overnight parking area. We had another quick pep talk in the parking lot, this time from Meghan, one of the founders of @pnwoutdoorwomen, about how to use blue poop bags, and we were on our way to our campsite! We hiked a 1/4 mile up the trail and setup camp right behind the lodge. Location wise, this spot I thought was amazing because there were restrooms that were open 24 hours, only a 10 minute walk from our camp area! (I'll pee outside if I have too, but if there's restrooms close by, I'll opt for toilets over squatting lol)

There is a ton of snow up here! We had to shovel about 2-3 ft into the snow, pack it down, even the bottom out, then we were able to setup our tent. After setup and a quick lunch, some of the group headed out for a short trek in the snow, dawning either snowshoes or microspikes, all about personal preference here, I chose snowshoes. The weather was perfect and the views were amazing this weekend! Mt Rainier was out in all it's glory. As we were heading back to camp, some of us stayed back to catch the sunset. After we got back, we put on more layers, and headed to the common area, and made dinner with everyone. This was probably the only time I truly got cold. The weather was perfect this weekend, never dropping below 20 degrees and no wind. I'm not sure if I am willing to snow camp in any other conditions besides what we had! We headed to bed a little past 9 pm. With all the layers I had on, and some foot warmers stuck to my toes, this was probably the warmest I had ever slept while camping! Sarina and I put our Nalgenes, fuel canister, and electronics in between us so that none of these things would freeze, which worked out well. The following morning, Sarina and I woke up before sunrise and were able to capture some great shots of a glowing Rainier. We made breakfast, socialized a lil, then packed up camp, and hiked back to the car. Snow camping was a success!

Teresa, our group leader and the woman who organized this entire trip, is amazing! She did all the leg work to make this trip happen, from submitting for permits, to organizing the dates and the paperwork.... thank you! Thank you also to PNW Outdoor Women leaders for making this happen as well! A permit was need for our group this weekend due to there being 37 of us total. We were told that if you have a head count of 12 or less, you don't need to submit for a permit ahead of time, you can get it day of.

Overall, this weekend trip was amazing! We met a bunch of great people, and I learned so much from this trek! Now I want to go snow camping again, anyone else down to go with me?!

Until next time Mt Rainier!

 Mt Rainier National Park 
 Snowshoeing/Post holing crew
The views better up there they say....

 Our campsite was right behind this lodge
Rainier at sunrise

Here's the link to Sarina's write up on this trip.


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