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Heading west, May 2019

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Offline backpacker56

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Heading west, May 2019
« on: April 23, 2019, 09:42:22 AM »
Heading out west on personal business next week, but Iím hoping to squeeze in at least an overnighter at GMNP weekend after next, the first weekend in May.  It seems incredible that shoulder problems and other circumstances have kept me sidelined for two whole years.  Even now, lower back pain could scuttle my plans, so Iíll just have to see how it goes.

I ordered a new, lighter, pack, thinking of reducing my load, and looking forward to a future outing with my sons, which would put us in need of another pack.  The new pack is a really sweet design, the Mountainsmith Scream 55, on sale at Amazon.  It arrived yesterday, and I was looking it over last night. 

As lovely as it is, I might have to return it because at 55 liters it just seems too small.  When they say ďminimalistĒ, itís not idle talk.  I knew this when I ordered it, since 70 liters has been my preferred minimum, but I thought it was really time I cut back, especially on shorter trips.

I already have a minimalist tent.  Now it looks like Iíd need a skimpy little quilt instead of my 15 degree down bag, and a skimpy little quarter-inch sleeping mat to shield my old bones from the stony planet.  Iím just not sure about giving away a comfortable nightís rest and the ease of using a more spacious pack, just to shed a few pounds.

Well, I can take a few days to think about it.
"Ah, sure, I'm a gnawed old bone now, but say, don't you guys think the spirit's gone!"

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Offline PacingTheCage

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Heading west, May 2019
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2019, 11:02:34 AM »
Heading out west on personal business next week, but Iím hoping to squeeze in at least an overnighter at GMNP weekend after next, the first weekend in May.  It seems incredible that shoulder problems and other circumstances have kept me sidelined for two whole years.  Even now, lower back pain could scuttle my plans, so Iíll just have to see how it goes.

I ordered a new, lighter, pack, thinking of reducing my load, and looking forward to a future outing with my sons, which would put us in need of another pack.  The new pack is a really sweet design, the Mountainsmith Scream 55, on sale at Amazon.  It arrived yesterday, and I was looking it over last night. 

As lovely as it is, I might have to return it because at 55 liters it just seems too small.  When they say ďminimalistĒ, itís not idle talk.  I knew this when I ordered it, since 70 liters has been my preferred minimum, but I thought it was really time I cut back, especially on shorter trips.

I already have a minimalist tent.  Now it looks like Iíd need a skimpy little quilt instead of my 15 degree down bag, and a skimpy little quarter-inch sleeping mat to shield my old bones from the stony planet.  Iím just not sure about giving away a comfortable nightís rest and the ease of using a more spacious pack, just to shed a few pounds.

Well, I can take a few days to think about it.

Given your handle Iím guessing you were born in Ď56?  I was born in Ď55.  Two years ago my son and I attempted the OML. He was ready. I was not.  A combination of me being out of shape and carrying too much pack weight caused us to turn back.

Donít know what percent of my failure was being out of shape or just ďold bonesĒ. 

Since that time Iíve gotten into shape and really made an effort to reduce my base weight as much as possible.  Replaced my REI tent with a tarptent, my Big Agnes bag with a skimpy quilt and replaced Nalgeen bottles with collapsible water bags. 

Havenít used them yet but have hiked with them on training hikes.  Itís helped the pack weight to be sure. I can comfortably carry 30 pounds now over many miles. Iíll find out about sleeping comfort later this summer when we return to BiBe for a week in the Chisos.

I suppose there is an expiration date on my ability to backpack but I want to pursue this as long as I can.  Itís special to share those times with family.




Sent from my iPhone using Big Bend Chat
« Last Edit: April 23, 2019, 03:27:31 PM by PacingTheCage »

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Offline LinuxGeek28

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Re: Heading west, May 2019
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2019, 01:27:54 PM »
Be sure to check out the ultralight backpacking sites and youtube videos for how to cut additional weight.  They consistently get their base-weight under 20 pounds.   They can do a 10 day trip with food (not counting water) at 25 pounds.  My current base weight is closer to 25-28 pounds, but i am trying to reduce it.  We were in the Chisos mountains last weekend, and with 7 liters of water, I was pushing 38 pounds on my back which is just too much. I can't seem to give up luxuries like my Chair-One and my Jetboil stove with coffee press and the Jetboil frypan for breakfast burritos in the morning.    :icon_smile:
This is a great book for getting started:  Ultralight Backpackin' Tips by Mike Clelland.  Find it on Amazon for $12.50

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Offline House Made of Dawn

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Re: Heading west, May 2019
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2019, 03:16:12 PM »

I suppose there is an expiration date on my ability to backpack but I want to pursue this as long as I can.  Itís special to share those times with family.


 :great:

BP56: two years?  Ouch. I sincerely hope you make it back as soon as possible. You belong there.
"The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."

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Offline wrangler88

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Re: Heading west, May 2019
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2019, 05:48:55 PM »
Glad you're headed back out to GUMO. I enjoy your trip reports. And glad you're embracing lightweight backpacking. I really makes a difference while hiking. You already have to carry enough water weight. Dont need a bunch extra.

I would caution on the 1/4" pad. Not sure if you were serious. But I have a 1/8" pad that weighs 2oz. It is barely passable as a pad. But is decent for making it through the night on lightweight trips. Most of the time, the extra weight in a lightweight inflatable pad is totally worth the better nights sleep.

I've been using an old Golite Ultra 20 quilt for 11 or 12 years now and it has worked really well for me. But beware of cold drafts on windy nights.

Looking forward to a report from your upcoming trip.

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Offline backpacker56

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Re: Heading west, May 2019
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2019, 10:46:34 PM »
One of the first things I remember hearing in my youth about backpacking was "get a closed-cell foam pad".  I did, and immediately discovered how useless they are as padding.  It was a good thermal barrier, but after such a night, maybe freezing to death wouldn't be that bad.

The hot new item today is the ultralight air mattresses with a sort of tufted appearance.  I was just at REI this evening looking at them.  The asking prices were north of $100 and they looked decidedly fragile.  Some of the floor demo models had been patched already, and didn't seem to be holding pressure too well.  There are knock-off versions on Amazon for $30 or $40.  A significant minority of reviewers were thumbs down due to loss of pressure and/or cold nights.  These problems are to be expected with any air mattress, still, the product might be worth a try at the lower prices.
"Ah, sure, I'm a gnawed old bone now, but say, don't you guys think the spirit's gone!"

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Offline wrangler88

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Re: Heading west, May 2019
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2019, 06:47:28 AM »
One of the first things I remember hearing in my youth about backpacking was "get a closed-cell foam pad".  I did, and immediately discovered how useless they are as padding.  It was a good thermal barrier, but after such a night, maybe freezing to death wouldn't be that bad.

The hot new item today is the ultralight air mattresses with a sort of tufted appearance.  I was just at REI this evening looking at them.  The asking prices were north of $100 and they looked decidedly fragile.  Some of the floor demo models had been patched already, and didn't seem to be holding pressure too well.  There are knock-off versions on Amazon for $30 or $40.  A significant minority of reviewers were thumbs down due to loss of pressure and/or cold nights.  These problems are to be expected with any air mattress, still, the product might be worth a try at the lower prices.

I have several of the air pads you're talking about. I've never laid them directly on the ground but I do use them on my tent floor with no ground sheet or on a ground sheet under a tarp depending on my setup. I've never had a hole in any of them. I survey the ground for any sort of stick or sharp rock before I set up my shelter.
The Neoair is probably the lightest pad but by far the loudest. I also have a Sea to Summit Ultralight pad I really like. Recently I got a Big Agnes SLX. It is larger, thicker, and slightly heavier than the other 2 but is by far the most comfortable.
GUMO has some good campsites for hammocking also. But I know that's not your setup.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2019, 02:38:58 PM by wrangler88 »

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Offline Lissa

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Re: Heading west, May 2019
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2019, 02:12:34 PM »
No need to give up the comfy sleep!  I have a relatively low baseweight (around 13lbs solo) and can make it fit in a 40L GG Gorilla if I donít need a bear can. Have used a womens NeoAir xLite since 2012 with no issues, and for Xmas my husband upgraded me to the xTherm as I sleep cold and I love it. The pads fold up quite small and I just use them as an extra layer of back support in the back of the pad.

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Offline backpacker56

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Re: Heading west, May 2019
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2019, 03:51:47 PM »
May 2019 Guadalupe Trip
Saturday, May 4:   

After being sidelined for 2 years with shoulder problems, I was looking forward to a 2-night solo off-trail adventure, even bought some new lightweight gear to reduce my carry weight.  Unfortunately, I came down with a sinus ailment that made nights a misery.  I remained hopeful up to the last minute before finally admitting I was just too unwell to make it work.  Other duties had already brought me near the park, so it seemed a shame, with all my gear packed and ready, and opportunity at my doorstep, to make the long drive back home without doing anything. 

Instead, I chose a secondary objective: I would hike up Guadalupe Peak to search for the elusive bronze survey marker and also try to locate the upper end of the old trail that used to come up the north ridge from the Devil’s Hall area.  I’d then return to camp at Pine Spring and field-test some new gear.  At worst I could spend the night in my car, blowing my nose and coughing, trying not to disturb the other campers. 

Being a Saturday, I feared the Pine Spring campground would be full, but it turned out otherwise, and I was able to snag a site (#6) and set up my tent to hold the spot. 

This is my new basecamp tent, the Mountainsmith Mountain Dome 2, with and without the fly.  Poles, floor tabs and clips are all color-coded, and the 3-pole design gives extra stability in the wind. 



The trailhead parking lot was full, so I left the car at the campground and finally began the ascent a little before 11:00 A.M.  Weather was nice, but warm, and there were a good many folks on the trail.  The climb went smoothly, and I was pleased to note at one point that my pulse was ticking along at about 160 and I felt good. 

I really like the upper reaches of this trail, where you get into some pine trees, and a lovely high micro valley with a grassy, winding floor.  The topography seems more complex than one might expect, and were it not for the trail, reaching the summit would be no trivial exercise. 



I gained the summit at about 2:00 P.M. so it took a little over 3 hours.  Conditions there were superb, with no wind, just an occasional breeze. 


I sat down for a rest, took off my boots and socks, and had a snack.  Suddenly, I felt very drowsy and wanted nothing more than to find a comfy spot and take a mountaineer’s power nap, which ought to be worth the equivalent of several hours sleep at home in bed.  Fighting this impulse, I put on the boots and began searching for the bronze survey marker. 

There are two summits on Guadalupe, the west and the east; the eastern being the true summit, with the stainless steel pylon.  I crisscrossed both summits for a good half hour and never found any survey marker.  I’m pretty sure it isn’t under the pylon.  For one thing, the pylon doesn’t sit on a solid chunk of bedrock, but straddles over several smaller pieces of rock.  Also, I doubt the parties responsible for the pylon would have planted it over a survey marker.  Further, I’ve seen anecdotal accounts of the survey marker being at a separate location from the pylon. 

Before heading down, I briefly scouted around for the upper end of the old north ridge trail.  This too was less than successful.  I think it used to leave the north ridge a little below the summit and traverse across the east side before joining the current line to finish up from the south.  The juncture may have been somewhere in the vicinity of the hitching posts now situated a little below and to the southeast of the summit, but I saw no obvious traces of the old trail. 


Despite these failures, I took consolation in the good weather, the fine views, and the simple joy of being afoot in the mountains again. 



On the descent my knees and feet grew sore, and I arrived at the trailhead pretty well spent.  I fervently longed to ice my knees, but of ice I had none.  I felt too tired to eat and too hungry to sleep (been there before!).  As quickly as I could manage it, I arranged my bedding, had some ramen noodles, and secured my camp for the night.  Before turning in I drove to the visitor’s center to make a mobile phone call where the signal is stronger.  Funny, there was an electric freezer on the patio with a sign on the hatch announcing “no ice” yet the thing was running full-tilt.  Seems like they would just turn it off. 

Despite my sinus problems, I slept well.  I awoke once in the night for a drink of water, then decided to go to the restroom and take a leak, rather than have my rest disturbed later.  It was a clear, mild night, with no moon, and the galaxy was on full display.  I wished to take a night sky photo but lacked the gear and know-how, so it had to remain just a splendid memory. 

Sunday, May 5:       
In the morning, I felt like a new man, unbelievably better.  This was really crazy; I could have stuck with my original backpacking plan and been just fine!  Could I try doing my backpack route as a fast day-hike? 

I put some water on for breakfast.  I’d slept with the fuel cannister at the foot of my sleeping bag, but it must not have been warmed enough because the flame was pretty feeble.  I was using my newish Fire Maple titanium stove, one of the lightest and smallest on the market. 


This is new air mattress, a knockoff version of the more expensive brands.  It’s lightweight, compact, affordable, and hopefully it will prove fairly durable. 



The air mattress packs down to about 1-liter.  The Essentia water comes in bottles that are lighter and slimmer than Nalgenes.  I’ll reuse the bottle until I feel it is time to discard it. 


All I could think of was packing up everything before day-hiking, but here I made a grave blunder.  I should have bought a second night’s stay and left my camp in place so I could hit the trail ASAP and afterwards have a place to spend the night.  Instead, I used up critical time breaking camp, leaving not enough time to achieve my day-hike objective. 

I had to face the bitter truth that my chances of success, which had always been marginal, were now zero.  In my mind there was no point spending the effort and the extra vacation day in a vain attempt to achieve the impossible, so I reluctantly turned the car for home. 

To make the shortest trip home, I took the oilfield route through Orla and Pecos.  It’s astounding how the area has continued to change.  I think I saved some time going that way, but it was pretty busy even though a Sunday. 
« Last Edit: May 11, 2019, 03:56:50 PM by backpacker56 »
"Ah, sure, I'm a gnawed old bone now, but say, don't you guys think the spirit's gone!"

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Offline Jalco

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Re: Heading west, May 2019
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2019, 07:30:43 PM »
Enjoyed the report.  Glad you were able to rekindle the fire.  Next time will be even better.

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Offline wrangler88

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Re: Heading west, May 2019
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2019, 08:19:07 AM »
Glad to get a trip report. Even though it's not what you had planned, I'm glad you got out there. Even just being in those mountains does something for the soul. You are very brave for driving through Orla. I have been going through southern New Mexico and connecting back in near Big Spring the past few times. Get to miss a lot of the oilfield traffic and Midland/Odessa. (I did get caught in road construction last trip that added 15 minutes but I'm going to hope that was a one time thing.)

Re: Heading west, May 2019
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2019, 10:22:20 AM »
Thanks for the report!  ( and :icon_eek: at returning via Orla/285!)
I usually make trip to GUMO (Dog Canyon) every year at this time; but this year I went East (round trip to Rhode Island).
Also, I concur re: keeping your basecamp setup during an overnight, unless you find the camping fee prohibitively expensive. Saving time the first morning, then the peace of mind upon return and not having to set up or drive a few hundred miles to the next night's stay, is nice.

 


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