The last camping excursion for the Wilderness Basics Course was a snow camp. As the name implies, we camp in the snow! As it was with J-Tree, there was a lot of chatter about the weather we were planning to get, and as the pictures will tell, it lived up to the expectations.
Friday, we boarded buses, made the long drive up to Mammoth Lakes, got into town around 1130ish, and slept in a high school gym before leaving for the trail head at 8am the next morning. When we woke up, we looked out the windows to the sweet views of snowing already coming down by 630am. To give you an idea of what we were dealing with:
I was super stoked for the day. My group leader tasked me with leading the group for the first ~1.5 miles of a ~2mile trek to camp using just the map and compass. Having done Adventure Races in the past, I wasn't a complete noob, and was glad I got to fine tune the skills. Below is a pic of the GPS track we took. We started at the bottom right of the red line, and I got us to the Inyo Craters issue free. Score! (The route we took on Saturday is the most direct line, as opposed to the loop on a road we took on Sunday b/c someone broke their snowshoe)
I had never been snowshoeing before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Leading the group, I was in front, and 30ft in, I had already fell on my ass! It took a little while getting used to snowshoeing through 2 feet of powder, but I eventually got into a groove. Richard also provided some sage advice to the tune of "slow down, or you'll kill yourself". Point noted!
Here's a little video:
After about 30 minutes of leading the group, a couple dudes wanted to come to the front and have some time blazing the trail. I'm 5'7'', had never been snowshoeing before, and had no trekking poles (apparently, the only one who didn't) - I was at a severe disadvantage. After a few minutes of being at the front, there were grown men falling over, and saying "F this" after being in the front for a few 5 minutes! Here's that video of the slow pace... good times!
It's a lot of work! But, its a lot of fun too. A side benefit is with all the work you do - you don't get cold. Thank god for pit zips on my hard shell - I was getting warm!
After 3.5 hours, we finally made it the 2 miles to camp. The wind had picked up over the course of the day, and we were in a little valley next to a crater. We quickly got to work, stomped out a site for our tents, and started making some ice igloos.
After we got the 2nd layer up, we realized the snow wasn't sticking enough to make the igloo, so we abandoned the idea, and went with the fortress/snow kitchen. Basically, we made some 3-4 walls to shield ourselves from the wind, complete with a bench, and table.
Add some camping stoves, and we're in business!!
After dinner, the temp dropped, and when the sun isn't up and you don't have a fire - there isn't much reason to stay awake (unless you're drinking, which I actually gave up for lent!), you go to "bed". It was definitely cold at night, about 18 degrees, and I slept about as good as I could, given the conditions.
Sunday morning, we packed up, destroyed the snow kitchen, and made quick work back to the trail head under some beautiful blue skies.
In the pic below, you can barely see the tracks we made the day prior, which was covered up by all the snow and wind...
One of the Inyo Craters...
"Inside" one of the craters...
Last, but not least, arguably one of my favorite pictures, which needs no explanation:
Shortly after that, we boarded the buses, and pointed it south towards San Diego.
This was definitely an epic weekend, and really opened my eyes and perspective as to what you can do if you have the right gear - regardless of weather conditions. Good stuff!