Friday, November 20, 2015

Backcountry Winter Meals

Feeding oneself in the winter is hard. It's cold and you get awful hungry.

You wanna eat hot food for dinner and breakfast. But you don't want to spend a ton of time cooking. For me, anything that requires more than boiling water (simmering, cooking, frying) is relegated to summer or hut trips. Or very special occasions.
High, cold, chaotic. Camping in tough conditions, whether winter in the Rockies or 19,000 feet in Peru (as shown here) is exhausting. Simple food streamlines the whole process. 

That leaves "just add water" options for efficient and comfortable fueling in the winter (or up high in spring expedition season).

Instant oatmeal and commercially marketed "freeze dried" meals are easy and obvious. And they each have their place. But there are other options. Whether your palate or budget won't tolerate these standard choices, I've got some ideas for you.

First, breakfast. In addition to instant oatmeal, try one or all of these:

  • Instant grits
  • Hot water over powdered milk and granola
  • Ramen soup
  • Rice noodle instant soup. My favorite breakfast is the Thai Kitchen brand noodle packets.
  • Protein drink powders. Consumed hot, with powdered milk as a base, this can be almost a meal on its own.
  • Cheese sticks, nuts, bars, etc. 
Dinner is a little easier. Now, of course, any of these meals can also be consumed at breakfast. But convention is convention. For dinner, in the winter, I do three parts. First, a soup course. Then a main course that is some some starch (either flavored/salted with a dedicated flavor packet or with a bouillon cube), and some protein. Mix and match as you see fit. 

  • Instant Soups. None of these are marketed as "instant", but I can tell you that they all hydrate just fine, up to 19000 feet or so. 
    • "Noodle Soup" packets. Available in a box of two packets in most grocery stores. Lipton is the brand name, and most stores have their own brand too.
    • "Onion soup and recipe mix". 
    • Bouillon cubes
    • Miso soup.
  • Starch
    • Couscous (with or without included flavor packet)
    • Minute rice (truly minute rice. Not the boil-in-bag kind nor the kind that requires even 5 minutes of simmering). Flavor/salt with bouillon.
    • Instant stuffing. "Stove Top" style. Just add water. Already flavored.
    • Ramen
    • Instant rice noodle soups. 
    • Instand Mashed Potatoes. Usually already flavored. 
  • Protein
    • Foil bag chicken
    • Foil bag fishes (tuna, salmon)
    • Jerky
    • Nuts (no joke. A hardcore, vegetarian friend survives on big missions with a mix of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and nuts.)

Winter Climbing Gear Lists, 2015-16

Scratching on Mount Evans, CO. 11/2015

'Tis the season!  The winter season.  Or, more accurately, the time to equip for the winter season. I have basically got my systems down, with minor tweaks one year to the next. Here's what I'll use this winter for climbing.  Ski gear is broken down in two separate posts.  This one outlines what I use for your standard ski touring missions.  And this one expounds upon kit for more specialized ski endeavors. 

First, for ice and mixed climbing day trips. Days like this are characterized by harder climbing, longer belays, and the ability to dry out back home at night. I start with a good night's sleep in a warm bed, some hot and fatty breakfast, and then spend 6-10 hours out and about.  

Ian M on the first known ascent of "Guilty as Charged" 2/2013
  • Garmont Icon Plus boots.
  • Wool socks.  
  • Wild Things Saloppette.  My beloved "onesie".  Rigged with elastic under the instep:  No need for gaiters.
  • Synthetic Boxers
  • Synthetic/wool t-shirt
  • Light syn long sleeve hoody
  • Camp Neutrino Hoody
  • Camp Magic Jacket and Pants (Or Rab Xiom jacket, if the weather's really nuking)
  • Feathered Friends Helios jacket
  • Fleece helmet liner
  • Leading gloves: Camp G Comp Warm Gloves
  • Belaying gloves: Camp Geko Hot
  • Drytooling gloves: Ironclad Gripmaster
  • Approach gloves: older pair of lead gloves
  • Native Hardtop sunglasses, with lighter interchangeable lenses
  • Approach hat: usually a stylie wool beanie. But sometimes a baseball cap for warmer days.
  • Approach soft-shell jacket. ArcTeryx Gamma MX.  
Technical gear, etc:
  • Camp C-12 crampons
  • Camp X-Dream ice tools
  • 7 Black Diamond and 5 Petzl ice screws.  Mainly 13 cm.  
  • File, v-threader, and tools for crampons and X-Dream.
  • 10 draws, mixture of alpine, sporty and load-limiting.  Equipped with Camp Photon carabiners. 
  • Grigri and associated 'biner
  • 3 more locking carabiners.
  • 12 foot 7mm cord
  • Double length sling
  • Camp Air CR Harness
  • Camp Speed 2.0 Helmet
  • Cams, nuts, pins, and tricams (only for silly rock climbing stuff)
  • Rope. Usually a 70m single. But could be almost anything, depending.
  • First aid/emergency kit.
  • A liter of water
  • Half a liter of some hot drink
  • Food.  4 bars and a salad or sandwich.  
  • All packed into a Camp M3 pack.  

And then for day trip alpine routes. In the Sierra, Tetons, and Rockies in the winter that mainly means snow-covered rock.

12/2012. Mount Morrison. Colorado. 

  • Garmont Tower Extreme boots
  • Wool Socks
  • Outdoor Research Cirque soft shell pants.
  • CAMP super light wind pants.  
  • Very, very occasionally I'll wear long underwear. Very rare.
  • Synthetic Boxers
  • Synthetic/wool t-shirt
  • Light syn long sleeve hoody
  • Camp Neutrino Hoody
  • Camp Magic Jacket and Pants (Or Rab Xiom, if the weather's really nuking)
  • Feathered Friends Helios jacket
  • Fleece helmet liner
  • Sun hat
  • Leading gloves: Camp G Comp Warm Gloves
  • Belaying gloves: Camp Geko Hot
  • Drytooling gloves: Ironclad Gripmaster
  • Native Hardtop sunglasses, with lighter interchangeable lenses. 
Tech Gear:
  • Camp C12 Crampons. Or CAMP XLC 490.  Or, commonly, none at all. 
  • Petzl Sum'Tec hammer and adze pair.  Or CAMP Corsa.
  • Rock pro. At most: 
    • 10 slings
    • 10 cams
    • 10 nuts
    • 4 pitons
    • 6 screws
  • Grigri and associated 'biner
  • 3 more locking carabiners
  • 12 foot 7mm cord
  • Double length sling
  • CAMP Blitz Harness
  • Camp Speed 2.0 Helmet
  • Rope. Single, 50m at most. 
  • MSR Denali snowshoes
  • Camp Xenon 4 trekking pole
  • First aid/emergency kit.
  • Two liters of water
  • Half a liter of some hot drink
  • Food. 6 bars and a salad or sandwich.  
  • All packed into a Camp M3  pack.  
  • Iridium GO satellite phone. 
  • iPhone loaded with relevant maps, gps app, emergency phone numbers, camera, route beta, guidebook photos, etc.  

Finally, for overnight climbing.  Here, we're talking trips to more remote peaks and the multi-day ridge traverses. Like a winter ascent of the Grand Teton. 

Middle Palisade. 2/2013
  • Clothing.  Basically the same as the single day alpine missions.  For slow-going trips to the highest and coldest "Lower 48" peaks I'll switch the Helios Puffy for something thicker.  I have a few options there.  Also, throw in another pair of socks.  Nothing more.  
  • Boots:  Most trips it's La Sportiva Spantik double boots.  Climbing and camping up high with single boots is the most common super-aggressive choice winter climbers make.  I do it, and pay for it a significant percentage of the time.  Are you climbing in single boots because of ignorance, thriftiness, or because you absolutely, couldn't-possibly, make the moves in doubles?  Only one of these is valid.  And still won't prevent foot cold injury.  
  • Sometimes I carry the climbing boots while skiing in. Sometimes I'll climb the mellow routes in ski boots.
  • Camping
    • 21x40 inch chunk of new, flat closed cell foam.  No egg-crate shapes, no ridges.  Just flat foam.  HTFU. 
    • Thermarest NeoAir XTherm if I'm feeling extravagant
    • Feathered Friends Widgeon (-10f) or Lark (+10f) sleeping bag.
    • Or, depending on the partner, Feathered Friends Spoonbill bag.
    • Black Diamond "Can't wait 'til" Firstlight.  
    • MSR Reactor and 2 oz per person per day of fuel.  
    • Lighter and matches.
    • Wag bags
  • Tech gear- Basically the same as for day trips.  I'm more apt to shorten the rope and slim the rack and shorten the pitches when the pack's got camping gear in it.  
  • iPhone loaded with books and tv and maps.  
  • Food- Just add water dinners and breakfasts.  Fill a 1 qt ziploc with energy candy and bars etc for each day.  About 1.7-2.0 pounds per person per day total.  
  • All packed into the Camp M3. Yeah, it fits. If it's real big and sloggy, I have a Cold Cold World Chaos.  But that's less alpine and more expedition-like.  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Three Things Thursday, Issue 10

Training time. 
Quotes, and only quotes.

On training:

  • "Strong people are harder to kill, and more useful in general" – Mark Rippetoe
And on execution:
  • "We must be on the rock while we are young and strong" – Layton Kor
  • only those will ever know who give the freest and most buoyant portion of their lives to climbing and seeing for themselves.” – John Muir

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ski Mountaineering Gear, Winter 2015-2016

Ski mountaineering is a broad category. People practice a wide range of skiing and refer to it as ski mountaineering. One way to define ski mountaineering is skiing in which the hazard or concern is something other than, or in addition to, avalanches. Maybe you're going for speed on a low-hazard day. Maybe you're going for distance over multiple passes. Maybe its spring-time corn touring.  Perhaps its high altitude, or glaciated, or requires technical climbing equipment and skill. Here are some thoughts and notes on what I carry for this.  To see what I use on "simpler" missions, check out this article. To see what I carry for winter alpine climbing, check this out.

I've gotten in the habit of updating this every year. This is the latest, as of November 2015. Ski season this year has already launched, two months earlier than I got on skis last year. Whoa. Incidentally, the ski "quiver" isn't as simple as outlined here. Each winter now I test some skis for In that capacity I'll have four different sets to choose from this year, in addition to the skis I already own.

Ski Gear.  Keep it small, light and simple.  Use skill to negotiate funky snow and terrain:
  • Dynafit TLT 6P boots
  • Dynafit PDG skis (or Fischer Hannibal 94)
  • Dynafit mohair skins (or Fischer skins)
  • Dynafit race bindings (or Dynafit Speed Turn)
  • Fixed length poles
Clothes.  Most carry and wear too much.  Keep it simple, move fast, carry an awesome puffy jacket. 

Safety Gear, etc:
  • Backcountry Access Tracker 3 Transceiver, BCA B1 shovel, BCA Carbon Probe.
  • Communication
    • Almost always have a set of BC Link Radios for comms within the group. 
    • And then, in terms of talking to the outside world, sometimes as simple as a cell phone, sometimes a SPOT Device, occasionally (mainly in Canada) a 2-meter, 2-way radio, and more and more my Iridium GO Smartphone modem.  Adventure is awesome, thriftiness is noble, but failure to consider communication with the outside world is ridiculous.
  • Navigation- 80% of the time the phone, preloaded with maps and apps, is enough.  Carry a "back-up" paper map and analog compass.  In big, new-to-me, complicated terrain where visibility is likely to shut down, I'll bring the full kit:  Dedicated GPS (Suunto Ambit 2), large-scale waterproofed paper map, compass, altimeter, clinometer.  
  • Emergency Shelter- Very occasionally it is as simple as the mylar (space blanket style) bivy bag that lives in my omnipresent First Aid/Emergency kit.  Usually though, I bring the 8.5'x8.5' 9 oz Hyperlight Mountain Gear Cuben Tarp.  
  • Emergency Evacuation- Sometimes it's as simple as the bivy or tarp.  Drag someone on that.  In many cases, I'll carry the Brooks Range Eskimo Sled.  If you are not already packing a rope, carry a chunk of cord for dragging a packaged casualty.
  • First aid kit.
  • Ski repair kit.  (it should be around a pound for groups.  Less is probably inadequate.  More is silly.  Let me know if you want more detail on what I carry)
  • Snow Study:  Saw, crystal card, magnifier, ruler, documentation.  Be equipped and trained to make sound decisions for yourself and large column tests for the avalanche center.
  • Food, water. Whatever's clever.  
  • If I need a rope while skiing it's almost never less than a 40m half rope.  If I need a rope while skiing it's almost never more than a 60m single rope.  
  • Spikes.  As it gets steeper and firmer, add in this order: 
  • Also as needed:
    • Camp Speed 2.0 Helmet
    • CAMP Blitz Harness
    • Rack of gear.  If it requires more than 5 of anything (cams, nuts, screws, slings) leave the skis behind.  
  • Glaciers?  Crevasse rescue skills and equipment.  
  • Pack:  Maybe the BCA balloon pack, maybe an alpine pack (Camp M3), maybe the little CAMP Rapid race pack.  
Multi Day Ski Touring
This is what we live for.  Getting way out there, going out of contact.  Seeing what few get to see.  Most of the gear is the same as for day trips.  But you'll add in camping gear.  And eliminate some things.  You won't need emergency shelter if you have a dedicated tent, for instance.  
Living the good life in British Columbia's Coast Range.  April 2013.

  • Shelter.  I pick from three, in increasing weight and weather protection:  Black Diamond Betalight, Black Diamond Firstlight, and Hilleberg Nallo 2.  
  • Feathered Friends Widgeon -10 sleeping bag.
  • Thermarest NeoAir XTherm.
  • MSR Reactor with 2 oz per person per day of fuel
  • Lighter and matches.
  • Bigger Pack.  Hyperlight Mountain Gear 4400 Ice Pack
  • Food.  Just add water for dinner and breakfast.  A mess of bars and energy candy and jerky and cheese for lunches.  It should all add up to about 2 pounds per person per day.  Depending on individual metabolism and work load.
  • Water bottles.  2 gatorade bottles.  Nothing more, nothing less.