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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Supplemental Seam Sealing for Single Wall BD Superlight Tents

One of the most significant advances in tent technology recently has been the use of waterproof-breathable (WPB) fabrics to produce single wall tents which breathe batter and weigh less than their double-wall competitors. Black Diamond is one of the leading innovators in single-wall tent technology and their Superlight Series (One-Shot, Hi-Light, Firstlight, Lighthouse, Skylight, and Guiding Light) use EPIC by Nextec body fabric and Sil-Nylon floors to create superlight, freestanding, waterproof-breathable, 3-Season tents.

Each tent in this series comes with a seam sealer application as well as instructions.

As an addendum to the seam-sealing instructions provided by the manufacturer of such single-wall tents, I'd offer the following:

  • Waterproof-breathable fabrics are being asked to perform to conflicting jobs: let moisture out from inside the tent to prevent condensation while keeping all moisture outside the tent from passing through.

  • These lines of single-wall tents generally use an internal pole set-up which results in the waterproof-breathable fabric being stretched tight across a frame created by the poles.

When these two factors are combined, the result is that there are some areas on these tents where the tension on the WPB fabric causes some degree of permeability. Therefore, there are a few additional areas of application I'd recommend for these tents to ensure a waterproof barrier from the most brutal of downpours.

1. Apex where the poles cross.

2. On the diagonal (where the poles lie) from the apex to below the top square seam.

3. At the first Velcro fastner joint and first pole joint below the tops square seam on front and back.

The pictures should help to identify exactly how to apply the supplemental seam-sealer. Basically, these are the spots that see the highest amount of tension in a taught pitch aside from the actual seams themselves. Hitting each of these spots may add a half an ounce, but that weighs a lot less than a soggy tent, sleeping bag, clothes, pack, boots.....

Thanks to Steve for the tip and Zack for the tent....


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Two Trips for the Price of None Part Two: The Salvation

After getting spanked in the Wind Rivers, my brother Mike and I called Backpacker Magazine Rocky Mountain Editor Steve Howe to get the lowdown on the biggest burger in Pinedale, WY while we regrouped and picked a new destination for days 5-10 of our trip. The response was essentially, "Screw the burger - COME ON DOWN!!!" And so our salvation was forged. After a 422 mile drive we arrived in the lap of hospitality and at the doorstep of Capitol Reef National Park with a veritable backcountry legend as our guide. Complete pics can be found at my photo site and a summary follows:

Capitol Reef National Park

We arrived in Torrey, UT late night on Tuesday, June 16th and immediately set to drying out water-logged gear in the Howe garage (and drinking beer). The next morning we pulled out the maps and reviewed Steve's labor-of-love CRNP thru-hike which I'd started on a very snowy January trip in 2005, but not gotten very far into. It rained off and on as we sorted gear into refreshingly smaller test packs and then we headed off to shuttle one car to Grand Wash and another to Capitol Gorge. Heading out of Capitol Gorge we immediately climbed into the sidecanyon pictured above which is punctuated with the sandstone spire (actually a fin) which Steve refers to as Fern's Boyfriend (as there is another feature named Fern's Nipple).

Turns out we were lucky with regard to rain on two fronts: 1) we had plenty of it to drink and 2) when it really let loose we were up above on the ridges and missed the flash flood which hit Grand Wash after we left. We did have to hunker down and wait out one little downpour with nearby lightning strikes, but otherwise the weather was stellar.

Because of the vast expanses of slickrock, cross-country travel in CRNP is generally pretty straight-forward. We did have some technical scrambles where we busted out 50 feet of 6mm rope and some loose, crumbly gullies where foot placement and rockfall were of concern, but in general the crux of Reef exploration is in navigating the labyrinthine landscape. I'm pretty sure Mr. Howe could do this hike in his sleep, however, given that he's the one who scouted and mapped it.

Our hike took us to some of the highest points of the Reef with views of the entire formation as well as the neighboring features of Boulder Mountain, The Henrys (last range to be explored and mapped in the lower 48), the San Rafael Swell, Tarantula Mesa (home to a free-ranging buffalo herd), as well as others far in the distance.

We also got down low into some tight slots including one on the last day that required a chilly waist-deep wade that elicited various soprano howls from the crew (sorry, no "moon" shots).

Given all of the water, the flora and fauna was fully present. Bighorn were a constant companion based on signs, but we never crossed paths. Desert Iguanids (small lizards) were everywhere as were frogs and tadpoles (in every pothole), black-chinned hummingbirds, and ravens. We were also visited by a rare Mexican Spotted Owl who soared by just before we reached our second camp. Prickly Pear and HedgeHog Cactus were in bloom as were Milkweed, Paintbrush, Desert Rose, Thistle, Mule Ears, and others. We also came across some wild asparagus.

After descending from the cross-country hike back into Capitol Gorge via The Tanks we dropped packs and wandered the gorge in search of both Native American and Pioneer graffiti - both of which we found. Cowboys exploring the area used lamp black, scratching or bullet-hole-pointillism to make their marks dating back to the mid-1800s while Fremont Indians provided much more impressive works using pecking and long-since-faded paints.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

On our final day we headed back to the outskirts of the reef to do a refreshingly wet dayhike through the Sulfur Creek Goosenecks which is a serpentine canyon which hosts the aforementioned creek an several of its waterfalls.

Enough can never be said of the outstanding hospitality of The Howes (Steve and Jen) at Morningwood. They absolutely blew the top off the chart with beers, steaks, caramel french toast, dilly beans, coffee cake, raspberry crumble, and various spirits - not to mention a backcountry guide and fresh gear. I feel like each time I go on a trip with Steve Howe I should get college credits - the dude is a walking encyclopedia of backcountry knowledge and experience.

And so, my friends, that is how a spanking turned into a triumph and how Peter and Mike got Two Trips for the Price of None.

Two Trips for the Price of None Part One: Anatomy of a Beatdown

My Brother, Mike, and I just returned from an epic trip to the Wind River Range in WY that became two trips unexpectedly. Photos are posted at my photos site and a description follows below:
Wind River Range

We flew out of Raleigh, NC at the crack of dawn on Saturday, June 13th, 2009 and in a flurry secured a rental car in Salt Lake City, rented ice axes and got stove fuel at REI, hit a grocery store in Evanston, WY and made it to Elkhart Park Trailhead in the Northern Wind River Range outside of Pinedale, WY by about 4pm. We were only the third people to sign the trailhead register and it was clear from the previous entries that snow was going to be a major obstacle. I had known since booking the trip in January that Mid-June was an early attempt on the Winds, but research on historical snow data indicated that if this year panned out like 2007 we'd be high and dry while if this year looked like 2008, we'd be buried in snow.
The first night we pitched camp at the Trails End Campground (not yet open) at Elkhart Park Trailhead and immediately got our first taste of weather as our tent was glazed with 1/2 inch of sleet by morning. Refreshed by hard sleep we set off down towards Long Lake (1800' drop) in good spirits on a chilly, misty morning. Down in the gorge (elevation 7700') conditions were balmy, but then after an 1800' climb up the other side to the Crow's Nest and Glimpse Lake, we were right back in the snow.

Note: The trail out of the northwest side of the gorge carries numerous warnings that the trail has been abandoned and is not maintained by the forest service, however we found it to be VERY well maintained by the local fauna. After lunch at the Crow's Nest overlook we post-holed on past Prospector Lake for a total of 11 miles and 4000' vertical change before setting up camp in a clearing where we were visited by both deer and a lone wolf and where we cooked and slept though snow, rain and snain.
Day two was not quite so productive. We set off over a small ridge to Little Trapper (pictured above) and Trapper Lakes. The postholing was brutal with 2 feet of snow standard coverage and drifts as deep as 5 feet plus. Walking would include 2 or 3 steps on top of the crust followed by an inevitable punch-through post-hole to crotch deep. Next pull self out of hole and repeat. Not fun. We ended up making a whopping 2 miles to Trapper Lake where, in an attempt to cross the outlet via a log jam, I fell completely into the freezing water as snain and sleet pelted us from above. It was clearly time to throw in the towel as I needed to dry out and warm up and any further foray into the itinerary would require climbing beyond the 10,000' mark and leaving the relative protection of the trees. We backtracked to a snow-free oasis beneath a behemoth tree at Little Trapper Lake and set up camp with a plan on backtracking in the morning. Mike got a fire going after the snain stopped and we were able to get semi-dried out. I tried fishing the break in the ice at the outlet of Little Trapper Lake, but it was a no go.
Day three we blasted back through our old tracks (which a small black bear had been using since we'd made them) and back down to relative warmth in the gorge leading to Fremont Lake. We made good time and covered much ground and by early afternoon we were lounging in 70 degree temps by the shores of Fremont lake. The camp at the North end of Fremont Lake was interesting. It was clearly quite the hot spot back in the day, but had been abandoned by maintainers some time ago. There were old campsites now overgrown with picnic tables and grills now in disrepair.
Day four we blasted back up out of the gorge to the trailhead in a relentless downpour which left us cold and water-logged. We arrived back at the car around 11am ready to re-group, re-evaluate, and reconsider the remaining 6 days of our trip. The first order of business was getting dry and fed.

Despite getting nowhere on our proposed itinerary it was still a great trip which stoked our interest in a return trip - MUCH later in the season. We saw cool mountains, lakes, wildlife (deer, swimming deer, moose , snowshoe hare, snakes, and a wolf).
We also learned that summit fever can apply not only to a summit, but to long-term plans. I had known and been warned long in advance the possibility of being snowed out of this itinerary so early, but had pressed on anyway. Doing so is fine as long as you're prepared for the worst and willing to accept the consequences if things don't work out. In our case we were geared up, psychologically prepared, and had a SPOT beacon in case of big-time problems, but I think we were still bummed at having to back-track and not getting to see the true alpine heart of the Winds.

Stay tuned for Part Two to find out how we spent days 5-10 following our retreat.

#2 in the Woods

My brother is very funny. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The First Blog

So I'm gonna blog. The goal for this thing will be a forum for posting about all things wilderness adventure: Trip Reports, Trail Reviews, Gear Reviews, Skills, etc. While I'll definitely post pics, video, maps and other media here, it is my hope that my media site will serve as a compliment to this site.

Enjoy and feel free to contact me with questions, feedback, etc.

Happy Hiking!

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