Sunday, October 26, 2014

Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness, Lessons Learned, 21-26 Sep 14

This was a course, and I did learn quite a bit.  Here are a few of the things I considered most significant:

Don’t use a bivy that doesn’t have a way to avoid trapping moisture from nighttime breathing.

Don’t use a wood stove if you have other options.  The soot is a mess and not worth the hassle.

Find a way to quickly stow the trekking poles during travel where they are at risk or where you need your hands.  Further, don’t use them unless you really need them; they become a crutch and lessen my ability to maintain my balance.

Train for better O2 capability.  Do more intervals and do more uphills during day and overnight trips.

Train for more flexibility and especially for deeper squats.  The boulder travel required the equivalent of nearly continuous deep squats crossing the boulders and getting up and down on them.  Don’t forget upper body training for assists with arms and hands.

Do balance training.  I’m really poor crossing logs, and my boulder hopping through boulder fields was pitiful.

Don’t rely on mini-glasses (nose piece with lenses).  They might be good in a pinch, but they pinch the nose and limit breathing.  I avoided using them, and hence didn’t get the map reading and navigation practice I expected.  If I had wanted to use an iPhone or Kindle, it would have been torture.  Live with the additional ounce or two of real reading glasses.

Bear spray was relatively heavy, but it provided a lot of peace of mind in grizzly country.

Bear bagging works over limbs with leaves and branches!  It doesn’t have to be a bare limb like I expected.

Use shoes with some grip if you anticipate wet conditions or lots of rock hopping.  My shoes slipped on any wet surface, and I didn’t trust them to grip when boulder hopping.  Also, try to get shoes that won’t shred in rocks.

Use sunscreen!  I’ve gotten too used to skipping it on wooded hikes.  The shield over the ears and neck wasn’t enough.  The hands and face burnt before I knew it on the plateau travel!

A wool base layer plus wind shirt works during hiking in cool weather!  I’m used to a loose hiking shirt in hot areas of Texas, and had never tried a true base layer in cool weather without an insulating outer layer.

Wet shoes and damp socks are not the end of the world.  We crossed a lot of low streams without rock hopping, and the shoes were wet most evenings and mornings.  It might have been a problem if temperatures had dropped below freezing.  But they warmed up quickly after being put on each morning.

Pick camp sites carefully.  Try to get sheltered under trees, on flat ground, and not in depressions.  Lay on the bivy, pad or shelter before setting up the shelter to make sure it’s flat!

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