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In just 2.3 miles, the Pfiffner Traverse climbs Thunderbolt Creek, tops out at Paiute Pass, and drops steeply on the other side to Pawnee Pass Trail. It averages 1,350 vertical feet of change per mile through this section.

It’s the vertical, stupid: How many days should I budget for a high route?

Last week on r/Ultralight, member u/TeddyBallgame1999 asked multiple questions about the Wind River High Route, including: The essence of this question — “How long will it take me?” — has been posed before, in the context of the WRHR and similar routes like the Kings Canyon High Basin Route, Pfiffner Traverse, Glacier Divide Route, and […]

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For solo and short trips, I recommend decanting salve from the 2-oz jar into a smaller .25-oz jar.  The first 30 orders will receive a lip balm, too.

Back in stock: Bonnie’s Balm || For wet feet, chafing, and cracked lips & skin

Last year the owner and founder of Bonnie’s Balm, Bonnie Searcy, had a host of health issues (among other things, two black widow spider bites) and the business seemed to evaporate. Orders went unfulfilled, calls and emails garnered no response, and the website even went down. As a long-time supporter and distributor of the products, […]

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reset-dry-video

Stay warm when it’s wet: How to protect down insulation from moisture

When shopping for a sleeping bag, insulated jacket, or insulated pants, you will have a choice of insulations: Down, which is a commodity product measured by fill power, e.g. 800-fill; or, Synthetic, which is normally made of interwoven plastic fibers and which may be marketed as Primaloft, Climashield, or a proprietary version like TNF Thermoball. […]

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dead-reckoning

Tutorial: Dead-reckoning navigation | Basic but oft-used skill

Dead-reckoning is the simplest navigation skill. It’s much easier to learn than reading a map, or operating a compass, GPS, or altimeter watch. Yet I find it to be one of the most useful and frequently used, especially when hiking on well-maintained trails where a consistent physical effort yields consistent results. Such trails include well-known long-distance footpaths […]

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felix-email-poop

Mailbox: My impact on crap

Recently, I received an email from Luke G., who had attended a gear & skills clinic at the flagship REI in Denver. It’s worth sharing: I field many emails from readers, most hoping to get some additional information, some expressing thanks for something that I had shared or done. But Felix’s story is one of […]

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Current snowpack versus other "big winters" from the past 20 years, as recently as 2010-11.

No longer #snowpocalypse: Just an “average big winter” for the High Sierra

Through the beginning of March, California was having an extraordinary winter. Snowpack in the High Sierra was keeping pace with the wettest winter on record, 1982-83. If the trend had continued, conditions would have been very challenging for aspiring Pacific Crest and John Muir Trail hikers, due to extensive lingering snowpack and high run-off, probably […]

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In early-season conditions, the trail is just a tool. If it's there, great. If not, oh well, you can manage without it.

The trail is just a tool: Navigation skills, resources & gear for early-season backpacking

Even if your itinerary is entirely on-trail, you should expect an occasional off-trail experience when backpacking in the Mountain West in early-season conditions. On trade routes like the John Muir Trail, a continuous boot-track across lingering snow will develop by July, especially where the terrain funnels the foot traffic (e.g. at a pass). In less popular […]

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At the lip of Knapsack Col in the Wind River Range, the south side of which holds a lot of snow. Personal comfort on snow is a big factor in the value-added of crampons and an axe. I was fine without them, but I know that others have struggled here.

Early-season backpacking || Merits of skis, snowshoes, crampons & axes

The early-season is a messy inbetween — it’s no longer winter, but not yet summer, either. Snowpack and cornices still linger in the higher elevations and on shady and leeward aspects, while snow-free trails are found lower down and on sun-blasted slopes higher up. This inconsistency presents backcountry travelers with a dilemma: What will be […]

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