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New snowpack tool: Satellite imagery for CalTopo + GaiaGPS

By Andrew Skurka / July 3, 2019 /

The peak backpacking season is almost here, and many backpackers with planned trips in the Mountain West are asking the same question: “What is the current state of the snowpack?” This is especially the case in areas that had wet winters and springs, notably the High Sierra, Colorado, and Wyoming. Historically, I’ve relied on SNOTEL…

Snowpocalypse 2019: Expected “summer” conditions in the High Sierra & southern Rockies

By Andrew Skurka / March 28, 2019 /

California, Oregon, Nevada, and the Four Corners states have been drenched this winter, with snowpacks now about 150 percent of their normals. If you have scheduled backpacking trips in the High Sierra or southern Rockies in June or July, and to a lesser degree August, here is some reading for you: 1. Today on my…

Backpack hunting: My evolving approach

By Andrew Skurka / November 26, 2018 /

Originally I thought that hunting would be an extension of the backpacking season. Like in the summer but now with a rifle in hand and in the pursuit of elk and deer, I wanted to roam deep in world-class wilderness areas and to camp in different spots each night. But I’ve learned that this approach is…

Pre-trip backpack hunt checklist: To do before you go

By Andrew Skurka / October 30, 2018 /

This weekend is the start of Third Season for elk and deer. Steve and I liked what we saw last year in the Flattop Mountains in northwestern Colorado, and will be going back, along with Noel, my partner on my first successful hunt four years ago. This is my sixth backpack hunt now, and each year…

Tutorial || Wildfire & smoke management: Strategies & resources

By Andrew Skurka / August 15, 2018 /

For the past month I have been watching the Ferguson Fire, a 100,000-acre blaze on the western outskirts of Yosemite National Park, to assess and predict its effects on my planned backpacking trip there next week. I had to change my destination airport (to Reno instead of Fresno) and I’m expecting some smoke, but fortunately…

Tutorial: How to predict backcountry weather conditions || Methods & sources for short & long trips

By Andrew Skurka / June 3, 2018 /

I have said this before, and continue stand by it: there is a right way to backpack: equip yourself with the gear, supplies, and skills that are appropriate for the conditions and your trip objective. Among the conditions that I consider (there are about 10; view the full list), the weather — specifically temperatures, precipitation,…

PSA: Secure your permit now for Pfiffner Traverse

By Andrew Skurka / March 14, 2018 /

Public Service Announcement If you have not already, you should apply for your backcountry permit for Rocky Mountain National Park if you plan to attempt the Pfiffner Traverse this summer. The permit system in Rocky Mountain is similar to Glacier and Yellowstone: camping is permitted only in specific backcountry sites and a few at-large zones.…

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

By Andrew Skurka / March 12, 2018 /

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…

Five strategies for hunting elk & mule deer in Colorado

By Andrew Skurka / November 20, 2017 /

You can’t shoot an elk or mule deer until you find one. Duh. And for a beginner DIY hunter, learning to find one is probably the biggest challenge — at least, that was my experience. Where will the big game be, given the location, season, current and recent conditions, and time of day? Otherwise, hunting is…

Pace Chart Tutorial || Step 3: Split gathering & goal time correlation

By Andrew Skurka / June 28, 2017 /

Before I jump into the third and final step in creating a pace chart for an ultra marathon, I thought it would be helpful to review the process so far. Step 1: In a spreadsheet we created a list of key landmarks on the course, and added pertinent information like distances between these landmarks and where…