the daily dub

December 29th, 2006

Abort Mission

Posted by rdub in Trip Reports

On the drive up, my left front chain broke – one of the cross sections that is in contact with the road snapped in half. No biggy (yet). We grabbed a keychain carabiner and tied the loose chain off to the rest of it. We had no other issue getting up to the pass.

We arrived at the trail head at approximately 12:45pm. Due to a late start hiking in raging snow storm and super heavy packs, we only made it to Frog Lake on Wednesday – about 1 mile in on route 2/3 from Carson Pass. By 2pm, we stopped hiking and started piling snow up for a snow cave. By 5:30pm, we had a place to sleep, and started moving into our snow cave. By 9pm, we were asleep, oblivious of the storm and high winds outside.

Thursday Morning, 9AM: Wake up, get dressed, crawl outside the snowcave. My boots are frozen as I go to put them on – someone forgot to sleep with his boots in his bivy sack… ooops!

Windspeed: 40 mph, from the North East, gusting to 50 mph. On the ridges, the wind was at 70 mph, gusting to 90 mph.
Temperature: Approx. 24 degrees F, with a windchill temperature of approx. 6 degrees F. 30 minutes unprotected outside in this weather, and frostbite starts earning appendages.

9:30AM: Start (trying) to boil water. My gloves are frozen and I can’t feel my toes.

10AM: Water is still warm, but not boiling. Bryan and I are post-holing around in the heavy snow trying to stay warm – neither of us can feel our toes. The stove flame is starting to flicker out. I crank the fuel up, only to realize it is already on full blast.. I turn off the stove and shake the fuel canister…. yup – frozen. My 4 season mix of propane, isobutane, and butane has become slush. Bryan’s 3 season mix is frozen solid.

We crawled back in the snowcave, drank a bit of what was left of our unfrozen water, and waited until we could feel our toes again. We made the decision that if we couldn’t get hot water by 1 pm, we would leave in order to avoid becoming permanent residents of Carson Pass.

I hiked about 100 yards away out into a sunny clearing, hoping the sun would work its magic on my fuel and my toes – no luck. The water in my pot was freezing faster than it was boiling, even with the stove on full blast.

I figured I should at least get some pictures of our cave before we go. I got my camera out and realized, much to my dismay, that it too had frozen. There’s no way I was going to push my luck with my camera – I tossed it back in the bag, defeated.

By 1:30pm, we were hastily tossing all our gear into our packs, getting ready to leave. We made it back to the car by 2:45pm, jammed all our gear in and got on the road.

About an hour down the road, my other chain snapped. Same thing – a cross section that is in contact with the road broke in half. One more keychain carabiner and we’re good to go. The only problem was, we were in the avalanche prone area of Carson Spur – no stopping here. Once around the spur, we pulled off. Winds here we definitely near 70 mph. Without feeling in our hands, Bryan and I adjusted and jury rigged the right chain and got back on the road. The road was dry in sections, and impassable without chains in others – we had no choice but to drive at 20 mph for about 25 miles before we could take the chains off.

We had a wonderfully fun trip, although we missed out on making fresh tracks in the back country. I had a blast and learned how to make a snow cave when the snow pack isn’t deep enough for it. I also learned that I need to do a few things differently before I go out next time:

– Make a fuel cozy, to keep the fuel from freezing.
– Buy a plastic plate to set the fuel canister on while I’m cooking.
– Make a lightweight, packable windscreen to ensure the heat from the stove goes into the pot and not into the wind.
– Sleep with my inner boots either on my feet, or in my sleeping bag, to keep them from freezing in the morning.
– Buy an insulated sleeve for my hydration pack – it froze on the way in.

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