YELLOWSTONE – Day Four

IMG_3351

I must be in Maine. The inside of the tent has icicles and icy rime hanging from everything. Temps near freezing I sense a migration of moisture penetrating every piece of down gear I have with me. Though I’m snuggled warmly in my sleeping bag with the comforts of batteries, lighters, toothpaste, camera and GPS, there is a definite change in humidity. Surprising with all the steam around…

IMG_3328

The tent we are using is a prototype I developed a few years back that is single wall using a waterproof but non-coated or laminated shell. Theoretically it should be ideal for cold weather use as it would move moisture through the high tech fabric avoiding the rain forest effect I’ve experienced in my favorite old Biblers. Practically it proved much less effective below 20 F than in the dry, warm desert I live in. It does sport a bulletproof pole structure that I am confident would handle high winds or major snow loads. I am able to contemplate all these great ideas as the rime falls on my face, with clear skies and not a hint of a breeze.

IMG_3356

IMG_3346

All micro-weather phenomenon aside, it was pretty easy to make the most of a dreary situation. I slipped on my outer booties and trolled the geo-thermally heated gravel bar where my stove sat – covered in rime. The sky had a low ceiling but there were hints (I really hoped) the sun was slowly burning away the misty thermal inversion.

IMG_3337

I grabbed the heated fuel canisters from a micro hot springs and brewed up as much water as I needed for hydration and breakfast. I brought my first go at Starbucks instant coffee and enjoyed a 2x size, with 2 table spoons of sugar and instant cream, in my beautiful pink Love Muffin Cafe mug. Far from the treat of having breakfast there every morning but a great memory. Breakfast is a spectacularly un-imaginative gruel of organic maple oatmeal, brown sugar, and 2 spoons of powdered baby formula. I will not run out of calories.

IMG_3360

Dave looked pretty good this morning. He didn’t demonstrate much on the appetite-regainment program but an early morning soak made everyone happy. All team rah rah noted it is still hard for competent men to actually divvy up gear so the hurting party requires less effort to get through the day. Since David is so competent it would make sense he pulls all his own weight if he possible can. We didn’t discuss load sharing so we just got rolling. It was though because the sun had burned away the inversion and it was again super comfortable.

IMG_3366

Retracing our steps across snow and muddy trails and a river crossing started the day slow but I was not worried. David was moving slow but forward momentum was being made. Within the hour we were on the 2000’ ski skin climb up to the beautiful plateaus at 8400’. Valiantly David got out in front and broke trail uphill. I sensed his disappointment in being sick but at this point I was simply happy to be alive and seeing this amazing terrain.

IMG_3373

IMG_3367

IMG_3385

Warm days in the winter can be very frustrating. The sun was pretty warm by mid-morning and where it hit the snow between trees on our graded climb the surface became dense and waterlogged. Translated that means sunny patches makes snow sticks to your skis, skins and ski pole baskets and shady patches freezes the mess together. A hard ski kick or pole swat against a tree usually frees it up but as things got warmer it was a tedious mess. Eventually I just started swearing at my skis and eventually blessed the forest with a first class rant – absurdly foolish but no one heard me.

IMG_3392

Around the geological time these geysers were made I did some road bike racing. Since then I have a peloton habit of following people really closely whether skiing, rafting, running or biking. The toll of David’s condition surfaced briefly when he rightfully pointed out that I was skiing over the back of his skis when he led and that he usually liked a little more room in the back country. This dialogue had an edge similar to a memory I have from paddling our sea kayaks across Lake Michigan a few years back. We were at the point in our crossing where I was concerned I might not be able to sync up available energy and actual distance. I thought (could have been a little hypo-glycemic induced) he was not going in the straightest line between our waypoints. When I called him on it we exchanged a few words then he informed me I was wrong. I got sulky (short lived) and quickly saw the errors in my ways. Also on the ski thing I saw his point but did so without sulking.

IMG_3409

The remainder of the day was stunningly beautiful. We skied through un-treed high plateaus that made my feel profoundly fortunate to experience them. It was simply breath taking.

IMG_3412

David managed to pull his own weight. In a way it was nice he wasn’t 100% because it took all performance pressure off me and I really took in the scenery.

IMG_3426

As the day extended into dusk we skied longer than usual. We were moving off the plateaus into tougher treed topography through ravines and having to navigate more accurately. David planned our navigation with exceptional insight. Every time I wondered what was up with the route it showed uncanny insight and foresight into the terrain and how best to get through it. We worked really well together using a GPs to get directional readings between waypoints and using our analog compasses to navigate. Still the day got long and the trickiest terrain was done in the cold shadows of dusk.

Uncharacteristically our camp 4 WP-36 felt like it was on a side hill in the middle of the woods. I had this feeling we would ski around for a while looking for a better site if I didn’t make a move so I dropped my pack and started stamping and digging out a platform. It was a bit of a strong arm tactic but jacking around sounded awful to me. Besides were both on the edge of cranky and getting warm food into us would help.

IMG_3430

We had intermittent cell phone connection, which pulled the vibe out of the backcountry, but allowed me to confirm our ride back to our cars and hear a voice other than mine or David’s. I had some brown water left so I fashioned a snow chair and watched the stars over the meadows 700’ below our perch. Orion’s belt had helped me navigate on many occasions and its indifferent presence again reminded me of my tremendous good fortune.

The tent platform on the side hill worked out well.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: