snow scouting

Today I went snow camping. Or I guess I should rephrase that. The original plan was to go snow camping, spending the night in a snow cave. We ended up doing a day trip instead. It’s all good for me though, I was planning to go up to the same place next weekend anyways, so this day trip ended up being a good scouting trip for me.

IMGP0038I was all packed up and ready to go last night. I had forgotten how much stuff is required. I basically double up on everything nowadays– two sleeping pads, two sleeping bags, and two sets of clothes. It makes the pack pretty bulky, but thankfully it’s not too heavy since a lot of the heavy stuff like the bear canister and the tent are left at home.

IMGP0042My last warm meal, from a gas station about an hour from the trailhead.

IMGP0043At the trailhead, the Carson Pass sno-park.


Past the Carson Pass area is all avalanche area, and the roads often get closed due to avalanches. The first time we snow camped in this area, I remember going to the ranger station to check the avalanche conditions. We didn’t do that this time. And Dan hadn’t checked the conditions online before leaving. That was slightly disconcerting, but in truth we don’t really need to worry because we weren’t planning to go near any steep slopes.

IMGP0051While people went to the bathroom, I tested the snow conditions for a snow cave. The snow looked pretty good.

IMGP0053I cut some blocks with my saw and shovel too. Looks like it’s firm enough to build an igloo even.

IMGP0055As we were setting up our gear, it started to snow. It was about 20 degrees at that point, at night it definitely would’ve dropped to single digit temperatures, so Dan was worried that it would be too cold for his kids in a tent.

IMGP0057So Dan made the decision that we would just do a day trip instead. So I packed a few essentials in my daypack, along with my snow shovel and saw. I bought this pack, the REI Flash 18, right before Mount Whitney. It’s a pretty well designed pack in my opinion, it’s really light but has all the features I’d want, and if you flip it inside out it turns into a stuff sack that fits easily into a bigger backpack.

IMGP0084This trail is one I’ve traveled on a few times before, most recently in August to attempt to summit Round Top. It’s amazing how much difference a few months and a few feet of snow makes.

IMGP0108The snow was pretty powdery and slippery, so it was easy to slip while descending, especially when pulling a sled.

IMGP0130Lunch break.

IMGP0173The kids went sledding after lunch.

IMGP0145Matthew and I dug snow caves. This is me about halfway done.

IMGP0166Matthew dug his sideways, whereas mine was dug straight. His is easier to get into, I think mine would be warmer though, because the opening is smaller and because most of my body would be deeper in the cave, better insulated from the cold air.

IMGP0147The view from my nearly completed cave.


I dug my cave pretty close to where the kids were sledding. If they veered too far off course they would probably collapse my cave…

IMGP0177Dan and Johnny set up a nice couch for us to sit on. We took a group picture here before heading back.

IMGP0189After we had gotten back to our cars, this group arrived. They had spent the previous night near Winnemucca Lake, and had attempted to summit Round Top, stopping just 50 feet from the top.

IMGP9781The peak of round top is just above 10k. I took this picture of it in August. We ended up stopping short of the peak back then because it looked like thunderstorms were coming in. It wasn’t exactly an easy looking hike. On the right edge of the picture you can see a little speck. That’s a person. The peak is huge. Now imagine the same peak, except covered in snow, requiring crampons and ice axes to attempt to make it to the summit. Crazy. I give those guys props for trying.

Because it had snowed most of the day, the highway was covered in snow. It’s times like this that I really appreciate all-wheel drive and manual transmission. We made it back home without any spin-outs and without losing traction at all.

Things I’m thankful for:

  • All-wheel drive and manual transmission (to control speed by engine braking)
  • Hand warmers
  • Hot showers and warm beds (you really appreciate these simple pleasures after a day in the cold)

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