First Hang, Gila Wilderness Trip Report
Hello all! So I announced last week I was heading up to the Gila Wilderness for the weekend 5/17-5/18 to do some recon for an extended week in the Gila Wilderness sometime in June and promised pics and such, this trip was also going to be my first official hang in my HH clone built recently with help from Headchange's tutorial. Well, the trip was absolutely amazing and the hammock rocked! I see myself hanging every opportunity I get and if conditions are any better than this past weekend then that will likely be everytime I'm in the backcountry.
My concerns going into this trip centered around lack of experience with the hammock on the trail and the weather, as I was going to be setting up camp at 10,400ft. at the saddle of Whitewater Baldy and Mogollon Baldy minus an underquilt or tarp. We were also heading up to the high country tailing behind a low pressure system, so there was residual moisture and at elevation this time of year who knows. So there were some challenges and I felt somewhat under prepared.
First off, I underestimated the altitude, I live in Las Cruces, NM at an elevation of 3,700ft, and the Crest Trail began at 9,000+ft. reaching a peak elevation of 10,400 ft, our resting point for the evening. Needless to say, for my second backpacking trip for the season, my fitness was tested. The first two miles involved strenuous switchbacks heading south which climbed up the north face of the Mogollon Range of the Gila Wilderness, after the second mile at around 9,800ft, the snow began to make its presence known along the trail, even after the Ranger in the Glenwood District advised us we wouldn't see ANY snow or ice on the trail. I had my doubts.
The downfall of trees and abundant snow drifts indicated that no one really had made it far up this way yet, maybe a handful of soloists and a small group or two. The only people we saw on our trip was a Forest Service Trail crew, they had been staying in the backwoods for the week clearing the fall from winter, what a job, those guys are hardcore! The real freaky moment of our trip was coming across a twin engine airplane wreck alongside the trail, it was a slightly frightening experience as we weren't sure of the time of the incident and thought we were going to have to alert authorities, I literally stumbled over a propellor in the middle of the trail, we finally found the wreckage and it was eerie seeing something like this 60 miles away from any real development. No bodies found, after gawking and foraging the wreckage we pressed on not talking much, but the beauty of the wilderness quickly extinguished any fears.
We made it to Hummingbird Saddle and set up camp at an elevation of 10,400 according to my altimeter. We had distant views to our NW and NE as this camp hugs Whitewater Baldy in the Mogollon Range. I couldn't have envisioned a better place to call it a night, beautiful dense forest and views for miles to Arizona and New Mexico, we had spotty sleet and snow for a few minutes then it cleared for a near full moon evening. Hanging my HH clone wasn't difficult at all, as there were abundant trees perfectly spaced out. I built my hammock out of a single layer of 1.9 oz. ripstop nylon and I'm currently using the descending ring system attached with lightweight wiregate carabiners and 3/4 inch webbing. I adapted a detachable ridgeline much like Headchange indicated in his tutorial with the loops going through the whipping, however I used one Figure 9 carabiner and was able to adjust tension and length on my ridgeline quite quickly and effectively. The temperatures dropped down just below freezing with no wind, I used my thermarest lite self inflate 3/4 for my pad and a 3/4 zip Slumberjack bag rated at 30F. My warmth was really provided by my midweight polypro thermal base and full fleece upper and a North Face down vest, wool socks, and a nice toasty beenie.
I stayed toasty all night to my surprise, as it seems everyone here gets pretty geared up for cold weather. I only woke at 12:00am when I had a visitor come right up to the hammock and started snorting and then left, kinda scary but I was tucked up inside my bag and pretty zonked, so I just hung low and fell back asleep, then at 3:30 am I had to piss, no problem though, getting in and out wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, my gear hammock I made ended up being used as a ground cloth which was gentle on my bag when getting in and out. I woke up at 6:30 nice and refreshed and I had the best night of sleep in the woods, rested and refreshed, no sore spots or aches, floating in my sleep was uncomparable to any form of ground dwelling. Hanging in a hammock is underrated, my buddy froze his arse off as the ground chilled him quite a bit, I was fine.
Broke camp around 7:30, hit the trail and blazed 11 miles on Sunday, descending 3,500ft through some snow, moss, ferns, aspens, thick Douglas Fir, Pine, Juniper, and through dense foliage along Whitewater creek, amazing. Climbed back up a grueling 2000 +ft which kicked my arse to a trailhead west of our origin and met up with the Forest Service Crew and hitched a ride in their pick up back to my Jeep. Awesome trip and I'm hooked on the hammock from here on out. I'm already thinking of how I can modify my HH clone and add to it. Thanks for all your input and the info you guys bestow. Sorry this is so long winded. Hope you enjoy some of the pics here at my flickr site: