Sorry, I seem to have forgotten how to embed photos. I'll put their place holders in.
My First Hammock Snow Camp.
When the hammock snow camping starts with Plan B, you can be assured there is a lot of learning going on.
My first decision was to use skis or snowshoes; the initial plan was to use both. I travel faster on xc skis, but didn’t consider that it hadn’t snowed in a couple weeks. With some really warm days with freezing nights, the “snow” was icy and packed (hint: take snowshoes). So I took skis.
I left the snowshoes because I misplaced some accessory side pockets to hold gear on the pack, I had put them where I wouldn’t forget them – and now I couldn’t find them. So more gear went inside the pack and things got too unwieldy to carry snowshoes.
I approached the first downhill groomed road with trepidation. A 30 lb. pack made any slight momentum a big momentum. Keeping the skis as parallel with the slope as I could, step by tiny step I made my way sideways down the hill. A young woman, on snowshoes, leisurely sauntered past me.
The Spot Real Time Tracking. Note those are just straight lines connecting points, not the actual route. I didn’t ski across the lake; I skied around the east side.
Once the slope leveled out a bit, I pointed the skis in the direction I wanted to go and was cruising. I easily passed the woman on snowshoes and left her in the (snow) dust. Maybe skis were the right choice after all.
The first camp was to be on the northern ridge above Todd Lake. There would be a nice view of Broken Top; of course there would be trees.
The “live action” route, provided by The Spot shows the north ridge was a bit steep. About mid climb, each step was accompanied by a “How am I going to get down?” thought. Images of my climbing snowshoes, nestled in the back of the jeep, filled my head.
Once I topped the ridge it was time to find hammock trees. I had read several posts stating hammocks “… don’t need no level ground …” so I didn’t think it would be so hard. But it was. And I wasn’t ready to trust that “anywhere” lore completely if there a miscalculation meant a 200 foot tumble.
We have Trees here in the NW – not those pencil things I see in hammock videos. Finding the right combination of tree diameter, nuisance branch density, and access without dropping into a tree well was more of a challenge than expected.
Plan B – Sleep on the ground.
By the time I found something possible, there was just enough daylight to set up camp and cook food – no more experimenting. I opted to dig out a flat platform and use a bivi bag for ground sleeping.
My regular technique is to stomp on the snow to compact it somewhat. But more importantly, I get off it and leave it alone for about 15 minutes. The snow crystals re-bond firmer, more solid (that’s how you make a quarry for cutting snow blocks). Then I use the shovel to scrape off the surface “mush” and level out the snow underneath.
I was very glad for the flat platform because though you might be able to sleep in a hammock on a slope, it doesn’t alleviate the effects of gravity. It seemed very time I put gear on the snow (did I mention it was on a slope), not on my platform, it started its own journey down hill.
With a slope, everything rolls.
I did do one thing right. After tucking in and getting comfortable, I could still feel a ridge on my back. Maybe you have learned that instead of lying awake hours, not peeing because you are sure morning will come soon and you’ll be okay if you JUST DON’T MOVE … if instead you just get up and pee it will take less than 2 minutes and you’ll have hours of comfortable sleep in exchange for the “adventure”. Taking that lesson to heart – I got up and in less than a minute I used my shovel to smooth out the offending ridges, giving me a comfortable night sleep.
The next morning I dumped everything out to repack and prioritize what I’d need for the day. There, on top of the pile, because they were at the very bottom of the pack, were those side pockets I had put somewhere so I wouldn’t forget them. After everything was repacked, I headed to my second destination; an area called Big Meadow.
Before I had left the house, I used MapTech software to print out “quad map” segments of the area. Using UTM coordinates gave me great resolution and the map showed me where I was and what was up ahead.
Usually, to save energy, you ski in the tracks of someone who had been there before – assuming they were going where you were going. I was following tracks at top of the ridge but they turned south and seemingly too close to the lake to be headed for Big Meadow. The map indicated I needed to continue east a bit more. Soon I crossed the groomed snowmobile road that cuts through Big meadow and I set up for the second night.
I’d be walking around without my skis so I did the compression trick under and about the hammock area as well as tracking a path to the “bathroom”. It is not fun to go for that walk in the middle of the night and sink to you knees (or more) in soft snow. So I packed out a path to some trees. The snow is usually solid by the time it needs to be used.
Prepping the “living room” and kitchen/cooking shelf in back.
I also “prepped” the snow around the hammock trees, making it a solid platform for the numerous adjustments to hammock suspension.
I put the HH Survivor up and removed the undercover, then strung the fly with a continuous ridgeline. I don’t know how many of you have seen “that” video using Dutch hardware – where everything goes like silk, the line doesn’t even tangle. In my attempt, every mistake that could be made, I made. The hammock suspension wasn’t inside the fly ridgeline suspension – made that mistake twice. I missed running the ridgeling though the D-ring. I started with an “above the tarp ridgeline then decided I wanted it under. But the good news is, I probably won’t make those mistakes …. as often. And I’m glad I got to experience them privately.
Finally I hung The Nest UQ and set about boiling water for dinner and breakfast the next day.
It gets dark about 5:30 pm this time of year so I was ready for a LONG night under the stars. I had forgotten the thermometer I intended to bring. I don’t know how cold was that night (at 7000 ft.) but the newspaper said it was 15 degrees“ in town”.
To add more warmth, I pulled the tarp, which I had moved over to the side, back over the hammock. At first I thought I’d miss the stars but the moon was so bright, they’d be hard to see anyway. I also put an undercover below the UQ.
That last move might be controversial because though you add more air blockage, you can also compress the UQ, reducing its loft/warmth. But the combination seemed to work – except for one small remaining area. I took my pillow – just ski shirts tucked in a thin felt bag (I wear jammies to bed. No matter how hard the day, getting into clean clothes and slipping into a soon-to-be-warm bag makes it tolerable) - and slipped it under my butt. Ah, all was warm and comfy.
I slept well and woke up in the morning. Of course, after going to bed at 5:30 pm, morning came just a little after midnight. But still, I was warm, relaxed, and visited by occasional cool, sweet breezes.
Real morning eventually came and breaking camp was quick. This time, instead of using the sleeping bag and UQ stuff sack, I put them loose in the bottom of the pack. That minimized dead space. The HH was rolled/coiled in its snakeskin and stove, food, water, extra clothes, etc. piled in.
Earlier, I saw couple on skis heading back to the lake and decided to follow their path. It lead to hard packed snow in a gully, to narrow to side step. Their tracks had disappeared, so I did what I think they did – just took off my skis and walked down.
Once road leveled out as it passed south of Todd Lake and the skis went back on. I left the road and skied the established xc trail back to the lodge. When I got home, I reported to my “responsible party” that all was well.
Next time I’ll do it better.