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  1. #1
    Rhody Seth's Avatar
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    VIDEO: Winter Conditions in the White Mountains (and a very close call)

    No way around it, I screwed up big time last weekend setting up my hammock and I'm as lucky as it gets to have walked away unscathed.

    I hiked with three friends into the Pemigewasett Wilderness last weekend to climb Owl's Head which would complete my third round of the New Hampshire 4000 footers. There was some snow on the ground and plenty more once we got deeper into the backcountry. Temperature was in the mid 20s (F) at our 6 AM start but soon climbed into the mid 30s as we made our way towards Owl's Head. The approach involves a few different trails and a very defined "bushwhack" but what it doesn't involve is much elevation gain. It makes for a lovely start to the journey along the cold, icy rivers. Then we had to cross those rivers which made for some very treacherous rock hopping.

    This all changed with the final ascent up Owl's Head which is very steep. We dumped our packs and made our way to the wooded summit, which was noticeably colder and snowier than down low. We hit the summit, enjoyed a couple limited views through the trees and then made our way back down to reclaim our packs and continue the hike to the 13 Falls tentsite. This section of trail features a lot of boggy areas and while now covered in snow there were plenty of opportunities to step into the water/muck so we had to be wary. A couple of us weren't so lucky. Thankfully it wasn't too far to camp.

    We reached the campsite at 4 PM, a half hour before sunset. Here's where things took a turn for me. I was exhausted, hungry and hurried to find a place to hang. I glanced at a couple trees I thought would suffice and began to set up. I ran into issues setting up my tarp ridgeline which stressed me out further. Finally I got the tarp and hammock strung and sat in the hammock to test it out. Immediately I collapsed on the ground and a big branch landed on my head. No, not a branch. The dead tree trunk I had hung from. In my hurry to set up camp I failed to inspect the trees I was using. The dead tree had snapped and landed directly on me. I crawled out from under the tarp slightly dazed but more angry/frightened than anything. My buddy came over to help but I seemed to be alright. Amazingly I didn't get hurt at all and neither did the tarp. The log I had attempted to use was just heavy enough to not make me think twice but light enough not to split my head. Doesn't get any luckier than that.

    So now I was setting up in the dark but at least I finally got situated. If nothing else the stress seemed to have helped keep me warm as the temps dropped. After a quick meal I promptly went to bed where I quickly initiated my second blunder of the evening. I decided I was sick of my top quilt shifting around and sometimes flopping out of the hammock so I decided to try holding in place using the rings on the inside of the chameleon and the rings on my Burrow top quilt. Welp, I didn't take into account how shifting around would effect things and soon a ripped a good size hole in the quilt. Now down was floating all over the place. I patched it with a bandaid and hated myself for my errors. Thankfully sleep quickly found me (though I would still wake often to pee).

    It was 21F the next morning and we were on the trail a little before 8 AM. We were completing this traverse by going out and over Mt. Garfield. While steep, the trail wasn't as bad as we thought due to the recent snow making for grippy traction with our spikes. The temp would drop into the teens as we climbed and while I had many issues on this trip, staying warm was not one of them. But more difficulty lie in store for me. I had cracked a rib a few weeks back and knew it wasn't a great idea to go backpacking but I wasn't going to miss this trip. Early into day 2 I made a weird sidestep which aggravated my healing rib and it made for several hours of painful hiking. Pain killers helped as did the final miles of downhill. We made good time to the summit of Mt. Garfield. It was cold, windy and fogged in so we did not linger long. Then we made the five mile slog to the trailhead to wrap up this trip.

    All in all, a pretty embarrassing trip for me with those mistakes, including one which could have been really bad. If I had gotten hurt by that tree there would have been no easy way to extract me. As you can imagine some lessons learned and I'll be checking all trees carefully from now on! Looking beyond the mistakes, this was a fun trip with great guys. Winter has returned to the Whites and it was just beautiful out there.


  2. #2
    tlfillingim's Avatar
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    Sep 2014
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    Yikes! Very close call. I'm glad you were OK.

    Stress & fatigue are real enemies, especially when you are setting up camp. I recently snapped a UHMWPE strap because it was 1:45am and I was ready to go to sleep and "settled" for trees way too far apart. Luckily I had an abort plan in place and was able to ditch the hammock and have a decent sleep anyway.

  3. #3
    Rhody Seth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlfillingim View Post
    Yikes! Very close call. I'm glad you were OK.
    Yep, some hard lessons learned on this one.

  4. #4

    Join Date
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    Thanks for sharing a great video, beautiful views, and an important story that will help us all to hike safely out there.

  5. #5
    cmoulder's Avatar
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    Nov 2017
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    Whoosh, dodged a bullet there! Something that won't happen again, for sure.

    Overall probably a 'Type 2' trip, with that hurting rib. Sure was purdy atop Garfield!
    Five Basic Principles of Going Lighter (not me... the great Cam Honan of OZ) Instagram (me!)

    If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking. ~ Gen. George S Patton

  6. #6
    Alamosa's Avatar
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    Glad your safe and were able to complete a great outing with friends.
    We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. - Ben Franklin
    (known as a win-win on this forum)

  7. #7
    all secure in sector 7 Shug's Avatar
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    Whoa! You must have a titanium cranium!
    Glad it was not worse. Sounds like a good and somewhat harrowing jaunt.
    Off myself in the AM.
    Whooooooo Buddy)))))
    Shuggedy
    ShugArt Hammock Paintings....https://www.etsy.com/shop/ShugArtStu...platform-mcnav

    Whooooo Buddy)))) All Secure in Sector Seven

  8. #8
    Hang Williams's Avatar
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    Giving new meaning to being called hard-headed. I recently visited a site I've hung at before. I went to attach my hammock to the same two trees, but didn't like the look of one of them though I wasn't sure if it was dead or just shed its leaves early. The end result was I moved to a less than ideal hang and I questioned whether it was the right call. Your post is a good reminder to err on the side of caution.

  9. #9
    Rhody Seth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmoulder View Post
    Whoosh, dodged a bullet there! Something that won't happen again, for sure.

    Overall probably a 'Type 2' trip, with that hurting rib. Sure was purdy atop Garfield!
    Definitely won't make that mistake again! Yes, now a few days later this trip has settled comfortably into the Type II fun category.

    Quote Originally Posted by tinktheman12 View Post
    Thanks for sharing a great video, beautiful views, and an important story that will help us all to hike safely out there.
    Yeah I figured if nothing else hopefully it may be a reminder to someone else to think before you hang.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alamosa View Post
    Glad your safe and were able to complete a great outing with friends.
    Thank you much. I got real lucky, that's for sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shug View Post
    Whoa! You must have a titanium cranium!
    Quote Originally Posted by Hang Williams View Post
    Giving new meaning to being called hard-headed.
    I showed a real lack of brains for hanging where I did but I guess it meant there wasn't anything in there to damage!

  10. #10
    3 Feet High and Rising's Avatar
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    WOW Beautiful scenery. No concern of anyone stealing kit from packs.
    -6 Gas canisters work OK any problems not that it get that cold in UK!
    To much chat, not enough hang.

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