Thanks to some route help from several here we had a successful overnighter Friday night atop Indian Staircase. This is one of those hikes that makes you feel like you just conquered the world, although it really wasn't as scary as you thought when you do it the first time! Those that have been probably know what I am talking about!!
I took a group from my church up and had a great time. We camped at the "third" established camp from the top and found that we had plenty of room for all of the tents. I had earlier convinced one of my friends to purchase a Hennessy ULA and this was his first hang in it (really, he still had it all nicely rolled up in the stuff sack with the factory tags!!). The others in the group all took a turn in the hammocks and most came away swearing to purchase their own. (Side note: Tom, if you are out there reading this, I ought to be on commission!!!! ). All three of the established campsites had a lot of trash (cans and even a bunch of broken bottles) that we gathered up and packed out. No water at the top, even after the rain last week, so packing in enough water for the stay is a concern here.
We had a great time hiking around the top checking out the sights (Gnome Hole, Frog's Head, Council Chamber, Ohm Dome, etc. and explored quite a bit of the top ridge. Hiking out we opted to hike around to Indian Arch and out that way. I am happy we went up the Indian Staircase rather than hiking in around the back as that is a long uphill grade to get up there! Going down was a breeze!!
This was my first cooler weather outing, and it was tough to plan for the expected low of 50ish given my obsession with ultralight packing. I went back and forth on taking my Thermarest Trail Lite Large at 43 OZ or my Ridgerest 3/4 length at 9 oz or just going with my fleece pullover and running tights with wool socks (which were going with me anyway). In the end I opted to not take a pad and see what happened with my Western Mountaineering Mytlite 40 degree bag. I was comfortable for the most part, except for a recurring cold spot under my hips that was not unbearable, just annoying. Looking back, I think that I would have preferred to have the Ridgerest under my torso and that would have made it a perfect night. I also think that I am going to need a different bag now that I am off the ground as I think that I would have to actually get all the way in the bag and zip it up (as this weekend) to stay warm below 50. That bag is a little too tight around my shoulders to really get comfortable. I was thinking about a Big Agnes, but now that I've seen Sgt. Rock's new "pocket pad" I think that I will give that a try and see how it does for bottom insulation.
For any of the light packers out there, I've noticed that my issues now aren't weight as much as volume of gear when cooler weather comes around. I had a three day load in my Golite Breeze and had a little more room, but the volume of the fleece made it tough to think about adding one of the pads. So, does anyone have experience with the ULA packs? I was thinking about switching to a Conduit or Circuit to get more volume for cold weather gear, etc.
I'll post some pics from the trip later.