Friday, February 10, 2012

OUT - My first solo overnighter... or it should have been..

but it didn't quite work out as I had planned/hoped!

I was hoping for a special day (and night) today. It should have been my first overnighter in a long, long time, my first overnighter in winterconditions, my first solo ever and a test for my bedroll. Well, as I said, things didn't quite work out that way...
I'll start at the beginning;
The first challenge I met, was getting my beefy bedroll attached to my backpack. After a lot of fiddling, puzzling, strapping and unstrapping I finally came up with a solution that was both practical and comfortable;

Yeah!! and all wool! Well... almost...

The first thing I did was check out a spot I found on an earlier trip that looked promissing;

Plenty of water to drink;

It had started to thaw, which made the underground a little treacherous;

My wonderings lead me through this kind of terrain and a large walkingstick would have been handy to knock the snow from overhanging branches. I did get quite a lot of the white stuff down my neck;

My previous "campsite";

As per request a mugshot with the cap in "wintermode";

This was hanging over my head;

I cut myself a 4 meter long pole to brush off everything I could reach, but the trees were a little bigger than that....

The shelter was up again and the bed was refreshed and filled up. It was very comfortable. It started snowing again, thick heavy flakes and quite a lot of 'em;

While I was busy, I regularly stopped just to listen to the total silence around me.... It was wonderfull! Nothing to be heard but the murmuring of the little waterstream next to my camp and the occassional little thuds of snow falling from the trees. While I stood there musing a couple of loud, heavy thuds right behind me ended the little idyll in an abrupt way! It sounded like something large came stomping through the undergrowth!

The first issue I came across, was to start a fire. Everything was not just damp, but wet, even the birchbark, and was caked with frozen water and snow. I had to bring in the heavy guns (lighter, candle and tampon) to get it started! Even keeping it going, when it was lit, proved to be quite a challenge. Apart from the soaked wood and branches, the heavy snow, later turning to sleet and than turning to rain, made it difficult. The thawing snow falling from the branches over me made it no easier. At one point it was like having a fire in summer downpour. As a dessert a thick dot of half molten snow landed smack in the middle of my fire!!

To the left my "chair", a large bolder covered with a layer of spruce boughs. Next to the fire there's a stack of wood drying, with the rest of my supply to the left, not on the picture.

Only the toes got a little cold, but the saucages would not heat up properly. They got smoked as did I;

As the day got on it thawed faster and faster. My clothes got soaked and the fire wouldn't get going properly anymore, thanks to the killerdot and the wet and/or snowcovered woodsupply.
My shelterhalf was quite wet too, making it heavy on the outside, but for some reason the halfmelted snow froze up again, turning the canvas into cardboard. At 15:00 it was already quite dark, but because of the snow on the ground, everything still remained sort of visible. I knew it would start to freeze up again, very early in the morning and the prospect of going to sleep with everyting wet and waking up with everything frozen solid did not seem like a lot of fun. For that I still do not have enough skills and experience.
I had promissed my wife I would call her to let here know weither I would stay or not and where and, while I was pondering over my options, I called her. She told me she was having a problem at home, too. While I had a lot of water, at home they had none! Appearantly the pipe feeding water from the well to our house and that of the surrounding neighbours had broken somewhere, leaving them all dry.
That did it! I broke camp, packed up as good as I could in the nearly dark with semi froozen or soaked gear, strapped my headlight on (Thank God I brought it along this time!!), took the pole I used previously and shortened it, so i could feel the terrain in front of me and headed home.
Walking through the forrest under these conditions is no fun and I strongly recommend against it! Even with light and pole you can't really see where you put your feet and I did fall a few times. Loosing your balance in the dark on a very uneven surface with snow, ice and water is very likely to happen and with a backpack on you just can not keep upright, when it happens!

This is what I looked like, when I got home;

\When I made a fist in my woolen mittens, the water would run out;

The shelterhalf;
I just couldn't roll it up neatly...

Backpack with bedroll; without the water the whole lot weighed about 25-27 kg;

Poor little me;

Yet I do not want to write this day off as a failure. Allthough I did not spend the night out there in my bedroll, I learned a lot today and I did get out again!
1) making a fire under these conditions is both challenging and a lot of work! I have to make sure I will have some dry tinder and wood with me the next time.
2) My wool clothing worked brilliantly! Although I was wet I never was cold.... except for the times I got showered with snow. A wide rimmed hat would have been welcome then.
3) Despite the outercover of my bedroll was soaked too, only the outer blanket was a little wet. The inner one was completely dry and so was the flanel innerbag. I trust it would have kept me warm over night. The inside of the shelterhalf remained dry, too, despite me knocking off the semifrozen snow from time to time.
4) Under these circumstances it is best not to head out alone. Making camp, making fire, keeping it going AND trying to get some warm food is a lot of work and no fun to do alone. Working with gloves or mittens on, is very tiring, especially to your hands and lower arms, making mishappens and accidents a lot more likley. I had some myself, but the fact that I realized that and therefor kept more distance between the "sharpies" and me, prevented an accident.
5) Moving around the forrest at night under the conditions I wrote about, should be avoided when ever possible! It is dangerous not just because the likelyhood of getting injured, but also because no one knows where you are and you are exposed to the elements if things go wrong!

I'll try again soon, when it's freezing again!!  

1 comment:

  1. Some of the best outings are those that you learn the most from, because they help you to enjoy future outings even more (and help you to prevent mishaps).