Winter Hiking Weekend
The new year is almost here and the home fires are burning bright and warm but I'm looking forward to a short brisk hike into the Catskills. I just can't sit still for too long and the weather is with me. I was hoping Slide Mountain would have a bit of the white stuff but I don't think I'll find much.
Nevertheless, up I'll go.
The usual kit will be slung on my back to help me enjoy the day and be comfy and safe. I am a collector of liquid gas stoves and have dozens to choose from. Today I was digging deep on a shelf in my shed looking for a stove to take along with me for a fast meal and a hot brew. The Coleman Multi fuel was calling my name as always. This stove although old tech has NEVER let me down, I have two: one made in Canada and the other a product of the the good old USA, both keepers. One of my SVEA 123 brass jet engines was sitting there looking pretty so just as a bit of nostalgia I grabbed it for the trip. I love and marvel at the SVEA stoves, anything you have to set on fire before it will work has to be tough. I also took down one of my longer ice axes just in case.
I once spent a very cold December night on Mt Slide's South side in a hail storm. I woke about four in the morning so cold and shaking to death, I was afraid I would not die and end the suffering but I got through it. I plan to never repeat that night. The wind was so bad and the ice was coming into my simple shelter hastily hung the night before. I forced myself to move and squatted over a stove just long enough to warm my hands and dig into my guide pack for an extra layer and some wool fingerless gloves.
The morning came slowly and I woke to a crusted crunchy world of ice blue and bright white. The tarp above me was hanging heavy with ice and the parachute line that it was tied to was being tested to it's limit. Again the stove saved me as I melted ice and two soup cubes in a metal cup for my breakfast. Within thirty minutes I was chipped out and packed for the slow careful trip back to the car. The mountain views were wonderful as usual and today the glassing of ice that covered the closely grouped summit tress was particularly beautiful. I had no crampons so I took my time cutting side steps into the crust as I worked my way down.
All in all a rather uncomfortable night and a poor meal for the energy I expelled getting up to the top and spending a sub zero night in a storm and hardly enough calories to fill my body with energy for the trip down but as usual a trip I was glad I made.
Surprise storms can happen at any altitude and at any time of the year. Many hikers and campers have had a wonderful weekend shot due to weather and poor planning. Some basic kit should always be on your hiking list even if you have no plans to stay the night.
Mountains make their own weather and I'd rather be burdened with a few pounds of kit for peace of mind just in case. Many of us are already carrying stuff for the trip like cameras or binoculars or perhaps if you are hunting, a rifle or bow. Why not add just a few extras.
This blog was built for the common weekender that might not have the equipment that the hard core hiker-camper might have. So I'd like to explore the options available to stock up on gear on the cheap. Sporting goods stores and big "Mart" stores can supply you with (almost) everything you need for a safe and exciting outdoor experience without spending the big bucks for the big name equipment full time users might select. Should you find that you need to step up to a name brand piece of kit after using simple starter gear, I hope this blog will point you in the right direction.
My December hike up Mt. Slide will include the SVEA 123 white gas stove for about $100 but may be found on Ebay for less then half the price. The Coleman Multi fuel is about $65 but again look at Ebay. REI has a selection of ice axes to suit the classic one axe walking/hiking style the Catskill mountains might require. Mine was a French made 80CM self arrest axe I have used for years. I bought it as a starter axe at EMS in New Hampshire for about $65 twenty years ago. No technical climbs are on Slide but ice does cover the exposed summit, rocky sections of the trails and run off areas, falls can happen. Snow shoes are an asset, Sportsman's Guide as well as Cabelas have great shoe selections for a very reasonable price........as always check Ebay for kit that needs a new home.