Thursday, August 28, 2008

SHT Winter-thru hike in final planning stages

Next big trip later - SHT in January. This has been a thought of mine since I read about Andy Skurka doing the SHT from Duluth and connecting to the Kekekabic Trail in the BWCA.

Early on, my brother had early criticisms - He said skurka had near-perfect conditions to do the trip.

At first, a few things were really up in the air: boots, snowshoes and shelter. As for boots, I have used Sorels throughout my tenure at NorthWind, and have used Baffins there on a limited basis. Last year in the BWCA, I used Sorels with success; but my feet hurt after walking a few miles. Because I do not want to borrow gear for fear of its imminent implosion, I will be purchasing a pair of Steger Arctic Mukluks (

As for snowshoes, I looked around for lightweight shoes. I looked at Atlas, Crescent Moon, and MSR, among others. I also looked at Northern Lites, particularly the Quicksilver 30 and the Backcountry Rescue (30"). Price kinda put the Northern Lites out, but their weight was excellent. Last night, I purchased a pair of 25" MSR Lightning Ascents off of for cheap. They should be excellent for my purpose. I would rather have a 30" pair, but the 25s should provide adequate flotation. Also, I'm pleased with the Lightning series because of its claimed traction for steep climbs and downhills. There are plenty of those on the SHT, and the traction and the televator bar should be worth its weight.

The tent was the final major piece of gear that need to be purchased. As noted in a prior post, I went with an MK1 XL. The weight is a little high, but it is bombproof and will cover my butt in case I get pinned down by a lake-effect blizzard.

I have tentatively chosen to re-supply twice. I have based this on my proposed mileage (15 m/day) and my base packweight (around 20 lbs). My VT maxes out at 30 or 35 lbs, depending on what you read, and I'd like to keep it below that at all times. My resupply will come on day 4, in Grand Marais and on day 10 in Finland. I'll start out with four days of food, pick up six days in Grand Marias and pick up four more in Finland. That's a total of 14 days of food. I'm planning on pushing 20 miles on the last day.

There are a few things that worry me. First, my base weight is about 5 lbs higher (total of about 20 lbs) than I wanted it to be. I attribute this to my tent (three lbs more than I wanted to carry for shelter weight) and bag (about a pound more). My Dragonfly also packs some unnecessary weight. However, I don't want to buy another stove just for this trip.

Second, I'm slightly worried about losing the trail. This is a constant concern. As good as the trail markings are, snow will obscure the trail and will make navigation difficult. I will be hiking southbound again, so I should be able to recognize my surroundings fairly well.

Third, I'm doing this solo. I trust my skills, but winter lowers the margin for error significantly. Going solo cuts that margin a little more.

Final stages is an appropriate. Yes, I need to buy and pack food, deal with sewing vapor barriers and transportation, but everything else looks like its in place. Now just to do the training and get out there. More later.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New toy: Integral Designs MK1 XL

I couldn't resist getting the best single wall tent out there for 40 percent off. So I bought an MK1 XL by Integral Designs from I can't complain on the price. I set it up today: it is a full foot shorter in length than my Double Rainbow and six inches thinner in width as the DR. I put my marmot bags in there for comparison. Here's some photos:

I'm not sure when it's going to get its maiden voyage. More on that later. Anywho, I got it because it will easily be able to manage a Minnesota lake-effect snow storm, and it has more space than my bivy.