Last weekend was my first time camping in the snow. I have hiked and snow-shoed in the snow many times, but I had never spent a night outdoors while it was snowing. Now I can cross that off my bucket list. This outing was part of the Sierra Club’s Wilderness Basics Course. After doing a car camp and two weekend backpacking trips the final outing is a snow camp trip to Mammoth, CA, a popular ski resort in northern California. There were four snow shoe trips and two ski trips. I chose a snow shoe trip as I do not know how to ski. Each trip has 15 students with two trip leaders. A week before the trip, we brought our snow camp gear and the leaders checked to make sure we had the proper equipment. When I heard the weather reports, (windy, 18 low, snow showers, 1-2 ft. of snow) I purchased some last minute winter clothing and snow boots. I’m glad I did. We left San Diego on Friday afternoon on a chartered bus and arrived to Mammoth High School at midnight.
We spent the night in the gym and the next morning at 6:30 am the lights were turned on. Breakfast was served at 7:00 am. I’m a breakfast person and that was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip. They had muffins, croissants, bagels, bread, bananas, coffee and orange juice. I ate a larger breakfast than I usually do because I knew I would be burning lots of calories due to the weight I would be carrying and the cold conditions.
At 8:00 am we left the high school for the trailheads. Once we reached the trailhead we put on our packs and snowshoes and hiked into camp, which was only a mile and a half away. That was the easy part. The hardest part of the trip was withstanding the cold.
Once we found a site with minimal wind, the leaders showed us how to set up our tents. After we completed that task, we got together and built the camp kitchen and snow potty.
Fortunately, we were able to set up our tents and build the kitchen and potty before the storm arrived later that afternoon. We took a break and then went for an afternoon stroll around the area.
The storm had gotten worse so the leader cut short our afternoon hike. Since the snowfall was too heavy, we weren’t able to have dinner in the snow kitchen.
My tent mate and I had dinner outside of our tent in the vestibule. Dinner consisted of Tastybite lentils and green pea soup.
Fortunately I was able to borrow a friends’ 4-season 2-person tent for this outing. My tent mate and I didn’t sleep a wink, but at least we were not freezing to death. I had to sleep in many layers in my 15 degree sleeping bag and with foot warmers. Those are indispensable! On Sunday morning we woke up to frozen water bottles, condensation, and a winter wonderland. The storm had passed and the sun was out early in the morning. We had breakfast in the snow kitchen and I heard the other campers laughing in the kitchen as my tent mate and I packed our gear away and disassembled the tent.
We had to meet the buses at the trailhead at 12:30pm so we left camp at 11:00 a.m. The leaders were rather disappointed that the students didn’t have the experience of having dinner in the snow kitchen. But maybe I’ll experience that next year. After breaking down the kitchen and the snow potty we hiked out.
Once we reached the trailhead and the main lodge I drank water like a fish, as I didn’t drink enough water on Saturday. We had half an hour to change and use the restrooms before the bus took us back to San Diego. We did make a stop in Bishop, CA for a quick dinner pick-up. My tent mate and I went into the famous Erick Schat’s Bakkery for strudel and bread to take back to our family. We arrived in San Diego around 8:30 pm, gathered our gear, said our good-byes and sleepily drove back home. This was a great experience as I learned many new backpacking skills. I’m considering taking this course again next year. And if you are interested in hiking/backpacking, then you should take this class as well. It’s worth it.