PCT Prep: Testing Our Cold Gear.
I met Kammie through a couple of other Brooklynites who are attempting the PCT this year. Kammie is a mature, petite, twenty three year old. We hemmed and hawed all week via text,
“you sure you wanna do this?”
“it’s going to be really cold!”
-frown (I hate camping in cold)
“You can bail!”
Bailing was not an option for me because I was using this overnight as not only a gear test, but also as some time out on a trail to help me make a decision whether I really wanted to commit to the 2600 mile PCT journey. I had been suffering from tons of internal doubts, coming up with endless excuses why this wasn’t a good year, and I just needed to get out of my head and into nature to come to a decision that wasn’t influenced by fears.
“It’s going to be 7 degrees” (Little did we know 7 was going to become -15)
We started at Elk Penn, in Harriman State Park, and hiked 5 miles in on the AT, Sat, March 4th, 2017. My water tube froze after ten minutes of leaving the car. Once dusk arrived, Kammie and I found a spot, and with some not so smart, in retrospect, techniques, in gusting wind, I got a small camp fire going. It was too cold and windy to get warmed by the fire and in the amount of time it took to start it, I was taken by uncontrollable shivering. Despite the shaking, and once the fire seemed to manage on its own, I boiled some water to rehydrate my mountain house. My hands were limited and I thought I had sealed the MH bag, but when I flipped it over to “stir” it, all my meal spilled out and immediately froze onto a pile of leaves on the ground. I knew then that I was getting into a critical situation and wasn’t able to think straight. We smothered the fire and got into our tents. Although it was technically a shake down, I took a lot more than I planned to bring on the PCT because I knew it wasn’t going to be this cold on the trail and I wanted to be safe on this trip as I had never camped in such cold weather. I brought: my z packs 10 degree bag, mountain hardware ghost whisperer, patagonia down jacket, under armour cold gear base layers, xtherm, sea to summit sleeping bag liner, 2 emergency blankets, wool socks, waterproof socks (useless for warmth). After a few hours of tossing and turning, my mind focussing on one cold part after another, I finally got to a point where I was warm enough or just tired enough to sleep. We were so cold it was impossible to get out of our sleeping bags to go pee or put on any other random layers. I had one more thermal legging that I brought to test out, but just shoved it into my foot box. It did help my feet stay warm. I put one hand warmer in my shirt, against my skin, and the other I fumbled and couldn’t bother to find. The blowing wind sounded like the ocean and the trees eerily creaked all night. When I woke in the am, my sleeping bag was frozen from the trapped body moisture. It is two days later and my face is still red. I am exhausted but have all fingers and toes. It got down to -15. I know a lot more about sleeping in the cold and decided to commit 100 percent to the PCT this year.