Sunday, July 9, 2017

Backpacking Tam MacArthur Rim (on skis and snowshoes)

Ruby on a big field of sun cups.
I slogged my way through a massive field of sun cups*. I had snowshoes strapped to my backpack, but they were really no help in these slushy conditions. What I really needed were my microspikes, left back home in my misguided belief that I was never going to encounter snow in summer. Far above me, J prepared to ski down the peak. We were backpacking, but with skis and snowshoes (ski-packing? Snowshoe packing?)



Only a few other souls were braving the Tam MacArthur Rim today, and none of them were staying overnight. It was admittedly too early. Huge snow patches covered much of the trail. In early morning, much of the traverse we were doing would be treacherously icy. Under the glare of an unrelenting sun, though, the snow had reverted to a sloppy consistency reminiscent of potatoes.

Ruby on a small patch of snow. This was all melted out by the end of the day.

We had veered off trail and set up our camp overlooking a view of far-off mountains, and set out to explore the rim. It rises a thousand feet above Three Creeks Lake and has an in-your-face view of the Three Sisters and Broken Top. It is a really quick ascent to alpine country, my favorite.



J and dogs skiing

But the going was slow. After J's run down the mountain, we decided to return to camp. In a rookie move, we discovered much of the rim, especially when snow-covered, looks very similar. Was it in this patch of trees? This one? No, no it wasn't. Just when I was contemplating the fact that we might have to spend a night out (we had matches and extra clothes, but it wouldn't have been that great), J found our camp, farther to the east than we had remembered. It's easy to be nonchalant when you have been backpacking all of your life. Do not lose the camp!

It was our wedding anniversary, and as I stumbled into camp after ten hours of difficult snow travel, I wondered why I couldn't be content with dinner out, why I insist on these trips that are both hard and magnificent. But this kind of thing feeds my soul.

A full moon rose over the Rim just as an army of mosquitoes descended upon us. The dreaded Cascades mosquitoes! I have no idea if they will go away as the summer winds on, but clearly I need to learn mosquito management. It's been forever since I have had to deal with them.

It doesn't appear to cool down much here at night, so the mosquitoes were still hanging around. News flash: the natural stuff may work in your neck of the woods, but these skeeters are undeterred. We packed up quickly. "This was a nice camp," I said.

"Easy to find," J replied. We laughed.

*sun cup: deep, annoying hollows in snow when it is beginning to melt out, creating slippery and hazardous walking.
Good thing I still have the headnet from Interior Alaska firefighting days.


16 comments:

  1. We are in the "sun cup" stage here in the Rockies, too. They are difficult to navigate :). Snow is going fast due to a persistent heat wave and tardy monsoons that help cool things down.
    mark

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    1. I've never experienced so many sun cups in one place! I sure wouldn't want to walk or ski through them for days. Too much concentration needed!

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  2. It'll be a memorable anniversary. Ruby isn't complaining. Snow? Yes please, more please.

    How do you ski snow cups? Doesn't sound fun.

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    1. Not easily. I can report that snowshoes seem to make it worse. Better just to hike across. Ruby would live in the snow year round if she could.

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  3. Happy Anniversary! Ruby has gotten so big!
    I was just thinking about how awesome it is to sleep outside without mosquitoes, I've been really enjoying it.
    Hopefully it will dry out and you'll get some skeeter-free weeks later on in the season there.

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    1. It's been so hot and dry, I am assuming the same! I can't believe how long it's been since I have seen rain.

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  4. I don't think there is a better way to celebrate than in the great outdoors.
    It might not have been as much fun, had you not found your campsite!
    My son lives in Banff and has said the mosquitoes are in plague proportions there as well.

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    1. I'm ready for them to go away, but I think they are with us for awhile. Yes, not finding our campsite would have been sort of a bummer.

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  5. I've never hiked up Tam McArthur Rim - but it's on my list! My brother, who lives in Bend, knew someone who
    "kite boarded" there in the winter (snowboard with a kite) Happy Anniversary to you and your hubby!

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    1. I changed this a bunch of times--is it MacArthur or McArthur? I've seen it both ways. You would LOVE it, though I recommend waiting 2 weeks or so!

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    2. Either way, it is distinctly Scottish...Yay!

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  6. Glad you had an adventure filled anniversary. Snow and 80? That's the best of both worlds.

    Um yeh, you know that natural stuff I was swearing by earlier? Well it didn't work so well this weekend. Mosquitoes were trying to carry us off while picking huckleberries. Smeared ourselves with the natural stuff to no avail. We gave up and headed back to the trailer with only 2 cups of berries. We went back out Sunday morning in jeans and long sleeves doused in Deep Woods Off. Unfortunately it didn't work well either. They were bound and determined to again to carry me off whole.

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    1. Hahahaha! I had "natural" stuff too and I kept thinking, OK, Kim can do it, why isn't mine working? Deet it is, although you can't spray on your clothes.

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    2. I'll do full body netting before I'll use DEET. My first Wilderness First Responder instructor had a way to use DEET though, he said to put it on a bandana and tie the bandana around your ankle (over your long pants).

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  7. Your outtings are never straignt forward and always seem to involve the unusual and the out of the ordinary, and that is what keeps me coming back to read your stories! Adventurous and never a dull moment, that's how I like it!

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    1. Ha ha, or "how I was a klutz in the wilderness" perhaps. Hopefully there are some cautionary tales in there!

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