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Articles / Winter Trek -2010

Published: 2010-02-28
Category: Camps, Treks & Adventures

After what might be the roughest winter in decades two SMM members got together to finally make some use of their snowshoes and winter gear in the deep snow.

The plan was to walk for two days until we reached Camp Chinook where we would spend a night with friends gathered for a yearly winter meeting. We planned to drag our toboggan along a trail known as “Gästrikeleden” which would keep us from all roads and other signs of civilization.

As we closed in on our planned starting point we realized our walk would become a bit longer and wetter than estimated. A fine drizzle was falling from the sky and the temperature that had kept constant below freezing for more than two months jumped up a few marks on the thermometer. When we stepped out of the car (driven by our good friend and supporter Rolle) we were still a few kilometers from where we had planned to start. But snow was too deep even for a Volvo to manage. So we packed our gear on the toboggan, tied on our snowshoes and started walking.

The first mile or so everything worked smoothly, the toboggan was heavier than recommended, but it was compensated by more sweat and more frequent change of puller. After a short stop, some pemmican and a few gulps of water Mike threw the rope around his shoulders and started pulling again, but without result. It turned out he wasn’t just pulling the toboggan; he was also pulling a few cubic meters of snow. The rain had moist the top sheet of snow which stuck to the toboggan and soon froze to the colder and dryer snow beneath. The problem was solved by turning the toboggan on its side, scrape off all the snow, and in one motion turn it up and get it back in to speed. An action we practiced a lot during that day.

The unplanned weather and continuous scraping of snow changed our planned route a bit which soon led us outside our map sheet. Luckily we ran in to some local natives whom explained the country that lay ahead.

As we arrived at a good site to camp, our wool shirts, leggings and moccasins were soaked; both from the outside rain and the constant stream of sweat from the heavy pulling. We knew we had to get the camp set up and a fire going before we could sit down and rest, which we did. In front of our A-frame, which served as a lean-to by turning it over, we built a large fire. Finding dry tinder and firewood was hard, but we found some dry, thin birch bark and spruce twigs which got the flame going. A large log of pitch pine and a few more drops of sweat served us all the firewood we needed for the night.

Soon our kettles were filled with melting snow and stew made from red meat, rice, some dried apples and a bit of salt and pepper for seasoning. After filling our stomachs and a good smoke we chose to skip the customary “one man, one bedroll” and instead share bodily heat and buffalo robe during the night. A good choice since we woke up dry and warm.

After breaking camp and once more pulling the toboggan, we soon noticed the snow now was so wet it wouldn’t even stick to the gliding surface, which made traveling much easier.

A few hours later we arrived at Camp Chinook, but the wet weather and a flooded camp site had kept the people from showing up. There was no firewood, and being in a civilized area we couldn’t gather it the way we usually do. Since we had done all the walking (a total of 12 km) and the upcoming night was planned as a bonus in a warm tipi, we chose to pack up our gear and head back home.
The trek ended sooner than planned, but it still gave us a lot to think about until next winter. First of all it would sure have been nice with cold and clear weather. Our snowshoes and toboggan were almost falling apart as the rawhide softened in the wet snow. It should also be considered to put the load on two toboggans instead of one which would have made the pulling a lot easier. Once more: HURRAH FOR WOOL! Although totally soaked, our wool flannel shirts, wool socks and moccasin liners kept us warm. And having a wool waistcoat or capote close at hand during the short stops during the day, sure helped a lot.

Last but not least this was a great weekend that surely put both muscle, skill and gear to the test, and I hope our experience from this trip will make winter traveling a bit easier in the future.

Give it a try! There’s more to this than summer rendezvous!

Mike & Char
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