By: Josh Wray (@josh_wray)
All Images by Andy Cochrane @Andrewfitts
It’s winter, it’s dumping and I couldn’t be happier.
The past couple of years I’ve dove deeper into the world of backcountry splitboarding. Setting a track with good friends in the search for “the line” has become a normalized weekend adventure. Living in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. means there’s a plethora of terrain literally right out my front door. Within a 15-minute drive, I’m at trailheads to epic Eastern Sierra lines like Bloody Couloir, Esha Peak, Pika Peak and more. With all of that amazing access, it’s hard to ever leave home. Until now. My eyes have been opened and my perspective has changed because of one word. YURT.
We don’t really have a solid yurt system here in the Sierra so the concept was new to me, but it has always interested me.
Last year I got the invite to join a crew of Pacific Northwest (PNW) shredders on a yurt trip to a semi-remote range in North Eastern Oregon. After two failed attempts for the trip, due to low snow coverage the first time and a major rain event the second time, the yurt adventure got postponed until January 2019. Little did we know that this was the best thing to happen because late December 2018 and early January 2019 had storms that pounded Northeast Oregon and caked the mountains we were soon to be painting lines on.
Being a California boy, I was nervous to have to deal with PNW weather. It was the first time I was actually confused about what to pack for a trip. And since the trek to the yurt involved a six-mile tow-in on sleds followed by a three-mile skin with 3,000’ of vertical gain I was unsure of how much gear was too much and the same for the opposite. It’s never fun being the guy in the group that forgot a crucial piece of gear.
In the end, my packing list worked out for me so I wanted to share my thoughts on a few important things to pack if you’re heading out to a yurt or hut soon.
1. Stoke - What’s an epic trip without a heavy dose of stoke? Everyone in our crew was eager about three things. The first: staying safe. The second: Having a good time. And the third: Ripping pow.
Even amidst gear failure, hangryness and exhaustion everyone managed to keep a smile and there was no shortage of stoke which is extremely important when all 11 of you are packed into a yurt for three nights. Keep it humble, think of others before yourself and speak positively.
2. Camera - Now, what I recommend is making sure there is a handful of professional photographers going on the trip so the pressure is taken off of you and you’ll be able to keep your pack lighter ;) This totally worked out in my case. I left my DSLR at home and packed the GoPro session 5. This meant I could still capture all of the gnar and allowed extra room for other delicacies (see #7).
3. Food - This is the one area I was really surprised about when it came to sleeping in a yurt for 3 nights. Our trip organizer Andy aka “Plandy” made sure that the crew was divided into smaller groups responsible for planning and cooking specific family meals. The meal I was a part of was breakfast #1. We made pancakes, bacon and fruit. Now, we didn’t skimp out here we had GF pancakes, fluffy flourery cakes, and even “Man Cakes” (pancakes cooked in bacon grease). Every meal seemed to get better too! We had gourmet pizzas, creative pasta dishes, and more. Leave the Mountain House and Backpackers Pantry at home and take your meals seriously. This helps cater to #1 majorly! Another tip is think calories when it comes to touring snacks. I packed a container of Nutella and tortillas. One tortilla with Nutella on it carries a whopping 300 calories. Pack a few of those for your day in the mountains and your body will stay sustained.
4. Layers - Be sure to follow the weather forecast religiously before setting out for your mission. What I did is I packed close to every layer I own and waited until the morning of to finalize what layers to bring and left the excess layers in the truck. I decided to pack two full sets of my Ridge Merino layers. One heavyweight (Inversion series) and one lightweight (Aspect series). I tend to run really hot and the lightweight I used only for touring and when I returned back to the yurt it was off with the Aspect and on with the Inversion layer.
5. Charging Brick(s) - It’s cold in the winter and it turns out batteries don’t like that. I brought one charging block to recharge my iPhone and my GoPro, but I’d recommend packing a charger that holds 5+ charges on it cause your electronics will always die quicker than you thought. This also stays at the yurt to keep my touring pack lighter.
6. Bag Of Tricks - This is the bag that you really want to make sure is always included in your touring pack. It’s the gear that can really save a trip and help keep you from getting in stuck a really sticky situation. Here’s my list within a list of things to include in your pack:
- Baling wire and JB Weld - This can be used in an assortment of ways but the most likely in a binding failure.
- Lighter and fire starter - This shouldn’t really need explaining, but if you get stuck somewhere this can mean the difference between staying warm and not.
- First aid kit - Make sure you’ve got items in there to help with blisters. 4 days of touring each with 4,000’+ of climbing, it’s likely you’re gonna wreck havoc on your heels and feet.
- Rope - at least 20’ in length. I use Paracord.
- Life blanket - Space blanket material works great. It’s light, tough and can be used for a ton of different things
7. Favorite Adult Bevys - If you have an extra bit of space in your pack at the end then I’d definitely recommend packing a bottle or two of your favorite whiskey. Because, well there’s nothing better than wrapping up dinner with a bottle of something tasty in your hand while you’re howling at the moon with other weirdos that like burning their legs out on mountains and sleeping on thin pads in a canvas structure in the middle of winter. Also, extra points for packing beer. The alcohol to weight ratio isn’t in your favor here but when Mammoth Brewing Company offers a deal on thirty 32oz #MammothBearCan Crowlers to keep us hydrated you don’t say no. We opted in for 15 Epic IPAs and an assortment of ales, browns and saisons. Since nobody had the space for all of that beer we hired the guide company to porter it to the yurt for us #worthit.
For questions about this post or backcountry touring in general, reach out to Josh on Instagram @josh_wray.
- Tags: Backcountry Skiing: California's Eastern Sierra base layers beer california gopro iphone josh wray mammoth mammoth lakes merino wool clothing pacific northwest Pnwlife ridge merino ski snow splitboarding whiskey yurt yurt life