Winds 10 night trip 4-13-09

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Igloo Ed
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Winds 10 night trip 4-13-09

Post by Igloo Ed » Sat Apr 18, 2009 3:34 pm

Winds April 2nd through April 13th of 2009

It was a team of six of us meeting at the White Pines Ski Area, some 10 miles out of Pinedale, where we had reserved a cabin for the night of April 2nd. The cabin actually ended up being one half of a duplex condo that slept four, the kids, in a loft with four twin beds and two rather nice bedrooms containing queen beds that slept the two elders of the team.
With the youngest two team members arriving later in the evening, we retired a bit late in the evening but the steady drone of snoring soon put those of us up in the loft into a deep sleep with me only waking once during the night to climb the steep stair case down to the bathroom.
We all slept well only getting up in time to pack up and head over our pre arranged breakfast in the ski area cafeteria when they opened at 9:00 am. The breakfast was very relaxing with it being Friday and the cafeteria being nearly vacant.

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With a short easy day planned to our first campsite, we boarded the ski lift along with our pulks and arrived at the west summit of 9,330 ft. Fortification Mountain at 12:30 pm.

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We hooked up to our pulks and headed down some 260 ft. to the pass between the west and east summit of Fortification Mtn. at 1:00 to begin our climb to our first camp on the 9,413 ft. east summit.
We gained the east summit about two hours after leaving the west summit and began building two 9 ft. diameter igloos after we had lunch and took in some of the sights in the area. Our senior member made hot drinks for the team as the other five of us built the two igloos. This resulted in three of us building one igloo and two building the other igloo assuring that we would complete one igloo sooner than the other giving us an early shelter should it be needed.
After completing the first igloo we shifted our work to the second igloo finishing it by dusk and we all moved into the igloos to settle down and eat our evening meals before retiring for the evening.
It had been warm spring weather the day of our arrival at camp, which resulted in icy breakable crust on the snow the first morning at camp. We ate our breakfasts and headed out on a short ski trip along the route to our second camp. We were a bit tired because of the igloo building the day before but we did make it to the junction of the Sweeney Creek, Fortification Mountain and Elkhart Park trails before heading back to our first camp for the evening.

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It had been a rather overcast day and the weather moved in through the evening resulting in about 6 inches of snow through the night. We awoke to a glorious sunrise and a pristine camp with the fresh snow.

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We decided to spend four nights in our first camp as two of the team members had only planned on spending four nights before heading back out due to work obligations.
With the fresh snow, Chris Townsend and I decided to go for a ski and check out the route to our second camp via the route I had planned before discovering that the route we had broken the day before was marked with blue blazes and very easy to follow through the woods.
We dropped about 200 ft. down through trees while on a northern exposure which had a soft base of snow with a fresh layer on top from the recent snow through the night. The skiing was some of the best I’ve had for a few years and was over much to soon as we reached a large meadow at the bottom of the hill before beginning the ascent along the route I had laid out from Google Earth. The route proved to be very fun to follow and we soon arrived at the trail junction we had broken trail to the day before which coincided with route I had planned.
From the junction, we found that the marked trail followed my planned route so we began following the blazes until we lost them shortly before a large meadow close to where we could join the Pole Creek Trail which would take us to our planned camp at the head of Miller Park. As the time was getting late and we knew where we were, we decided to head back to camp to enjoy the evening eating and relaxing.
Upon returning to camp, we found that my son and his best friend had built/attached a seven foot igloo to the igloo the three of us had been staying in. Chris moved into the igloo with the addition giving more room in the 9 ft. igloo for the other two team members.

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The following day was a gloriously clear day and we hung our gear out to dry on the branches of some dead trees while we went skiing around the summit taking pictures and doing a bit of exploring. We hung out at camp that evening socializing and resting for the next big day of moving to our second camp.

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Our fourth morning at the first camp proved to be another gloriously sunny one while Chris and I packed in preparation to heading out to our second camp. We also handed my son and his best friend any extra gear we weren’t planning on using and they took it down the mountain on their way back to civilization the same day.
It didn’t take very long getting ready to leave which felt a bit too hasty considering it meant I’d be saying goodbye to my son but Chris and I knew we had a big day ahead of us with the continued trail breaking to our second camp and building another igloo for the two of us.
It was a quick goodbye and we headed off down off the summit choosing the blazed route instead of my planned route because it dropped 100 ft. less and had been traveled much more giving us a well packed trail for pulling our pulks. The trail actually proved quite wide as my son and his friend had also snowshoed part of the route.
After getting down from the summit proper, the trail ended up on a shoulder that led across to the beginning of a rather long moraine that we follow the top of. The moraine dropped off steeply on both sides. The meadow, my planned route, laid some 120 ft. down to the left and Sweeney Creek flowed some 600 ft. below us on the right. The moraine ridge had a few rises as we slowly gained altitude while traveling along it. The trail however was marked mostly along a steady uphill course that wrapped around a bit when getting to one of the humps. The views were rather limited due to the thick woods but the going was easy and made up for the missed views on my planned meadow route.
We pushed a little harder than any of our earlier excursions of the trip and soon reach the Sweeney Creek junction where we stopped for a quick snack. The junction is at the south end of a nice meadow that the trail follows and the snow had softened up quite a bit with a wet slushy layer on the surface. A glorious day for sure as we ate in the sun and wondered how the two team members still at the first camp were faring with moving into the expanded igloo with the 7 ft. addition. We felt confident that they were going to have a blast staying an extra day or two before heading back out. They had supplies for the entire ten night trip but didn’t know how long they would hang out at camp.
After eating our snacks and hydrating well, we headed out following the trail across the meadow and then through some sparse trees before reaching where the trail starts a steeper grade. I’d noticed that the climbing skins on my skis were sticking a bit when passing through shaded spots after the meadow crossing, meaning that our skins had gotten wet while taking a break and crossing the sunny wet meadow.
We continued to push hard up the steeper grade that had enough sun on it that my ski skins didn’t freeze up. We soon reached a high point where our return trail, from this area, dropped down to the meadow below the Pole Creek trail. I skied down through the thick woods with pulk in tow and soon came to a spot were it made more sense to traverse to the meadow in order to reach the meadow at a higher point.
As I began the trail breaking through the cold powder my skins started freezing or balling up but I was just able to break them free with each stride. I also noticed at this point that Chris was no longer behind me so I decided wait for him.
I stood there a bit and he didn’t appear so then I moved a bit to see if I could get a different perspective through the trees. My skins had frozen up solid while standing and within a few steps I had about a foot of snow balled up under my skis. It’s a skiers worse nightmare to have the skins freeze up and there I stood wondering what had happened to my buddy Chris who I couldn’t even go help due to the frozen skins.
Quickly, I took my skis off to scrape the skins and apply some skin wax to prevent them from balling up so I could get back up to Chris if needed.
Before I could finish waxing my skins, Chris appeared while struggling also with freeze up. He saw me and saw that I had taken a traversing route to the meadow. He turned onto the traversing route and his skins immediately froze up. We both ended up scraping the snow off our skins and waxing the skins but the wax worked and we were on our way again.
We came out of the woods into the meadow that had been our furthest reach so far for the trip. We would be back to route finding and trail breaking again from this point on but we continued to push hard and soon crossed the meadow and headed up into the woods where the Pole Creek trail crosses the hill some 120 ft. above the meadow.
We didn’t know what to expect for a trail but we found a trail that was wide and obvious. The trail had also been broken a few days earlier by a snowmobile and the fresh snow that had fallen on it from last couple storms made it very easy to follow and easy to travel on.
Although it was still a trudge, the wax on our skins was working very good and the lunch we had upon reaching the trail fueled us enough that we made good time. We moved on while wondering what we would find when we reached the Wilderness Boundary. We wondered if the snowmobile had turned around at the Wilderness Boundary or if he had continued on into the Wilderness, which would mark the trail for us, as there were no blazes on the Pole Creek trail.
We found that the snowmobile had indeed turned around at the Wilderness Boundary but it also appeared that he was also a skier and skied into the Wilderness Area, which marked the trail even further for us.

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We followed the snowed over ski tracks until they reached a long meadow just before Miller Park. We then decided to start using the meadow system that stretch through the woods to the top end of Miller Park where we intended to build an igloo for our second camp. The snow in the meadows was much more consolidated and easier to travel on than even the snowed over tracks that went into the woods.
We followed the meadow system while passing through bands of trees that separated the meadows and soon came out into Miller Park a short distance from the pass where the Miller Lake trail drops over the other side and down to Miller Lake. From the pass, we headed south to our intended campsite on top of a high area I thought would give a great view. We found the high area wooded though and chose a campsite a bit east of the high point and down in a small clearing that was a little lower than the pass. It gave a nice view but not nearly as good as the view from our first camp.
It had been a pretty hard day with the strong pace we had set, so we ate a quick lunch before beginning to build our 8 foot igloo for the two of us, while hoping that the sun would hold it’s heat a bit longer and keep the snow surface soft.
The igloo building was easy as we began building with the 8 inches of fresh snow covered with a thin layer of spring slush but we soon used up the fresh layer and the surface slush also began turning to a layer of ice due to the east facing aspect of the campsite and the angle of the late afternoon sun. We ended up building the last of the igloo with the deeper layers of snow that also had layers of ice on top of them due to earlier spring conditions. Overall, the igloo building wasn’t as strenuous as the igloos at the first campsite but we still went to bed late after a late dinner.
The next day we took it easy, resting up and eating often, to regain our strength but still went to bed a bit tired. It had been overcast all day and we awoke to fresh snow again on our second morning in the new igloo with low clouds just above us giving us some pretty flat light for taking photos.

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We decided to get out skiing in the fresh snow to loosen up our muscles, do some route finding and begin breaking trail towards our third campsite above Eklund Lake.
The day seemed rather dismal as we left camp but as we traveled the small meadows and fresh snow lightened our spirits. The route finding proved to be interesting and slowed us a bit but we made good time and felt quite elated from breaking trail in the fresh snow. We passed the Photographers Point area without going over to check out the view because there wouldn’t be a view with the low clouds.
After passing Photographer’s Point, we traversed a hillside over to flatter terrain that led all the way to Eklund Lake. We gained some 30 ft. more than needed while traversing but the going was easy and we soon reached the junction of the Sweeney Creek trail and the Eklund Lake trail. The junction was in the middle of a large flat meadow that dropped down off both sides of the pass and the trail was completely hidden under snow.
Continuing on, we passed through some sparse trees and soon entered another clearing that led us to small rise above and west of Eklund Lake where we stopped for lunch.

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We had some views of the glacial knob just south of Eklund Lake as we were approaching the lake but the route we hoped to climb to the knob summit and our third campsite had been out of sight behind the knob. The route was also hidden by clouds as we began eating our lunch but the clouds moved a bit as we ate lunch giving us a clear view of the route up a steep slope leading to Two Top Lakes and the knob summit.
It was an obvious route and we felt no need to route find or break trail any further to our third campsite as the day was wearing on and we were looking forward to a fun ski back to our second campsite.
We had been skiing with wax instead of climbing skins because we weren’t pulling our pulks and the relatively flat trail going back to the Photographer’s Point area went fast, it felt heavenly to be skiing a packed trail in fresh powder. After passing Photographer’s Point, the trail started descending steep enough that we glided along on our skis, sometimes at high speeds. It was the best day of skiing on the trip, other than the short run down to the meadow from our first campsite on our third day of the trip.
It seemed that we got back to camp to quickly but we had a big day coming up on our return to Eklund Lake with our pulks and then climbing the 300 ft. tall glacial knob to build our igloo at our third campsite. We ate large meals, rested and retired early in preparation for the upcoming move to campsite 3.
After getting one of the best night’s sleep I’d had on the whole trip to this point, I awoke up to nearly cloudless skies and a glorious sunrise casting a warm glow on camp that promised a good day of travel.

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Snapping off a bunch of pictures and quickly eating a hearty breakfast, we soon set off with pulks in tow heading back up our broken trail to Eklund Lake.
It seemed a completely different world with the views we were getting without the clouds we’d had the previous day. We quickly made it to the Photographer’s Point area but decided we should press on instead of stopping for pictures as it was a ways off the route and we thought it wise to use the good weather for traveling and building our new igloo.
Onward we pressed and soon reached the large meadow with the Sweeney Creek and Eklund Lake trail junction where we stopped for a quick snack and a few pictures of the fantastic views of Freemont Peak and Titcomb Basin area.

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Eklund Lake wasn’t far and we soon crossed it and started climbing the steep grade to Two Top Lakes.
Chris had been breaking trail across the lake and up the beginning of the steep grade and he began to slow down so I took over the trail breaking to give him a break. I’d noticed that he didn’t hop in right behind me and though he was getting a drink of water or something, so onward I pressed. I’d noticed that the pulk was pulling a bit hard and I attributed it to the steep grade and the deep powdery snow. It was after all, a northern exposure and that suns angle to the snow didn’t appear obtuse enough to let the sun melt the snow. It was really heavenly snow with a solid base deep down and the going should have been easier but onward I pressed. I had gained a large hump in the open slope and was headed up a second hump when I got a good view of Chris, still taking a break below me.
I had just made a sharp turn back when I got this view and had slowed down in the turn but the turn was easy as it was a relatively flat area.
I knew that Chris isn’t slacker and he was taking a long break which caused me concern, so I figured I’d go to the top of the next steep hump and wait for him there or find our what problem he was having.
Funny thing though… I was about to find out on my own what problems he was having as I had just left the flat turn area and was heading up the steep side of the hump and the angle to the sun became rather acute and the pulk really started dragging. My legs were feeling strong, so I powered my way up to the top of the hump before looking back at what was happening. Upon looking back at my pulk, I saw it was pushing about a foot of snow in front of it.
I figured the solution was to shift my load to the rear of the pulk, so I stopped and rearranged my load. I then hooked myself up to the pulk to try out my fix before heading back down to see if Chris needed help.
Surprise, surprise…. The fix didn’t work and I realized that the bottom of the pulk had frozen up so bad that it had 6 inches of snow stuck to the bottom of it and was now pushing two feet of snow in front of it. It took everything I had to get it to move at all!
I again unhooked from the pulk to begin cleaning the snow off the bottom of the pulk to find a layer of ice on the bottom of the pulk.
I began chipping the ice off the pulk and exposed the bottom more directly to the sun in hopes it would also help melt the ice off the cold aluminum fins. The ice chipped off the plastic pulk very easily but the fins took a bit of chipping and melting from the sun. I also ended up rubbing my warm fingers on them to help.
I finished removing the ice and started putting some suntan lotion on the pulk’s bottom to prevent more icing about the time I saw Chris approaching. He had had the same problem and had waxed the bottom of his pulk.
Both fixes worked just fine but they had caused a good half hour delay.
The rest of the slope to the first lake of Two Top Lakes was much easier and we took a short breather at the lake to look over the last 130 ft. of gain to the knob summit. We were so close that we couldn’t see a best route due to the trees on the knob but I’d remembered a bit of a gully going up it, starting a bit further south along the lake from looking at Google Earth when doing the trip planning.
Chris headed up through the trees while traversing over to the gully and then took a right up the gully heading toward the summit. Chris had quite a head of steam ever since the freezing up pulk incident and I was having a hard time keeping up with him. The going was steep but interestingly beautiful and we soon reached a saddle below the actual knob summit. Chris dug out his camera as I pressed on to the summit.
What a surprise, the summit was way shorter than it looked from the saddle. I’ve had that experience many times when reaching false summits or peaks but I was surprised how the little knob had fooled me.
I was a beautiful sunny day on top of the knob with perfect wet and warm snow for building an igloo.
We very quickly ate a lunch while probing the snow depth looking for the perfect spot to build the igloo and soon had a foundation packed down for the igloo. The igloo building was easy as Chris could just pick up the snow and put it into the form and I could pack it as fast as he could put it into the form.
The first and second layers of the igloo went very fast but that used up all the close fresh snow and Chris ran into a deeper layer of ice that needed to be broken up and mixed with the deeper snow so I could pack it well.
This slowed us down some but we still made good time and it also started SNOWING. Yep, some clouds had moved in and we had a winter storm upon us giving us a lovely atmosphere for igloo building. Steadily we built until finishing the fifth layer of the igloo when the skies cleared off and we witness the beginning of a beautiful sunset.
It was too much to resist so we stopped building the igloo, took pictures and watch the clouds peeling off the higher peaks. It was truly breathtaking with all the colors and the speed at which it was clearing up.

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It didn’t take long though before the sun set behind some distant clouds in the west and the skies started clouding up again, so back to igloo building we went. We finished the igloo before dark and moved into our cozy home for the evening. We checked the weather many times that evening but it didn’t clear up again.
It had been an easy trip from our second campsite and the igloo building had gone very easy leaving us tired but not fatigued as we slept well hoping for clear skies in the morning.
It was a bit clearer in the morning but there was still a general high cloudiness that gave flat light for pictures, so we did enjoyed the sunrise and clear views of the peaks from our lofty home.

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Breakfast was great as well as the hot chocolate I had from my favorite mug before we headed out for a short day ski to keep the muscles loosened up and enjoy the day.

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We stopped at the saddle when leaving for the day and looked back up at the summit that looked so huge and ominous the day before but seemed small now with the igloo there to give some perspective.

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The snow was very nice with it being heavy enough that we only sank in about 10 inches but it was not too heavy to ski and also didn’t have a crust on it. We skied south towards the next major glacial knob south while descending and traversing the knob we were on until we arrived at a pass between the two knobs. We then ascended that knob by weaving in and around rocky projections covered with snow.
The top of the knob had a few to many trees to give a good view of our igloo but we came across a dead tree that had a huge burl on it. The tree itself was amazing but the burl looked like a brain.

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We got back to camp in early afternoon and hung out watching the clouds roll through the peaks and relaxing until sunset when we saw some colors in the clouds far to the west.

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I waited until the moon came up to see if I could get a glowing igloo picture before going to bed.

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Our plan was to ski back to our second campsite the next day and then out from there the following day. We once again went to bed hoping for clear skies in the morning.
I awoke the next morning felling so good that I fell back asleep only to wake up as the sun was rising. I hurriedly got dressed while grabbing the camera to go out and catch the sunrise.

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I was pleasantly surprised to see clear skies other than just enough clouds to make a good picture. Had I slept another five minutes, I would have missed the colors in the clouds.
Beings it was a few days after the full moon, the moon was still up in the west as the clouds glowed with color.

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We stared in amazement, as the sun got higher, changing the shadows on the peaks at a rate that made it feel like we were watching a movie.

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It didn’t take long for the sun to burn off what few clouds were still hiding in the cold shadows of the mountains giving us perfectly clear skies.

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With the clear skies and having already passed Photographer’s Point three times without going over to take photographs, we knew this was the day to stop by on our way back to our second campsite. We also knew it wouldn’t take long as it was mostly downhill.
We ate breakfast, dubbed on sunscreen and packed up leisurely while enjoying our last views from our wonderful vantage point.
The snow hadn’t changed a bit since our short ski the day before as we skied down through the small open glades of the steep knob with pulk in tow. The pulk was hardly noticeable as I checked my speed while cresting the scattered snow covered rock swells of the knob giving me plenty of control for a couple turns going down the steep side of the swells.
It didn’t take long, seemed to short again, to reach Two Top Lakes where we headed down the gully and snowfield that had cause us so much trouble on our trip in with the pulks freezing up.
The gully and large snowfield was perfect as we skied down it with me figure eighting some of Chris’s turns in the steeper section but I bailed out before reaching the lake to traverse out of the gully and end up at the far side of Eklund Lake.
Chris was able to hop on my tracks and soon we were standing on the far side of the lake putting our skins on and waxing them for the traverse over to the Photographer’s Point area.
We took a short break at the pass in the P.P. area to figure out how we were going to get to the point and decided to head down the pass a ways before dropping the pulks off and heading to the point by traversing along the lower side of the knob. The traverse was a bit longer than expected but we were soon at P.P. gazing into the abyss of Freemont Canyon with Freemont Creek some 2,000 ft. below us.

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Even though it was only mid afternoon and we knew it wouldn’t take long to reach camp, we headed back to our pulks and took our skins off. The descent from this point to camp was steep enough that we cruised fast, nearly making it across the few short flat sections of the descent.
We were back at camp very quickly and found our igloo to be in fine shape, which gave us a very relaxing evening at camp.

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We went to bed early knowing we had a long day ahead of us with driving back to Colorado.
Awaking early, we found overcast skies with high clouds hiding the tops of the peaks and we set off booting the 70 ft. gain to Miller Pass where we put our skis on and cruised to the Wilderness Boundary where we found that a snowmobile had been up to the day before giving us a broken trail for quite some distance.
We followed the tracks to the Pole Creek/Winter Pines trail junction and saw that the snowmobile had come up the ski trail.
We didn’t intend to go back to our first camp but instead had planned on going down the Surveyor Park Trail and the sight of the tracks pleased us. We followed the tracks and they followed the trail blazes for a long time before leaving the blazed trail and heading off in the direction of Elkhart Park. The trail was steep enough that we could ski it from this point in the spring slush that had developed since the skies started clearing a few hours before.
It was a long descent down the trail but it went fast and we were soon on the ski area run at the bottom of the creek. It was indeed spring conditions as the ground was appearing and the easy run became a bit of a trudge through the few inches of slush on the run.
We stopped at the brewery in Pinedale for a quick burger before heading off to Colorado and home. We got home at 11:15 pm very tired but still excited about the trip.

Climbingaggie04
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Re: Winds 10 night trip 4-13-09

Post by Climbingaggie04 » Tue May 12, 2009 7:45 pm

Awesome trip and report Ed! I'm jealous, after looking at your pictures I know that I have to go to the winds sometime. And those 3 igloos's that are connected are amazing! I'm totally going to try and do that next winter!

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Igloo Ed
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Re: Winds 10 night trip 4-13-09

Post by Igloo Ed » Wed May 13, 2009 10:49 am

Climbingaggie04 wrote:Awesome trip and report Ed! I'm jealous, after looking at your pictures I know that I have to go to the winds sometime. And those 3 igloos's that are connected are amazing! I'm totally going to try and do that next winter!
I'd imagine your igloos have melted some time ago. Glad to hear you are going to be staying in igloos again next season.
Keep in mind that you should only have one entrance as two or more entrances will result in a cross draft and you will loose a lot of heat.
Yep, the winds and the trip were both great. Maybe, someday I'll return with higher goals.

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Re: Winds 10 night trip 4-13-09

Post by trose » Thu Sep 16, 2010 10:47 pm

Great photos! and looked like an awesome trip :)
best,
tay


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