Crater Lake Snow Backpacking Trip

At times, I feel like a passenger in fast moving train on timeline. Zapping through days, weeks, months and years quickly. It just appears as a dream of yesterday. You put away due to lack of time. Years goes by, dream remains as dream. When it comes to physical abilities, age does not forgive anyone. You may age graciously, but you still age. Passing time can drift  you far away from your dreams. When old age called upon you, you need memories of moments that you followed your heart, than remorse  on list of unaccomplished dreams. Don’t put away your dreams. It never too late to throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover (Paraphrased Mark Twain words).

I have been longing to photograph Crater lake in winter for many years. It involves snow shoeing and backpacking in snow. Crater Lake gets on average 44 ft. of snow in a year. The lake formed when Volcano Mt. Mazama was blew off over 7700 years ago. I was under impression that road closes at Mazama Village at foothills for winter. Which means, one has to climb up 1100 ft. on snow to the rim and who knows how long to go around the rim for good views. So, I was putting this away to get proper training in back country survival skills in snow. I had to cancel the training last two seasons due to lack of time. Last week, I learned that road that leads to the rim is open in winter and people can snowshoe around the rim and camp anywhere on the way (at least a mile away from where you start). I did not want to push this to one more year. I have no experience in snow shoeing or snow camping. But you will never get that experience, unless you attempt. The secret of getting ahead is getting started (~Mark Twain).

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I invited Saket to join last weekend for snow backpacking trip. He never refuses to a photography trip into nature. Together we did our first backpacking trip as well. So we decided to give it a try. I rented snowshoes and shovel on the way home from outdoor adventure company. Picked up some supplies from REI. Going in to wilderness in snow and camping is very tricky. I don’t have a four season tent.  But snow is not in forecast for Saturday night. Even if it snows, I would not expect more than 2 or 3 inches. I went with my trusted Marmot EOS1P. Temperatures can go down below freezing, so I got JetBoil 4 season fuel. If your gear and clothing got wet, you are done. Hypothermia is a chilling reality one must dread while on snow for extended times. So I used a construction  grade trash bag as backpack liner to protect from things getting wet, especially my down sleeping bag. I also changed my sleeping bad to R4 grade to get better insulation. I know we have to sleep on 10 to 15 ft. of snow. Learned from past mistakes, I wore proper snow boots and gaiters to avoid snow creeping into shoes.

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With all the gear, our backpacks weighed over 50lbs. I know we have packed extra, but I didn’t dare cutting any corners. We decided not to go beyond 3 miles one way in this trip. To my surprise, walking on snowshoes was not difficult. Going down the slope was tricky, but it is fairly easy on packed snow. We hiked up 3 miles until we have wizard island in clear view and decided to camp out. We flattened area with shovel and build walls around to protect from wind. Later realized, how much this helped in the night. Wind was howling all night. Here are some picture of campsite building.

 

Sunset was amazing. Miles of snow surrounded around us below and hues of red in the sky…simply mesmerizing. We had to be very careful about cornices. Lot of them started to give away due to warming weather. Images at sunset and sunrise (next morning). I’m not particularly happy with sunrise image. I woke up late and did not get chance to explore and also did not catch sun at right spot (right spot is at edge of the mountains for maximum sun-star effect).

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Wind was pretty bad in the night. But we came out safe without any incident. Hopefully, next year I’ll attempt hiking around the rim

(~32 miles) in 3 to 4 day hike.

Happy Hiking

Swamy

 

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