Ultralight in Escalante

Greetings from Escalante – just a quick note to ping the blog from our camp in Stevens Gulch. We’re on a trip with the Utah State Outdoor Recreation Center.

A group of four of us started at Hole in the Rock Road where Coyote Gulch begins. We followed a circuitous route through a variety of narrow slots into the upper Gulch, where we spent our first night out before joining four others with USUORC for night two near Jacob Hamblin Arch. We then followed the Gulch to its mouth at the Escalante R. before hiking up a mile to its confluence with Stevens Gulch. Five of the party remained here, three of us continued up Stevens Gulch til dusk and camped under a massive sheltered dome arch, where this photo was taken. Then it’s back down and out Crack-in-the-Wall to the car to end a fantastic, snowy, cold, wet, winter desert canyons trek. Ultralight – of course!

Some gear from my kit on this trip:

EscalantealphamidnanoSleep System/Camp Clothing: Alphamid Nano (7.5 oz), Vapr Nano Bivy (3.5 oz), Torsolite (9.9 oz), prototype down quilt (19 oz), Cocoon Pants (7 oz), MontBell Thermawrap Parka (14 oz, shown in photo), PossumDown Socks (2 oz)

Comments: This was dialed in almost perfectly. Being a group trip, the ability to hang out in camp and stay warm was a great benefit, hence the insulating clothing and lighter sleeping bag. Combined, it all kept me warm with nights into the teens. I would have changed nothing.

Escalanteryan_1Trekking Clothing: Headsweats Beanie Cap (1 oz), OR PS100 Gloves (2 oz), Smartwool Lightweight Zip-T (8 oz), GoLite Wisp HP Windshirt (3.5 oz, hooded), Outdoor Research Zealot Jacket (7.5 oz), Schoeller Dynamic Pants (12 oz), Gore-Tex PacLite III Knickers (3 oz), Smartwool Adrenaline Socks (1.5 oz), Timberland Delerion Pro Shoes w/Gaiter (24 oz)

Comments: I wore the cap, gloves, wool shirt, windshirt, Schoeller pants, socks, and gloves more than 80% of the time. This was a cold trip, with snow and lots of wind. When snow was really coming down, or when hiking after about 5 pm (when the sun went behind canyon walls for good), or when wading the very cold Escalante River, I added the Zealot jacket and PacLite knickers (just pants that I hacked off below the knees so I could get them on/off over shoes) for warmth and wind/snow protection. Changes to make: not much, but if I had more than a mile of the Escalante River to wade, I might have opted for Neoprene socks. My feet and lower legs were numb one minute after entering the water. Earlier in the season, had the water been colder, a pair of four ounce Curtis Designs hip waders would have been great! The Delerion’s may be the best “wet shoe” I’ve ever worn. They transitioned seamlessly between dry sand and wet wading, and only once a day did I have to take the shoe off to rinse out sand. The integrated gaiter and fine mesh body go a long way at keeping out fine desert sand.

Cooking/Water: Titanium Esbit Stove (0.5 oz), Titanium Foil Windscreen (0.1 oz), Snowpeak 450 Mug (1.8 oz, no handles), Titanium Spoon (0.4 oz), KlearWater Treatment Kit (3 oz), Nalgene 32 oz Cantene (2 oz), Platypus 3L Bladder (2.5 oz).

Comments: On high mileage days, I would have opted for a canister stove to speed the process, but in the context of this trek, lazy breakfasts and dinners focusing on social interaction was a real treat and ideally suited for Esbit cooking. All of our water sources were pretty clear, and silt was easily settled out after about 20 minutes, so a non-filter method of water treatment, such as KlearWater, worked well. The big bladder was useful for storing more water – we had two dry camps.

Pack: Six Moon Designs Essence (14 oz)

Comments: This is a quirky design that I grew to appreciate for desert hiking. Being able to plop the pack down on the ground and access all of its contents through its drawcorded panel compartment was more convenient than I originally anticipated. The short torso and too-fat thickness resulted in a poor carry with a full load of water and food (about 23 pounds) that caused the shoulder straps to pull you back with every step; but the real problem with the fat profile is that it’s not so slot-friendly. Durability of the fabrics was not too much of an issue but the mesh won’t stand up to too much bushwhacking in tamarack…