I was only able to actually hunt for 2 half day periods. The rest of the time I was trapped in a spike tent on the side of a godforsaken mountain in incessant rain, wind and fog. The outfitter said it was his second wettest hunt period ever. That said, I had two close calls and actually got to look a big billy in the eye! It was just plain awesome!
I'm sitting here with so many thoughts running through my mind. I'm not even going to try to organize them, so try to enjoy my fragmented ramblings. All I know for sure is that my life has been forever enriched by the experience of the last few days.
What I learned:
An ice axe made me love my wife and kids more. It saved my life and arrested a death defying fall. I looked at it outside my tent that night and started crying.
Chicks in Xtra Tuffs are kinda hot. My wife needs a pair.
Never take being warm and dry for granted.
When trapped in a tent in bad weather, read a war novel. It will remind you that even when it's bad, it's not that bad.
Even the best Hilleberg won't win a fight against Mother Nature when she's pissed off. It wasn't much drier inside my tent than outside. A wet sleeping bag is kinda scary in that country.
I have a love/hate relationship with crampons.
Gore tex is fake waterproof.
I want plastic boots.
Your feet will make or break a hunt. Wet boots for 5 days tore mine to shreds.
SE Alaska rain is a different kind of rain. It's meaner.
Health and fitness are one of life's greatest blessings, second only to that of your kids'.
That sucked, but I'm tougher now. That became my mantra.
How inconsequential filling a tag is on a hunt like this. Most hunters end up with a rifle on this hunt even if they start out with a bow. The kill was virtually meaningless to me. The experience itself was enough, more than enough. Fulfilling.
Waterproof stuff sacks are worth the extra money.
Why can't someone make a waterproof backpack?
Prayers soothe and work. My backpack will now and forever carry a rosary.
Mountain goats make deer seem like wimps
Alders suck, wet alders suck more.
Dennis Zadra of Lonesome Dove Outfitters is the most conscientious and hard working outfitter I've ever had the pleasure of doing business with.
And that's about all she wrote. I'm a different man today than I was a week ago.
Can you share more details about the ice-axe incident?
And finally, where's the pic of the Xtratuffs plus the 5-1/2 feet above them ;-)
So the ice axe thing was gnarly. I was coming back after a failed stalk so I didn't have my crampons on. Rain gear on wet alpine is like ice. My feet went out from under me and I started sliding. I had about 20 feet of slope before a sheer cliff. I was sliding on my ass, rolled over to my belly, switched the ice axe to my downhill hand mid fall, swung it, dug it in, then grabbed the top end with my other hand and leaned in, clinging for dear life. It worked or I wouldn't be writing this.
Try not to tell the wife about your intimate relationship with the ice axe. Just hug her tight and tell her you love her. Trust me on that one...
When you gather your thoughts most of us would like to hear the story. Congrats on not getting hurt. Mike
Take care. Mike
Memories are still vivid, comments are raw and uncut. Welcome back to civilization.
Congrats on a great hunt...you got the brass ring for sure! Thanks for sharing your experience with us...and good luck in 2016. It will be all the sweeter next time around.
So sorry I missed this thread. Holy smokes! Sounds like you had an incredible adventure. You put yourself out there, no pun intended, and got back memories and experiences that few will get to look back on.
The hunts that push us , punched tag or not, are the ones we remember the most fondly I think. You did good man :)
PS Don't let your wife read this thread ;)
I took 3 pair of base layers. One did not leave the tent and was for sleeping only. I rotated the others and tried to somewhat dry them in my bag. Still, they never got better than damp status. Fun to put on on a chilly morning!
I took one Sitka Traverse shirt, and ditched another one that I had originally planned on bringing. Wished I hadn't. Could have used it.
I ditched my trusty Pendleton wool shirt. Did'nt miss it.
I took the Jetstream vest. Wore it once over base layers and under rain gear and it got so soaked with sweat that it was never usable again for the rest of the trip. That was a waste. Wished I had taken just a simple fleece jacket. Took a Sitka Kelvin Lite jacket which was nice around camp and while standing under a tarp for warmth, but too hot to hike in. I was still glad to have it. I also kept it in my sleeping bag with me and stuffed it into cold spots.
Took one pair of Sitka Mountain pants that never got worn. Was always just base under rain gear. Got cold standing still, but too hot to wear anything more while hiking. Would have like to of had some light puffy pants for sleeping and/or warmth around camp.
Took 4 pair of socks and wished I had more. One pair never left the tent and was just for sleeping. The rest were soaked through. My boots never dried out so putting on wet socks, while it sucked, was not really a big deal. Dry ones would have turned into wet ones immediately anyway.
Leukotape is way better than Moleskin. Wish I had remembered some.
I gotta figure out something for next time with my footwear. All but a couple of the guides wore plastics (Koflach/Scarpa) and glacier socks at times. I'm going to try those out before the next run and see if I like them. Another love/hate thing. All I know is my guide scrambled like a goat himself over stuff that I had to carefully pick my way through.
What I did right was to leave the one pair of socks and base layers inside the tent. As I said earlier, my sleeping bag got wet. Crawling in with dry base layers was a must.
I don't think I honestly did anything wrong with my gear choices, it was just really extreme weather, even for the area.
And ultimately, what I did right best was my fitness level. Othere than badly blistered feet, I felt fine the whole time. I was never sore or excessively tired. I actually impressed myself. Tons of leg work and a lot of weighted stability training helped big time! You are constantly straining for balance on a goat hunt so working those wierd little balance muscles in your legs and hips is so important. Squats and lunges are good too, as the big stuff gets you UP the mountain, but the little abductors and adductors keep you ON the mountain.
Some things I will surely take next time: A bivy sack. So what if your tent leaks! My wet sleeping bag was a major source of distress for me.
Some chemical handwarmers. Toss them in my boots at night to help them dry out, and just general comfort. I found great peace in warm things on this trip as they were so few. Stuffing my mountain house in my jacket while it absorbed water was pure pleasure for 10 minutes! HH Impertech pants. Even with gaiters, crampons tore my Sitka Rain pants to shreds. They are too expensive to destroy. And then the boot thing remains to be seen. Different leather treatment? Different boots? Plastic boots? Waterproof socks of some sort? I have 2 years to work this out.
Anyhow, if anyone is considering a trip of this nature and wants to go over gear, let me know and I'd be happy to go into more detail.
I've done a couple extremely wet mountain trips myself and know exactly how you feel. For the most part, looks like you had the "right stuff" and don't need to do too much tweaking on the gear list for next time.
As far as adding down pants, I love my KUIU Down pants for around camp and in the bag when it is cold. They weigh next to nothing and take up very little room. Also come in handy on the side of the snowy, wind swept mountain while glassing. Also, you are on track with adding a light weight bivy sack for protection.
Congrats on a great adventure. You'll get it done next time and oh how satisfying it will be.
The weather conditions you experienced on your hunt were sort of the 'worse care' scenario that I tried to prepare for on my hunt in the Alaska this season.
Luckily I only spent 2 1/2 days in the tent due to snow & visibility issues.
I was wearing the Koflach Degre Plastic Mountaineering boots - with my feet wrapped in Leukotape. Had no problems the entire hunt (and we covered A LOT of territory).
My sleeping bag was a synthetic Mtn Hardware Ultralamina 15. I could climb into this cold and soaking wet from head to toe with all of my layers on (except rain gear which was on floor of tent for extra insulating layer) and my body heat would warm quickly, plus dry everything out by morning.
I used a NeoAir Xtherme Sleeping Mat - Full Length. Great insulation.
Ended up just wearing 1 pair of First Light longjohns for the entire hunt. My body heat was enough to dry them out.
Brought 3pr First Lite Red Desert Boxers + 3pr Darn Tough 1441 Hike Trek CoolMax socks (INCREDIBLE wicking).
Used one hooded Sitka Traverse shirt - was great (Very Stinky by Day 7). Agree on the Jetstream Vest... what a disappointment. Will be looking for a fast-drying fleece layer.
Sitka Timberline Pants were great - waterproof seat and knee-pands in the shale were appreciated. I did not wear crampons.
Montbell Thermawrap Pro was my Top insulating layer + Mtn Hardware Compressor Pants on the bottom. Love quick drying synthetics.
KUIU Chugach rainset went on top of this. It exceeded my expectations.
Used lightweight wool DeFeet Handskins Black as my primary glove, then OR Mt. Baker Mitt + Hestra Primaloft Liner when sitting glassing. I was in shale, so different impact on glove liners, etc.
I brought "God is My Co-Pilot" written by Flying Tigers ACE Robert L. Scott... not exactly "PC" by today's standards...
Also had a UCO Emergency Candle... was lit a handful of times at night in the tent. There were a couple times my Camelback hose froze solid and the main bag started to get slushy.
Sitka ballcap + Carhart acrylic beanie underwhelmed... I need to figure out a better solution to managing wet/cold headgear (providing adequate sweat management).
Brought individually wrapped butter paddies to add to my Mtn House dinners so I was consuming fat... have found in the past that simple carbs and salt get burned up quick, some additional Fat gets metabolized slower by the body keeping the body warmer longer. (Read Conover's: "A Snow Walker's Companion" about the importance of food consumption on physical warmth).
Would be interested in bringing long-handled axe next time...
As for headgear, I used a Montbell merino watch cap. Worked great. Enough, but not too much. I'd yank it off when climbing and then put it back on when we stopped. I also had a Sitka ball cap which was a waste. Nothing against Sitka, but no need for a ball cap. All it did was block my vision when climbing.
As for the ice axe, yes, I used one of the stand up models that you can also use for a walking stick. I loved it. Black Diamond model. I could see a use for it even in lower 48 and drier climates.
Can you give us a link to the glacier socks?
Ever try Montana Pitch Blend on your boots. I think its better than most leather treatments.
I would experiment with the bivy. I have found I got wetter from the inside when using them. Lots of condensation. Maybe it was just the conditions.
Did you need crampons or would a less aggressive micro spike do?
Great learning experience and a good lesson for all of us. You will get it done in 2016.
Good luck, two years to prepare :)
Sounds like you did a ton of things right, but can't beat mother nature.
I will definitely experiment with the bivy. Since my tent was on a slope, it was the lower end of my bag that got wet by my feet. I tried to slip inside a trash bag and that just made it worse with condensation so it would have to be something breathable.
I don't think micro spikes would have cut it. The alpine ground cover in that area is thick and spongy. You need some serious bite. Not sure the micros would drive deep enough. They sure would be easier to walk on though. The big teeth crampons are just miserable. They wear out your lover calves, make your boots rub weird, pick up crap constantly, sometimes grab when you don't want them to, and tear your pant legs up, but man, you sure breathe a sigh of relief when you put them on.
I require all my Goat hunters to get Caulk boots. They work on steep wet ground. I also suggest, like I did in Nate's other thread, to have a pair of socks for every day.
I also take Bivi sacks on my hunts to be used in emergency situations. We have used them occasionally. It must be a very good grade of Bivi like the OR top end ones to work well. They are spendy.
We also use good tents that don't get wet except for condensation.
We get much more rain, in the Misty Fjords, commonly than the Cordova area.
I'm going to try the Seal Skins or Rocky Goretex before next go round. Any experience with the Rocky ones Muskeg?
Also, the tent I was in was a Hilleberg Nallo. Not sure how you can do much better than that in terms of quality. The weather was just that bad.
Nothing better than the Hilleberg. Just with 100% humidity then you will always get condensation. If it gets to freezing then you will have frost for sure. Almost always your sleeping bag will get wet and without wind or sun, just can't dry out.
Don't think a bivi sack inside a tent will help.
The plastic boots might not be so great for stalking. Maybe others can elaborate.
The Koflach plastic boots my guide had had a typical rubber vibram sole. They weren't noisy at all. I was thoroughly impressed. Some guys love em and some hate em. From what I understand they can be hard on the knees. Since your ankles are locked in, your knees take on all the torsional stress. Again, I'll have to try them out myself as like most things with boots, it comes down to personal preference.
Tell us about the Billy you stared in the eye?
As for the close encounter, we had goats up on the tip of a peak with a good approach from the backside. We got up there perfectly and had a goat in a perfect spot. We assumed his buddies were right next to him.. It was going to be a shot inside of 30 yards on one of em, I just had to work my way up to the ledge to shoot down. As I was poking along with about 20 more yards to reach the ledge, we almost stepped on a big billy that was unseen off to the side of us. It was a stare down for a few seconds, then he spooked and ran towards the initial one, And spooked that one. I was at full draw as he ran around a knob underneath us, and then stopped to look back. Without ranging, I guessed him at 40 and cut the shot just over his back. He was downhill at 34.
I had one other perfect stalk on a big billy that just decided to up and move for some reason. We never spooked him, he just headed for greener pastures. When I peaked over for what should have been a 25 yard shot, he was out feeding at 140.
In both cases, I had all day to reach over and take the rifle off my guide's shoulder for an easy shot, but that wasn't what I went there for.
I'm taking a Hilleburg Nallo 3GT to Kodiak in two weeks, hope ours holds up better. Did you have the vents open in it? This is one of the first reports I've read of a Hille leaking or having condensation. Although I've had minor condensation due to the vents being closed, thankfully nothing serious.
Wet sleeping bags suck... What did you use, not sure if you mentioned it up above.
Actually, the zipper on the door was broken so all I had was the screen and then the vestibule. I had plenty of ventilation so no condensation. My issue was soaking up from the floor and the slow drip from the small pool of the roof.
See above for bag comments.
First, I'm glad that you made it home to your family OK. Second, you are a great example of attitude is everything. Loved your original post, short & succinct.
Awesome post! Thanks for sharing your amazing experience.
Great thread!! Man, you really brought back some memories for me!!