One of the sayings I often find myself using is, "There is more than one way to skin a cat." Aside from the obvious negative imagery this may conjure up it does have real application in many of the activities that we offer at Sierra Mountain Guides (SMG). In this case it relates directly to a fundamental methodology regarding how we use, travel, and enjoy the backcountry. This summer I had the opportunity to tag along on the first day of a Mammoth to Yosemite Fastpacking trip. This "cat" can be skinned a number of ways. We chose to travel light, efficiently, well planned, and well packed. This allowed our crew to travel the roughly 42 miles in three days instead of the more common 5-8 days.
You might ask yourself what it takes to do a trip like this. The simple answer is NOT MUCH. When we are Fastpacking we are "skinning" any unnecessary items from our packs. This allows us to move without being weighed down by the more typical 30-50lbs you would have on a longer trip. You couple that with a Tuolumne resupply and your talking about 14 pound packs for a three day trip. That is one svelte cat. Skinning that weight allows you to move. You don't have to rush, run, hurry, or scurry. You are free to just move. You can cover ground. To get to that point it starts with thorough planning and preparation.
When you are skinning the lbs. you have to consider everything. Truly, every ounce counts. You need to use lightweight gear. Your pack, pad, shelter, and bag and be reduced to a very light weight kit. At SMG we work with CAMP USA to accomplish those goals. They make some of the lightest and most functional gear in the world.
In addition to your main gear, your selection of clothing, food, and extras is critical. I highly recommend to folks to take a critical look at their kits and figure out what is REALLY needed. That is different for everyone, but with a realistic approach to the time of year, weather forecast, and specific trip you should be able to get your three day pack in the 12-14lb range (that includes water).
Once on the trail you don't have to be a rockstar athlete to cover ground. With a light pack it just isn't that bad to click off the miles. Depending on the trip you shouldn't have to carry much in the way of water. On this trip we used and gravity fed MSR filter for our group. That allowed us to easily fill up at water sources.
Because you aren't running or bing crushed under the weight of a big pack you are able to take in the scenery, take lots of photos, and not miss the small things.
In many ways this trip has it all. High altitude lakes, peaks, deep valleys, and then to finish in Yosemite Valley is the icing on the cake.
All things being equal I would say that this "skinning" is the way to go. You could take the fat cat approach and carry the extra weight but for me Fastpacking is it. Thanks to Jeff and crew for a great trip!
|Sunrise on the trip.|
|Here is SMG Lead Fastpacking Guide Jeff taking the time to plan and prepare the group for a successful trip.|
|Here I am in the Orange CAMP Magic jacket (4.3oz!) I am also using the CAMP M3 Light pack (1lb 12oz for 30 L!)|
We began our adventure at the Mammoth Mountain Inn and took the shuttle down to the Agnew Meadows high trail.
|Jeff and crew waiting for the shuttle with Woolly in the background.|
|Shuttle to Agnew|
|Sierra Tiger Lilly|
|Some of the "Blow Down" from last November.|
|The crew with Banner and Ritter in the background.|
|Heading to Thousand Island Lake with Banner in the back.|
As the miles tick by you don't get those tired shoulders, hips and feet. We were able to cruise along taking short breaks every hour or so and we still had time to enjoy a great lunch at Thousand island lake.
|Lunch spot on our first day.|
|Just another Sierra (Range of Light) sunset.|
|Cruising on good trail.|
|Looking down into the Valley on day 3|
|Day 3 in the Valley with smiles all around.|
Here is a short video from this trip showing Fastpacking in action.