You are hereBlogs / jstookey's blog / Ultralight Backpacking in VT

Ultralight Backpacking in VT


By jstookey - Posted on 08 August 1999

As I sit atop Mount Abraham, I am in awe. From where I sit, I can look in any direction and see forever. To the South, I see a long ridge pointing over the top of many crests - hundreds of them. I see the ridge that I followed to reach this point to the East, I see The Great Adirondack Mountains - a silhouette looming over Lake Champlain - the blinding light of the sun reflecting off the water as it falls towards the horizon. There is a mountain pass that I look through to see the fields of a thousand farms. I can follow the lake North to Canada and in the South it disappears in a pile of hills. To the North, I see the mountains that I plan to head towards today - A ridge to follow that will take me through the 3 tallest of the Green Mountains. To the West I see very distant mountains that I can only assume lie in New Hampshire.

From this point, I can see more than just 4 directions. In between each of these, there are more and more huge natural wonders to look at. It's incredible, the number of peaks I can see from right here.

Just hit Little Abe @ 3900ft. Some Ski Hill. Nancy Hanks Peak 3812.

So now I'm up at the top of Sugarbush somewhere, by the fire, after a hearty meal of nasty spaghetti. I only brought 1 liter of water and that's almost gone so I'll be hurting in the morning. I'm in the upper-pine part of the mountain, so firewood is scarce. There's enough of it though, that I can stay warm in an emergency.

I found a spot with a somewhat soft place to lay with a dead tree making a good spot for my shelter: |\. I laid down pine bows and put my space blanket over the log - it's pretty good but it's not to the ground on one side so heat will escape. If I get cold at all, I'll have to fix that.

I don't know what I'm doing. This is stupid. This is going to suck! It's just going to be a long, miserable night of being cold and uncomfortable, I'm sure. We'll see. It might not be so bad.

Here is everything I brought with me:

- space blanket
- fleece blanket
- machete
- sweat shirt
- t-shirt
- xtra socks
- hat (winter)
- water tablets, knife, cord, compass
- 1 liter of water
- silver wear, mess kit
- a little Oats 'n More, pasta, tomato sauce, soup
- flashlight
- I'm wearing a t, undies, wool socks + pants.

Light's dimming.

It's now the middle of the night sometime - I don't have any idea when. I woke up a little cold. The fire was totally out - not embers left in the fire, but there was a small amount of heat. This is the only indication I have of time - it's been a while. I'd guess it's around 2:00am, but you're entitled to your own opinion.

I threw a large pile of birch bark into the fire, and re-lit the old logs. I'm cooking up some soup to get me through the rest of the night. I took down the tent so I can wrap myself in the space blanket. It's a good thing I brought a winter hat!

I woke up in the middle of the night again last night (now I'm at home, warm, many sleeping + waking hours after my return) to the sound of wind blowing it's way up the side of the mountain. "The winds of change". I knew from the sound of the wind that trouble may be brewing - wind comes from changes in fronts, and collisions of fronts cause rain to fall. Shortly after the wind picked up, rain started sprinkling down. At the time, I was bundled up in the space blanket and the warm blanket. I quickly laid the space blanket over me to act as a sort of tent: (Here there is a drawing of the space blanket lying flat over a stick figure) and wrapped up in the blanket. My heart was racing with fear. I did not want to panic, but this could quickly get very out of hand! I had checked out the weather forecast in the paper, and had foolishly counted on there not being any rain! I was cold, shelterless, and without much to keep me warm, and no hope if I got wet!

Through my panicked mind, I decided that I had to make an emergency plan NOW. When hypothermia strikes, the mind is one of the things that leave you. I don't know if making a plan ahead of time would do any good, but it sure couldn't hurt. Would I get firewood and try to stay warm and wet? Would I break into a shelter, where I'd spend the night wet? Would I go down the mountain to find help that way? I think I gave up thinking about it. "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it." I was staying dry, for the moment, and that's all I cared about. Thinking of an emergency plan boggled my mind because each possibility seemed hopeless - 1) There wasn't much wood to be found, even when it was light out. It was all wet, too. Plus I'd still be sitting in the freezing cold rain, left to walk for miles and miles, soaking wet, back to the car. The plan wasn't foolproof, either - I didn't think I had much batter life left in my flashlight. 2) I didn't think of that last night - it was a crappy plan. 3) I had limited flashlight, no money (not even 25 cents for the phone! I'm an idiot) and besides, who would be available at Sugarbush at that hour? Who would be driving around willing to give me a ride anywhere @ 4:00 in the morning? My only hope would have been to call the operator and to beg for help. That's probably what would have ended up happening.

Luckily, though, I did not have to resort to any of this. A few hours later, I lifted the suffocating cover I had, to expose the dull gray light of the sun struggling to penetrate the thick cover of clouds that loomed above me. I was psyched. I packed up my things, put some cereal in my pocket, and raced home. I had a garbage bag, and I put it over me - it was very small, and was like a wife-beater, but keeping my midsection dry was very important.

Soon after I began walking, my body warmed up. I felt tired and battered, and each climbing step was another small struggle. At the top of Sugarbush, I could look down and see a thick layer of clouds. By the time I reached the top of Mt. Abraham, I could see nothing but gray all around me. Small swirls of clouds flew past me and through me at very high speeds.

The final stretch to my car was very long. A few miles from my campsite to Abraham, then 3 miles to my car from there. The rain got worse and worse, but by that time I was in a t-shirt. A little cold, but I wanted to keep my sweatshirt dry.

So I made it back with not even a scratch. A little less sane than I was, but that should go away.