Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux – Trip Summary

Background

We are planning to do the Great Divide Trail this summer and wanted to take advantage of the long weekend to do a quick shakedown trip. The main things we were testing out on this hike were: (1) a new sleep system (MYOG double quilt and Exped Synmat HL Duo); (2) Andrew Skurka’s recipes as dinner options; (3) using my pack (GG Crown) without the hipbelt.

We decided on doing the Lower Stein Valley in Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Park since it was accessible from Vancouver and should be mostly snow free unlike most of the other trails closer to home.

Logistics

It’s possible to do the trip as a traverse (Dan Durston has outlined several trip options), but this early in the year there is still significant snow at higher elevations, so we stuck to the lower valley and just did this as an in and out. Getting to the trailhead is super straightforward – just follow Hwy 1 to Lytton, turn onto Hwy 12, then immediately after turn onto the ferry road and take a cool two car ferry across the river. Once you are across, the trailhead is about 15 minutes down the road – the road is gravel, but very well maintained so you don’t need 4WD or even a vehicle with clearance.

Itinerary

Our initial plan was to do an easy 3 nights/4 days: 13km to Suspension Bridge Camp, 16km to Cottonwood Creek Camp, 22km to Teepee Camp, 7km to the trailhead.

What we ended up doing was 2 nights/3 days and hiked the whole way out to the trailhead on the third day (29km). Up until Ponderosa Camp (at about 21km), the trail is in great condition; after Ponderosa Camp though there are quite a few blowdowns on the trail which slowed our pace quite a bit on the second day.

Most people seemed to stick to the first half of the lower valley – despite the parking lot being relatively full when we started, there was only one other group camped at the Suspension Bridge Camp with us and we were the only ones at the Cottonwood Creek Camp.

More detailed daily reports have been posted previously on our blog.

Shakedown Results

Gear Reviews

MYOG Double Quilt – My partner has a down allergy and there aren’t really any synthetic double quilts or lighter sleeping bag options than what we already have (Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina 15’s), so after a bit of research I purchased a kit from Ray Jardine to sew our own quilt.

We hadn’t used quilts before, so the first night (which got to be at least 0C as water froze in our bladder hoses) my partner was cold and couldn’t sleep until he figured out to tuck the quilt under himself; I was a bit on the cool side, but was warm enough to sleep. The second night was above freezing and both of us were nice and toasty.

Overall I think the quilt will serve us well on the GDT. I’d rate it to be comfy to 0C with normal base layers and good even lower with more layers.

Exped Synmat HL Duo – Previously we’ve used Neoair XLites with coupling straps. The Synmat Duo is so much nicer as there is actually no gap – if you are on the fence, I would definitely recommend it.

A few minor downsides to the Synmat Duo – (1) It seems to slide around more than the XLites (our tent is a ZPacks Duplex). Our sites both nights were quite flat, but each morning we found the pad moved significantly. (2) Since there is no gap, it is easy for your sleeping partner to invade your space and not realize it. (3) The pad takes up a lot more space in the tent than our XLites (183cm long vs 166cm long).

Dinner Recipes

We tried out the Pesto Noodles and Beans and Rice and would highly recommend both! For Canadians looking for a source of instant beans, we used Alpineaire Spicy Cheddar Bean Dip and it worked perfectly.

No Hipbelt

My pack was at 10kg including 3 days of food and 2L of water. Overall I was fine not using a hipbelt but definitely found that my shoulders were sore at the end of the first 2 days. Do I just need to build up my shoulders’ tolerance? I didn’t really notice any advantages for not having a hipbelt though in terms of how I was walking or anything else, so I think I’ll return to using it.

Photos

Day 1: Trailhead to Suspension Bridge Camp

Day 2: Suspension Bridge to Cottonwood Creek Camp

Day 3: Cottonwood Creek to Trailhead

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GDT Food Haul + Long Weekend Food Shopping

We are heading out this weekend to go hiking for a few days. Since we have all of our food earmarked for the GDT, we needed to pick up food.

We are using the weekend to test out some new recipes.

Some items are just for the weekend, but we bought extra for the GDT when it made sense. Stocking up on rice, more Snickers and Almond Bars on sale.

More on the weekend hike later!

New Gear Day: Exped Synmat Duo Sleeping Pad

Hopefully the last item we purchase (other than food and consumables) before we head out on the Great Divide Trail this summer.

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Overall the sleeping pad, stuff sack, and pump sack add about 100g compared to our current sleeping pad set-up, but when used with our MYOG quilt, we will save about 1kg and have a comfy gap-free sleep.

Weekly GDT food inventory haul

We made off a bit better than last weekend..

  • 88 Snickers bars
  • 60 Hershey’s almond bars
  • Various baby food pouches

All either on sale or for the best deal we can find.

We are learning! Combine Superstore flyer sales, order online and riding our bikes to the “click and collect” pickup. The only way to shop at superstore and feel relaxed when we are done!

Gear Review: Ray Way MYOG 2 Person Quilt

Currently, we use two Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina 15 sleeping bags. Kyle seems to have an allergy to down, so we are limited to synthetic options. At the time we purchased the bags, they were the lightest option I could find (1.2 kg / 2.6 lbs each) and we were able to purchase one left-hand zip and one right-hand zip to enable us to zip them together. Overall they work well, but they are definitely heavier and bulkier than other options.

Synthetic insulation hasn’t had too much innovation in the last few years and current synthetic sleeping bags have comparable weights. There has been a decent amount of design innovation though – namely backpacking quilts are becoming more common as well as dedicated two-person sleeping bags and quilts being available. Unfortunately for us, all the two-person quilt options available to buy seem to be down (which is great for most people!), so I started looking into making a quilt and found the Ray Way 2 Person Quilt Kit. There are also a number of online suppliers that sell the materials on their own. I decided to go with the kit option because it would provide all the needed materials (no worries about ordering too little or too much fabric) and it came with instructions and a pattern. I’d say I’m pretty average at sewing (mostly just use the machine for patching holes in clothing or hemming items) and I really appreciated having instructions and a pattern to guide me.

There’s a number of options when ordering – I went with the Alpine Insulation and Dual Colours.

The first step is cutting everything out – you will need quite a bit of floor space for this, we had to move our coffee table into the bedroom and switch the orientation of our dining table to make enough room.

After cutting everything out, you get to start sewing! I found it easier to use tape to hold things together rather the pins. The nylon is very slippery and it was tricky to get pins in the right spot.

Once everything is sewn (the zippers, gorget, and draft stoppers) it’s time to actually assemble the quilt stack and sew the insulation and nylon together. Since the stack is so thick, the instructions recommend using clothespins to secure everything.

You leave a small section at the bottom of each half to be able to flip it right side out. Then once it is flipped, make sure everything zips together properly and it looks right. Then you top stitch around the edge of the quilt and sew shut the opening at the bottom.

Once everything is sewn shut, you “quilt” the quilt and add yarn at even intervals to hold the insulation in place. The kit provides black yarn,  but I went out and bought some yarn that matched the fabric since I didn’t like the look of the black threads.

Then it is time to sew shut the footbox (if you want). This is the one place I didn’t follow the instructions. The instructions specify to basically fold the quilt in half and then sew the footbox – so you end up with a tall, but narrow footbox. I thought we would appreciate having more width, then height, so I didn’t follow this method. We’ll see how it actually works out after a few nights sleeping under the quilt. We did have enough leftover insulation and fabric that I could make a panel for the footbox to make it 3D and more box-like if we find this design doesn’t work.

Testing it out on our floor, we seem to have enough room under the quilt, but we’ll need to have a few nights outside to see if it’s warm enough. I’ll report back in the spring!

In the meantime, if you are interested in another review – Hiking Hammonds talk about making the quilt and how it worked out in their PCT Gear Review.

Gear Review: MSR Revo Ascent Snowshoes

We’ve had these for a year (we are on our second season with them), so I thought it would be a good idea to review them after we have had a chance to use them a season.

We started snowshoeing a few years ago but had always rented the shoes at the mountain. Doing this we got to try out different styles and brands of snowshoes. We liked the ones from MSR the most and started looking for a pair we could buy.

We selected the MSR Revo Explore snowshoes after checking them out at MEC. We put those on our wedding registry, knowing they were a big ask unless people pitched in. When the wedding came we were blown away and instead of smaller items our friends all pitched in and got us a our ZPacks Duplex (save that review for another post!). So for snowshoes we were left to buying them ourselves.

My coworkers we’re very generous and pooled money for MEC gift cards as a wedding gift prior to me taking holiday that year for our wedcation so that gave us a good pool of funds to use for gear. I also was fortunate to get a small bonus (in a form of prepaid VISA cards) at the end of the year. That left us with a lot of money we not only had to use at MEC but some extra to cover other gear. After listing out the gear we needed that year we were able to buy the REVO Ascents instead of the Explores.

I have to say I’m quite pleased with them!

We each got a pair. Natasha has the purple ones. I have the red.

Mass/ Weight

I can’t remember the numbers and we never did a detailed analysis on mass. We only planned to wear them for day hikes so mass was less of a deciding factor (although still important!).

They are not the lightest, but I really don’t feel fatigued with them on for a day. For how durable they are and how aggressive they are I think they are quite light.  We have used heavier ones and these are much lighter than some of the ones we have rented.  Unless you see carrying them on a multi day trip or a through hike I don’t think the weight is a factor to be concerned about with these. They are light enough for me.

Features

They are quite aggressive, as they are meant for ascents. I have had sufficient grip on packed, icy and powder. I don’t think I have slipped once in these. They have enough surface area to keep me from sinking in deep powder as well. Natasha has had similar experiences.

There is a heel riser in the back that you can easily pop up with the basket of your poles. This makes a huge difference and really reduces fatigue. Natasha’s feet are small and her boots are 3 season boots (with small soles) so her riser is close to the edge of the heel of her boots. It still works but I suggest testing the fit of your boots and snowshoes before going out for this reason. I wear a pair of Salomon X Ultra Winter Boots and I don’t have this issue.

The straps are appropriately placed and have enough stretch to keep them tight and not too tight.  The straps remain contained and don’t come undone and “flap around”.

Durability

It’s too soon to tell but they seem to be holding up. We went on several day trips last year (probably twice a month) and the most that happened are scratches due to my toes clipping. Nothing has broken or worn yet. The only thing we have had to do is wax.

Overall

I quite like them. The only reason I might consider another pair is if we have a heavy snow season prior to hiking the GDT next year and need snowshoes instead of crampons or microspikes.  These would be too heavy to carry. But for a two or three day trip in the winter they would work very well.