Being Walked by My Pet Sled

Last weekend we headed off to Mount Rainier National Park for some overnight winter camping and to test out the sleds we’d borrowed. Saturday was bluebird conditions with a well consolidated snowpack, easy for booting up. What a great day to be out!

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The three of us Girls on this training trip each tried out a different kind of sled. Leigh Ann had a wider, sturdier orange plastic sled with polks. Jenn had a commercial sled with rigid poles attached to a padded harness, and I had an orange plastic kiddie sled (no polks), the most common type of sled used on Denali.

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We left the Paradise parking lot loaded down with overnight winter mountaineering gear; much of it was gear we planned to use on Denali. I had about 60 lbs of gear with me. Initially, I only placed my snowshoes in the sled and attached the sled to my pack. This gave me a feel for how the sled handled on a beaten in trail. Jenn and Leigh Ann had more weight in their sleds from the very beginning, and so the “fun” began much earlier for them. We quickly realized that with any side slope, which is almost anywhere, the sleds tend to wander down the fall line, trying to drag you in the wrong direction, rather than the direction you are trying to go. I was much happier carrying a heavier load than being hauled down the mountain by my sled.

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Did I say this has been a really low snow year? When we reached Panorama point, we had to portage our sleds over a couple of rocky outcroppings. Really, there was no snow! Above Pan Point, we were above tree line and the slopes were more consistent. I decided see what hauling a heavy kiddie sled was like. I placed 60 pounds of gear in the sled and hauled from my harness….this did not last long. It was soon abundantly clear to me why most people haul the sled from their well padded pack. I won’t be hauling directly from my harness again anytime soon.

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So who’s sled came out ahead? We all thought Jenn’s sled handled best. It didn’t tip over. Leigh Ann’s tipped over the most. And my sled was somewhere in the middle, but maybe that was only because I didn’t have much weight in it on the way down. Can’t wait for another round of testing!

Sleds: I know so little

Some of Meredith’s fans in Kenya had a few sled questions.  Since I don’t know much myself about how this is going to go, I’ll answer the questions as best I can.

Will y’all take turns pulling it? Each girl will have her own sled.  That means that for our team, we will be taking four sleds.  Luckily, we don’t have to drag the sled the whole way.  Usually, climber’s only drag sleds to the camp at 14200 feet.  This is usually about day 10, weather depending.

Will it be powered/pulled by motor/dogs/etc? Sadly, “NO.”  We will attach the sleds to the backs of each of our backpacks.  100% woman powered.

What it looks like? Since I haven’t gotten mine rigged yet, I am going to attach some pictures stolen shamelessly from the internet:

What exactly will you guys carry in/on it? At times, each climber can have somewhere around 100 lbs of gear. Not all that gear will fit in our packs, because it’s a lot of gear!   At times, some of this gear will have to go in our sled and some in our backpacks. We have to haul food, fuel, camping, climbing and avalanche gear.

Along the way, we will “cache” gear (meaning we burry it 3 feet under the snow and mark it so we can find it later). We may “cache” gear that we don’t need right away and will pick up later (like extra food at Base Camp in case we can’t get an airplane out due to weather).  Sometimes we will do “double carries” meaning we haul some gear up high, “cache” the gear for later, and then walk back down to sleep in a lower camp.

Additional reading? Here’s some more… 

http://blog.alpineinstitute.com/2008/01/expedition-sled-rigging.html

https://www.wildsnow.com/2875/sled-pulk-polk-gear-skiing/