Packing Right for Mt Baker

I just came home from a 5-day, 4-night circumnavigation and summit of Mt Baker.  While I wait for the photos from Chrix and Dan, I thought I'd write a tech piece on what it takes to decide what to take, how to pack this...

...into this - a 42L, Black Diamond Sphinx pack.

Systems.  I pull things off the shelves by groups - sleep, camp, food, cook, emergency, clothing, technical, and bits and bobs.

My sleep system consists of a sleeping bag, pad, camp socks and camp footwear.  For this trip where we were camping between 6000' and 7000' on snow, forecasted for a low of 31F, this meant:

Feathered Friends Vireo sleeping bag (personally rated to 30F)
Thermarest Neolite Air full length (all ready packed in the photo)
Patagonia wool expedition weight socks
FF down booties - but just the inner pieces to save space
Ski socks - the spare pair that I'll pull on day 4

And this all fits into an XS compression stuff sack.  If I had used my FF Swallow sleeping bag (rated to 20F), I'd have to use a size small sack instead.

For tents, we needed to decide on what to bring.  The forecast was for light winds and moderate rain at middle and lower elevations.  I think weight is critical for ski tours, and being able to cook inside and pass around water is incredibly useful.  So instead of taking fully enclosed, 2-person tents, we took a Black Diamond Megamid.  It sleeps up to 4, and the floor-less design lends for setting up on snow, bury all the edges but the door-side, and dig out a lower floor.

My food was simple - three ziplocks of breakfast, lunch and dinner.

My cooking system is equally simple.  Since all of our meals require minimal actual cooking, and a lot of hot water, we packed a MSR Reactor stove.  I've found that cannister stoves work great, especially for lower elevations.  The Reactor is also has one of the fastest boil times, and a 1.5L pot.

When I have to melt snow for water, I budget 3oz per person per day for fuel.  So for this trip, that's 9oz per day x 4 days = 36oz, or 4.5 x 8oz cans.  Since we were considering staying out for a 6th day, we added a dinner and an extra canister.

Emergencies.  We needed to be able to repair any broken gear to continue out to a trail head, to repair any person enough to keep them stable, call for assistance, and to transport them to a site where we could wait for a rescue.

Brooks Range Ultralight Rescue Sled, with Pro Spreader Bars and extra ski straps
Repair kit with multi-tool, tape, key parts, ski straps, and zip ties.
Cell phone (not shown, but appropriate for this trip)
Adventure Medical Ultralight first aid kits
Brooks Range 8'x10' Guides Tarp - velcro lining allows it to double as a 8'x5' bivy sack.

I don't bring a lot of extra clothing - at most a pair or two of socks.  That means at the end of the day, when we were sitting in camp, I was wearing everything I brought except for my goretex.  It also meant that I didn't have a lot of extra clothes to pack away - so I pulled out the clothes I would be wearing for the trailhead, and packed the goretex, insulation, gloves and hats.  Because of the rainy weather forecast, I opted for bringing bulkier synthetic insulation jacket and a belay parka versus down.

For this trip, we were traveling on glaciers extensively and needed to be prepared for ice conditions.  So our technical systems needed to provide for safe travel and still save weight.

Beal 8.1mm x 30m rando rope - in pink.  The blue line was an 8mm x 20m rope that we brought along for crevasse rescue practice.
Black Diamond Couloir harness
3 locking biners
4 non-locking biners
shoulder length dyneema sling
double-shoulder length dyneema sling
5mm x 3m cordellette
6mm x 3m power cord cordellette
5mm autoblock cord
BD Raven Ultra Ice Axe, 50cm

K2 Backup, 174cm - not the lightest ski on the market, but I prefer how it handles icy and manky snow conditions.  Paired with Dynafit Speed bindings and BD Quadrant boots.
Backcountry Access Magic Carpet skins
BCA Carbon 260 probe
Dyanfit ski crampons
BCA B1 Ext shovel
My hybrid Life Link/BCA snow saw
BCA Tracker 2 beacon
BD carbone fiber fixed-length poles.

Finally the bits and bobs.  The little bits that have to come to make the trip possible.
Personal cook gear - thermos, 500mL nalgene, Fozzil bowl, spoons, iodine.
Navigation - maps, compass, gps, and notebook
Ski - skin wax, scraper, thermometer, inclinometer
Sun - goggles, sun glasses, sunscreen
Light - headlamp, second headlamp, 3 lighters
Other stuff - camera, blue bags (for the toilet)

With everything pulled and sorted, my goal is always to pack as much stuff inside the pack as possible.  The less things dangling outside of my pack means the less likely that something is going to fall off or get ripped off by a random tree branch or classic tomahawk fall.  So the long skinny stuff - like the probe, shovel, snow saw, and rescue sled spreader bars - fit in the water bladder pocket inside the pack, and they're convenient for a quick grab in an emergency.

Then I'll start stacking in my sleep and food, then my share of the group gear - emergency, cook, and camp.  My share of the tent or the bivy sack, is pulled out of the stuff sack and stuffed into the dead air space in the pack that inevitably forms.  Water bottles, lunch food, and extra clothing ends up on top.  My boot crampons fitted inside as well for this trip, so they were kept near the top for quick access.  The shovel blade fits on the very top, down the front of the back.

The final result - my ski crampons usually live permanently on the outside of my pack, and for this trip I needed to add my ice axe and the rope.  By the end of the trip I was able to fit everything inside.  The bits and bobs - and my hats and gloves - fit mostly in the lid.  Total pack weight:  41 lbs.