[pct-l] Snow Hiking with a Sled & choosing Boots

Reinhold Metzger reinholdmetzger at cox.net
Sat Nov 12 06:35:54 CST 2016

Hey Ned,
You are right about using a sled for winter hiking, especially on extended
trips when the packs are heavy with all the extra cold weather gear, snow
gear and extra food and like you said, you can bring a lot of luxuries.

Did you know there is a race in Alaska every February, one week before the
world famous 1000 mile Iditarod sled dog race, called the Iditarod Trail
Invitational & Iditarod Trail Extreme?
It used to be 170 miles but was extended to 350 miles in 1997 and follows
the historic snow covered Iditarod trail
Contestants go on foot, sky, or fat bike.

John Stamstad, a Mountain Biking Hall of Famer, turned Ultra Marathoner
has won that race 8 years in a row in 1993,94,95,96,97,98,99, & 2000.
John would go on foot, "PUSHING" a sled rather than pulling.

John is an amazing athlete, weighs only 135 pounds but has the stamina
of a bulldozer and has set some amazing records, including biking the
Continental Divide Bike Trail in 18 days..the prior best time was 6 weeks.

I got to know John when he called me in 2005 about the John Muir Trail.
It went something like this..."Ring,ring,ring...hello...are you Reinhold
Metzger?...yes...I'm John Stamstad, I want to break your JMT record...hey
John that's great".
To make a long story short, we talked about the JMT about an hour, I gave
him all the information and advice I could and wished good luck.

I called him about the time he was going to finish the trail and it went
something like that..."Hey John, did you break the record...Naaahhh...why,
what happened?...my shoes fell apart, I tried taping them with duct tape
but they kept falling apart so I bailed out...Bummer".

More JMT record attempts went up in smoke due to shoe or foot problems
than anything else.

It is important to have shoes that fit "YOUR" feet without causing "HOT
SPOTS" from pressure or friction points and are sturdy enough to not fall
apart from the pounding of a rocky trail.
Remember not all feet are alike and what worked for a friend may not work
for you.

Before you buy a shoe, try it out by walking around in the store for 2-3
hours and if it feels right, buy it and then take a hike or two and see
how they feel on the trail.
Better to recognize a problem before you start your hike, than after you
started your hike.

What has worked for me are High-Tev "Vector"
Been using them for about 20 years and just love them.
But remember, not all feet are alike.

Hey Ned, another good thing about a sled..if your girlfriend is not into
hiking, you can put the girlfriend in the sled and then the two of you can
enjoy the wilderness.

Kidding aside gang,...listen to Ned, he knows what he is talking about.

JMT Reinhold

Ned wrote:
Snow Travel: Pull a Sled, Instead!
Summer hikers, who are confined to the use of backpacks, don't realize that
in the winter, when everything is covered in smooth snow, they can put all
their stuff in a sled or pulk and tow it behind them! I've been using one
for 32 years..

Certainly this is nothing new. Snow-bound adventurers and polar explorers
have been using them for a few centuries. So, from a practical perspective,
what's so great about the idea?


- You're not high-centered because of your pack: better balance and less
face-plants in snow.
- Less fatigue when maneuvering over consolidated snow.
- You can carry more gear and luxuries!
- Your legs do all the work, so it's less hard on the back.
- You don't feel its weight behind you (if the snow is consolidated*).
- Packing is nothing, just throw everything in the sled!
- Emergency medical evacuation tool.
- Emergency shelter.
- Dog bed!


- More fatigue when pulling through fresh, soft powder snow.
- On downhills, it pushes you, so you are the going-forward brakes!
- Wide turns only, like a long truck, so it's not good in the trees.
- It slides both ways, even backwards (unless you have reverse braking).
- On steep, snowy traverses, some tend to roll or swing sideways a bit.
- May not fit in your car.

What is a sled?

There are many different designs, but most end up as a rigid, slippery,
enclosed container or open bed pulled by rope or rigid poles attached to
your hips. Mountain Education, Inc. has been using those made by Patrick
Smith (formerly of Mountainsmith) and his company called Kifaru.

These utilize a rigid-pole design of pulling (instead of a loose rope) that
we like better because when we stop on the downhill, the sled doesn't run us
over! They are shallow, rectangular, fiberglass sleds that have "tracers" or
skegs underneath to keep it tracking right behind you. They come in
different lengths and some can be converted to carrying an enclosed child
seat, too!

What does it allow you to do?

I can bring more luxuries, food, and gear that make trips into the
backcountry more comfortable, warm, and fun without strain or fatigue! They
are ideal for short, basecamp styled trips, but I have taken our 7-foot
rescue sled down the full length of the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra,
over all its steep passes and across all those creeks, for four weeks
carrying heavy and bulky camera and climbing gear without a problem.

You can bring cots, huge tents with wood stoves, chairs, BBQs, wood for the
fire (yes, you can build a fire on snow!), extra boots, blankets, and
pillows, solar array, family/group gear, and all that heavy, bulky stuff you
could never while backpacking.
Basically, it is your pickup truck on snow!


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