Winter Backpacking Expedition: Crunchy Snow That Never Melted

Lessons Learned When Your Expedition Leader is Wrong

Updated April 9, 2020

The following are some lessons learned and some experiences gleaned from a snow-filled backpacking expedition which happened right in the middle of January, in the mountains of North Carolina.

During orientation–a few days before the trip–we, the participants of this two-night camping expedition, were told to put our boots inside each of our tents, so the boots do not freeze overnight.

During the first day, we hiked on four inches of crunchy snow to get to a remote campsite, and during the hike, we saw no other backpackers, which, in retrospect, was a foreshadowing of the bleak night of camping we were to have before us. For moments, it was so cold and frosty, even the most talkative of us–a person who spoke non-stop during every moment during the trip–was quiet. As a result, the group went for long periods without saying a word.

In the evening, while we heated our food, if we put our cooking pots on the snow, the snow stuck its the bottoms. When we made a campfire, all nine of us stayed within inches away from the fire.

When we retired for the night, we slept in our tents on the crunchy snow, and during the night, we breathed in the cold, frosty air and put our lungs to the test!

Overnight, as we slept, we left our shoes inside our tents. The next morning, the crevices on the bottom of our boots had snow, as the snow did not melt overnight in our tents, as we were initially told.

During breakfast, most of us complained about having cold toes at night. Come to find out; the temperature reached an overnight low of 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Therefore, all along, the assumption the instructor made was the temperatures would hover around freezing temperatures–approximately 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and not stay below freezing throughout the entire day and night, which would give our boots a chance to warm up a little. Because the instructor was wrong in the weather forecast, and the students assumed the instructor would be correct in the forecast, we all suffered.

Because in retrospect, due to the freezing weather, the expedition probably could have been canceled, or we could have worn an extra layer of clothes.

The lesson is if your physical life is dependent on some else’s knowledge, don’t be surprised if your instructor is wrong about his weather forecast. Prepare accordingly as we all make errors in forecasting, so one must be forgiving or prepared in the matters of an incorrect forecast.

Related Link:
My Excuse For Not Cleaning Up a Public Land


Emy Louie is a consultant and the author of “Fast Trains: America’s High Speed Future.” From 2009-2016, Emy served as the “Director of Public Outreach” for the “US High Speed Rail Association.” Since 2008, she has taught continuing education classes on design and urban development to architects and engineers. In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her radio show. Emy has a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s