Like all good stories that lead to epic adventures the first step towards the great unknown starts somewhere close to home. Somewhere close to what we perceive as a comfort zone. And so after some preparation it was time to put the idea that had been in the back of my head for a long time into action. It was time to start with the #biwipowproject.
It was time to put the idea, get knowledge for surviving in the cold to do the best possible lines at the best possible time, into action. With the support of Ferrino and Carinthia we would definitely stay dry and warm. Before I begin I really have to thank Sigi (Carinthia) and Ana and Silvia (Ferrino) for their support. Expedition type equipment is not cheap and planing a trip with a crew of 3-5 people even less so. Without there trust and support we would never have been able to learn the skills and make it to the lines and adventures that will follow. But as I mentioned. Every grand adventure has to start somewhere and of all the most unlikely places this one starts at the place where I started skiing. On my home mountain next to my home town. Pohorje.
Winter was not exactly happening and we had doubts that powder would still take off. After all it was already middle of March and snow was scars, temperatures were to high and I won`t even start with humidity and weather patterns. It was in short all giving me a big headache.
Some of the gear for the project arrived and eager, reading up and learning from articles and books about outdoor survival for quite some time now, I wanted to try it out immediately. According to my grand plan this would just be a basic gear test. Put up the tent and sleep in a sleeping bag somewhere not all to high at around 0 degrees.
As I had to head back home for the weekend, and everyone had other plans not in the realm of snow and skiing. I threw all the gear into the back of my trusted old Vectrajet and was off not expecting to get anything done. On the road home I talked to my old buddy Jure and just casually asked him if he were up for a night of biwaking out somewhere close to home even in bad weather. He said “Sure, ain`t much going on in Maribor anyways!!”. “Get to know your gear” was the Motto before trying anything proper.
A day later I found a location on our local mountain. It was a bit bellow the top cable car station of Pohorje Resort with a nice view of the town. In fact the old FIS Downhill Worldcup race used to be run there. We would start late. It was 8 PM when we left town but that was all according to plan. The idea was to make the whole thing as tedious and hard as possible. According to the weather report a snow/rain/hail storm would be moving in above the mountain with 50 km/h wind gusts. Great. We would setup the tent in a somewhat safe location, not all to exposed to the full wind and then prepare dinner. For that we would use my old cooker and snow to make water. Then we would make some Ramen noodles.
We arrived at the top, took all the gear out of the car and started downhill. It was already windy and some ice like stuff was falling from the sky. It was definitely not snow. Clouds were moving in so visibility changed minute to minute from good to nothing and all the way back.
We found a nice somewhat narrow place and started setting up the tent, a proper expedition Ferrino Snowbound 3 tent. I had never set it up. Since we were in range of broadband internet that problem was quickly solved. Ferrino has nice setup videos on YouTube so you don`t even need to use the manual. So smart as we are we fired up YouTube on our phones and bam. At that time in the dark I did not notice that the tent had a setup manual attached to the inside of its practical bag until I saw it in the video. Again “get to know your gear!”.
Even thou it was dark the tent setup was really smooth and fast. After a good 10 minutes our little house was setup. And it was good timing. The wind started to pick up fast and the then the fog moved in hard.
After that we prepared the inside of the tent. We used the little self inflating Superlight 450 mattraces and a Nightec 800 for Jure and a HL Silver Pro sleeping bag for me. Since it would be very humid I was curious to see the difference between a down and a microfiber filled sleeping bag. But before we would hit the sack it was time to cook dinner.
And boy did that turn out to be quite the challenge of the day. We needed boiling water for the Ramen noodles. Unfortunately my gas cooker was one of the summer camping variety. It was also windy as hell and I just took a pot from the kitchen. Even after a good 45 minutes the water was still not properly boiling. Jure on the other hand had a propane paste box that looked like it came from world war one. Still in fact it did work. After a good hour and a half we finally had the Ramen noodles ready. Sure it was not a gourmet meal but it was would have to do.
In hindsight we made a few mistakes. First we setup the “kitchen” on a semi wind exposed spot. Sure we tried to shield it but it did not help much also because the gas cooker I used was not very good. The pot I took was far to wide and so we lost a lot of gas and heat. Not something you want to happen on a mountain when u have only one or two gas canisters.
By then it had fogged up completely and it was past 1 am. Late. Jure brought his laptop so we crawled into the sleeping bags and watched a bit of our motivational movie. Everest. We thought it was kinda fitting. We soon fell asleep. Then I woke up and noticed something. The ground was not very narrow so we kept slipping of the mattresses with our sleeping bags. That would be the second big error we made that evening while choosing the location we were not paying to much attention to the ground where we setup the tent. Partly that was also because of the darkness. After all it was already night when we arrived at our spot. Then I had a good McGyver idea to solve this issue. Put my fancy new Sierra Alfa backpack as rest for my feet to level out. Problem solved. I slept quite well dreaming of high mountains and snowy powder lines in the middle of nowhere.
Then the morning came. I woke up and noticed that it was a lot colder then the forecast had said. It must have been around -5 instead of 0. Thanks to our sleeping bags thou we were nice and warm. So warm in fact that I did not wan`t to move out of my comfy fluffy HL Silver Pro. But we would have to get up.
And so we did. When we woke up and I got out of the tent. Surprise. It had snowed a little over night and our tent had a crust of a combination of snow and ice on it. The first morning mountain trackers already came up looked confused at our tent. Expedition training they named our first try 😛 After breakfast we packed up an that was it. First night survived and I was eager to go higher. Next stop would be Soriška Planina.
After the trip I did a lot of thinking on how to improve our “workflows”. First of all we definitely did not pay enough attention to our surroundings. That is a lesson we learned over and over trough the course of the project and I can say now that after all the trips we are getting better. Level ground, wind exposure and exposition. These are all very important things to consider. Also our cooking setup was not good. We used to much time and energy, meaning gas and dissipating body heat from standing outside wind exposed for such a long time. With the high humidity even at only 0 degrees it was not very pleasant. So for trip one the takeaway here would be:
- Find level ground!
- Find a spot that has natural obstacles to protect from wind exposure.
- For cooking use proper gear. Do not take wide pots.
- Make sure your cooker is not wind exposed to save time and energy.
- If you can take some water with you to melt snow faster and bring it to boiling temperature before throwing the snow in.
- Take an extra pair of socks if you sweat a lot .