Mount Dickerman Snow Camping
Dates Camped: 11/10-11/11
Mileage: 8.2 miles
Gain: 3950 feet
Generally speaking, by the second weekend of November the weather is wet and dreary and I have resigned myself to weekends spent indoors hibernating. This fall we have been super lucky and had multiple weekends of amazing weather in the mountains and much to the dismay of my boyfriend, I have been taking advantage of as many as I can.
With another blue bird weekend forecasted, Sarina reached out and asked I would be interested in snow camping. I have only been on one other snow camping trip so far (you can read more about that trip here) but have since upgraded some of my gear and decided it was the perfect time to test it out and see if I am ready for more snow camping this winter. Once again Sarina was our trip mom and managed all the trip planning, and she convinced myself and Nikki of Drawn to High Places to come along with her. The window for snow camping on Mount Dickerman is pretty short as they close the Mountain Loop Highway during the winter. You have to hit it when there is enough snow at the summit to snow camp, but not too much snow on the highway so they close it down. Sarina checked the trip reports and we were in that perfect window so we decided on Mount Dickerman.
We didn’t expect many people to be spending the night at the snow covered summit of Dickerman so we left Seattle at 7:30am, a pleasantly late start in comparison to some of our other adventures. We arrived to a halfway full parking lot around 9:30 and started our hike to the top. Dickerman is a surprisingly difficult trail for how popular it is, and doing it with heavy snow camping packs made it even harder. At first I was getting a little butt-hurt over how many people were passing us on the way up, but I got over it when I remembered we would have the summit to ourselves for the evening!
The hike up was fairly slow and uneventful and we arrived at the summit in the afternoon. There was a crowd so we set down our packs and ate lunch while we waited for it to thin so we could choose the ideal spot to set up our tent. We also ran into a group of people feeding the gray jays. Please do not do this, they are cute and it may make you feel like a Disney princess, but there are multiple reasons why this is actually harmful for the wildlife (you can read more about that here). When the day-hikers dispersed and went home to their warm beds, we began digging out a snow platform for our tent. Nikki dug out a snow pit so she could sleep directly under the stars. Some people are a lot tougher than I am, Nikki is one of them.
After we finished setting up camp we ran around taking photos before sunset came at 4:30pm. Winter sunsets are my favorite, even if they happen super early. On the most bluebird days you get such a vivid pastel alpenglow (not always the case in the summer) We all ran around screaming about how pretty the sunset was before settling down to cook dinner and melt snow for water. During this process I realized that melting snow is my least favorite activity, or I need to do it BEFORE the sun sets while snow camping. It takes FOREVER to melt a pot of snow and it doesn’t yield much water. I planned on boiling water for my Nalgene to keep my feet warm in my sleeping bag, but after we finished melting the first pot of snow I decided there was no way I was sitting through another one. I ran around and did some jumping jacks to warm back up then stuffed myself into my sleeping bag around 6pm.
I reviewed my Patagonia 850 down sleeping bag in my last blog post and mentioned I was comfortable taking it on fair weather snow camping trips. After this trip I have changed my mind a little and started looking for a zero degree bag. I can’t say I am always a cold sleeper, but I am definitely an inconsistently cold sleeper. I have slept in this sleeping bag in the low 20’s multiple times in similar clothing. Sometimes I wake up cold and sometimes I don’t. I can’t find a real rhyme or reason for it, so I have decided a zero degree bag for snow camping may be my best bet! On this trip I had a sleeping bag liner and a puffy blanket stuffed in the bag with me and I still woke up in the middle of the night to put on my other jackets because I was cold. Thankfully, I packed three puffy jackets and a fleece hoodie! After adding all my layers I was extremely warm and slept most of the night.
Nikki woke us up for the sunrise since she was able to see it happening right away from her snow pit. I put my feet in my boots only to discover they had frozen overnight. Snow camping is fun, I promise. We ran around taking more photos before Rose of The Musical Mountaineers and her husband surprised us by hiking up for sunrise! We cooked breakfast then spent the rest of the morning in Nikki’s snow pit watching Nikki and Rose paint Glacier Peak. We started packing up just as the hoards of day hikers started arriving.
Overall this was a great trip and I stayed pretty warm! On top of a zero degree sleeping bag, I am planning on adding down pants and down booties to my snow camping attire to stay a little warmer on the next trip!