My first mountain tent---and why?

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Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 15, 2010 - 09:53pm PT
My First Mountain Tent and why?

Late summer 1972 I was back in Idaho’s Sawtooth Range with Harry, David, & some river-guide friends. The weather was unkind.

I pitched my plastic tube-tent.

It snowed 4 inches overnight and I awoke with snow in my nostrils and elsewhere.

The morning weather was promising.

The river-guides all left, explaining that: “it was going to be the Saturday night stomp in Stanley, and that beat freezing their asses in the mountains”.

The day was OK, but we didn’t climb much.

It snowed another 4 inches overnight and once again I had snow all over my upper body in the night.

Sometime that night I had the: revelation, epiphany, and the catharsis:
I needed to buy a decent tent!

Since the three of us were soon headed for the Cascades, and then Bugaboos, to climb----it had to be a 3-person tent.

I had a summers worth of river guide wages and tips to blow and could buy the best.

The best 3-person tent in 1972 was the Sierra Designs 3-man.

Pilgrims: this is when tents were still built in California with skill and care. Set me back $150.00.

It was a thing of beauty and was “the state of the art” until North Face started building dome tents in late 1975.



Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 15, 2010 - 10:31pm PT
Oh Dave: You would have fit into the U of Idaho fraternity whose members cut down a "dead larch" next to their frat-house one winter.

Larches are conifers that turn yellow and drop their needles every fall. The Canadian larch is a high altitude variety.

Larches really brighten up the fall forest view in the northern-Rockies.
rockermike

Trad climber
Berkeley
Jan 15, 2010 - 10:52pm PT
I loved those three pole SD mids. Like a lot of gear from that era they give me a deep feeling of happiness just seeing pictures of it. Not sure why. I guess there was just more adventure in the universe back then. Whatever it is, when I see '70s gear, tents, ice axes, skis, super gators, whatever, I get a little spark in my eye that has been long missing. My first decent tent was a North Face Sierra (I believe). Two person with two a-frame poles. Hard as hell to set up in the wind and snow. must of needed 18 stakes to make it taught. But damn did I feel secure with that thing after years of tarping it.

I guess the world is just brighter when you're young and there is so much to explore still...
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jan 15, 2010 - 11:03pm PT
It was a thing of beauty and was “the state of the art” until North Face started building dome tents in late 1975.

That was a big change. To be able to go out in just about any conditions and know that your shelter would not blow apart took a huge load off the mind. Couple of shots here of one of the early North Face domes. I think this was called a VE-24.

Looking out the front door on a perfect morning.

No need for bombproof shelter in conditions like this, but a couple of days earlier the wind was over 60mph and the tent didn't even flap.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 15, 2010 - 11:23pm PT
Ghost: I think yours was the most practical and most popular of the pre-1980 North Face Domes.

The first was the Oval Intention. It was a near perfect Bucky Fuller geo-dome, but a bitch to set up. There were three different pole sizes, with two poles in each size. You had to thread poles through the correct metal rings, from memory and intelligence.

The gear freaks loved it----and the others hated it.

We took one to Deborah in 1976. I had many friends that bought that tent, and I happily used theirs.

rockermike

Trad climber
Berkeley
Jan 15, 2010 - 11:44pm PT
hey love those Rossi skis to the left in Ghost's picture. That's what I mean. They skied worth sh#t compared to my 120 wide Atomics today, but I was having way more fun.

In fact, I still have mine and they are for sale for any collectors out there. $25 and they are yours. Still in quite good shape with cable bindings on them.
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jan 15, 2010 - 11:50pm PT
There were three different pole sizes, with two poles in each size. You had to thread poles through the correct metal rings, from memory and intelligence

Yeah, that kind of complicated thing might work as a base camp tent, but setting it up in a full-on howler is next to impossible. But the poles on the VE-24 were all the same length, and they threaded pretty easily. It accommodated three people reasonably comfortably (well, short people), and two in luxury, and weighed just 8.5 lbs all in. And considering that it would stand up to anything short of a nuclear explosion...

In my mind, the introduction of those tents was like the introduction of sticky rubber, or Friends, or Gore-tex, or curved tools... A real game-changer.

Edit to add: The other huge difference (aside from being so bomb-proof) was that they were self-supporting. If the ground was too hard, or too soft, to stake out a tent it didn't matter.
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2010 - 12:07am PT
rocker Mike & Ghost: Speaking of vintage equipment. In the Oval Intention photo are: a Chouinard bamboo axe, a silver (mithral) Jensen pack, the bottom of a green Jensen pack, and a Kelty Tioga frame pack.

The item I cannot remember or identify is the long metal item laying on the silver Jensen pack. We didn't carry pickets. Was it a curiosity we found on the hike in?
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jan 16, 2010 - 12:11am PT
The item I cannot remember or identify is the long metal item laying on the silver Jensen pack

Your stick clip?
Fritz

Trad climber
Hagerman, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 16, 2010 - 12:19am PT
The tent owner Frank was a "gear feak"-----maybe it was his expandable crevasse-vaulting pole?

Probably some kind of picket that Frank brought.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 16, 2010 - 12:20am PT
My first tent that I could call my own was the tube tent I had in high school. That piece of plastic had some proud moments in adventure...

...the next tent was a "real" mountain tent that Debbie and I made in 1980 ourselves out of the book The Budget Backpacker by L. A. Zakreski ISBN 0-87691-189-0 which went along for many trips to the White Mountains and to Canada in 1985. I think it is in the garage in an old equipment bin still rolled up in it's stuff sack. It had become a bit mildewed and unacceptable to most people for staying in. I remember traipsing all over the garment district finding cheap nylon and other raw materials... couldn't have afforded a store bought tent in those graduate student days.

I don't have a good "showroom" shot of it,


here Mike is putting it up in Canada on the first Mt. Robson trip

Sometime in the late 80s I decided that stuffing three big guys into a homemade two man mountain tent was not optimum. It turned out the International Mountain Sport had a great collection of tents for sale. I bought a three man "Hyperspace" which was marketed in the US by Wild Country.

I still use that tent today. It is currently marketed (amazingly enough, I bought a new fly from them last year!) by Terra Nova in the UK (http://www.terra-nova.co.uk/Brand/Terra_Nova/Tents/Hyperspace_GREEN.html);.

Mike and Lawrence with the tent on the Columbia Ice Fields on our way to Mt. Columbia (we never made it).


It no longer has the yellow/gray rain fly, the victim of high altitude UV (I am very proud to say that!) Many of you have seen the red fly it now sports... and the very high tech lines that have reflective threads to make it easy to see by head lamp!

I suspect this is my last tent, unless it meets with some untimely death. The floor is pretty good, but leaks a bit... nothing a ground cloth can't deal with.

Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Jan 16, 2010 - 12:26am PT
I remember traipsing all over the garment district finding cheap nylon and other raw materials...

You American yuppies...

When I was at that stage of my gear-buying (or not-buying) I couldn't even afford to go out and buy nylon. A couple of bedsheets became my first tent. (True)

John Moosie

climber
Beautiful California
Jan 16, 2010 - 12:34am PT
My first tent was not a tent. It was a bivy sack I made from some heavy duty plastic that I hot glued. Too ignorant to know about condensation, the first night out I got cold and put my head under the plastic. Woke up in the morning with a soaked bag. It gets worse. My bag was cotton. Oh well, youth. I survived.

First mountain tent. VE24.
Jay Wood

Trad climber
Fairfax, CA
Jan 16, 2010 - 01:06am PT
About 1969- North face mountain tent- single pole in the back, wonderful wine color. I loved that tent- many winter adventures. Stolen from friend's car. Replaced with Sierra Designs classic A frame mountain tent. Still have it, but it languishes. The floor is patched from the tools dragging it- fully loaded - from where it was pitched slightly outside the C4 boundary- pissed.

The first tent I loaned to friends for Shasta climb. They came back apologetic- "Your tent got STRETCHED." High winds, they were waiting for it to shred and blow away any minute.
Tom

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Jan 16, 2010 - 03:10am PT
A wussie would die, but there are no wussies here.

Mungeclimber

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Jan 16, 2010 - 03:18am PT
The first mtn tent that I wanted was the Moss Olympic. what a cool design. sexy look, spacious, vestibule, quality, etc. The VE24 was the staple. This was 89, i think.
aguacaliente

climber
Jan 16, 2010 - 04:07am PT
Not a mountain tent, but I still have the Eureka A-frame tent that my dad took us kids backpacking with, over 30 years ago (30!! what happened?) It smells bad from the waterproof coating degenerating but I haven't brought myself to get rid of it. Still have the old brass pack stove from the same times and I am never getting rid of that!
Tobia

Social climber
GA
Jan 16, 2010 - 07:18am PT
Early Winters Light Dimension. Two Person tube tent... I believe the first to be made of gortex. It only weighed 5#'s. It was promoted as a 3 season tent. An expedition grade tent The Omnipotent was touted as one of the best designs of it's time.

My first year in Yosemite 1978 and I needed a tent. A new friend at the time, Steve Sereda, was helping me figure out what to buy. He was very knowledgeable about equipment so I spent the $200 plus on it and it turned out to be a great tent.

The seam seal work was tough and I missed a little bit... The first time it snowed the gortex worked great but the seams where the support rods fit into the floor leaked like a sieve. I woke up in a pool of warm water...

Early Winters is no longer around as I just discovered on a decent website about the evolution of mountaineering (backpacking) gear from 1945 to present http://www.oregonphotos.com/Early-Winters-1.html. The website also has some good info on all the innovators of gear.

There is a picture of Light Dimension on this web page.
hooblie

climber
from where the anecdotes roam
Jan 16, 2010 - 10:39am PT
north face made an obscure tent called a morning glory. not much for extreme conditions, it was kind of a staked out big top, the seductive feature had to do with catenary ridge lines. grace over practicality, the romantic's creed.

went through the tube tent debacle too. trial by sop. that's how we rolled, sporting mildew, proud of the innovative tiedown tabs.

an earlier era yet, first boy scout checklist included ground cloth. i showed up with a green canvas boat cover made water proof
by the paraffin saturation technique. the thing would barely unfold. it was my first taste of trudging devastation,
stooped over sucking singlefile traildust.

ah, the throbbing of engorged limbs, hapless victims caught up in symmetrical acts of severance before straps had pads.

and as to why...maybe because the only worse fate would have been being left behind, never to deploy my folding trenching tool.

hell i wrestled in the 65lb category in seventh grade, what could i have weighed just days after tossing
my little blue cubscout cap into the air?
Scared Silly

Trad climber
UT
Jan 16, 2010 - 11:30am PT
My first tent was an Eureka Timberline. My parents bought it for me when I was about 14. Great little tent but heavy. Later in high school I moved up to a North Face Toloume. A frame in the front and a single pole in the back. I remember taking it with me a on a day trip with my girl friend and forgetting the poles!! Fortunately a few branches worked so we got to snuggle while it rained. Could never do that with a VE 24 which while most raved about I thought was a POS. The floor design, six equal sides, was never very good as one always ended up cramped against the sides with three people. Sierra Design's ProDome was a better tent. Easier to set up and better layout. That tent lasted 20 years before I finally sold it. Bought another Sierra Designs tent not too long ago for car camping. In between I have had a bunch of Biblers, still have a couple great for mountaineering.
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