5 Ways to Manage Tent-Bound Insanity

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | April 29, 2015      

Zachary Winters

If it looks like we were loosing our minds, it's because we definitely were.

If it looks like we were loosing our minds, it’s because we definitely were.

As backcountry skiers, we head to the hills with intentions of moving quickly, thinking on our feet, and getting things done as efficiently as possible. But when we’re sent to the tent for weeks on end by a storm, our approach changes a bit. For important camp tasks like building wind-break walls and clearing snow from the tent, the previous principles might apply. But maintaining sanity within a 30 meter wanded radius requires mastering the art of doing nothing and a commitment to lethargy.

Here are 5 tips for disciplined tent-bound sanity preservation:

1. Conversation conservation
Are you certain you won’t get bored of your best friends? Guarantee it by rationing your best conversation topics. Wait until you revisit the same topics 3 or 4 times before busting out that emergency podcast.

2. How about a fun time-killing project?
Whoa, take it easy there. I’d recommend the following approach: visualize it today, plan it tomorrow, and carry it out when you’re desperate for something to do. You’ll leave yourself something to look forward too when you finish counting your remaining dry socks, again. Whatever you do, don’t do it all at once.

3. Be entertained by your human resources
Everyone has a topic or two that they can ramble on about forever. Discover these in your bored comrades, prime them with a few pointed questions, and just like that you’ve got a personal radio show to listen to.

4. Don’t think too fast
Make sure to slow down your thoughts a bit so you don’t run out. Writing them down takes longer, which is good. Also try waiting until noon to have your morning coffee – your neurons will keep a conservative pace all morning and the day will fly by.

5. Fiddle constructively
We all have little gear projects that aren’t important enough to take care of in our busy lives. But if you’re stuck in a tent and completely bored, now’s your chance! Patch the crampon tears in your pants, make leashes for you gloves, or craft anti-balling plates for your crampons. Warning: this can be fun, so try to resist damaging things just so you have something to fix.

While practicing these techniques, it can be helpful to break things up with some refreshing exposure to the storm. Check out our short video from our second storm at the Glacier Bay Saloon, where boredom was quickly replaced by vigorous shoveling by day and night.

Burning off some pent up energy, Coop works on snow removal.

Burning off some pent up energy, Coop works on snow removal.

WildSnow readers: what are your tips for avoiding tent-bound insanity?

(WildSnow.com guest blogger Zachary Winters is an avid coffee drinker, splitboarder, photographer, and rock climber who calls the North Cascades home. Living in the small town of Mazama, Washington, you could encounter him on the trail working as a Wilderness Ranger in the summer months, and the rest of the year he is chasing good snow, working on his photography, and looking for wolverines. Check out his outstanding photos.)


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11 Responses to “5 Ways to Manage Tent-Bound Insanity”

  1. Coop April 29th, 2015 10:24 am

    Haha! Nailed it!

  2. Collin April 29th, 2015 12:06 pm

    I got a good belly laugh from this one.

    I was stuck in a tent for just a few days and the mind lethargy I experienced was intense. A definite mind warp.

  3. Calvin April 29th, 2015 12:35 pm

    I was stuck in a hut on Cerro Tronador for a few days. Trying to read Spanish language climbing magazines sure burned some time, along with crafting the worlds most perfect guest book entry.

  4. Lisa Dawson April 29th, 2015 12:47 pm

    Good one, Calvin. Lou and I were stuck in a hut in the Ortler Alps for a few days. All the hut books were in Italian so we broke out the playing cards. We racked our brains and could only barely remember how to play Fish. The attack of storm bound mental lethargy was intense.

  5. Bard April 29th, 2015 6:38 pm

    I was stuck for almost a week at 17k on Denali. One valuable skill is the ability to sleep for eighteen hours a day:) Indeed, a partner’s temperament is every bit as important as skiing/ climbing expertise in situations like these.

  6. Kevin UpSki April 30th, 2015 8:28 am

    We ran into the same problem a couple years ago out of Skagway. The Alaskan weather issues has definitely sold me on spending $$$ going to the Europe instead.

  7. Mike Marolt April 30th, 2015 9:35 am

    Haha, this made me laugh. One year my buddies and I were stuck on Bona in the Wrangells. It’s normally a week or so trip, but with weather coming in, we rushed to beat it and climbed it in a day and a half, just before the storm hit. When it did, we were stuck….for a week. My buddy got bored so, without telling us what he was up to, he got out and started digging a hole. No reason, just literally nothing else to do. After a half a day of digging, he managed to create a 15 x 15 x 15 foot “hole”. He got his exercise, burned some time, and when tired, came in. The storm blew the hole in so in effect he created a hidden crevasse. My brother got out to take a pee, and walked right in, fell up to his arms and started screaming “I’ve fallen into a crevasse !!”. haha. We rushed out to find him and just started laughing. But in the seven years we spent up there on the peaks in that range, we spent 30% of the time actually climbing and skiing, and the 70% of the time tent bound. So I appreciate the post. Points are spot on.

  8. Jason Davis April 30th, 2015 10:40 am

    Mike, we had a pretty good time with some domestic booby-traps (our quarries for snow blocks filled in the same shock). I fell victim to the same shock as your brother while on one of my walks of boredom around the tent. At first I was terrified, then realized what was going on and couldn’t stop laughing.

  9. Ralph April 30th, 2015 10:58 am

    Digging (saw) a bomb-proof snow cave. Great way to burn calories plus it’s so nice to rest away from the noise of the storms once it’s built.

    But -to Mike and Jason’s point- be sure to wand the entrance.

  10. Jim May 4th, 2015 12:41 pm

    Was stuck for 6 days on glacier in whiteout near Denali a couple weeks ago. Download a lot of books on to a Kindle. Reading is great. Also download movies on to the phone to watch. (solar panel charges inside tent in white out surprisingly) Bring some New Yorker magazines and read them out loud…discuss. Bring flour and yeast and make pan breads. Play cards.

  11. Wookie May 11th, 2015 2:46 pm

    Well Gents: coming from the wildest, most extreme wilderness of the Bavarian and Tyrolian Alps, I would suggest the following: 1) An extra hour or two in the handmade, wooden four-post bed with down comforter, 2) A liesurely two hour brunch with both prosecco and beer followed by 3) a massage or mud-bath topped with a stint in the sauna. 4) coffee and cake (Strudel for Lou) and a round of boisterous music on the various music instruments which are always available. 5) A three course meal followed with coffee and a nightcap over conversation with your other snow-bound companions – longer if they are good-looking.

    What is this “tent” thing you people keep talking about?


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