The Story of How Four 4-Season Tents Failed in the Middle of July (Blogging From the Field #18)


Post by Lauren Frisch and photos by Allen Pope

[This post is part of a series of real-time communication from participants in the 2012 Juneau Icefield Research Program.  The program begins June 23rd and concludes August 18th.]

The time has come in our journey when students and staff make the trek from Camp 17 to Camp 10.  The trek usually takes place over the course of two days, with an overnight in tents at the Norris Cache, a location halfway between Camp-17 and Camp-10.  Our group broke up into three trail parties, and left on three consecutive days to head out to Camp 10.

A Photo of Trail Party 3 making part of the traverse from Camp-17 to Camp-10.

I was in Trail Party 2 along with Chris, Cameron, Allen, Zach, Harry, Dave, and Emma.  You know you’re about to start a killer day of adventure when you wake up and can’t decide if the weather is suitable for travel.  This is how we started our day.  Life at Camp 17 was pretty cold and windy and somewhat rainy, but since we were champions we decided to brave the weather and start our trek anyways.  The day went well, we had pretty decent weather and nobody fell in a crevasse!  We also got to practice traveling in rope teams, which is kind of like being an extreme leash kid.  We made it to the Norris Cache in great time, at which point Mother Nature decided it was about time for us to get some serious rain.  It was appreciated.  We ate dinner in a makeshift tarp/ski-shelter deal and soon after retreated to our slightly less wet tents.

Everyone in Trail Party 2 could tell this story slightly differently, but my adventure really began at 2 am when I woke up to one of our tent poles snapping from some serious gusts of wind.  Emma and I scrambled to make sure our tent would stay up, and we rearranged our sleeping bags to make sure the flappy tent wall wouldn’t whack us in the face while we were trying to sleep. We did all of this while carefully trying to avoid the miniature lakes that were forming in the nubbins of our tent—the whole experience took a lot of advanced camping skills.  After this, we kind of drifted off for a while.

We woke up again around 5 am to find that our tent had boarded the “struggle bus” while we were asleep.  Zero percent of our tent walls were totally upright, and the wind had decided to play a fun game called: Pile chunks of snow on top of our tent walls (right on top of where our heads had been prior to moving…. Good call 2am us…).

We spent a while trying to keep our tent from collapsing on our heads and wondering what had happened to the other three tents in our trail party.  Eventually, we heard Harry let out a massive giggle and realized that all four tents in our group had hopped on the struggle bus.  In fact, even though every single pole holding our tent up had either been bent or totally broken, our tent was by far in the best shape.  Dave, Harry, Zach, and Allen woke up in tents that had completely collapsed, and Cameron and Chris lost their vestibule.  Once we all were awake, we did our best to pack everything up quickly in the cold wet mess that had become our campsite, and got on our way to Camp 10.

On the morning after the storm, Cameron Miller revels in the remains of the Norris Cache camp. (Note: tents aren’t supposed to be that flat.)

Harry and Dave, packing up (with smiles!) in what remains of their tent.

After cleaning up what was left of the destructed tents, we set off on our ski towards Camp-10.

We (Trail Party 2) ski along the Southwest Branch of the Taku Glacier towards Camp 10.

We made it to Camp 10 around lunchtime, and when we got there Trail Party 1 told us all about the excellent weather they had throughout the trip.  Rude.  Trail Party 3 made it to Camp 10 at about 11 pm that same night.  Not having a campsite at the Norris Cache was going to make an overnight at Norrie Cache a bit difficult for Trail Party 3, so they all got to ride snowmobiles from the Norris Cache to Camp 10.  Extra rude.

In the end, everyone is still happy and raging hard! Trail Party 2 will forever have an epic story of the time when we broke 4 tents in one night.  Although the night was uncomfortable and definitely alarming, it was hilarious, and really brought our trail party closer together.

[Editor’s note:  This post is from July 11, 2012.]


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Leave a comment:


Jacquie Smith

July 14, 2012

I enjoyed this post a lot. Hi to Emma!

Toby Sandler

July 15, 2012

Thanks for giving us a great laugh as we began our day. Wonderful story and we’re glad it is you and not us. Also glad you all made lemonade out of a real lemon of a situation. Hey! Where did the snowmobiles come from?? FYI – Today it is (again) in the 90’s with high humidity.

shane palus

August 5, 2012

Looks Like where you traveled to gets quite a bit of snow. Are those marmot brand tents. Some 4season tent reviews are posted at