Portneuf Range Yurt System Manual
Publication History: Published by the Idaho State University
Outdoor Program. Revised November, 2003.
This booklet has been prepared to provide you with important information
concerning the Portneuf Range Yurt System. It is essential that you
and all members of your party read through this information before embarking
on a tour to any of the yurts.
After reading this material, make a careful and honest evaluation of
your--and your party's--abilities. If you have any doubts of your
abilities to undertake a yurt tour, we recommend that you go on organized
tours provided by the ISU Outdoor Program.
You must understand that backcountry travel by ski, snowshoe or foot
is dangerous. Idaho State University can not provide any assurances of
Travel to and from the yurts and use of the yurts is done
at your own risk.
Yurt Reservations require a 100 % down deposit and the reservation
fee in non refundable.
Please understand that it is the responsibility of the yurt user
to locate the yurt. Yurt rental fees will not be refunded if the
yurt is not located.
Background On The Yurt System
The Portneuf Range Yurt System started in 1983 with three donated canvas
wall tents placed at the McNabb, Inman and Jackson Creek locations.
From its inception, the yurt system was intended to be a non-profit public
program to provide a means for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the beauty
of Idaho's mountains in the winter. In order to accomplish this,
the Pocatello Recreation Department, Idaho State University Outdoor Program,
Pocatello Nordic Ski Association, the Caribou National Forest and dedicated
volunteers all worked cooperatively together, providing material, labor
and expertise to make the system a reality.
In 1984, the original wall tents, in bad repair after a heavy winter,
were replaced with more durable backcountry yurts designed and built by
Kirk Bachman. Bachman, who built his first yurt in the ISU Craft
Shop while a senior at the University, had tested yurts in the Big Holes
and Sawtooths and found that the 16 foot diameter dome shape structure
made a perfect portable shelter for winter use in the mountains.
With its roomy, efficient interior, a plastic skylight allowing natural
light to illuminate the interior, and a hardwood lattice side wall, the
backcountry yurt is an aesthetically and environmentally appealing structure.
In 1985, a large 24 foot diameter yurt purchased by the City of Pocatello
was placed at the Moonlight location and a new site was established at
Syringa Creek. That brought the total number of yurts to five.
All the locations were carefully chosen to allow for different abilities
levels--and to allow travel between the yurts.
The yurt system received a boost in 1991 when the Bill Francis Memorial
Endowment provided a $700 grant to build bunk beds for all the yurts.
Bill Francis, an outdoor writer for the Idaho State Journal, was
an enthusiastic supporter of the system and spent many of his fall weekends
cutting wood and getting the yurts ready for the winter.
In 2000, the Outdoor Program inherited the Yurt System.
With the help of the Wilderness Equipment Rental Center, a new 20 foot
yurt was bought and located in the Rapid Creek area.
In 2002 the Rapid Creek Yurt was relocated to BLM land on the North
Fork of Jackson Creek and renamed the Skyline Yurt. The Rapid Creek
Ski area land was sold to the Shoshone Bannock Tribes.
Syringa Yurt was relocated in the Fall of 2003 to its new location near
Hagler Creek. It was renamed the Catamount Yurt.
Volunteers are still the key to the success of the program. If
you would like to help, give us a call in early October when plans are
being made for work weekends.
Before You Start
Carefully read this material and evaluate yourself and your party.
If you feel confident that you have the skills and knowledge to safely
undertake a yurt tour, follow these steps:
1. Make reservations for yurt use at the ISU Wilderness Rental Center
Office located downstairs in the Student Union Building (phone 208-282-2945).
The rental center can provide copies of the reservation policy and current
yurt fees. Please understand that it is the responsibility of
the yurt user to locate the yurt. Yurt rental fees will not be refunded
if the yurt is not located.
2. Yurts are reserved from 2:30 pm the day of the reservation to 2:30
pm the next day.
3. A short video tape has been prepared to help assure proper use of
the yurts. Yurt trip initiators are asked to have all members of
the party view the tape prior to undertaking a tour.
4. Check equipment lists (suggested lists are included within) prior
to departing. Make sure everyone in your party is properly prepared,
including the eventuality of having to spend the night out.
5. Before leaving, always leave word with a friend or relative about
where you are going, your route to the yurt, and when you plan to return.
If, for some reason, they are concerned about your return, the following
are numbers for reporting any problems or emergencies concerning the huts:
282-2945 Wilderness Rental Center - days
282-3912 ISU Outdoor Program - days
234-7132 Ask for Dana Olson - evenings
235-1560 Ask for Peter Joyce - evenings
251-2691 Ask for Justin Dayley - evenings
6. Check the weather forecast. Yurt tours are not recommended
during winter storm warnings.
7. Before departing, make sure your vehicle has plenty of antifreeze
and the battery is in good condition. Chains and a shovel are recommended.
Please No Dogs or Snowmobiles
Because the snow surrounding the yurts is melted for drinking water, dogs
are discouraged. The yurt system was developed for ski tourers and
snowshoers, and we asked that users not attempt to drive snowmobiles to
the yurts. The local landowner has specifically asked that no snowmachines
are used to access the Skyline Yurt.
Suggested Routes to Yurts
Routes to the yurts are described in separate hand-outs which are available
when you make reservations. We recommend that you first learn
the locations of the yurts by going on organized tours or by taking a day
trip prior to your reserved time. Even then, it may be difficult
to locate a yurt on your own. There have been cases where an individual
has been to a yurt on several occasions, yet has not been able to locate
it on a later date. Poor visibility because of fog and falling snow
can make it nearly impossible to find yurts. It is for this reason
that we strongly advise against undertaking yurt tours in poor weather
or poor visibility.
Routes to the yurts are not marked because of the extreme difficulty
of marking backcountry winter trails. Some parts of the tours go
through large, open areas where no features exist on which to attach markers.
In other areas, where the routes go through trees, markers are quickly
engulfed under a thick layer or rime caused by a combination of blowing
snow and misty clouds. Heavy riming is a common occurrence at the
high elevation yurts. Please refrain from using flagging to mark a route
on your own.
The yurts themselves are located on ground level, and snow packs easily
exceed 10 feet. That means the yurts, when dug out, are hidden behind
piles of snow which make it hard to see them from any distance. The
yurts are also located in trees which help provide necessary wind protection
but also increase the difficulty in locating them.
This all adds up to some important prerequisites of yurt use:
Go on organized tours first to familiarize yourself with surrounding landmarks
and learn about route finding tricks which will help you locate a yurt
on your own. If you have any doubt of your route finding skills,
continue to go on organized tours.
Before attempting any yurt tour on your own (particularly Jackson Creek
and McNabb yurts), you should be experienced in the use of a map and compass
and carry both with you on the tour. Special orienteering workshops
and classes are offered periodically by the ISU Outdoor Program to help
you learn map and compass skills.
Use common sense and err on the safe side. Keep your party together.
Turn back if the weather closes in or visibility becomes difficult.
The yurt will always be there for you to visit another day.
Always be prepared. Carry the equipment and clothing (see equipment
lists) necessary to spend the night out if for some reason you don't find
Please understand that it is the responsibility of the yurt user
to locate the yurt. Yurt rental fees will not be refunded if the
yurt is not located.
When to start
Travel to yurts involves a significant rise in elevation from where you
leave your vehicle. The elevation rise combined with the distance
into the yurts and possible slow snow conditions (deep snow, breakable
crust, heavy wet snow, etc) can make your trip an all day affair.
It is highly recommended that you are on the trail no later than 9:00
or 10:00 AM. Daylight is short in the winter, and you'll need to
allow plenty of time. Once you arrive at the yurt, you'll also need
time to dig out the yurt, wood pile and toilet.
On the Trail
While skiing or snowshoeing to the yurts, don't allow your party to become
separated. This is extremely important in bad weather or poor visibility.
Stay together and stay safe. Travel at a pace which is comfortable
for the slowest member of the party. If one member becomes exhausted,
your entire party is weakened as a result. A slow but steady pace
is a time tested and safe way of traveling in the winter.
Condition of Yurt Upon Arrival
It is possible that yurts can be damaged due to extreme weather conditions
common in Idaho's mountains. High winds, heavy snow storms, falling
branches from trees, accumulation of snow on the yurt's walls can cause
rips and tears and/or partial or total collapse. It is also possible
that the yurt can be vandalized or items such as the wood stove stolen.
These possibilities point out the need to be well prepared. In particular,
be prepared to spend the night out if it becomes necessary. Please
report any problems to the ISU Outdoor Program (282-3912). <>
Items in the Yurt
In each of the yurts, you should find a wood stove, cooking stove,
lantern, pots, shovel and axe. You'll also find bunk beds.
The beds are made from plywood and you'll want to bring a sleeping pad
for comfort and warmth. Please note that the wing nuts which hold
the bunks together may need periodic tightening. Near the yurt will
be a wood pile and potty, both of which you will probably have to dig out.
Items which are not in the yurt include: Coleman fuel, food, sleeping
pads, and extra mantles for the lantern. >
Digging Out Yurts
It is important to keep the yurts dug out on a regular basis. If
snow is allowed to build up two things happen: (1) weight on the
sides of the yurt push inward and bend the lattice side wall; and (2) snow
build up on top of the yurt will eventually cause it to collapse.
We ask that everyone who uses the yurts pitch in and help by keeping
them dug out.
To remove snow, start by shovelling it away from the sides. Be
extremely careful when using the shovel. The metal shovel can easily
tear the canvas covering of the yurt. We have found that each yurt
will have one side toward the prevailing winds which will have the largest
accumulation of snow. It is particularly important to remove the
snow from this side. Continued side pressure and natural creep within
the snow pack can exert enough pressure to deform and fracture the side
Once snow has been removed from the sides, someone inside the yurt can
push the canvas ceiling up and down. The snow should slide off.
What ever you do, please do not use a shovel to move snow off the roof.
Torn canvas has almost always resulted from improper shoveling. Please
keep the shovel inside the yurt.
How Much Coleman Fuel to Bring
Bring at least one and half pints of Coleman fuel per night.
The Coleman fuel is used for the cooking stove and the lantern. The
wood stove is used for melting water and heating the yurt.
A Note About Using Coleman Stoves And Lanterns
Read carefully the directions on the stove and lantern. Always make
sure valves for the stove and lantern have been turned off. If not,
escaping gas can be ignited by the wood burning stove. EXTREME CARE
SHOULD ALWAYS BE EXERCISED. If you have doubts, light the stove and
lantern outside. Word to the wise. Do not over pump the
stoves. They become cranky when they have to much pressure.
Follow These Procedures When You Arrive
1. Check to make sure the top of stove pipe chimney is clear and snow
has not drifted over the top.
2. Start a fire in the wood stove by the following procedure:
a. Open damper. The damper is open when oval handle is in a vertical
position (see illustration).
3. Shovel snow away from the sides of the yurt. It's particularly
important to relieve pressure on the windward side of the yurt where most
of the snow has built up. Don't use the shovel on the roof; remove
snow from the roof by pushing the canvas up and down from the inside.
b. Open air intake fully by turning handle counterclockwise.
c. Open stove. Insert paper and pieces of kindling and light.
Note: Because of residue moisture in the yurt, we have found that starting
a fire in the stove takes some effort. A good trick is to pick up
fire starter at a sporting goods store or Wilderness Rental Center.
The fire starter will burn for several minutes, helping dry out the kindling
before it flames. Start out with very thin pieces of kindling and
gradually increase size. Don't be tempted to use coleman fuel.
Starting fires in an enclosed space with Coleman fuel can result in an
d. Leave air intake full open until fire is going, then turn it down
to a comfortable level. Don't leave stove unattended when air
intake is full open. The stove can get dangerously hot.
When leaving the yurt even for a short period of time, close the air intake
e. When the fire is burning well, turn down the air intake to a comfortable
level. Temperature of the stove can also be regulated by adjusting
f. Always use extreme caution. The yurt, lattice frame work
and other material in the yurt are flammable and can burn to the ground
in minutes if the wood stove or coleman stove and lantern are not properly
4. Break a path to the wood pile and outdoor potty. Shovel away snow
from wood pile and dig out potty.
5. For sanitary reasons always use the potty for urinating or defecating.
The snow surrounding the yurt must be kept clean since it is used for drinking
water. It is for this reason that dogs are not permitted at the yurt.
6. If you need to refill gas in the Coleman lantern or stove please
do so outside. The fumes and spilled gas are extremely flammable
and can be ignited by the wood stove.
Follow These Procedures When You Leave
1. Thoroughly clean out the yurt. Sweep out dirt, wood chips,
and snow with broom.
2. Carry out all garbage and food. We prefer that all food, including
non perishables, be carried out. Anything left in the yurts has to
be carried out by volunteers in the spring.
3. If you have spare fuel remaining, pour it in the stove or lantern.
Remember to do so outside.
4. Close air intake on stove before leaving yurt, even for short trips.
5. Move any flammables (paper, kindling) away from wood stove.
Leave firewood and kindling inside yurt so the next visitors will have
dry wood to start a fire.
6. Make sure the latrine seat is closed. Place axe, shovel and
broom inside yurt.
7. Securely fasten yurt door so snow doesn't drift inside.
Everything you do on a backcountry tour should be done carefully.
Conducting yourself safely while using yurts is equally important.
Use common sense and care when using the wood stove, Coleman stove and
lantern or while filling gas containers, starting the fire, chopping wood,
etc. There is no ski patrol in the backcountry. You and your
party must come prepared. Backcountry travel in the winter involves
a great personal responsibility upon all members of the party to do everything
they can to be safe. There are many dangers, and the name of the
game is to stay alert, constantly evaluate and minimize potential hazards.
A good reference book with information on backcountry skiing and overnight
winter camping skills applicable to our area is Ski
Camping by Ron Watters of the ISU Outdoor Program. It is available
in local bookstores.
The ISU Outdoor Program, located on the first floor of the Student Union
Building, maintains an extensive collection of outdoor recreation reference
materials with books and magazines on winter backcountry travel.
The public is invited to use the resources.
Suggested Equipment List
For a list of equipment to help you prepare for yurt tours go here: Equipment
List For Yurt Tours