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Old 12-02-2007, 01:20 AM   #1
angel_gazer
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Question Winter camping - basic questions

Good day!

My boyfriend and I fell in love with the 'dacks last summer and have been getting down to the mountains as often as possible to scramble up them....he's at 25 and I'm at 17 so far! Woo hoo!!! We love the stories, photos and mud we come out of the woods with!

Anyways, we have met many 46er's in our voyages strongly recommending trying a mountain or two in the winter. We're very interested (fewer crowds and newer challenges) but want to be smart about it (and I think we just need a little push of confidence to get us out there).

1) Is there a course offered regarding winter camping specifically (ie familiarizing winter campers with avalanche tips, particular gear, weather, additional 'survival' tips etc) and if so, would you recommend doing it?

2) Is there a guide or website that you folks would recommend (other than this fantastic forum of course!)?

3) What would be some good starter/practice trails/peaks?

4) Is there particular gear that we definately need to invest in for winter conditions (avalanche kit/poles, -?C sleeping bag, crampons, etc)

We also wish to try snowshoeing (we're under 200 lbs each with gear)...so.......

5) What would be a good recommendation for beginner snowshoes? MSR Denalis - evo? ascent??

I'm scouring the forum for info (and OD'ing on it!!!!) so any tips or recommendations would be greatly appreciated! We do consider ourselves to be in good shape and definately wish to try this experience as it sounds awesome, but don't want to be over-ambitious! (feldspar LT to grey to marcy to haystack to skylight back to feldspar LT in one day = over-ambitious :P )

Cheers!
~ang
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Last edited by angel_gazer; 12-02-2007 at 02:19 AM..
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Old 12-02-2007, 02:11 AM   #2
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Cascade and Porter would be good places to start. Crampons are more useful than snowshoes, as most of the more popular peaks are packed out all the time. Take ski poles. A big parka that you can pull on over everything else if you get cold, spare dry hat, mittens, a good headlamp with lithium batteries...
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Old 12-02-2007, 04:47 AM   #3
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I agree that Cascade and Porter are very good winter peaks. I'd also like to add St. Regis Mtn as well...I know its not a high peak, but it offers excellent views and is very winter friendly.

For gear, I believe that snowshoes are required on certain peaks in the wintertime. My wife and I both have MSR's. They are a great value and very sturdy. Personally, I don't think they float very well in deep, unpacked powder, but on the trails you will be fine. If you've never snowshoed before, definitely use some ski or treking poles. As a side note, I have had problems getting my telescoping poles to lock in place when its really cold.

Crampons are nice to have, I have hiked with some people who prefer them, and others that don't use em at all.

There are some good posts on winter gear, so I won't list everything, but here's my usual winter setup:

TNF Mountain 25 tent - yes its heavy, but I prefer a tent to a leanto in the winter
0 degree sleeping bag
Closed-cell foam sleeping pad - I retire my Therm-a-Rest in the winter. I found it too cold
small snow shovel
water filter and backup Iodine tabs - pump style filters will (and have for me) freeze. The pills are a backup.

If you want to get some practice winter camping, try Marcy Dam or the general Loj area. If you have problems with the cold, you can always pack out to the car pretty quickly.
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Old 12-02-2007, 11:40 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by rongoodman View Post
Crampons are more useful than snowshoes, as most of the more popular peaks are packed out all the time.
Speaking as someone who has just a few peaks left for the winter 46, this is 100% patently false, and the implication that snowshoes are unnecessary is liable to get someone killed. The only time I have ever climbed a winter peak without using (and needing! -- I'll be the first to not bother with snowshoes when they're unnecessary) snowshoes was last "winter" before snow finally came. And as buckethead said, you're required to have skis or snowshoes in the high peaks when there's more than a few inches of snow on the ground (six or eight inches is the magic number, if I recall correctly).

Angel, as for your original question I would recommend starting out doing some winter day hikes before jumping into winter camping. There are a number of high peaks that are easily done in a day (Cascade & Porter, Algonquin, Phelps, Big Slide, etc) to make sure you really like the whole winter thing; some people don't. Better to find that out before buying a whole bunch of expensive winter gear.

ADK offers a winter mountaineering school and a winter camping workshop; details are on their website at www.adk.org under Education. I can't vouch for either because I've never taken them.

As for gear, I'll second most of what buckethead said. I also have MSR snowshoes, which are great on most trails in the high peaks because it's not unconsolidated powder. But when bushwhacking in several feet of powder last February after the big storm, they weren't ideal. Personally I'd go with a sleeping bag rated to -15F or below (mine's a -35F), that way you don't have to worry about the temperature dropping a few degrees colder than the forecast. And I just boil snow for water, rather than treating it. I now use an MSR MugMate (intended to be used to make coffee) as a filter to get the pine needles and other floaters out of the melted snow, but I just drank it straight for years and it didn't kill me. I've never brought or felt the need to bring an avalanche kit, but maybe if I was going slide climbing.
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Old 12-02-2007, 11:57 AM   #5
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I understand that wearing snowshoes is required on trails that are used for skiing, such as into Marcy Dam, and that DEC regulations require that they be carried in winter conditions. That being said, I've seen a lot more snowshoers skating around on exposed icy slabs than I've seen crampon wearers sinking into deep snow. Obviously, things are different off the beaten path, such as the trailless peaks, but these probably aren't someplace beginning winter hikers are going to be.
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Old 12-02-2007, 12:49 PM   #6
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I always bring both crampons and snowshoes. Better to be prepared. The trails often are packed down but I hate to be the guy postholing all the way to the top of a peak because I didn't come prepared.
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Old 12-02-2007, 01:02 PM   #7
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I'm still a newbie but I can imagine that snowshoes and crampons are a must in the 'dacks. My winter experience in the ADKs are limited to last December when there wasn't much snow on the ground. Stabilicers were a must but there wasn't enough ice to warrant the use of crampons. In the lower elevations there was hardly any snow but higher up, snowshoes would have helped out a bit.

I haven't been up to there yet this season but when I go at the end of December, I will definitely be bringing snowshoes and crampons/stabilicers.
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Old 12-02-2007, 01:32 PM   #8
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If this storm we're getting today tracks north, it might finally be time for the snowshoes!
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Old 12-02-2007, 01:42 PM   #9
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angel_gazer, wrt winter camping, maybe you'll get something from this, which is one POV on the subject.

As for snowshoes vs. crampons, in my albeit limited winter high peakbagging experience I rarely have needed crampons. Mostly in late fall-early winter and then late winter-early spring. When I have needed them I have really needed them.

Every winter is different though....
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Old 12-02-2007, 02:04 PM   #10
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thanks guys!

wow, thank you for all the useful info so far!
We definately plan on hiking a bit for practice (both home and there) before jumping right into camping out in the mountains during the winter.
We just got a fair bit of powder up here in Ottawa and are psyched to get out and about in the snow!
And I didn't even think about the water filter pump freezing up!!!
Very very useful info guys!
Thanks again!
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Old 12-02-2007, 02:18 PM   #11
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Regarding water pumps, they won't always freeze up if you make sure you pump all of the water out of it after you're done filling up your water bottle. But just in case, it's always good to bring a lightweight stove and a small pot so you can just boil snow. Plus, boiling is still the only guaranteed way to kill everything you don't want to drink (bacteria, viruses, cysts, etc).

Also, make sure the water bottle you use has a wide rim. Standard water bottles with a small opening will freeze over. I had this happen to me last winter and it was a pain having to break the layer of ice that formed at the mouth of the bottle every time I wanted a sip.

Also, the water bottle should be made of a hard plastic or something. I wouldn't recommend using something like a Poland Spring bottle because pouring boiling water into it will severely warp the plastic.
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Old 12-02-2007, 02:36 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rongoodman View Post
I understand that wearing snowshoes is required on trails that are used for skiing, such as into Marcy Dam, and that DEC regulations require that they be carried in winter conditions. That being said, I've seen a lot more snowshoers skating around on exposed icy slabs than I've seen crampon wearers sinking into deep snow. Obviously, things are different off the beaten path, such as the trailless peaks, but these probably aren't someplace beginning winter hikers are going to be.
I'm not trying to discount the importance of crampons, just pointing out that in "normal" winter conditions, without snowshoes you won't get to a point on the mountain where you'll need the crampons. And many peaks can normally be climbed entirely without crampons. Conditions are always different though, which is why it's necessary to be prepared. One time on Algonquin I absolutely needed crampons, one time I happily snowshoed right to the top, and one time I only got to the col between Algonquin and Boundary because it was too icy to get any grip with snowshoes but with crampons I was breaking through into spruce traps over my head, so I turned around.

Quote:
Originally Posted by angel_gazer View Post
And I didn't even think about the water filter pump freezing up!!!
Another good item to have is a water bottle insulator (such as this one from OR) to keep your bottle from freezing. And remember not to fill your bottle with cold water at the start of your hike, so that it stays liquid longer. In my opinion this is the best argument against using a pump filter, because any water you pump from a stream will be right at the freezing point and once you put it in a bottle ice will start forming almost immediately. Even if it doesn't (e.g. the air temperature is above freezing), water at 32F may sound great on a hot summer day, but I don't find it all that comfortable to drink in the winter.
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Old 12-02-2007, 02:59 PM   #13
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Oh and remember that canister stoves do not perform as well in cold temperatures (and they don't perform at all if it gets cold enough), so you're better off using a liquid-fuel stove such as a Whisperlite.
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Old 12-02-2007, 03:46 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the_swede View Post
Regarding water pumps, they won't always freeze up if you make sure you pump all of the water out of it after you're done filling up your water bottle. But just in case, it's always good to bring a lightweight stove and a small pot so you can just boil snow. Plus, boiling is still the only guaranteed way to kill everything you don't want to drink (bacteria, viruses, cysts, etc).

Also, make sure the water bottle you use has a wide rim. Standard water bottles with a small opening will freeze over. I had this happen to me last winter and it was a pain having to break the layer of ice that formed at the mouth of the bottle every time I wanted a sip.

Also, the water bottle should be made of a hard plastic or something. I wouldn't recommend using something like a Poland Spring bottle because pouring boiling water into it will severely warp the plastic.
And carry the bottle inverted.
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Old 12-02-2007, 04:44 PM   #15
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I understand that wearing snowshoes is required on trails that are used for skiing, such as into Marcy Dam, and that DEC regulations require that they be carried in winter conditions.
This is incorrect.

By DEC regulation snowshoe use is mandatory on all areas (on trail and off) once the snow reaches a certain depth:

Quote:
§190.13 Wilderness Areas in the Adirondack Park
f. Miscellaneous restrictions.
3. In the High Peaks Wilderness Area, no person shall:
vii. fail to possess and use skis or snowshoes when the terrain is snow-covered with eight or more inches of snow
Regarding water:

For those rare times when I tried using a water filter in winter--to see what would happen--the filter wound up on the list of things going into my sleeping bag at night to keep from freezing. Mostly, I boil water for drinking in winter. However, while winter camping in the High Peaks finding a source of open water can be tough, since most of the streams are often frozen solid. At this point, you're reduced to melting snow, my least favorite method. This method consumes a lot of time and fuel.

While camping at Feldspar one winter, the only source of water was one small unfrozen patch on the Opalescent directly underneath the footbridge. My friend had a pot with a wire handle, so we were able to lower it into the water from the bridge with a rope.

Tents: I use a 3-season tent all year long, but then I intentionally avoid camping in heavy snowstorms. Avoid the temptation to zip yourself in completely--you need to keep a fair amount of ventilation, otherwise everything inside the tent will be covered with frozen condensation by morning.
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Old 12-02-2007, 06:06 PM   #16
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more winter questions..stabilizers? carampons?

Hi everyone,


I'm going to glom onto this thread also since it's covering lots of the questions about winter Adk hiking I have. Am I correct in assuming that stabilizers are for when conditions are icy and snowy but not eep enough for snowshoes, and crampons are for when conditions are icy, and too packed down for snowshoes, and you have some steep hiking to do?

I went and looked at stabilizers at our local ems. They had two kinds of yax trax and some other ones that seemed like mini snowshoes with knobby things on the bottom. The mini ssnowshoe ones seem kind of heavy. I'm interested to hear people's experience with both kinds. How are they to put on, do they stay on well, etc. ?


I also realize our tired and true Crestas would turn our feet into blocks of ice. Would love to hear what kinds of boots you all like. I looked at some in the Bean catalog, but they were only rated to 20 degrees farenheit, and I want to be prepared for sub zero .

Thank you again to everyone!!!! You have all been part of the last several peaks we have climbed, and I always root for you on all of your journeys!
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Old 12-02-2007, 07:40 PM   #17
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Yak Trax are good for shoveling your walk..... I wouldn't use them in the woods. I have Yak Trax, I just ordered micro spikes. I don't do icy trails or the high peaks, so I don't own crampons. I am borrowing crampons for a trip west this spring.

Boots, you'll get a lot of different answers depending on peoples activities and references. I have a pair of Lacrosse boots that are Gore-Tex to breathe, Thinsulate for warmth and waterproof. They have an aggressive tread on the sole to help keep my from slipping. I can also wear them snowshoeing. My feet have never been cold or wet, nor have i slipped when wearing them. I also use them snowshoeing.

The downside is that they are on the heavy side but I prefer the extra weight for the warmth, dryness and traction.

Hawk
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Old 12-02-2007, 07:42 PM   #18
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I agree with Redhawk, Yak Trax don't seem to cut it in any significant ammount of snow. I do a lot of running and will use them on sidewalks but I don't think they're worth it for anything more than that.
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Old 12-02-2007, 08:00 PM   #19
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Avoid the temptation to zip yourself in completely--you need to keep a fair amount of ventilation, otherwise everything inside the tent will be covered with frozen condensation by morning.
Wildriver is completely right. Not only will everything be frosted over by morning but everything except the inside of your sleeping bag will become moist before it freezes over. It's a really horrible feeling when everything around you is all wet. Keeping those little side windows open and even cracking open the door flap (save for the mesh screen) will hopefully prevent this moisture buildup. It may be colder with everything open but wearing a nice warm hat while you sleep should keep your head and ears from getting cold at night. On top of that, I sleep with spandex tights, really thick polypro long underwear, wool socks, polypro undershirt, thin fleece long sleeved shirt and a thick wool sweater.

Perhaps if I got myself a proper winter sleeping bag I wouldn't need to wear all that.
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Old 12-02-2007, 08:10 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by angel_gazer View Post
wow, thank you for all the useful info so far!
We definately plan on hiking a bit for practice (both home and there) before jumping right into camping out in the mountains during the winter.
We just got a fair bit of powder up here in Ottawa and are psyched to get out and about in the snow!
And I didn't even think about the water filter pump freezing up!!!
Very very useful info guys!
Thanks again!

Just get out as often as you can. Have fun, stay warm & dry. Stay out of the wind. Eat a lot of food when it is cold. Carry extra stuff so you are always warm. Better more than less. As you get more experience, lighten up on the gear. Better warm than sorry (cold). Always, always have fun!

PS Testing equipment in the back yard is a good idea and can be fun.
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