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Old 02-12-2015, 12:05 AM   #1
Craig79
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Question about hiking in bitter cold this weekend

Hi everyone - I'm planning on hiking whiteface and hopefully Esther on Saturday with a few friends. We've hiked a handful of high peaks in the winter but I'm a little concerned about the forecast. Saturday the high temp is supposed to be 15 degrees and the Sunday the high is -5!

I'm posting to see if some of you more seasoned hikers have any suggestions or recommendations about hiking in these low temps.

We will not be camping - just day hiking. We have all the standard equipment. I'm just curious to know if any of you have any tips , thoughts about any supplies or gear that a more novice winter hiker might be overlooking, or if anyone thinks that we should avoid hiking in subzero temps.

Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 02-12-2015, 01:05 AM   #2
JerseyHighlander
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First thing I would recommend is, never assume you won't be camping... Even when the plan is to go in and come out in the same day, my pack always has the fundamentals to be able to spend the night safely if some unforeseen circumstance should make that necessary.

Generally, more cold requires more calories to stay warm & staying well hydrated is a must.

Maybe you should list what you consider your standard equipment and others here can see what catches their eye for potential trouble.
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Old 02-12-2015, 08:56 AM   #3
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Welcome to the forum and good question. I echo Jersey's comments about being prepared to spend an unplanned night out. While rare, it happens.

I usually carry a pretty light pack (ie. 15 pounds) due to the amount of vertical gain in the high peaks but I always have what I'll need to survive an (uncomfortable) night out. Ie.: very warm down parka, synthetic puff pants, dry shirt or two, extra mitts , booties and overbooties. etc.
Personally the cold doesn't bother me, enjoyment-wise, coming from Manitoba and having done a lot of outdoors activity in -30 - -40 temps while a teenager.
Even in bitter cold I do my hikes with a thin base layer shirt under a wind-breaker and regulate my temp with various thicknesses mitts (always wool and under a shell mitt) and bela-clavas and hats. I have all sorts of pant and long underwear combinations that experience has helped me choose from. When I get to treeline I layer up according to the wind. The face mask and goggles come on and I'll usually put my Rab Xenon synthetic jacket right over my shell. If I stop for 5 mins or more I put my big down parka over everything else. If my base layer shirt has become soaked from sweat I'll change into a dry one before breaking cover.
If you're going up Whiteface you should have a neoprene facemask and ski goggles.

While you have to respect the killing ability of the cold I find that it's very much a psychological acceptance of the feeling of the cold on one's exposed skin and taking a few simple measures to shield oneself from the wind. -20F with no wind is not bad at all IMO. The tendency, after listening to the (at times) hysterical weather reporters, is to over-dress. Also, 9 times out of 10 it's nowhere near as cold as the forecast predicts. Once in a while though it's even colder so beware!

Btw, when I do Whiteface-Esther I often drop some weight at the Esther junction (maybe a quart of water buried in snow) before doing WF and before Esther I often drop a lot of weight. I like to do WF first and relax while doing Esther, which while having limited views is a wonderful hike along a broad ridge. If you catch it at sunset you'll remember it for a long time.
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Old 02-12-2015, 09:12 AM   #4
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Make room in the pack for a reflective emergency bivy bag; make room for a thermos of hot chocolate. Bring lots of easy to eat high calorie snacks. If planning to eat snacks that can freeze hard like energy bars, keep them in an inside pocket so they are soft and easy to eat. Cut snacks up into bite size pieces and repackage in a zip lock bag, so you can access food with mitts on. Use chemical heaters for the hands and toes. Bring extra mitts. Control your pace to minimize sweating.

Have fun!
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Old 02-12-2015, 10:21 AM   #5
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Take extra clothes, but definitely do not overdress when you are exerting yourself. Yes, you can certainly easily sweat even when below zero if you bulk up too much. Sweat is your mortal enemy!

Bring extra gloves, AND mittens. If you start out with a pair of warm soft interior fleecy gloves, when they get damp from sweat or snow and you then take them off, they can become nearly impossible to put back on. The wet interior separates from the shell as you pull your hands out, and no amount of fussing will let your hands slide back in. Always have a dry pair available.
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Old 02-12-2015, 12:10 PM   #6
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Before leaving home put boiling water into your Nalgene and carry it in a water bottle cozy. You can go an extra step and put the Nalgene in a small cooler for the drive from home (or motel room) to TH. Carrying the Nalgene in your pack versus strapped to the outside of you pack will keep the contents liquid a lot longer. One quart of water should amply do the job for WF/E unless you are a sweat machine.
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Old 02-12-2015, 01:57 PM   #7
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My instinct is to say this:

When dealing with conditions this extreme, if you're at all unsure about your ability to be properly prepared for what you may encounter, then it is probably a good idea to re-evaluate your itinerary. A mistake in temperatures as cold as the forecast indicates- even a minor one- could have drastic consequences.

I think that you should, by all means, still plan to do something outdoors this weekend- you certainly don't want to waste the opportunity. But you definitely should realize that the primary focus of your hike will be more gaining experience in this type of condition, and less conquering a High Peak.

There are several ways you could do this. You could try a hike in an area that is less remote, providing an easy escape back to the car if needed. Someplace like the Paul Smith's Visitors Interpretive Center (VIC) could serve this need more than adequately. You could choose a backcountry destination that is not as high in elevation or as remote. You could even stick with your original plan (Whiteface), but with the caveat that you're going to be super aware of your surroundings and personal states (mental and physical) throughout the trip, and will stop and consciously re-evaluate these aspects repeatedly as you hike, and most importantly, be willing to turn back at the first sign of any serious discomfort.

Even if you have to seriously curtail your plans for the weekend, at least getting outside in some capacity will gain you the experience necessary to better answer the very questions you've asked in your post for yourself in the future, if and when similar conditions arise again. Even if it turns out that you were overly cautious, that is still knowledge gained that will serve you well in the future.
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Old 02-12-2015, 04:20 PM   #8
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Or....
You could just partake of the activities at the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival. The parade down main street starts at 1:00. I'll be in it, along with a bunch of other guys in voyageur capotes with canoes.
There's an amazing fireworks show over the lake Sunday night. Dress warmly.
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Old 02-12-2015, 05:13 PM   #9
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Forecast for LP calls for +11F on Saturday. Granted it will be colder higher up but I would not be surprised if it gets a lot warmer. Anyway, I don't think that's all that cold. Start the hike a little later and be up top in the heat of the day.
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Old 02-12-2015, 06:59 PM   #10
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Wind Chill Watch Upgraded from 2/13/2015 12:00:00 AM to 2/13/2015 12:00:00 PM

...WIND CHILL WARNING IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO NOON EST
FRIDAY...
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BURLINGTON HAS ISSUED A WIND
CHILL WARNING...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO NOON
EST FRIDAY. THE WIND CHILL WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.
* LOCATIONS...THE SAINT LAWRENCE VALLEY AND NORTHERN ADIRONDACK
MOUNTAINS IN NORTHERN NEW YORK.
* HAZARD TYPES...BITTERLY COLD WIND CHILLS.
* WIND CHILL READINGS...AS LOW AS 40 BELOW DUE TO TEMPERATURES 5
TO 18 DEGREES BELOW...AND WINDS NORTHWEST 10 TO 15 MPH WITH
GUSTS UP TO 25 MPH.
* TIMING...MIDNIGHT TO NOON FRIDAY.
* IMPACTS...WIND CHILLS OF THIS MAGNITUDE MAY CAUSE FROSTBITE ON
EXPOSED SKIN IN LESS THAN 15 MINUTES.
PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...
A WIND CHILL WARNING MEANS THE COMBINATION OF VERY COLD AIR AND
STRONG WINDS WILL CREATE DANGEROUSLY LOW WIND CHILL VALUES. THIS
WILL RESULT IN FROSTBITE AND LEAD TO HYPOTHERMIA OR DEATH IF
PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN.
PLEASE STAY TUNED TO NOAA WEATHER RADIO...YOUR LOCAL MEDIA...OR
GO TO WWW.WEATHER.GOV/BURLINGTON FOR FURTHER UPDATES ON THIS
WEATHER SITUATION.
Saturday forecast
Light Snow


Max Wind Speed

NE
11 mph
Wind chill factor at -10 to -15 Be careful
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Old 02-12-2015, 08:17 PM   #11
Craig79
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Thank you all so much for your thoughts and advice. It's both cautionary and reassuring. I will share with my friends and go from there. Thanks again!
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Old 02-13-2015, 01:19 AM   #12
Justin
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I love hiking/skiing/snowshoeing in the bitter cold!
... with high winds not so much.
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Old 02-17-2015, 12:09 PM   #13
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Saw this today. http://www.wcax.com/story/28127339/n...con-found-dead

It's not in the Adirondacks, but given the conversation about the extreme cold I figured it was poignant. Not much at all in details about if she was properly prepared or experienced or not so hard to draw any conclusions but it just wasn't a good weekend to be out there.
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Old 02-19-2015, 09:19 PM   #14
Craig79
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i meant to post earlier, but thanks again for your suggestions. we ended up hiking Whiteface and Esther on Saturday and Ampersand on Sunday.

the cold was no issue on saturday.

sunday was negative 10 degrees on the summit of Ampersand and i definitely felt the need to keep moving throughout the hike, but overall no real problems!
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