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Old 01-19-2021, 09:53 AM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 38
Hiking Table Top and Phelps

Hi all, I'm hiking TT and Phelps this weekend. Will be my first time using snow shoes. What are the trail conditions from the Loj to the trailhead? Will microspikes suffice until the trailhead? How much slower do you travel on average while using the shoes? I think the round-trip distance is around 14 miles. Any advice would be appreciated.

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Old 01-19-2021, 12:03 PM   #2
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Elizabethtown
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The trailhead is essentially at the Loj - you might need 'spikes to walk across the parking lot!
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Old 01-20-2021, 08:28 AM   #3
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With snowshoes your speed really depends on the conditions- in particular, how many other snowshoers have passed through since the most recent significantly accumulation of snow. If you're breaking trail (the first person or group to snowshoe through after a major storm), you can find yourself moving incredibly slowly- possibly even 0.5 miles an hour or less.

Fortunately, the High Peaks are so popular these days that many of the trails to a summit (and even the herd paths) get broken out pretty quickly after a major storm. With a well packed out snowshoe path, you don't move all that much slower than you would in the summer (in some cases, if/when rocky sections are buried deep beneath the snow, you might actually move faster on snowshoes than you would traverse the same trail in the summer).

Keep in mind that while your chance of needing crampons (in addition to microspikes) is fairly slim (particularly on those two peaks) it is not zero. IMO, you need not necessarily run out and by crampons for this trip or the next, but do understand that if you're serious about winter High Peaks ascents, sooner or later you will eventually run into a situation where the only safe decision without them is to turn back.

With regards to snowshoes vs. microspikes for extended distances, it depends on the depth of the snow. DEC regulations require the use of snowshoes whenever the snow is more than 8 inches deep (although under the new regulations coming soon, that will change to 12 inches). The intent here is to prevent post-holing, which is when a hiker without snowshoes sinks deeply into the snow. In the event of a minor thaw followed by a hard freeze, post-holing can create a dangerous situation for all other winter hikers, no matter how well prepared they may be with appropriate footwear for winter travel.
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Old 01-20-2021, 11:08 AM   #4
Join Date: Oct 2016
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Old 01-26-2021, 12:41 PM   #5
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Elizabethtown
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Regarding crampons - I've run into a situation where microspikes were fine going up but crampons were necessary going down - on the same trail!
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Old 01-27-2021, 10:22 AM   #6
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Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: Rochester NY
Posts: 417
My avatar picture is from Phelps. We had an inverted day - cloudy at trailhead and we climbed up through the clouds and popped out into what you see.

If you haven't purchased microspikes yet please compare the depth of teeth. We found out that one well regarded and extremely popular brand had smaller teeth than the Hillsound Trail Crampons (which despite the name I consider microspikes) we upgraded to. We really feel a difference. Not a replacement for actual crampons (we carry those too on some peaks) but very nice.

Spec Sheet with Teeth Size:
HS FreeSteps (what we started with)
HS Trail Crampons
Eyes on the Forest, not on the Trees

Last edited by tenderfoot; 01-28-2021 at 09:02 AM.. Reason: spelling
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Old 01-27-2021, 11:18 AM   #7
Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 41
While we're on the topic, I take it that Microspikes is sorta like Kleenex or Xerox, right? A brand name that became very popular and got applied to a group of similar products. Is that correct?
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Old 01-27-2021, 03:16 PM   #8
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I've found that I'm about 20-25% slower in winter than I am in other seasons. That's comparing like trails to like trails using my GPS tracks. You're results may vary but for me it is a combo of a lot of things:

* Walking on snow & ice in micros or snowshoes is just a hair slower every step than walking on bare ground in hiking boots.
* I'm intentionally a tad more careful ascending and descending tricky spots on the trail where a slip can have you tumbling down a slick bit of ice. Taking your time and exercising caution is a required time suck unfortunately.
* I'm carrying far more weight in my pack (~8-10 extra pounds of gear) and on my person (snowshoes and heavier winter boots on feet and another 5-8 pounds of clothes and accessories) than I do in other seasons. 13-18 more pounds of stuff can slow your pace down.
* And lastly... I'm gonna move a hair slower in winter so I don't bonk or expend all my energy. If that happens in summer it's probably not a huge deal. In colder weather, the consequences could be dire.

The cumulative effect of all of these is a much slower pace. Like I said... your results may vary. Maybe you go all out in every season or carry a light pack even in winter. If that's the case then maybe you'll move along at the same pace as you do in other seasons. But I would plan the day with a time cushion built in. Start earlier than you think you need to and have a turnaround time planned ahead of time. And of course adjust your plan as needed if the hike is more strenuous than you anticipated. Winter conditions can drain you. It sometimes just depends on the day.

Good luck and have fun.
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