View Full Version : I have lots of questions...

01-05-2004, 02:46 PM
I attempted my first overnights with ambitious plans of doing the great range (lower wolf jaw, upper, etc), and on to Haystack and returning. I went home after the first night (about 20 miles later). My problems: pack (40 lbs) was killing me, too wet, many trees down, freezing after a wet day, could not sleep, trails were rivers/ice/mud. Obviously, I can't control conditions but:

Do people really do these mountains with all this wieght in the winter? Am I supposed to ditch some of it somewhere as I go? Why did 3 guys (about my age) climbing up look so 'fresh' compared to me; did they have a shortcut back to the interior outpost? Am I really supposed to sleep on this little air mat? I have no one interested in my new missions in my neck of the woods; how do I hook up with other similar people to go with? I think I need a 'sponsor' or mentor or something....

Some background: I just started the 46 (and 'real' climbing) in November 03. I did the overnight alone. I'm no spring chicken (40). I have much more 'free' time in the winter than the summer. Also, EMS' stock should have risen after my weekly visits.

01-05-2004, 03:15 PM

What you described is exactly why I don't camp in the winter! I prefer day hiking the high peaks to avoid carrying all the extra gear and the hassles of drying clothes and trying to sleep. But it sounds like you want to camp, and that is fine, many people thoroughly enjoy winter camping.

First thing to do is make a base camp down low, for example around Johns Brook Lodge or Bushnell Falls, and climb the peaks with just your day pack gear. You don't need or want to lug your 40 lbs. up and over the peaks. It would also help to get more experience using snowshoes (day hikes) before trying to carry an overnight pack on a deep snow covered trail. Try a single overnight with some people who have winter camping experience, if you can. I would not recommend doing it alone, even for experienced people. You could try joining the Adk. Mt. Club to hook up with some other campers. Good luck!

01-05-2004, 03:25 PM

You desparately need to hook up with an Adirondack Mountain Club chapter in your area.

Here you will find many fun loving outdoor folks who consistently go on outings, hold skills workshops and would gladly welcome you.

There is too much to go into here, but at the outset, it sounds like you might be biting off more than you can comfportably handle.

It might be better to work on some single peaks and even just trails until you are more comfortable with your gear and yourself in the backcountry.

As far as 40, It means little. I am 44 - age means nothing - I lag behind plenty of folks and many are older than me.
(And one is a 77 year old woman!!!)

Check out http://www.adk.org/ and click on chapters - I am not sure if Onondaga or Iroquois is closest to you.

Good luck and many years of happy trail hiking/climbing to you!!!

Mohamed Ellozy
01-05-2004, 03:31 PM
Originally posted by Bill40
I'm no spring chicken (40).I started winter camping a few years ago at age sixty something, so please try a better excuse :)
I just started the 46 (and 'real' climbing) in November 03That, I suspect, is the real problem. Most of us go through a progression:
Day hiking in the three non-winter seasons
Backpacking in three seasons
Day hiking in winter
Backpacking in winter
Some people manage to get away with short circuiting the process, most are much better off progressing one step at a time.

Soloing in winter in your first season is also pushing things, as mike1889 suggests. Try either the ADK or this bulletinboard to find companions.

01-05-2004, 03:43 PM
Hi Bill40,

For this project You need to know a couple of things.

1- The must difficult part of the great range in winter is to go up or down Saddleback side in direction of Basin, usualy You need crampons and it is the only place in AdK area where I go never without my iceaxe.

2- In a winter season, Haystack it is always a good chalenge, You never know what snow or ice condition You will catch, without view and windy condition and it will be impossible to go on the top.

3- The rangers removed the cable in the west side of Gothics, for the security, now it will be difficult to go down this place, many chance for bad icy places!!

I think the council of the people before me: a base camp and day hike with minimun weight and with a partner or more will be a succesful hike.

Have a good time in this nice playground.

01-05-2004, 03:44 PM
Closed cell foam winter pads work better than self inflating air mats for the winter. I use the mountain hardwear backcountry 60, and it works great. 40 pounds is alot of weight to carry up haystack. I agree with the basecamp dump of the camping gear, and hiking the mountain with a day pack. Don't quit now, keep on hiking. There will be lots of winter hiking at the adk winter gathering, if you wanted to meet a bunch of folks who hike.

01-05-2004, 03:58 PM
I suggest using 2 sleeping pads (I use one foam and one thermarest). I know this adds even MORE weight to your pack, but it makes a world of difference, especially if you're a cold sleeper like me.

01-05-2004, 04:53 PM
Bill, my first winter foray to the ADK's was only marginally more successful than yours. I've done lots of winter hiking adn backpacking, but that Seward trip bit me. All I can say is don't give up. You might try looking at the thread for the Gathering coming up in 10 days. If you don't meet anyone with similar interests there, then you need to give up:D All of us less than sane folks will be there.

01-05-2004, 06:43 PM
Hi Bill40,

First of all, I salute your motivation and ambition.

But I agree with others that you tried to tackle a very tough trip too early in your hiking experience. I've been hiking the high peaks for a few years now, and finally got up my nerve to try a winter conditions high peak as a dayhike with three other people this December. It was a tough 16 mile hike that fell short of our goal (Haystack). But it was a beautiful day, and I learned alot about winter hiking.

My approach is to push myself a little bit further each time, as far as distance, peak difficulty, season, conditions, solo/non-solo, dayhikes vs. overnights, new equipment, etc. That way I don't get in over my head, and can figure things out as I push forward.

Definitely hook up with other people--its safer, more fun, and an opportunity to learn. I got started with the ADK Club, and still do hikes with them now and then.

Good luck and happy hiking!

ALGonquin Bob
01-05-2004, 10:08 PM
Keep trying. I started hiking a couple years ago at age 48, I'm up to 33 peaks and trying to finish this Spring. That means I'll be doing several Winter overnighters. I started by doing a lot of dayhikes and warmer weather camps. Haul the 40 lb. pack to a base camp, and do day hikes from there with a smaller, lighter pack as suggested previously.
I'm a slow hiker, but I just do what I can, and take breaks as needed. If you hike with others, try to be with someone who's more your hiking speed to have a more enjoyable trip. There are some fast hiker/climbers in those groups who may not want to slow down. That's why I end up hiking solo much of the time. There has been much discusson about that. For safety, I recommend that you hike with 2 or 3 other people if just starting out on winter backpack trips. So get out there again and go. The "views from the top" are spectacular! -ALG

01-06-2004, 05:52 AM

You've learned a valuable lesson. Winter backpacking is a lot harder than it looks and it never gets easy.

01-06-2004, 08:21 AM
Originally posted by Bill40
...Do people really do these mountains with all this wieght in the winter? Am I supposed to ditch some of it somewhere as I go? ...Am I really supposed to sleep on this little air mat? I have no one interested in my new missions in my neck of the woods; how do I hook up with other similar people to go with? ...
Some background: I just started the 46 (and 'real' climbing) in November 03. I did the overnight alone. ...
I first would like to say that I admire your spirit. To make your first overnight a solo winter traverse of the Range with a full pack is...uhh... lets just say "ambitious". The trail you picked is one of the tougher ones in the Northeast, and there are many (myself among them) that will tell you that it shouldn't be done with a full pack even in the summer.
I agree with the previous suggestions to set up a base camp and go a lot lighter. You don't say how you got wet, but I'm willing to bet that a lot of it was sweat. Proper layering and a dry set of clothes at camp will go a long way towards improving your comfort level. As for sleeping arrangements, I use a closed cell pad + a z-rest in the winter. Insulation between you and the ground is critical. Finally, find yourself a partner. This forum can help you hook up, or try the nearest chapter of the ADK.
Whatever you do, don't give up. Winter hiking and camping can be an awesome experience. Remember, anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger.:D

01-06-2004, 09:43 AM
That snow is on the ground for a reason. No, this reason: Winter gear, clothing, food, and fuel need to be dragged, not carried, whenever and wherever possible. Make a sled at home and you can spend your days thereafter admiring the scenery, not cursing the monkey (gorilla?) on your back. Look at the "Hauling Sled" thread on the General Backcountry board here for starters. There have been other useful suggestions posted on the same topic elsewhere -- search for "sled."

01-06-2004, 10:20 AM
The pain of a winter hike, or climb - Alpine Style (i.e.: carry everything with you the whole trip), is what makes for awesome stories over a cold one, when you get back.

What I do to stay in shape is: Once a week, I bring a 15-20 lb. day pack, and hike up and down the Niagara Escarpment (250 feet of vertical horror) for 2-3 hours. Of course, not up and down the same path, but following trails that ascend and descend. Doing that with snowshoes, and poles, in 1-1.5 feet of snow gives my cardio, and leg stregth a good boost, with a tidbit of torso and upperbody work.

My winter pack for a weekend hiking trip weighs in at 35 lbs, and if I'm climbing: it hits 45lbs or more (depending on gear needs) - most I ever had was 62 lbs for 1 week of glacier travel and climbing.

the wall......

01-06-2004, 10:31 AM
Bill 40,

I admire your spirit and i'm curious as to how you came to choose The Great Range as your first winter trip. I've been hiking for years and done some huge mountains overseas and from what I've read about that Saddleback, Basin area strikes a bit of fear into me.

Mohamed Ellozy makes a great point in the succession to winter backpacking, although I just jumped in like you did several years ago. Fortunately for me, I research everything to death and in the process I found this forum, so my buddy and I went well informed and picked a great trail. My first trip was hard, but as I learned more, it got easier because I packed smarter and made smarter decisions.

Keep on trekking if you love it. Don't be afraid to ask questions cause people here are more than willing to share their knowledge. Winter backpacking is amazing. You'll see some of the most beautiful scenery you've ever seen in your life! The world is a different place when it is covered in white!


01-06-2004, 12:53 PM
Bill40 -

I routinely train on several Syracuse-area trails. Send me a PM and I'll fill you in.

01-06-2004, 05:09 PM
Climbing the winter 46 is a serious undertaking. To tell the truth you really do not have to do the winter peaks as overnight campers. I started winter hiking when I was 27 and now I'm 41 my climbing partner 62. Each one of us have successfully done the winter as day hikes. Me almost 5 rounds and my partner 3 1/2 times. If you plan carefully they can be done. I too, never liked winter camping because of all the gear and fear of freezing to death. The major factor in day hiking them is starting out real early. Back in the early 90's when winter climbing was not so popular, every trail just about needed breaking. The Sewards for example were done on 3 separate trips and starting on the trail for 3:00 a.m. walking Corey's Road and getting back to the car after 6:00 p.m. Now that winter climbing is more popular a 5:00 a.m. start should be plenty enough. Get yourself in shape climbing the shorter ones first then it won't seem so bad. Good Luck. I hope you do it.