View Full Version : Who would do an overnighter in these temperatures?

01-11-2004, 10:01 PM
With the temperatures near -30 in some places, how many of you would do an overnighter?

If you have, what was it like?

BTW, can anyone reccommend a good T.I?

01-11-2004, 10:21 PM
I probably would, just never had the chance. The coldest overnighter I've ever done was -10. I always seem to be really busy on these cold weekends!! :D

01-11-2004, 10:38 PM
I've been out overnight at -20 or a little colder, but that was my limit. When temps like that, routine, small tricks to stay comfortable and good teammates are essential. There is little room for error.

I know folks who've been out colder, but for me, it just isn't fun to sleep out when it hits the danger zone.

01-11-2004, 10:54 PM
I think it would be a good idea for someone with Alaskan 16Ker or above aspirations to get out in this weather in familiar terrain to test out gear before going on an expedition where you will have to deal with it for more than a week, and changing your mind is no longer an option if the bush pilot is at least a week away. These cold spells seem like excellent training for really cold "big" mountains to learn heat management and winter mountaineering skills. I was going to do some winter overnighters this year as I have Mt. Bona(I would be guided if/when I go) aspirations but that trip is postponed until 2005 or later for me as I have decided to move this year instead which takes up most of my time and money for this year. So this winter I am staying inside at night:cool:! Next year...:rolleyes:

Happy hiking... John

David Metsky
01-11-2004, 10:59 PM
I've spent the night out at around -20 (in the Great Gulf) and getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night was a painful experience that I don't hope to repeat.

I've spend a -30 night out in a cabin and had to ski back to my car in the morning at about -15. That was a pretty bitter experience as well.


01-11-2004, 11:16 PM
To answer the original question... it looks like those of us at Gathering 6.5 would be some (or many) of them!!

01-11-2004, 11:43 PM
I did last year when we had that cold spell because the artic front that came in conincided with the date we had chosen to go out. My friends had purchased their plane ticket so the date was kind of set.

Before we left one of my friends kept calling me and asking me with his British accent, "Nigel, you think this is safe, maybe we should reconsider." Seeing as how my bag was rated at 25F, I went to EMS and rented the -25F.

The plan had originally called for us to do a night hike in to a lean-to after driving 6hrs from NYC after work on Friday. We stopped about 40 minutes north of Albany at a reststop and when I stepped out, I was chilled to the bone. Needless to say, we spent that night in a hotel in Lake Placid and spent the 2nd night out, which was around -27F. Surprisingly, quite a few people were out and about doing their trips. It definately was not fun getting up in the morning, but it was a memorable experience!

I'm heading out this weekend and looking at the forecast, it looks like it's going to be another chilly weekend!

Wednesday night. Partly cloudy. A slight chance of snow late. Lows 20 below to 30 below. Chance of snow 20 percent.

Thursday. Partly sunny with a slight chance of snow. Highs near 5 below. Chance of snow 20 percent.

Thursday night. Partly cloudy. Lows 15 below to 25 below.

Friday. Partly sunny. Highs near zero.

Friday night. Partly cloudy. Lows 10 below to 15 below.

Saturday. Partly sunny. Highs 10 to 15.

Saturday night. Mostly cloudy with a slight chance of snow showers. Very cold. Lows 5 below to 10 below. Chance of snow 20 percent.
http://www.crh.noaa.gov/forecasts/NYZ034.php?warncounty=NYC029&city=Lake+Placid (http://)

Fun Times! Just another balmy day in paradise!


01-12-2004, 12:31 AM
I camped at Horns Pond (Maine) last February during the cold snap. For some reason, the info board there had a thermometer attached. It bottomed out at 35 below around 9:00 pm. Our own thermometers all did the same. I don't really trust any of them, but suffice to say, it was cold. However, it was not particularly uncomfortable; I've felt colder and more miserable at 5 below, or even 10 above.

Assuming you have the right gear, facing cold is mostly about attitude. And, I find that the best way to sleep warm is to go on a short, starlit snowshoe walk, with all your layers on, before getting into your sleeping bag. Just don't overheat and sweat.

01-12-2004, 07:12 AM
cushetunk - good idea with the walk right before bed.

sherpakid - I'm headed out this weekend myself to Rusk in the Catskills. Where you headed?


I've done quite a few winter overnighters but it hasn't been since, like, at least 15 years ago that I remember temperatures getting this cold. We camped at the base of Slide and it got to minus 20. It was my first winter trip. I wa wearing a lot of cotton, using a summer bag and a big pair of RedWing work boots - pretty funny when I look back. It was cold.

I'm taking my brother on his first winter trip this weekend - HAHAHAHAH

Barry Sr
01-12-2004, 07:13 AM
I do it every year at least one SubZero temp.
I teach the Boy Scouts some winter survival tips.
Snow is a great insulator, for example given two pots of water.
One one a snow bank and the other one under a foot of snow.
The one in the snow not on top will not freeze.

Like everyone else said, layers on and I also use a layered sleeping system as well.

-12 below is my record so far but I know I am ready for more.
Going out the next two weekends. Bound to be a wee bit nippy.
I also cook and eat an old Native American snack of bannock cakes and pemican before bed. Both have highfat and oil content and help with a little insulation too.

If you actually had the time on a hike, make a Quinzee ( Snow Cave) it will be like being inside it's so warm.

01-12-2004, 07:37 AM
I've been out as cold as +8, but this weekend at the Gathering will be my first subzero (and significantly so) experience. I will say that I'm glad it's at a campground so I can have a bunch of extra layers for inside the tent. I'm looking forward to it ... the only thing that concerns me is that if I do find myself cold at night, I won't sleep well, and if I don't sleep well then hiking the next day will be difficult.

01-12-2004, 07:41 AM
I tested my sleeping bag in the backyard last winter, it got down to -12 and I was getting a little chilled, so I guess that's my limit. Can't quite justify buying a new bag for lower temps.

01-12-2004, 07:43 AM
Yeah, when it gets real cold, it takes a lot of mental endurance to get through the trip. You always gotta keep the extremeties moving and the conversation going to keep the mind off the cold.

But it's worth every minute of it!

01-12-2004, 07:44 AM
Coldest for me was around -25, (a buddy had a minimum registering thermometer) at Bushnell's fall LT back in 1997.
I remember screaming into the cold while peeing at 11, 3 & 5 AM.
I also remember hearing the trees explode.
I specifically remember it was so cold that I could not get the gasoline (not white gas) to light in the whisperlight priming cup.

I never realized how painful cold can really be.

I spent a night in a cabin when it got down to around -40 in the Adirondacks over Presidents Day Weekend in 2003.
(I remember we had a thread on it - BC)
We kept going outside to toss hot water in the air and watch it evaporate almost instantly, except for a few small pieces that came down as ice.

I agree with Dave M. on the Skiing. I scraped off all my grip wax -that morning - didn't need anything cause the snow was so cold and sharp. It was very brutal that day - Warmed up to around -12

01-12-2004, 09:08 AM
Like Alpine Summit, my low is -40. We, too, had a cheesy thermometer... all the coloring was in the bulb. That was a painful night I wouldn't like to repeat.

BTW, the next morning we attempted Algonquin... and I've been hooked ever since! Some monkeys learn quicker than others.

Barry Sr
01-12-2004, 09:19 AM
Originally posted by jfb
I tested my sleeping bag in the backyard last winter, it got down to -12 and I was getting a little chilled, so I guess that's my limit. Can't quite justify buying a new bag for lower temps.

I believe that the temp rating on a sleeping bag is based on survivability not comfort. Can someone attest to that or am I just having a brain freeze.

01-12-2004, 09:20 AM
sherpakid - I'm headed out this weekend myself to Rusk in the Catskills. Where you headed?

IndianChris, I'm headed to the lower range and then crossing through the Johns Brook Valley to BigSlide and the Brothers. Plan is to hike in via the Southern Trail, then ascend Upper wolfjaw, Armstrong, and Gothics, then come back down the same way since the cable is out and loop back to the Garden via Bigslide and the Brothers.

Have a great trip!

01-12-2004, 09:21 AM
My record is -26F while sleeping at Crag Camp. Whenever you spill water at those temps, you can watch it crystallize right before your eyes. It's pretty amazing. That night I slept in my -20F bag. I had my down pants on in the bag and my down coat over the foot of my bag. I was fine all night.

In the morning though I had trouble keeping my feet warm. When it was colder the night before my feet were fine but in the warmer morning I couldn't keep them warm. I don't know why. Even in my Koflach Arctis Expes they were getting numb real quick. I had my feet in the sleeping bag most of time while cooking and packing. I ended up throwing my boots on and running down the trail until I warmed up. I think when it's -10F or lower I need overboots.

01-12-2004, 09:24 AM
BTDT a few times to -30F-ish. It's a real treat to have to warm the fuel to get it to ignite.:eek:

Funniest experience came at a slightly warmer temp. I got up and started making breakfast. It seemed cold, and I asked my late-rising tentmate to tell me what the thermometer registered where I had just hung it on a branch. He reported that it was "fifteen." I continued to get breakfast ready and felt a little cold in my toes for fifteen. Then I glanced over at a half-empty bottle of wine that laid frozen in a snowbank.

"Say, how cold did you say it was?
"Fifteen. But it's gone down some now."
" What it is now?
"It's gone down to twenty-two."
"DOWN to twenty-two?? How the hell could it go DOWN from fifteen to twenty-two? Oh."

01-12-2004, 09:53 AM
My coldest camping saw the thermometer pegged at -40° F at daylight after each of two nights on a long weekend in a leanto at Lake Colden, February 1967. Had adequate fires for cooking and some warmth at mealtimes. We were not prepared for mountain ascents, so hung around the lake and Opalescent Brook area. Spent pleasant hours in the ranger’s cabin kitchen, talking with with caretaker Charlie Nolan and drinking much tea. Charlie closed up all parts of the cabin except the kitchen to minimize space that had to be heated during the winter.

Was young and foolish then, and had a blast. Old and foolish, now, but have developed a powerful affection for soft, warm beds, hot showers and other homelike amenities at night when temps plummet.


01-12-2004, 10:04 AM
Coldest for me was -21F at the Twins last winter (I was at Grey Knob at -28F on another night, but that doesn't count). We dug a deep fire pit (CB and Arm weren't convinced that it would work), gathered wood, and dodged smoke until 9:00PM. We were relatively comfortable around the fire. This was my first night in my new winter bag, rated at -30F. My wife was convinced (as were more than a few of my friends) that I was a) nuts, and b) having a death wish, but all went well. The funniest part of the night was me waking up, way too hot. I stripped off one layer, leaving me in polypro unders. I also needed to take my boot liners off as my feet were throbbing (note: loosen the liners completely as your feet will swell when you lie down). As I was taking them off, both thighs cramped up, half out of the bag, and I lied there half laughing and in pain. I was then so comfortable that I overslept! I remember another trip when I was in the BoyScouts. It wasn't as cold, but my bag wasn't nearly as warm!

Thursday night will likely get me a new low at the Gathering. Friday will be balmy (I hope) by comparison:eek: Someone should come by early in Friday with an ice chipper, just in case...

MichaelJ: 8F? I though we were talking about cold!:D

Tim Seaver
01-12-2004, 10:17 AM
In preparation for a climb of Denali, Keith Schumacher ( former Grey Knob caretaker) and I deliberately attempted a Presi traverse from the south as an Alberta Clipper came thru in mid-february of 1991. Our first harrowing night was spent attempting to erect our Kelty Windfoil in 60+mph winds and below zero temps at the Red Pond - the elastic in the tent poles doesn't function very well at those temps, so the tent was not fully erected - the winds were strong enough to flatten the tent intermittently onto our faces. Fortunately we had arctic gear: - 40 bags, altitude suits ,and One Sport boots. We slept with our boots on - it was that bad.

The forecast for the next night was something like -30, with higher winds expected. We had quite enough at the Red Pond, so we exited to Hermit Lake rather than spend a ferocious night at Sphinx Col. There we kept warm by stamping out an area of snow, (which we let age harden an hour while eating dinner) and then cutting our huge snow blocks which were used to wall off one of the lean-tos in an effort to keep the harsh winds at bay. Definitely the coldest night I have spent, far colder than what we saw in Alaska. We came back a month later to see our lean-to snow wall still in use :)

01-12-2004, 10:18 AM
that's my coldest. No real desire to go that low again.

Anybody else think that the cold complications sort of come in stages? Like, 30f down to 10f is one thing, 10f down to -5 is another, -5f down to -15f is yet another and so on. Seems that at each stage, a whole new set of problems pops up.

These days, I won't go if the lows are forecast below -5f. I'm getting soft in my old age. Or smart.

01-12-2004, 10:19 AM
I've done it a few times. -22F was the coldest. I'd been out a few days and had acclimatized some I guess plus I was sleeping in my Marmot CWM down bag rated to -45 deg so I was plenty warm sleeping. It's getting out in the morning that is hard. Knocking frost all over yourself from the tent walls making an interior snow storm. Everything is stiff and cold. The things you have to do with just glove liners on that make your fingers throb. I sleep light and the trees sounding like the crack of a rifle going off did awaken me several times during the night. It's amazing how loud they can be on a cold, calm night. I don't think I have ever seen as many stars as I have on a moonless, clear winter night. I once had seen a photo of someone throwing boiling water into the air and it instantly crystalizing. I had to try that and must say it does crystalize into a million sparkles before hitting the ground. Pretty neat. Have to entertain myself somehow on those long nights. That to me is probably the worst part of winter camping. Having it dark by 4:30 or 5:00 pm and lying in my tent alone for hours, staying warm and waiting for it to be time to go to sleep. It's usually to cold to keep my arms out and read and my pen always freezes so Im can't write in my journal. As some have said, alot of it is mental attitude. When I'm out for awhile and know I'll be out for a few days the cold doesn't seem to bother me. But somehow if I'm in the warm house and know it's below zero, I have a different attitude about going out in it. Somehow it just seems much colder.

01-12-2004, 10:40 AM
Interesting to see that the colder it gets, the more precise the temp remembered: -10, -15, -20, -21, -22, etc. We all know that -22 is a lot colder than -21!

01-12-2004, 12:28 PM
[i]Having it dark by 4:30 or 5:00 pm and lying in my tent alone for hours, staying warm and waiting for it to be time to go to sleep. [/B]

Or going into the tent in the early December evening with your wife on her first winter camping trip and the temp at -15F. (This is after she declines an offer for a ride into town from a friendly couple who were collecting spring water at the campground. They couldn't imagine that someone would voluntarily sleep outdoors that night.) I fall asleep fairly quickly and awaken a few hours later to the sounds of someone who is not having much fun and getting colder by the minute.

"Are you OK?"
"Do you want to go home?"
"Well, yes."

Just enough frost on things to make a good shower as I strike camp a little earlier than I had planned. We drive home to my parents' house, where we are staying for a few weeks waiting for an apartment to be ready, and arrive at 2:00 a.m. We are extra careful to be quiet because of the late hour. And my father meets us at the door with a baseball bat, ready for a burglar, because he just knows that I'd never come home in the middle of the night from a camping trip.

She's been a three-season camper since that night. Not counting one night in a Jeep Cherokee with our three dogs, at a closed campground on the Parks Highway between Anchorage and Fairbanks, with three feet of snow on the ground. (Well, it was May ........)

01-12-2004, 01:10 PM
Sardog -
It's all in the approach.
My wife absolutely loves to sleep in after I leave the tent in the morning and snuggle up in 2 -20 degree down bags.
I make sure I pack in a couple of "Counry Living" or "Home and Garden" type mags and leave her a thermos of hot chamomile tea and shortbread cookies. She's good for the day.

Dennis C.
01-12-2004, 01:21 PM
Like David M and Peakbagr, I've done some Northeast mountain trips with camping night temps of -20 deg F. I also got some frost nipped fingers that get cold very quickly now. Conclusion, as AlpineSummit noted, we learn from these young buck foolish manuevers, and now avoid climbing in arctic blast conditions.

Michael M
01-12-2004, 01:44 PM

There were plenty of cars at the Sewerd winter trail head this past weekend
and it was at least 33 below zero!

Be safe and be prepared


01-12-2004, 02:19 PM
The coldest time I ever spent in the woods was my (our) first time winter camping. My buddy and I left the Upper Works on snowshoes. The temp was 34F and snowing like hell, with three feet of fresh powder on the ground. We got half way to the FL's and met these two guys skiing out and were so happy to meet them that we sat down and had a snack with them before heading on. When we got to Flowed lands, my buddy built a snow wall in front of the lean to while I started a fire, got water, and cooked. About the time we finished dinner, I was feeling it getting considerably colder, and looked up at the night sky to see a line across it from the ENE to the WSW. On one side it was cloudy and snowing and on the other side it was clear as clear could be, and the stars were twinkling. It got down to -30 that night and the next, and Old Charlie & Pebbles saved our (lives) camping trip. Our stove froze up and he loaned us his. He also let us warm up by the stove drinking hot spiced tea and talking of his future trip to Alaska, while thumbing through Alaska magazines. I was surprised at the number of things that froze, including my feet. It took a walk from Calamity brook to Lake Colden to thaw them out. Every time we went back to Colden after that, we would bring Charlie his favorite cereal that we would pick up at a climbing store across the street from the Elm Tree Inn, in an old Victorian house. I beleive it (the cereal) was called Red River Valley, but that was back in the early seventies. :confused:
I'd really like to go to the 6.5 Gathering but I can't see where I'd have the time to do any hiking, with the time it takes to set up, cook, eat, clean up, etc. in those kind of temperatures. I think I'll wait for nicer weather before doing Esther and Whiteface!

01-12-2004, 02:33 PM
My son and I spent our second winter overnight at Wallface leanto and it got down to about -20. My tights were hung on a line to dry and the next day I could have pounded nails with them. After our stove turned into a fireball and had to be thrown from the leanto it warmed itself up enough to actually burn. My son went over to the brook and broke a hole with his ice axe to get some water for breakfast. When he set the pot on top of the stove it already had a skin of ice forming on top of it. At the time I was using a US Army extreme condition bag(-40) and I was warm as toast as long as I stayed in it. They are awesome bags, but a little heavy at 10 lbs. We learned a lot on that trip.

01-12-2004, 03:22 PM
I spent a week last winter on dogsled/ski expedition in the Boundary Waters of Ely, MN with Outward Bound. IT was -36 on our first night out. We slept under tarps and had two sleeping bags each. We also placed "hot" water bottles between our thighs. I made a serious error the first night when I got up to pee. I did not jump up and down or go for a short fast walk before getting back into my bag. I also did not zip my bags all the way up mummy style because I was having difficulty with the zippers and was too tired to bother. BIG MISTAKE! I woke up approximately an hour later, very cold, legs numb from the knees down, and was completely uncoordinated.I could not get my boots or my down jacket on. I noticed I had a few irrational thoughts and knew I was in deep trouble. I crawled to the leader's megamid which was very close to ours and they aggresively warmed me up. One of the leaders fed me hot chocolate. They keep this for emergencies in a stainless steel thermos in their sleeping bags. They also fed me chocolate and one of them warmed my legs against her stomach. She massaged them until sensation returned and I could walk. The other leader built a fire in the wall tent stove (our cooking tent) and they finished warming me there. They also fed me lots of hot lime jello. I can only remember saying "hurry up, hurry up, help me...I'm so cold".
They had given us extensive teaching in what to look for with hypothermia and their last instruction before we went to sleep was "wake us up if we had
any problems". We all had whistles that we never removed so I could have used that if I could not have crawled.
Lessons learned. Doing the little dance to warm up before getting into your bags is very important and making certain that your body heat is not escaping as you sleep is critical. Having hot fluids available is also a must. Letting someone know before you are too far gone is highly recommended.
We slept all week in minus digit temps and this never happened again. Our leaders emphasized hydration and keeping our calorie intake up.
I had some experience winter camping but never in this kind of cold.
When all is said and done I would do it again in a heartbeat! A truly incredible experience, every minute of it!!!

01-12-2004, 03:31 PM
Funny you should ask! Desperately in need of some solo time after a hellish work week, I headed out this past Friday night....up to lost Pond and the Nun-da-ga-o. Previously, I've camped at -30 F, and man was that cold. I didn't bring a thermometer along, but I had everything on, including my boot liners, in my -20 bag and just barely stayed warm enough. It was definately between -30 and -40 on Friday night. But as jrb and tim seaver note, I kinda consider it training for the bigger mountains. Regarding the solo style, its definately risky, but calculating risks and drawing your limits (like a third of the way across the ridge, trail nowhere to be found) is a skill too, and one that we don't always take time to develop. I reached my threshold and returned to my car by noon on Saturday. Man that coffee at the Cliffhanger is good!

01-12-2004, 03:43 PM
I'll be in the Cats this weekend on the W side of Hunter Mtn. It's supposed to be pretty cold by then. I just hope there's enough snow so I can sled my crap in rather than haul it on my back.

Last year a group of us spent a weekend in the Pharoah Lakes Wilderness. We were supposed to do 3 nights but it got down to -17F the first night and then -19F the second night and, well, noone stuck around for the third night.

01-12-2004, 04:24 PM
Buddur - I'll be headed up Taylor Hollow to where it meets the Spruceton Trail. Maybe I'll see you.

01-12-2004, 05:09 PM
Our group did Whiteface via a Western side slide, over the weekend, and camped at WF Brook for 2 nights(Fri&Sat). We heard it was at least -30 most of the Day Sat. We couldn’t tell by our thermometers, as they all bottomed out. It was crazy cold, but an awesome trip, due to a strong and experienced group with the same crazy obsession. The route is highly recommended. I'll post a report soon with a pic

Thunder Dan
01-12-2004, 05:29 PM
Hmmm...just curious...Have any of you ever been in temperatures this cold in the western US, like the Rockies, Cascades, or Sierras? Or are -15 F temps more of a Northeastern US thing?


01-12-2004, 06:03 PM
Actually the answer to the topic question is MANY of us VFTTers. I am sure there will be many new posts after Sunday/Monday when many of us will have braved the sub-zero temps to enjoy each other's company and the ADKs.

I have slept at -10 last winter in NH and I was cold but that was a backpacking trip so hopefully with this weekend being a car camping trip we will all find a way to be warm enough. See all you brave souls on Thursday.


01-12-2004, 06:24 PM
Originally posted by Thunder Dan
Hmmm...just curious...Have any of you ever been in temperatures this cold in the western US, like the Rockies, Cascades, or Sierras? Or are -15 F temps more of a Northeastern US thing?


Ah, before you make that Western trip, you might want to take the quiz at Baby, It's Cold Outside (http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthread.php3?s=&threadid=1450)

Rockies are cold, way colder than the East. Cascades are wet everywhere on the western slopes, making for prime hypothermia conditions; eastern slopes are plenty cold but mostly dry; and it's genuinely cold on upper parts of the volcanoes -- Rainier, Baker, St. Helens (but not quite so high anymore :(), Adams, Hood, etc. Biggest hazard in the Sierras, besides the cold, is the ravenous occupants of poorly-prepared wagon trains. :eek:

01-12-2004, 07:34 PM
Okay, you're stupid. But you're a fine human being for sharing your pics with us winter fans. Thanks!

01-12-2004, 09:08 PM
OK, the "DRY COLD" comment got me, so I'll bite. About 5 years ago I was out in Brekenridge CO in December. We were in town and I just HAD to have a beer, so I walked about 5 blocks in dress clothes to a package store to buy a 6-pack. MAN it was cold, (-20F) and when I stepped into the door of the store I just shook and said out loud "Damn! It's cold out there!". The guy behind the counter says in a very dry, low voice "Yeah, but it's a DRY cold". I looked at him and with a slight smile I replied "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" He looks up, smiles a little and says "You know, I don't really know. I've only lived here about 30 years and ain't figgered it out yet."
My coldest, was also one of the best 3 day outings I've ever had. 20 below at night, zero during the day, clear blue skies all weekend, and the best sking I have ever had. The year before, on the same weekend in the same place, it was 30 degrees and raining. My first and last bout with hypothermia. Not fun, but now I know how it feels.
Great Thread. Nice comments from all.

01-13-2004, 09:00 AM
I've only been to Colorado a few times, and have not seen temps below -10. Though I'm sure if I waited long enough...

One thing I've noticed about Colorado are the mountain winds. Always seem to be blowing at least 15mph and getting much worse than that. See my 12/01/03 post under Trip Reports... Mt. Democrat - Colorado.