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  1. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigcranky View Post
    I hesitate to chime in here, since my winter hiking experience is limited to the Southern mountains (though I do have a fair amount of it), but you need a better hat. Something that covers your neck all the way around, and is windproof and warm. A hood is nice but can restrict head movement and vision. A fleece or wool beanie is not close to enough.
    I have a gortex balaclava for when it was really bad up high.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  2. #22

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    I carry a lightweight balaclava year round along with liner gloves (they have been to the summit of springer). Minimal weight and volume for the major payback. If I dont need the balaclava I roll it up and it becomes my hat. For potentially nasty winter weather conditions I also have a heavier weight fleece balaclava but rarely use it.

    A major caution is that if you are at the point where you need a heavyweight balaclava you need googles and they are problematical as unless you have everything adjusted, just right the goggles will rapidly freeze up and you will be blind. In my opinion goggle and issues with glasses are one of the biggest issues in nasty conditions and once they start they are hard to correct in the field. There is no way to simulate it, you just need to get out in gnarly conditions and see how everything works.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I carry a lightweight balaclava year round along with liner gloves (they have been to the summit of springer). Minimal weight and volume for the major payback. If I dont need the balaclava I roll it up and it becomes my hat. For potentially nasty winter weather conditions I also have a heavier weight fleece balaclava but rarely use it.

    A major caution is that if you are at the point where you need a heavyweight balaclava you need googles and they are problematical as unless you have everything adjusted, just right the goggles will rapidly freeze up and you will be blind. In my opinion goggle and issues with glasses are one of the biggest issues in nasty conditions and once they start they are hard to correct in the field. There is no way to simulate it, you just need to get out in gnarly conditions and see how everything works.
    Eyeglasses in deep winter are a problem without a good solution. I can't wear contacts, and even if I could, contacts are impossible to care for in the field in those conditions. You're entirely right about either your goggles freezing up or your eyeglasses freezing up under them.

    In my youth, I wore a wolf hood (tunnel hood, Shore hood, whatever you call it), which can make going without goggles (but with eyeglasses) bearable down to -20 °F or so. I also had a shapka-ushanka (Russian trooper hat), of either fisher or sable. (I don't know which - believe it or not, this turned up in a thrift store!) With the bill folded out, this served mostly the same purpose. Either one constrains your vision a lot, because you're squinting out through a narrow opening, and in any case, all my fur stuff deteriorated in the 1980s when I was living in Arizona and didn't need it. Silverfish got into it. I hadn't put any of it in cold storage.

    Now I use facemask and goggles. I do the best I can with liberal applications of Cat Crap and use a Neoprene mask arranged so that my exhaled air mostly vents away from the goggles, but it's not really satisfactory. Has anyone tried one of these?

    The only goggles I've found that accommodate my glasses (I have a broad face) are US Army land ops goggles. The drawback is that they don't have insulated glass - they're only single glazed - but at least I can wear them. I have all three sets of lenses - clear, yellow, and gray.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  4. #24
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    Three season hiking even in the White Mts is not equivalent to winter peakbagging in those same New England mountains. I may be poo pooed for suggesting this but I'd overwhelming generally advise going with others who are more experienced than you at first, especially in the most strenuous and possibly dangerous winter conditions, building up NOT ONLY your winter gear/kit, but knowledge and skillset.

  5. #25
    Clueless Weekender Another Kevin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Three season hiking even in the White Mts is not equivalent to winter peakbagging in those same New England mountains. I may be poo pooed for suggesting this but I'd overwhelming generally advise going with others who are more experienced than you at first, especially in the most strenuous and possibly dangerous winter conditions, building up NOT ONLY your winter gear/kit, but knowledge and skillset.
    Not pooh-poohed at all! That's why several of us mentioned that ADK, AMC, GMC, and others offer winter mountaineering classes. This is stuff that you can't just wade into on your own. Likewise, winter peakbagging in the Great Smokies is also not the same. That's more like a bad snowstorm in the shoulder season in New England.

    ADK Winter Mountaineering School is a strenuous, even a severe program, but that's because the instructors understand how deadly the alpine region is and want to make damned sure that you're prepared before they turn you loose. I haven't done it, but I've heard the stories. At my age, I doubt I'll ever be able to get back into physical condition to handle the ADK program.

    When I got lessons in this stuff from DOC many years ago, it was also strenuous, even severe. I hated my ice axe instructor. "OK, now climb up again, fall down again, this time face up, and arrest again." Over and over until all the students were begging for mercy. "But the mountains will have no mercy with you. Again." But that's how I can get away with, nowadays, doing only a few practice arrests at the start of the season. He got the techique into my muscle memory long ago, and the body doesn't forget.

    Thanks for calling me out on the point, because I broke a general rule of mine and mentioned specific winter gear. Ordinarily when it comes to things like crampons, axe, and snowshoes, I'll say, "Let your instructor recommend what you need to get. You have an instructor, right? You don't? Oh dear, you need one.."
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  6. #26
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    I'm just throwing my hat in the ring with all the folks who suggested the winter/coldest weather mountaineering courses. Lots of sage advice from many on this thread, umm especially about catching a crampon tine or ice axe in your pants or boot. Of course, I've only heard of, ahh umm, others doing such ridiculous things.

  7. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    BTW, I have a pair of plastic boots, I have not used them in 5 years and have been up on the high summits numerous times since then with my New Balance winter boots (not currently in stock). I have very wide feet (13 EEEE) so getting pair that fits is a PITA. Getting wide plastic boots is basically impossible, the outfitter just recommend going up a size or two which causes other issues.

    If the weather is cold enough for plastic boots I stay home.
    A possible solution is the military Mickey Mouse Boots, AKA Bunny Boots, They can be had, with enough searching, in almost any size. They are heavy and clunky, but the best thing available for extreme winter conditions. Not expensive, either.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  8. #28

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    I won't say I follow all the good advice given in this thread, but I'm certainly not going to argue with any of it. One thing I'd add is to suggest a thermos bottle rather than just standard water bottles. A good one will hold boiled water at high temp for many hours allowing you to have a hot beverage in a sheltered spot. Great way to get the body temp back up if you've been exposed to the wind for a while, but you don't have to mess with a stove. They also are great for keeping some water from freezing if you are overnighting in really cold temps.
    “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait until that other is ready...”~Henry David Thoreau

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  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by LoneStranger View Post
    I won't say I follow all the good advice given in this thread, but I'm certainly not going to argue with any of it. One thing I'd add is to suggest a thermos bottle rather than just standard water bottles. A good one will hold boiled water at high temp for many hours allowing you to have a hot beverage in a sheltered spot. Great way to get the body temp back up if you've been exposed to the wind for a while, but you don't have to mess with a stove. They also are great for keeping some water from freezing if you are overnighting in really cold temps.
    I often use the "hiker thermos" - a Nalgene in a Reflectix cozy. Seal the cozy with foil flue tape, not duct tape. Duct tape won't stand up to the repeated thermal cycle.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  10. #30
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    A few things to add, might have been covered, but I've done the winter 48 in NH as well and have done some of those peaks quite a few times.

    You've got the right idea about the clothing, layer, delayer as needed. You'll find out that everyone hikes a different temperature. Some will be wearing multiple layers and others just a baselayer. Do what works for you. Don't be afraid to get those layers off and don't sweat in them. A dry layer is a good layer!

    I didn't see gaiters on your list, and Slo'goen mentioned them. They will help protect your lower legs/boots from the snow and a bit from the cold. Main thing here is the moisture, as snowshoeing can kick up snow and breaking trail can be even worse.

    Get a neck gaiter, neck warmer, whatever. Your heat will mainly be lost through your head, neck and wrists. It is a cheap item and easy to take on/off to adjust your warmth level. I have one by Turtlefur that is a treasured piece of equipment. Earbands are nice to have too, you can wear them alone to protect the ears, yet vent heat from the head or in combination with a hat for extra warmth for the ears.

    Another +1 on insulated boots. I don't have double plastics, and have only worn them for a mountaineering class when we were ice climbing and practicing self-arrests.

    One thing that has not been mentioned about the Whites in particular, is that some forest roads that access trailheads are closed in the winter. There is no hard and fast date for when they close, it is more about the weather and the road conditions. For example, Haystack Rd. to the North Twin Trail head is closed in the winter. There are others, too, Mt. Clinton Rd., Sawyer River Rd., Gale River (both ends), Zealand Rd., etc., etc. To find out about road closures, visit: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/whitemountain/home/?cid=stelprdb5183538&width=full . Usually, there is a thread on VFTT, too (link in a post above). You can also visit New England Trail Conditions which is helpful to find out road/trail conditions if something has been posted recently.

    Weather, of course is a huge factor here. The Mount Washington Observatory publishes the higher summits forecast every morning, usually around 5a, or they did, need to make sure that is still the schedule. NOAA has a recreational forecast here, just refresh the page for the current forecast.
    Also, Mountain-forecast is good to consult. I like to consult all three, plus the regular NOAA site. Sometimes they don't all exactly agree, but you get a good idea of what is going to happen based on reading all of them.

    Hope that helps and have a safe and fun winter!
    LT 2013, AT NOBO 2015, MSGT 2016

  11. #31
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    Trailheads may also be inaccessible (ie., plowed in) during winter.

  12. #32

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    The majority of the trailheads are plowed or there is a nearby alternative. One thing that can be a problem is that during and immediately after a snow storm the trail heads are not plowed as hey are secondary priority. Folks will park on the side of the road and if they are on the pavement they can be ticketed and towed. The hike has a choice, go elsewhere or start shoveling. The reason they do this is if cars are blocking the trailhead before its plowed, its darn close to impossible to get it plowed with cars in the way. You are far better waiting a day, the plowing will be done and the trails will be packed down.

  13. #33
    Wanna-be hiker trash Sarcasm the elf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rafe View Post
    Trailheads may also be inaccessible (ie., plowed in) during winter.
    Haha! You should have seen me the time that I had to get my Mazda6 sedan that had non-winter tires into the unplowed parking lot on Mass Rte 23 in Monterey in January when there was 12-18" of snow in the ground. I resorted to waiting until there was no traffic, backing up across both lanes of traffic and hitting the gas so that I rammed the snow with some speed. It took me about 6 attempts before I flattened out enough snow to get far enough in to where the parking lot leveled off and I could safely park my car.
    "This sucks and I love it."

  14. #34
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    Don't know if the situation has changed... many years ago a friend and I planned a winter hike up the Rattle River trail -- the AT trailhead on Rte. 2 a couple miles east of Gorham. We had to make new plans because it was plowed in. There is a NH State facility a mile or so further east on Rte. 2; we could have parked there, but didn't look forward to walking that distance at night, with six-foot high snowbanks on either side.

  15. #35

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    If I have to wear traction, I always wear an ice climbing helmet. Even with two hiking poles, ice bulges are dangerous, I have fallen when fitgue and down hill strain result in diminished balance and coordination.

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