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  1. #1
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    Default What wind speed cancels your trip?

    I'm on the fence about a trip this weekend. I am prepared to deal with the cold, but due to 30-35 mph winds with gusts to 43, I was planning to "tuck in the trees" at night. This is giving me a bit of concern over safety.
    I don't have much of a frame of reference honestly. I've camped in super windy conditions before, but out in the open and in the summer where I didn't feel the need to hide.
    While searching for that unknown edge in life, never forget to look home. For the greatest edge you can find in life is to stand in the protective shadow of those who love you.

  2. #2
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    A great question and definitely a need for consideration. I personally would still go with situational awareness at top level!

    Meaning even when hiking watching over head for branches over hanging on the trail. Or looking out for dead trees etc... there was a guy killed 2 years ago when a branch came down on him while hiking. And I think 2 years ago as well a fellow was killed at the Ed Garvey shelter when he simply walked out of the shelter and a tree fell on him.

    So yeah super situational awareness!! As far as camping if not in a shelter, i suppose i would find the biggest tree and set my tent up next to it, making sure of course there's no dead branches above me. Or maybe next to a big tree that has already fallen that way if something does come down you'll have some protection. But we've all seen them branches that break off and come down like a spear and stick in the ground, that wouldn't be a good place to be.

    It will be interesting hearing the responses on this one.

    "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself " !!

    ( an after thought ,setting up next to a big Boulder or rock would provide some safety as well).
    Last edited by JNI64; 01-16-2021 at 02:37.

  3. #3

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    Wind should make you think more about your surroundings. I have camped in some very high ones and if you look for the right protection and are prepared It can be done safely. A lot of other factor become much more important than normal. Can you Bail out, will the wind make the overall trip impossible, Will it slow travel or make the high points unsafe for crossing, will you be fighting blowdowns all the way, 30-35 is not really that high for around here but your location may differ. The old pilots saying is always true "much rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air than in the air wishing I was on the ground" or follow your gut.

  4. #4

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    Subscribing to the "If there's a doubt, there is no doubt" philosophy, risk tolerance will probably shape the go/no-go decision. If the decision is to go, pay attention to what's overhead and what's on the ground when you are ready to camp. Tree tops and large limbs can shear off in hight winds, if the ground in the area you plan to camp is littered with large limbs and tree tops, it's a good indication that area may not be safe in high winds. That threat increases with precipitation in temperatures around freezing when ice accretion on tree limbs builds. In these conditions I will usually look for a place between a few large boulders or ledges to camp that can provide some protection against falling limbs. If there is a concern about being under trees, there will be some low spots in clear areas where the tent can get some protection from wind gusts. It will be a noisy night, but the danger of falling trees is eliminated. I have used shelters in high wind conditions if there is one close by, depending where you are hiking you may have it all to yourself at this time of year. Most importantly, you should look for a suitable camp site an hour before sunset so you have ample time to look around and find the optimum spot without missing anything due to darkness.

    Good luck!

  5. #5

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    Low temperatures I can handle, but when combined with high winds it can be miserable.


    EDIT:
    Here is a link to a wind chill calculator.

    https://www.weather.gov/epz/wxcalc_windchill

  6. #6
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    My "subscribing" philosophy is "there is no bad weather, only inadequate gear". That boast being said though, high winds of course impose a severe limit; sure, you can mitigate against virtually any cold/wind chill the lower 48 can throw against us, the physical force of high winds you cannot. of course.

    Forces on you, trees, everything, go up as the square of the wind speed, meaning 40 MPH winds have four times the effect of 20MPH winds (Dynamic pressure = 1/2 * air density * Velocity^2 )

    I used to hike with a guy who regularly carried one of those little hand-held anemometers, so I got a real feel for what the actual winds speeds were as we got thrown around. I've hiked in 60MPH winds before, and that is really difficult and you're just asking for an injury. I couldn't imagine winds above that.

    All this being said, a forecast above 45 MPH steady winds is my personal limit for non-technical terrain, maybe 30MPH for technical terrain. I can hike safely in 45MPH winds without too much stumbling.

    But if we had skipped our hike to chasm Lake in RMNP yesterday due to a forecast high of 14 degrees and 45MPH winds we would have missed this (pic below). Yeah, we had full gear, balaclavas, goggles, the works. But when we got to the lake, we were in bliss and the bonus was the lake was well protected by the surrounding mountains (including Long's Peak) and wow, so it was worth the discomfort of the hike in.
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    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    I guess that I've never really cancelled a trip because of wind speed. But, I have cut a couple of trips short because of high winds. A couple of years ago I was on an outing with ODR with the local Air Force base. We were going to snowshoe to the boulder field going up Longs Peak. We got to tree-line and after a short exploratory foray a ways up decided to turn around. Not because of the wind/temps (although it was brutally cold) but more because of visibility issues.

    High winds are simply a way of life where I live. Sustained winds above 40 mph are not uncommon in the winter. A couple of days ago wind speeds were clocked at 105 mph just outside the city where I live. Most snowshoe trips I plan take this into account and stay within the forest where it is usually quite pleasant. There is always the risk, albeit small, of trees coming down but I've always determined the benefits outweigh the risks. Although I will admit to being very nervous last summer on a solo trail maintenance trip. Gusts of wind came in early afternoon and, because I was in a forest of mostly dead beetle kill, i high-tailed it out of there.
    Lonehiker

  8. #8

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    I think the concern here is not hiking in the wind, but camping in it. There really is no telling when a branch will come down or a tree will fall over. A tree which looks perfectly sound can be rotten in the middle and not take much to blow over in the right conditions. Usually it needs additional stress like wet snow or a really strong straight line wind gust.

    Here is the Whites we often have strong winds, especially above tree line. Winds 40 MPH start to knock you around. Much higher then that your on your hands and knees. Trying to walk into that kind of head wind take a lot of effort.

    I've been above tree line in sub-zero temps with strong winds. (but not for long!) Don't want to think what the wind chill might have been. You don't want any exposed skin in those conditions!
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  9. #9
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    I think the concern here is not hiking in the wind, but camping in it.
    Woops! Yeah, sorry about my hiking-only ramblings.

    I hear ya, and this used to be more of a problem out east, but in the last 10 years or so because of beetle kill (as lone talks about below) has become a major issue out west.

    I do think though my estimate is pretty much the same though, I'll take the calculated risk and do very careful campsite selection up to about a 45MPH forecast, but probably won't start a short trip above that. That's pretty much my 3-season tent's wind limit anyway.

  10. #10
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    Under normal circumstances I would say go and plan on camping in shelters as they offer much more protection from falling limbs/trees. But many, if not most shelters, along the AT are closed due to COVID-19 measures. https://appalachiantrail.org/explore...rther%20notice. So, like others have mentioned, if you go, take some extra time to survey and choose your camp site wisely. Often the winds are substantially less on the lee side of a ridgeline once you get down a little bit in elevation.
    I was self employed once, but it proved too stressful. My boss was a jerk and my employee was a slacker - I didn't know whether to quit or fire myself.

  11. #11
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    Proper campsite selection should be paramount regardless of wind conditions. I've heard limbs/trees come down in relatively calm conditions as well as windy conditions. You need to assess the area to the best of your ability and camp appropriately. Look for snags, leaners, dead trees etc. and pick the safest spot. I personally look at the general health of the forest i.e. if there are numerous fallen trees I usually hike until I find a section with a generally "clean" forest floor. It still comes down to a bit of luck as I've seen perfectly healthy trees down also. Honestly this isn't that big of an issue as how many people are actually killed/injured by falling trees each year? It has to be statistically a very small number. if you are a long distance hiker (I understand many posters on here actually aren't) there will be times where your exposure/risk is higher as at some point you just have to make camp. That is simply how it is.
    Lonehiker

  12. #12

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    I found this. It might help you decide.

    https://mountain-hiking.com/hike-safe-wind/

    Above this level, you will begin to notice resistance while walking…

    • 6 / Strong Breeze / 25-31 mph: large branches in motion; whistling heard in telegraph wires; umbrellas used with difficulty

    Above this level, things escalate quickly…

    • 7 / Moderate Gale / 32-38 mph: whole trees in motion; clear inconvenience felt when walking against the wind; will affect balance; avoid exposed ridge lines and cliffy edges; if the temperature is below freezing, you risk first degree frostbite on any exposed skin. (This is where I nope-out.)

    Above this level, staying upright is extremely difficult…

    • 8 / Fresh Gale / 39-46 mph: twigs break off trees; wind force impedes progress; walking is arduous

    Add in the wind chill effect on the temperature and well, I am not a winter hiker so I would pass on the hike especially with winds that high.
    See the windchill calculator below as well.

    https://www.weather.gov/epz/wxcalc_windchill
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

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  13. #13
    Is it raining yet?
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    The decision is completely based on the abilities of my tent. I have a single wall Bibler so it might withstand 50mph, not that I want to hike in 50mph winds but I have. A Eureka tent may not do well > 25mph.

    As for falling branches, yeah, you should always look up. If that's your concern, use a bivy sack and camp in the rocks.

    The most dangerous part of EVERY trip is the drive to get there.
    Be Prepared

  14. #14
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    The tents may not be as bad as you'd think when it comes to wind. We had a group camping on the beach (OK, behind the dunes) many years ago and had a mix of the Eureka green tents and some older domes. The wind was strong enough that when you laid down the side of the tent would blow in and be right on you, but I don't remember anything actually breaking. Kind of like being at the tail end of a tropical storm system (though it wasn't officially being April). Of course, out there there's not a lot of trees to worry about (though I wouldn't be surprised if the green tents still have some sand hidden in them, even after 20+ years)!

  15. #15
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    I would suggest absolute wind speed is not so much the issue as relative windspeed, in that 50 mph wind gusts in an area that regularly experiences 50 mph winds is not particularly dangerous as the trees and branches that will break or fall in 50 mph winds are mostly all been broken or knocked down already. Conversely, with lots of ice on trees or water saturated ground, and/or an area where winds are rarely higher than 30 mph it could be exceptionally dangerous with 40 mph wind gusts. And, it's the wind gusts that are generally the problem, as noted above, stress increase exponentially with windspeed.

    In general, I don't think of winds gusting to 40 mph as particularly dangerous. I start considering significantly more caution as gusts get up to and above 50 mph unless it's coastal or higher altitude where wind speeds are regularly that high or higher.

    Good luck and have fun!
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  16. #16
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    As a sawyer, I get exposed to more blowdowns than the average person, and a closer look as well. It has given me a real appreciation for the danger of falling branches and trees. As a result, my cutoff is about 30 mph.

    However, if I am already out and can't bail, I look to camp in as sheltered spot as I can find. I then repeat my mantra as often as needed: the forest is very big and I am very small and hard to hit.

  17. #17
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    This was at the Silver Hill Campsite on 5Jul18. Absolutely calm day. We were eating in the pavilion when this branch just broke and fell out of the tree. Just missed the tent. Guy left his tent there, figured it was now a safe place.

    FBCB81E8-A247-45C1-A126-3DB28074034D.jpeg

    Silver Hill is a nice campsite. Flat, water pump, pavilion, deck with porch swing.
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  18. #18
    Registered User Prov's Avatar
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    I’m going to go back to what Rob and lone said about areas of above average to massive tree death due to some infestation or disease or other. The Colorado Trail has days straight of rare spottings of live trees thanks to the pine beetle, upper Midwest has white pine blister rust, the smokies have hemlock woolly adelgid, and on it goes. Depending on where you are at, trees ready to come down may be unavoidable.

  19. #19
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    This just led to a flashback of my scariest tree experience. I left Kent, Connecticut where I was sneered at by grown men in polo shirts with popped collars (ha!), hiked in 105+ degree heat index in a drought situation where I couldnít find a drop of water anywhere in any condition, fighting the worst woozies Iíve ever walked with, and when I finally did find water (well past my intended mileage), I spent the night in my tent with my legs curled up and arms braced over my head listening to branches from tall trees come down everywhere around me, just terrified.

    That was a DAY.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    I think the concern here is not hiking in the wind, but camping in it. There really is no telling when a branch will come down or a tree will fall over. A tree which looks perfectly sound can be rotten in the middle and not take much to blow over in the right conditions. Usually it needs additional stress like wet snow or a really strong straight line wind gust.

    Here is the Whites we often have strong winds, especially above tree line. Winds 40 MPH start to knock you around. Much higher then that your on your hands and knees. Trying to walk into that kind of head wind take a lot of effort.

    I've been above tree line in sub-zero temps with strong winds. (but not for long!) Don't want to think what the wind chill might have been. You don't want any exposed skin in those conditions!
    Last year on the traverse, one guy in our group brought an anemometer. We were up around 60 sustained during last hour or two of climbing up Mt Washington, with stronger gusts. It was definitely intense and there were times where it would become very difficult to stay upright. If there had been a good bail out (or shelter and wait) opportunity we probably would have taken it, but the way things slowly built we had to just push to the top. Thankfully the temperature wasn't too bad (right around freezing), so with good wind protection we didn't have to use a lot of insulation. That changed dramatically the next day when it dropped into the low teens. Climbing up from Lake of the Clouds onto Monroe when there was a ton of ice and wind was a whole different experience.

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