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mattydt20
01-17-2006, 21:22
I'm going to be thru-hiking in March and wanted to get out and start exercising outside. There are land preserves in my town, but they don't allow me to get used to the climbs of mountains. I thought I'd like to make a trip to the mountains to get some hiking in on the AT, but I have no idea how the trail holds up in the winter. How much snow is up there? (we've had a lot of rain in Maine this year) Is it packed snow or is there tons of powder? Is it even worth the effort?

Wolf - 23000
01-17-2006, 22:05
Mattydt20,

I’ve done the AT Maine stretch last year. If you don’t have a whole lot of experience backpacking winter, DO NOT GO!!! Going Ice fishing doesn’t cut it. I don’t mean to be harsh about it so please don’t take it like that but it can involve some VERY HARSH conditions.

The snow was very wet about four feet or so, sometimes deeper. I was always wet and in some place include going right through half frozen deep water. That may not sound so bad in a nice warm house, but when it below 0 you feel it. My warmest day hit a high of 20 degrees.

Wolf

Tinker
01-17-2006, 22:27
The first time I ever bailed on a planned weekend hike was the Feb. I decided to climb the Firewarden's trail to the peaks of the Bigelows. It started to rain, the rain began to freeze, I was hiking up what amounted to a frozen stream in places, I was halfway up and it began to get dark. I didn't make it back to the car that night. I pitched my tent next to the trail, and because I was so dehydrated from the climb, had trouble getting warm in my Stephenson Triple bag (which I had used in -20F weather, and been warm). It was about 28F. The next day everything froze solid. I got up, melted some crusty snow for water, and hiked back to the car. Because I had parked it on top of a hill, which was now a sheet of ice, I had to hike into town, use a local's phone, and have a tow truck come and tow my car out.

Rain is likely to be the biggest threat in March, because it may get you soaked, and then temps. may drop below freezing.

If you go, don't go solo, and if you do go solo, make sure you can bail if you need to.

The popular trails will most likely be packed, but not powder. Most likely a mix of crusty snow and ice. If it gets warm, you may find yourself hiking on a ridge where the snow has been compacted and the surrounding unconsolidated snow melts away. Makes for interesting footing. After a day of this, you feel as bow-legged as a cowboy.

weary
01-17-2006, 23:19
I'm going to be thru-hiking in March and wanted to get out and start exercising outside. There are land preserves in my town, but they don't allow me to get used to the climbs of mountains. I thought I'd like to make a trip to the mountains to get some hiking in on the AT, but I have no idea how the trail holds up in the winter. How much snow is up there? (we've had a lot of rain in Maine this year) Is it packed snow or is there tons of powder? Is it even worth the effort?
Scores of people hike the Maine mountains in winter. It's easy and safe -- provided you know what you are doing.

I would join the AMC and start on the easier hikes lead by the experienced leaders of the Maine Chapter. As you become comfortable with the easy hikes seek out some winter backpackers and do a few weekend excursions. The membership chair is Ben Smith of North Yarmouth. 829-8076, smee23_94@hotmail.com

Weary

TJ aka Teej
01-17-2006, 23:46
I'm going to be thru-hiking in March and wanted to get out and start exercising outside. There are land preserves in my town, but they don't allow me to get used to the climbs of mountains. I thought I'd like to make a trip to the mountains to get some hiking in on the AT, but I have no idea how the trail holds up in the winter. How much snow is up there? (we've had a lot of rain in Maine this year) Is it packed snow or is there tons of powder? Is it even worth the effort?

Here's an excellent resource for the information you seek:
http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/
Click on 'Trail conditions', then 'Maine' for topics like these:
Abraham - Fire Wardens Trail, 1/16/06, dhh3919w (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/658.html)
South Horn - Bigalows - AT, 1/14 - 1/15 2006, Taylor (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/657.html)
Sugarloaf via the access road (and upper ski slopes), 1-15-06, Frodo, Hamtero, and Suebiscuit (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/656.html)
N. & S. Crocker via AT, 1-14-06, Frodo, Hamtero, Suebiscuit, Sir Edmund, Swampy, & Pete Hickey (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/655.html)
N&S Crocker -AT from Caribou Valley Road, 1/15/06, dhh3919w (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/654.html)
Redington - Caribou Valley Road, 1/14/05, dhh3919w (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/653.html)
Old Speck, Success Pond Road, 1/08/2006, arm (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/652.html)
Caribou Valley Road update, 1/8/06, rambler (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/651.html)
Pleasant Mtn. by Wardens Trail, 1/7/06, ken (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/650.html)
Puzzle Mtn. on Grafton Loop Trail, 1/5/06, ken (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/649.html)
Bald Mountain & Bald Rock Mountain, 1-7-06, cushetunk (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/648.html)
OJI South Slide Trail , 12/31/05, Heavy Sled (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/647.html)
Caribou Valley Rd. (Caribou Pond Rd) near Sugarloaf, Winter 2006, Rambler (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/646.html)
Crocker Mtn via RT27 Trailhead, 1/2/05, michael (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/645.html)
Bigelows - Avery/West - Fire Wardens Tr, 1-2-06, dhh3919w (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/644.html)
N. Brother/Fort/S. Brother/Coe via Tote Rd/Marston/Mt Coe Trails & BW, 12/31/05, Frodo et al (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/643.html)
Stony Brook Mtn (via AT and 'whack), 12/25/05, michael (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/642.html)
Old Speck Mt via Old Speck Trail (AT), 12/22/05, Brer Fox (http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/trail/me/641.html)

Super forums, too.

weary
01-18-2006, 00:00
Here's an excellent resource for the information you seek:
http://www.viewsfromthetop.com/
Click on 'Trail conditions', then 'Maine' for topics like these:
.
An excellent site. But the mountains of Maine in winter are no place for an inexperienced hiker to be wandering alone. Baxter Park requires backcountry winter parties to have at least four people the last time I checked. Weather changes quickly in the Maine mountains. There is safety in numbers.

A lone person breaking trail in fresh snow is an especially arduous task. Even strong hikers take turns breaking trail. A lone, but strong hiker attempted a traverse of the trail in Maine in 2000. I think he averaged three miles a day.

Weary

Wolf - 23000
01-18-2006, 00:15
Scores of people hike the Maine mountains in winter. It's easy and safe -- provided you know what you are doing.

weary

Wear,

What are you smoking? I like to see you;
- Break snow day in and day out for miles at a clip
- Walk into and through frozen streams when it below 0
- Eat hot food that will freeze in 15 minutes
- Sleep out in fridge temperatures (by the way avoid using a
metal spoon)

There were a few places that I saw people out hiking for the day but no one over night.

icemanat95
01-18-2006, 00:23
An excellent site. But the mountains of Maine in winter are no place for an inexperienced hiker to be wandering alone. Baxter Park requires backcountry winter parties to have at least four people the last time I checked. Weather changes quickly in the Maine mountains. There is safety in numbers.

A lone person breaking trail in fresh snow is an especially arduous task. Even strong hikers take turns breaking trail. A lone, but strong hiker attempted a traverse of the trail in Maine in 2000. I think he averaged three miles a day.

Weary

Contact the AMC and check out the Winter skills courses. There are A schools and B schools with different levels of immersion and different levels of skill required. One week in these schools will get you closer to where you need to be to tackle the White Mountains in the Winter, which is no joke at all. People do Winter traverses of the Presidentials to train up for Mt. McKinley expeditions. Doesn't help with the altitude, but for cold, wind, sudden changes in weather, etc...it's not a bad stand in. Maine may not have that altitude, but it's also quite a bit more remote, so if you run into trouble that you cannot handle, you are often going to be on your own.

Discouraged yet?

Neither was I. I survived it, but there was one time that was touch and go. A little hypothermia and a touch of frostbite'll go a ways toward making you think a bit more conservatively. If you cannot get to a school, find a hiking buddy with a lot of Winter experience and stick to him or her like glue out there. Winter is not the best time to go it alone. Switch off breaking trail and you'll both last longer and go further in a day. Keep track of one another's physical and mental condition.

weary
01-18-2006, 01:19
Wear,

What are you smoking? I like to see you;
- Break snow day in and day out for miles at a clip
- Walk into and through frozen streams when it below 0
- Eat hot food that will freeze in 15 minutes
- Sleep out in fridge temperatures (by the way avoid using a
metal spoon)

There were a few places that I saw people out hiking for the day but no one over night.
I backpacked during winter in the Maine mountains annually for 30 plus years. I was with the first party to traverse the middle of Baxter Park, from the Matagammon gate on the north to the Togue Pond gate on the south, a total of about 40 miles. We camped at the foot of Travelor Mountain, Russell Pond and Roaring Brook.

I've camped in the Chimney Pond leantos in January and February at least a dozen times, and climbed to the summit ridge of Katahdin a half dozen times and to the summit once. I once counted 40 tents at Chimney Pond at the base of Katahdin.

I've climbed and camped on the Baldpates, hiked to the summit ridges of the Mahoosuc, snowshoed Mahoosuc Notch twice. I once lead 12 high school students arriving after dark in early March at the Horns Ponds leantos. We did the Horms and West Peak and camped a second night in Avery Col, climbed Avery Peak the next morning and exited via the Fire Warden's Trail.

Scores of backpackers, then and now, explore Maine mountains every winter. It's easy with the right equipment and the right knowlege. Iceman's suggestion to take some of AMC's winter camping courses is a good one, though I never did. My first winter backpack as an adult was New Year's Eve, 1970, when eight of us hiked the AT from Abol Bridge to Katahdin Stream. We spent the night in a leanto. My thermometer read minus 32 at 7 a.m. New Years morning.

My recommendation remains the same. Newcomers to Maine winters should join AMC and hike with the Maine Chapter a few weekends. The chapter has few if any winter backpack trips, but people you meet will be planning such trips. GEt to know them and sooner or later you will be invited to go along.

Weary

walkin' wally
01-18-2006, 09:58
I'm going to be thru-hiking in March and wanted to get out and start exercising outside. There are land preserves in my town, but they don't allow me to get used to the climbs of mountains. I thought I'd like to make a trip to the mountains to get some hiking in on the AT, but I have no idea how the trail holds up in the winter. How much snow is up there? (we've had a lot of rain in Maine this year) Is it packed snow or is there tons of powder? Is it even worth the effort?

I was in the woods north of Monson yesterday. There was 3-4 inches of powder on top on some boilerplate snow underneath. You could walk anywhere in my area. At the place I was staying this is not the rule for January. Basically powder over a slippery surface. It was quite cold up there yesterday morning and one would not think a warm front was approaching that's providing the rain for today. As you know the temperatures have been all over the place this winter in Maine. Like Weary says, I would do some research and planning, watch the weather, (read cold weather then rain), provide a plan at home of your hike, and get out there. It beats staying home and the bugs aren't so bad this time of year. I assume that you have lived in Maine a while so you know every winter is different and how changeable the weather can be.

Good luck on your thru hike. I wish I was going this year too.:)

weary
01-18-2006, 12:11
Another way to get some winter mountain climbing experience is to take any of the popular trails in the White Mountains, where a lot of use partially negates somewhat the safety importance of companions.

For years my "cool down" winter hike was a late December, early January walk to AMC's Carter Notch Hut. (Reservations strongly advised) Usually, I would spend the night at the hut and walk out the next morning. The trail gets so much use that you usually don't need snowshoes.

Weary

Mr. Clean
01-23-2006, 17:50
Check viewsfromthetop and try some of the popular trails in the Whites so that there will be plenty of folk around just in case. Winter in these mtns is no place to fool around, but easier hikes on popular trails puts the odds more in your favor.

Cookerhiker
05-18-2006, 14:55
I'm glad I found this thread. When does winter begin? I realize that at Katahdin, it's mid-October but what about further south? I'm considering hiking the AT from Rt. 2/Gorham to Rangely, possibly Stratton, starting November 1. I know to expect cold temperatures but what about snow & ice? Will ice be a problem around Nov. 3 in Mahoosuc Notch? What about the high open summits - the Gooses, Baldpates, Bemis? Saddleback is the 2nd highest Maine point. Is the second week in November too late?

Peaks
05-18-2006, 17:25
I'm glad I found this thread. When does winter begin? I realize that at Katahdin, it's mid-October but what about further south? I'm considering hiking the AT from Rt. 2/Gorham to Rangely, possibly Stratton, starting November 1. I know to expect cold temperatures but what about snow & ice? Will ice be a problem around Nov. 3 in Mahoosuc Notch? What about the high open summits - the Gooses, Baldpates, Bemis? Saddleback is the 2nd highest Maine point. Is the second week in November too late?

When does winter begin? Some say there are only 2 seasons in Maine anyway: Winter and July. So, I'd be prepared for some cold nights and cold hiking in November.

icemanat95
05-18-2006, 18:43
november will be cold, often snowy, freezing rain, sub freezing nights, Occasional warm bits. Elevation plays an important role. Warm rain in the valleys will be bitter freezing rain or sleet on the ridges. I've been on top of Mt. Washington in November in a foot of snow and in 50 or approaching 60 degree weather, anything can happen in that season, so be prepared.

Roland
05-18-2006, 18:47
~~~I'm considering hiking the AT from Rt. 2/Gorham to Rangely, possibly Stratton, starting November 1. I know to expect cold temperatures but what about snow & ice? Will ice be a problem around Nov. 3 in Mahoosuc Notch? What about the high open summits - the Gooses, Baldpates, Bemis? Saddleback is the 2nd highest Maine point. Is the second week in November too late?
Cookerhiker,

I can't forecast the weather 6 months in advance, but I can tell you about my observations, having lived at the starting point of your hike my whole life.

As a kid, there were years when it snowed on Halloween night. I can remember having to wear winter jackets over our costumes. In the recent past, there were years when we've done the final lawn mowing/mulching on Thanksgiving weekend. The trend seems to be towards a later winter start, however I wouldn't bet on it.

On November 1st, I don't expect you'll see snow in Gorham. However, as you climb towards the Mahoosucs, it would not be uncommon to see a dusting of snow at 3,000-4,000 feet. It would be unusual to need snowshoes that early in the season, however be prepared to walk in snow. If freezing rain occurs before there is any snow cover, you'll wish you had some sort of traction device on your feet, especially when traversing smooth ledges. I carry STABILicers, (http://www.32north.com/prod_stab.htm) in mixed rock and ice conditions.

The window of your hike is during a transition period. The weather conditions you'll experience in November could vary significantly. As time goes on and as you proceed northward, the chances of snow increase, especially at higher elevations. It's a great time of year; no bugs, no crowds. Enjoy!

Alligator
05-19-2006, 09:48
Cookerhiker-If you should happen to have sticky blowing snow, stay out of the Notch. It's difficult to pass through without being able to see the blazes.

vipahman
05-19-2006, 12:48
Rock blazes are usually found above treeline or on rocky ridges. They are hard to impossible to find in the snow. Ascending tends to be easier when the objective is a summit/ridge. Descending may be harder because the objective may not be that obvious. The trail will rarely follow the intended direction of travel high up on a summit. Take compass bearings at the summit to your next objective to determine the general direction of travel. Taking back bearings helps to stay on course.