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Thread: Hiking in snow

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    Registered User hikernutcasey's Avatar
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    Default Hiking in snow

    This is somewhat of a spinoff from the impending weather thread that's coming this weekend to the NC/TN mountains. I had planned to do a day hike across Grandfather mountain ridge trail via the Profile trail this Sunday. I do not own any waterproof hiking footwear. I always hike/backpack in trailrunners. For those of you who hike in trailrunners do you hike with them in the snow? I normally don't care if my feet get wet but I have never had them get wet from snow either. I thought I would carry a couple extra pairs of dry socks and change them out during the hike but are there any other tips I could use to keep my feet from freezing?
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    I hike in trail runners rain, shine or snow. the only watchout is when you have fresh snow that can get into the mesh between the shoe toe and tongue. It can melt and re freeze becoming ice that can press on your toes. This gives you some perspective on the effect. this was after 19 miles of fresh snow in the Sierra. It was aggravated by wearing microspikes.
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    For winter day hikes in the White mountains I wear Sorrels. I hear tell these brave hearted PCT hikers hike in Sierra snow in trail runners, I wouldn't know about that.

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    You can put your feet into plastic bread bag to use as vapor barriers. I still don't understand why people insist on hiking in what amounts to little more then sneakers. Walmart now has insulated winter boots in stock (at least up here), so you might want to check them out. Their cheap enough it doesn't hurt to get a pair for occasional use.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rafe View Post
    For winter day hikes in the White mountains I wear Sorrels. I hear tell these brave hearted PCT hikers hike in Sierra snow in trail runners, I wouldn't know about that.
    It's one thing to hike in trial runners on hard packed Sierra snow when it is otherwise pretty warm and dry out, and quite another to hike in southern Appalachian slush storm.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    You can put your feet into plastic bread bag to use as vapor barriers. I still don't understand why people insist on hiking in what amounts to little more then sneakers. Walmart now has insulated winter boots in stock (at least up here), so you might want to check them out. Their cheap enough it doesn't hurt to get a pair for occasional use.
    breadbags will not last more than five miles unless you sandwich them between socks. If you want to go VBL then either make some simple socks out of nylon or buy something similiar. I can also tell you that .75 cuben only lasts about 20 miles. And why people hike in trail runners is because it is much more comfortable doing a long mile day in TR than in boots.

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    Registered User Ktaadn's Avatar
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    Just keep walking. Your feet will stay warm. If you sat around with cold/wet shoes/socks on, that would be a problem. For a day hike, plastic bags and fresh socks should be fine.

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    What about Sealskinz socks?

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    I use my Asolo goretex boots on packed snow and Sorrels if snow is deep. However I mostly day hike in winter.
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    If I'm doing a hike, especially a multi day cold snow/possibly slushy/muddy underfoot hike, expecting to experience significant snow travel in anything but the merest of snow depth I'll switch out to a WP trail runner w/ maybe a WR/WP shortie gaiter if the snow might accede 4" in depth. Right now, I'm on the Sheltowee Trace in Mckee KY. I expect the rain to switch to snow later today and through the night. I expect some slush and sleet/snow/rain into the Sat A.M. I'm currently wearing ASICS GT1000 II's a non WP very breathable almost entirely mesh running shoe. I anticipated this might happen. That's why I've been carrying, and why I'm now wearing, HANZ WP socks with my ASICS since 5 a.m when it started raining and I started hiking I walked into town this morn in the rain in the low to mid 40's* temps wearing my GoLite Tumalo rain pants, Marmot Mica Jacket, and those HANZ WP very breathable socks(my feet in these cooler temps do not sweat wearing these socks). I'm completely dry and warm AND NOT SWEATY. Might wait to get back out on the trail until after 12 p.m tomorrow Sat afternoon though.

    I know WP shoes often get a bad rap but I've been one to try to see the possible benefits of different approaches. This is why I see the need for, and own, several WP shoes including several in low-cut trail runner style.

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    Personally, unless only on a day hike and not having any other alternative, I try to stay away from hiking in VBL socks. In the long term, completely WP bread bags on my feet, without addressing the sweat/moisture that will accumulate, will leave my feet susceptible to skin breaks/rashes/areas probe to blisters/hot spots.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Personally, unless only on a day hike and not having any other alternative, I try to stay away from hiking in VBL socks. In the long term, completely WP bread bags on my feet, without addressing the sweat/moisture that will accumulate, will leave my feet susceptible to skin breaks/rashes/areas probe to blisters/hot spots.
    I don't seem to have that problem. A thin liner seems to move with my foot, and doubled bread bags are then a good enough lubricant that my socks don't rub even if the liners are wet. My layering system:

    Thin nylon or polyester dress socks.
    Doubled bread bags. A single layer does rub, and rips.
    My usual wool hiking socks.

    Then:

    Trailrunners and over-the-calf gaiters, possibly with microspikes, for day trips in very light snow. This is what I'd still consider "shoulder season" rather than "winter", but I'm Up North. If they get wet, on a day trip it isn't a catastrophe, my wool socks will stay warm when they're wet.

    Big clunky leather boots or Sorel pac boots according to temperature, again with over-the-calf gaiters, for anything more than very light snow. This is partly to keep my socks dry, and partly because I need stiffer boots to attach traction gear. On the pac boots, the felt inner boots really need to be kept dry, which is the reason for the vapor barrier.

    Then I attach microspikes, snowshoes, or crampons as conditions warrant. Around here, there's almost always ice or packed snow underneath the snow on the trails, so I'm seldom out without at least microspikes. Even on my trip to work, they don't salt the rail-trail that's about half the walk, so I wear spikes even around town. The law in NY requires snowshoes or skis on state-owned land when there are more than 8 inches of snow. If the conditions warrant crampons, you're not postholing, and you have snowshoes with you, they'll look the other way at crampons (and the ranger looking the other way is likely wearing crampons himself). Mostly they're needed either because the trail is packed like concrete, or because you're above the tree line where the wind scours the ridges and what accumulates is ice, rather than snow.

    Don't posthole. If you posthole accidentally, fill your holes and put on your snowshoes. Leaving postholes leaves tripping hazards for the hiker behind you. If everyone does it, the trail turns into a skating rink.

    Try not to hike in other people's ski tracks (sometimes on a narrow trail, there's no choice).

    Of course, this is from the perspective of a guy who lives Up North. I understand conditions in the South are a lot different, so some of what I'm saying is probably ridiculous overkill. When I think 'winter hiking,' it's possibly a 5-6 foot snowpack right up to the treeline, with windswept ice above, and subzero temperatures. I may be bringing snowshoes and poles, crampons and ice axe, and microspikes, and switching back and forth among them all day as the snow conditions change.

    With that sort of load (traction gear is heavy!) and the effort of breaking trail, I don't ever plan long trips in winter. I switch to peak-bagging mode. If it's a long trip in to a peak, I may plan to be out overnight, but no more than that.
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    This is from the State Park web site today http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/grmo/main.php
    > 10/30/14 Winter Storm Warning: A winter storm warning is in effect from Friday evening through Saturday evening. Campers and hikers should be prepared for windy, cold conditions this weekend. Wear appropriate clothing and carry appropriate gear for the conditions. Snow and ice may make upper elevations treacherous; make sure you have ice traction for your shoes. Be advised: only experienced alpine hikers should attempt the trails from Calloway Gap to the swinging bridge when there is ice and/or heavy snow on the trail. Note: If the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed due to weather, park visitors can park at the Asutsi Trail Parking Area. To access GM State Park trails, hike west on the Asutsi Trail (under the BR Parkway) to the Tanawha Trail, which will connect to the Nuwati and Daniel Boone Scout Trails. To check for parkway closures, visit http://www.nps.gov/maps/blri/road-closures.

    > 10/30/14 PROFILE PARKING WILL CLOSE EARLY ON FRIDAY: The Profile Parking lot will close at 6:00 PM on Friday, October 31 due to impending winter weather. Hikers, please be prepared to leave the parking area by 6:00pm. It will re-open as weather permits. We will post the status of the parking area on our website. NOTE: The trail will not close - only the parking lot.

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    Thanks for the link. I didn't even think about them closing the parking area. I think I'll call ahead to check conditions before I head that way. I'm definitely not an experienced alpine hiker but if I go I will be prepared for the conditions. Should be a fun hike.
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    We had over 100 inches of snow last year where the trail goes thru Becket and then Washington, Ma. One needed snowshoes. Hiking in trail runners this far North in the winter imho would be asking for frost bite.

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    I think all the northern folks are talking a completely different game than we southerners are. When I said hiking in snow I meant like 4 to 8 inches of fresh heavy wet snow, not several feet of frozen hard packed snow.

    This is what I'm worried about...the snow we get down here is usually very slushy and wet, therefore my concern about having cold wet feet all day with temps in the 30s.

    I'm still thinking I should be OK with bringing a few extra pairs of socks since this is just a day hike.
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    Registered User Grits's Avatar
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    The winds will be gusting 50+ and white out conditions on top. There will be a lot of ice take some micro spikes. The wind chill will be close to 0. Be safe

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    Quote Originally Posted by lemon b View Post
    We had over 100 inches of snow last year where the trail goes thru Becket and then Washington, Ma. One needed snowshoes. Hiking in trail runners this far North in the winter imho would be asking for frost bite.
    Yeah, I did the top of the Race Cliffs and Everett on snowshoes - was about a 60 inch snowpack at the time. Gorgeous!
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    Quote Originally Posted by hikernutcasey View Post
    I think all the northern folks are talking a completely different game than we southerners are. When I said hiking in snow I meant like 4 to 8 inches of fresh heavy wet snow, not several feet of frozen hard packed snow.

    This is what I'm worried about...the snow we get down here is usually very slushy and wet, therefore my concern about having cold wet feet all day with temps in the 30s.

    I'm still thinking I should be OK with bringing a few extra pairs of socks since this is just a day hike.
    You're right, that's a different game. But we get that up here too, mostly in the shoulder seasons. This sort of thing:







    4-8 inches of slush is deadly if you're scrambling, so if you're thinking of a scrambly trail, hike somewhere else! That's what we Northerners do. That's why they close Katahdin in late October - too much chance of unsound ice in the alpine region. They reopen it again when the temps are cold enough that the ice stays frozen. In between times, there's just too much risk of slipping off the rock. (Take it from someone who's turned back from winter peakbags - with no regrets - because the ice started looking unsound.) I understand that the Southern trails run to gentler grades - if longer ones - than the ones up here. Wet snow on gentler grades isn't too bad.

    Don't expect to stay dry if it's actively raining or sleeting. But warm and wet is the next best thing. Wear heavy wool socks with liners, and you can hike in them wet. Wear polypro, wool or silk baselayer, fleeces if you need to, and some sort of wind-blocking layer (even Dri-Ducks will do fairly nicely). Balaclava or tuque, glove liners, and possibly mittens. Look at the pictures, that's how we're all dressed. (For what it's worth, I'm the tallest of the foursome in these pix, in the green rainsuit with the orange tuque and pack cover.) In the pictures, one of us is wearing boots with Gore-Tex waterproofing, and the other three are wearing full leather ones.

    Gaiters help keep the snow out of your shoes. You want over-the-calf ones because the stuff will be splashy.

    Microspikes are a must. If they start snowballing too badly, take them off and just posthole. Snow that's balling that badly isn't going suddenly to freeze solid.

    Have dry everything in the car to change into - and change into it. Don't be a shrinking violet, figure out how to strip to the skin without getting arrested and get into dry clothing.

    Be prepared to navigate in whiteout.

    Have fun.
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    It works for you Another Kevin because you did address "the sweat/moisture that will accumulate."

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