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  1. #1
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    Default Winter Long Trail Thru-Hike

    Hey all!

    Been a long time since I've logged in here, but I started looking around recently and wanted to come back and announce my winter thru-hike plans for the Long Trail. Having talked about it last year with a fellow '14 NOBO friend, we decided that winter 2016 into 17 was going to be the best time for both of our schedules to undertake the next trail. My work schedule drops in December/early January and he's still in college so it will (should) work perfectly with our timing to complete the 273 miles before we have to be back in the real world.

    I thoroughly blogged my Appalachian Trail adventure two, almost three, years ago, and plan to do the same thing next month. We'll be leaving from Adams, MA on December 19th and beginning our northbound trek.

    If you're interested in following along, I'm going to be updating daily at www.2180miles.com (pending cell service) and will try and simultaneously post to TrailJournals as I go with the hopes of reaching the audience base there too.

    Just wanted to let those of you who follow along in the L.T. area what was going down.

    Onward & upward,

    Texaco
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    GA-ME 2014 | April 4th - July 26th
    Long Trail Winter 2016 | December 19th - ......
    Endurance Adventuring / A.T. Resource Blog - www.2180miles.com

  2. #2

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    cool thanks excited to read and follow along!

  3. #3
    LT '79; AT '73-'14 in sections; Donating Member Kerosene's Avatar
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    That will certainly be an adventure, Texaco. Frankly, some northern sections might be easier in deep snow (assuming you have the right snowshoes or crampons) than they are when the rock is slick and wet.

    I'm assuming that you and your friend have done a fair amount of winter backpacking in deeper snow and are adept at keeping yourself from the sweat/freeze cycle...something that I've always found difficult to achieve. If you haven't, then get out there for a few weekend hikes beforehand to tune your gear and walking style; it is a lot different from that sub-20 pound pack you probably hiked with for most of your AT thru-hike! You'll probably have more bailout options if you start at the VT/MA border, which will allow you to get used to deeper snow and hairier weather as you head north, plus figure out just how much food you'll need between resupply points.

    Best of luck!
    GA←↕→ME: 1973 to 2014

  4. #4
    Registered User Wolf - 23000's Avatar
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    Winter thru-hiking the Long Trail is a SERIOUS BUTT KICKER! I know probably better than anyone. I have already posted a few suggestions prior from my own winter Long Trail thru-hike experience but I will repost a few.

    First, if you don't have a great deal of winter experience, DO NOT even try it!!! The temperatures are EXTREME! It will freeze skin in seconds. Mother nature is NOT forgiving out there. Hiking even 10 miles is a challenge, it will feel like 30. If you're hiking with someone it won't be as bad but it will still wear you out. The trail has a lot of blow-downs from the winter that you are going to have to climb over. That also means wearing the smaller snow-shoes. The trail is too narrow for large snow-shoes in most places.

    Second, plan on stopping around noon to melt snow for water. You may not notice it at first but you have to keep your energy up. If you are going to try to hike all day with the water you make from camp, you are not going to be drinking enough. If you try carrying too much, your water will freeze. There is almost no running water on the whole trail. Everything is frozen solid.

    Third, the long trail is a green tunnel. That is also going to play against you while the snow from the trees falls down on top of you. You will physically be hiking around like a frozen snowman. Goretex will freeze with you wearing it. The best solution I found to resolve this is wearing a poncho.

    Carry extra fuel. You are going to be using a lot of fuel for cooking/melting snow. I found it paid off carrying an extra pot. If you don't want your food to be frozen, only cook several dishes of small amounts. Use the second pot for melting snow while you are eating. It also pays to have a wooden or plastic spoon instead of a metal spoon.

    Stay safe and have fun!

    Wolf

  5. #5

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    I have to agree with Wolf above. I for one IMHO, think it is nuts to go over Mt. Mansfield if there is deep snow. If it's slippery icey, you can easily fall to your death.

    That's just my perception having done the LT in July.

  6. #6

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    Look on the bright side. You'll have no issue finding lean to space. And, the mud will be frozen. It could be a hut to hut like winter mountaineering experience. Pushing through narrow single track in thick evergreens with a recent snowfall should be memorable.

  7. #7
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    I'm looking forward to following your adventure.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolf - 23000 View Post
    ...
    It also pays to have a wooden or plastic spoon instead of a metal spoon.
    There is great wisdom in that statement.

    Have you ever winter hiked with a thermos to keep your water from freezing Wolf? Dang thing weighs over a pound but I fill my stainless with boiled water in the morning and use it to melt the ice in my insulated drinking bottle all day.

    Texaco if you haven't perused this thread from a few months ago there was a lot of good discussion there on the topic of doing the LT in Winter https://whiteblaze.net/forum/show...nter-thru-hike
    “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. #9
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Couple of thoughts, if the OP is reading this, not sure he is...

    First, I'm jealous! My wife and I were talking about trying this feat this year, but with some family obligations over the holidays (which we'll actively avoid next year), we have to wait a year.

    Of course this will be a total but-kicker and frigid cold a lot, but of course, that's part of the appeal!

    I just did a LT ETE this last late-September, with a close eye on stuff with the thought of doing it again (with my wife) in the winter. Lots of folks talked about the doom and gloom of the "tunnel" thing, how trees would be weighted down with snow making the track very difficult to follow. I'm sure this is a major hurdle to getting this done, BUT, I did notice that the trees closest to the trail that would be "weighted down" were primarily deciduous (won't hold any snow), while the evergreens tended to be cut back from the trail a bit more, meaning maybe this concern is slightly overstated.

    Timing of the hike: To get this thing done reasonably, I like the idea of the late December start; bigger chance of non-epic snow levels that early.

    One minor concern, and this is just me: We have various "winter challenges" out here in Colorado, one of which is climbing all the CO 14ers in calendar winter. Only 8 people have done it. But the climbing community has strict "rules", one of which is the climbs have to actually be in calendar winter. December 19th (and some years, the 20th) does not count as calendar winter.

    As far as I can tell, this feat (a winter LT thru) has never been accomplished. If you (OP) are successful, but given a reasonably strict criterion, it still will not have been because you are starting in late fall, not strictly winter (December 19th). Excellent chance you could care less, and that's 100% fine. I'm just saying "for the record" that if you start in actual calendar winter (the 21st) and pull this off, you will have done something no one has done.

    Just my 2 cents! Good luck, and have fun! We'll certainly be following along.

  10. #10
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    I agree with Wolf and others that this is a serious endeavor, and most of his points, but disagree about the lack of running water. Even in the coldest temps, most sources are flowing, but the water will freeze pretty quickly once you get it in whatever containers you use! I also have only one suggestion about gear: bring a CCF pad in addition to your inflatable. The extra warmth is welcome, the weight penalty is minimal, and if your inflatable springs a leak you'll appreciate the CCF!

  11. #11
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    Texaco, have you hiked all of the LT yet?

    Just be aware that there are some... interesting sections, north of Killington. Stuff that makes most of the AT look like child's play. Stuff that I'd be wary of doing in deep snow or with any amount of ice. Aside from the steepness and footing issues -- I'd be concerned with navigation, ie., just staying on the trail. Challenging enough in summer, in some places. So much green tunnel.

    On the plus side, as others have mentioned, you'll have less mud to deal with.

  12. #12
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    For me, one of the biggest challenges to LT winter hiking is the deep snow - at any elevation. Ideally the LT is maintained as a 4 foot wide by 8 foot tall "tunnel" through the woods. Picture 3 feet of snow on the ground, and heavy snow bending the trees over the trail. Now that 8 foot tall tunnel is 4 or 5 feet tall, and you're duckwalking with a winter-laden pack for miles. Not expecting 3 feet of snow in December? Woodford, VT, southern LT, got 26 inches the day before Thanksgiving this year! In these conditions, just finding the trail can be very time-consuming. It's just plain exhausting. Along some of the highest ridgelines, you may be walking on top of trees - watch out for fir traps.

    On the plus side, much of the trail will be well-packed, especially around higher peaks, places with views, or gentler terrain where xc skiers go. Many of the most difficult places, such as the forehead and chin on Mansfield, have bad-weather bypasses that avoid the steepest pitches. No mud is (almost) guaranteed. No bugs. Usually no bears, but the mice will still be hanging around the shelters. Absolute quiet, plenty of solitude. Some of the clearest skies and cleanest air you can get in the US.

    I hope you have a blast.

  13. #13

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    The snow is already starting to pile up in the Greens (and here in the Whites). Looks like it might be a real winter this season. Be sure to get snowshoes with heal lifters, it will make going up the steep climbs a lot easier. But there might not be enough snow in 3 weeks to make snowshoes usable, but enough to make it really difficult to hike through.

    Cell service in Vermont is real sketchy, but should be okay around the ski areas. Speaking of ski areas, there are quite a few ski trials you will either have to go up, go down or cross which can be a real challenge trying to avoid being run over by skiers.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  14. #14

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    Oh, another thing about the ski areas, finding where the trail goes back into the woods is a real challenge. It can be challenge when there isn't any snow. The blazes are covered with snow and the opening obscured so that skiers don't go down it. You can waste a lot of time tying to find the exit off the ski slope!
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadeye View Post
    For me, one of the biggest challenges to LT winter hiking is the deep snow - at any elevation. Ideally the LT is maintained as a 4 foot wide by 8 foot tall "tunnel" through the woods. Picture 3 feet of snow on the ground, and heavy snow bending the trees over the trail. Now that 8 foot tall tunnel is 4 or 5 feet tall, and you're duckwalking with a winter-laden pack for miles. Not expecting 3 feet of snow in December? Woodford, VT, southern LT, got 26 inches the day before Thanksgiving this year! In these conditions, just finding the trail can be very time-consuming. It's just plain exhausting. Along some of the highest ridgelines, you may be walking on top of trees - watch out for fir traps.

    That's describing in greater detail the memorable tight single track through dense evergreen stands scenario. You must get out in winter because that's what it can be like in those places. Finding deep snow covered trail and negotiating sno/ice covered trail construction apparatus poses additional challenges. Exposure can be significant on Mansfield, Camel's Hump, Jay, Bromley, Killington, etc.

    Late Dec taking along snowshoes are strong options to consider. Might go SOBO rather than NOBO too as there are likely advantages.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Oh, another thing about the ski areas, finding where the trail goes back into the woods is a real challenge. It can be challenge when there isn't any snow. The blazes are covered with snow and the opening obscured so that skiers don't go down it. You can waste a lot of time tying to find the exit off the ski slope!

    here here

  17. #17
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    The GMC magazine published a great article a couple years ago about a pair of GMC members/caretakers who did a SoBo winter LT thru hike. Check out that article, it had some great 'lessons learned'. There were days they had to get off trail due to weather. The LT north of Lincoln Gap is very tough hiking, and north of Appalachian Gap is even tougher.

    I recall the terrible tragedy of Kate Matrosova, who died in the Whites over President's Day weekend 2015. Similar conditions will exist on the LT in winter.

    best of luck

  18. #18
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Praha4 View Post
    The GMC magazine published a great article a couple years ago about a pair of GMC members/caretakers who did a SoBo winter LT thru hike. Check out that article, it had some great 'lessons learned'.
    Is this article available somewhere? I sure would like to read it. I did a modest search a few months back and couldn't find anyone on an online record who had done the complete LT in actual winter, good to know there is actually someone, but I'd love to read about it.

    One other very GOOD thing about all the ski areas is that they will be running, and therefore you can grab a free lift ride down into towns/resorts, warm up, fuel up, then ride back up and continue.

    I did indeed have a tough time following the white blazes a time or two passing through the ski areas (in September, when it should be easy!), so this indeed will take some care and maybe a good set of GPS points. I personally would have a thorough set of GPS points for this entire endeavor. Having hiked through many working ski areas in the past, however, and being a lifelong skier myself, I don't see any significant danger of being collided with.

  19. #19
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    Wow, I was not expecting this kind of response. I've read everything, and will go back through and reply accordingly.

    Thanks all!
    --
    Texaco
    GA-ME 2014 | April 4th - July 26th
    Long Trail Winter 2016 | December 19th - ......
    Endurance Adventuring / A.T. Resource Blog - www.2180miles.com

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Oh, another thing about the ski areas, finding where the trail goes back into the woods is a real challenge. It can be challenge when there isn't any snow. The blazes are covered with snow and the opening obscured so that skiers don't go down it. You can waste a lot of time tying to find the exit off the ski slope!
    Aye to that, it was a challenge finding the "turn off" on Upper FIS at Sugarbush, even after having skied it dozens of times. And when I did, it was so gnarly I had to wonder if this was indeed the trail.

    LT doesn't approach the slopes at Stowe or Stratton as far as I know, but it certainly does at Middlebury, Sugarbush, Mad River Glen, Smugglers Notch (Madonna Peak) and Jay. I think the odds of getting "run over" by a skier are pretty slim. And if it happened the skier would be at fault -- read the fine print on any lift pass.

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