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  1. #1
    Registered User ShelterLeopard's Avatar
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    Default Long Trail Thru in January (2011)?

    Just wondering, do any people do a LT thru in January/ February? I was thinking of doing it after I do the AT this coming year.

    On average, how much snow do you think covers the LT in January? I MUST have snow. Love it, love it, love it! I know that more snow= slower hiking, more tired, etc, but that is fine by me.

    NOT asking about gear right now. I'll worry about hardcore winter gear when I'm done with the AT. Mainly wondering, will I see people? I know sometimes people will do a bit of snowshoeing up there, etc.ee, but I'm assuming more for short day trips and not overnight, right?
    2010 AT NoBo Thru "attempt" (guess 1,700 miles didn't quite get me all the way through ;) )
    Various adventures in Siberia 2016
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    (and maybe 2018 PCT NoBo)

  2. #2

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    I think it would be fun, if you like the cold and snow. Enough road crossings in the northern section to get warm every once in a while. Pass by a couple of ski resorts, if you so desire.

    The only concern I might have are a few sections where the hiking can get a bit hairy. You might get snow but you will also have ice, especially on the north side of the summits. I'd consider SOBO'ing it so you can climb the ice rather than go down it.

    This is all a guess on my part, it may be that the LT is simply not doable in the winter.

    As for people, I think you'd have the trail to yourself on the weekdays and see a few snowshoers on the weekends.

    Good luck on your PA shakedown. If it was any other section than Wind Gap to DWG, I might consider it, but section is downright cruel with rocks.
    Yahtzee

  3. #3
    Registered User ShelterLeopard's Avatar
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    Ha- thanks! We are doing two sections, by the way. The other will probably be worse though. (Wind Gap really isn't that bad... The elevation isn't hard, just the rocks...)
    2010 AT NoBo Thru "attempt" (guess 1,700 miles didn't quite get me all the way through ;) )
    Various adventures in Siberia 2016
    Adventures past and present!
    (and maybe 2018 PCT NoBo)

  4. #4

    Default Winter hiking the Long Trail

    ShelterLeopard,

    Where to start? First, to answer your question about how much snow was on the trail, when I winter hike the Long Trail I saw between 3 - 5 feet on snow normally. While on the trail, almost no one backpacks out there. I've seen 2 couple that were both out for the a overnight, 1 that sent the whole night freezing their butts the whole night.

    A little bit about me. I've hiked the PCT * 3 times, the AT * 5 - including a winter section hike entire AT, 5 hikes of the Long Trail - including a winter hike, 4 hikes of the JMT and the COT. In total, I've hiked around 24,000 miles - 8,000 miles done in the winter, about 1,500 miles have been done in New England. I'm not saying this to brag but only to point that I am a very experience backpacker.

    Winter hiking the Long Trail is not to take something to take lightly. Hiking in the snow on the ground is only one of several issues you would have to deal with. Some of the other issues are going to include:

    Route finding - As you I'm sure you are aware, the LT is marked with white blazes. The same color as the snow press up on the trees. The trail is also not maintain, meaning some of the mark trees maybe on the ground under several feet of snow.

    Water. This is going to be the big one. There was only one place I found flowing water. Normal I had to melt snow/ice three times a day. Once in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. You will need to stop to make water. If you try make enough water in the morning for the whole day, it will end up re-freezing or take away heat from your body.

    Snow on the trees. The Long Trail has a lot of pine trees that will be cover with snow. That may not sound like big of a deal but when you constantly have snow fall down on top of you and then freezing, it can make things interesting.

    I could go on but simple put hiking the winter hiking the Long Trail is A LOT harder than winter hiking PA or the southern Appalachian.

    Hopes this helps,

    Wolf

  5. #5
    Registered User ShelterLeopard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolf - 23000 View Post
    I could go on but simple put hiking the winter hiking the Long Trail is A LOT harder than winter hiking PA or the southern Appalachian.
    Wolf
    Which is exactly why I want to do it wolf! Thanks for your info. (Don't worry, I'm not just going to wander off into the wilderness and think it'll be a nice idealistic walk in the snow, and all comfort and hot cocoa at night. I'm planning to take an AMC winter survival course, and hopefully, one by a different group as well.)

    My wallet is going to be on a starvation diet after I get all the extra winter gear I need though. Like a four season tent and super warm bag. Ugh. That's gonna cost me.

    But no gear advice yet!!! I don't want to talk about heavy duty winter gear until I finish my thru.
    2010 AT NoBo Thru "attempt" (guess 1,700 miles didn't quite get me all the way through ;) )
    Various adventures in Siberia 2016
    Adventures past and present!
    (and maybe 2018 PCT NoBo)

  6. #6
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    My wife and I joke that the definition of a true "foodie" is someone who is already planning the next meal while eating the last one. Planning the next mega hike? wow. When will you be in PA and where? I hoped to do a section in December, now the plan is sometime in January, too...
    Lazarus

  7. #7
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    Going alone? That means breaking trail on snowshoes hour after hour with no relief. Grim at best. A group will make this much more possible.

    On the plus side,the gear, fuel and food load will let you live up to your nickname.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  8. #8
    Registered User ShelterLeopard's Avatar
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    Two sections in PA, one January 16/17, and one the next weekend- both are basically just gear shakedowns for my thru,and the first one will be easy, and the next will be a beast. You're welcome (as is everyone) to join!

    And you're right about foodies! That's exactly how I feel. The excitement of planning is amazing.
    2010 AT NoBo Thru "attempt" (guess 1,700 miles didn't quite get me all the way through ;) )
    Various adventures in Siberia 2016
    Adventures past and present!
    (and maybe 2018 PCT NoBo)

  9. #9
    Registered User ShelterLeopard's Avatar
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    True Bill! I definitely want to do a hardcore (hardercore, anyway) winter hike alone, but I thought maybe after the first two weeks I'd meet up with a couple others. We'll see. And it's fine if I get so tired and upset that I want to burst into tears and can't go more than two miles in the snow. I need something that'll kick my rear end and something that takes me out of my comfort zone.
    2010 AT NoBo Thru "attempt" (guess 1,700 miles didn't quite get me all the way through ;) )
    Various adventures in Siberia 2016
    Adventures past and present!
    (and maybe 2018 PCT NoBo)

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by ShelterLeopard View Post
    Which is exactly why I want to do it wolf! Thanks for your info. (Don't worry, I'm not just going to wander off into the wilderness and think it'll be a nice idealistic walk in the snow, and all comfort and hot cocoa at night. I'm planning to take an AMC winter survival course, and hopefully, one by a different group as well.)

    My wallet is going to be on a starvation diet after I get all the extra winter gear I need though. Like a four season tent and super warm bag. Ugh. That's gonna cost me.

    But no gear advice yet!!! I don't want to talk about heavy duty winter gear until I finish my thru.
    ShelterLeopard,

    No gear advice. I'm sure you are smarter enough to know it is not going to be easy hike. By the way a pot of boiling hot cocoa will be water for about 10 minutes before it turns back to ice.

    If your going to take a winter course look into the experience of your instructor(s) before you waste your money. Most winter instructors themselves will only go out for a few days, and have little knowledge what is like to be out for weeks at a time. Also, I think the AMC teaches their winter course in NH which offers a different challenge than hiking VT.

    Wolf

  11. #11
    Registered User ShelterLeopard's Avatar
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    Thanks wolf, good to know. I have a couple people I can ask about all the "courses" I could take.

    And definitely investing in a thermos. Nissan, all the way.
    2010 AT NoBo Thru "attempt" (guess 1,700 miles didn't quite get me all the way through ;) )
    Various adventures in Siberia 2016
    Adventures past and present!
    (and maybe 2018 PCT NoBo)

  12. #12
    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Backpacking in the mountains of the Northeast during winter is not to be taken lightly. There is the real potential for several feet of snow cover that is going to impede progress. Breaking trail in deep snow is exhausting. Be prepared for temperatures 20 below. Water is going to be a challenge. Days will be short and nights long.

    I certainly would not want to try it alone.

    If you are looking for a winter adventure, try the Catamount Ski Trail.

  13. #13

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    And maybe think about those that are going to have to try and find/rescue you when things go very badly. Parts of southern VT are quite remote with few road crossings (several of which are closed in the winter).

    I remember when Brian Robinson was working on his Triple Crown hike, he had to get off the AT in the spring in VT because the snow was so deep.

    Cosmo

    Quote Originally Posted by Peaks View Post
    Backpacking in the mountains of the Northeast during winter is not to be taken lightly. There is the real potential for several feet of snow cover that is going to impede progress. Breaking trail in deep snow is exhausting. Be prepared for temperatures 20 below. Water is going to be a challenge. Days will be short and nights long.

    I certainly would not want to try it alone.

    If you are looking for a winter adventure, try the Catamount Ski Trail.

  14. #14
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    Shelter Leopard -- You have some interesting hiking plans. I admire your enthusiasm !!!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolf - 23000 View Post
    ShelterLeopard,

    Where to start? First, to answer your question about how much snow was on the trail, when I winter hike the Long Trail I saw between 3 - 5 feet on snow normally. While on the trail, almost no one backpacks out there. I've seen 2 couple that were both out for the a overnight, 1 that sent the whole night freezing their butts the whole night.

    A little bit about me. I've hiked the PCT * 3 times, the AT * 5 - including a winter section hike entire AT, 5 hikes of the Long Trail - including a winter hike, 4 hikes of the JMT and the COT. In total, I've hiked around 24,000 miles - 8,000 miles done in the winter, about 1,500 miles have been done in New England. I'm not saying this to brag but only to point that I am a very experience backpacker.

    Winter hiking the Long Trail is not to take something to take lightly. Hiking in the snow on the ground is only one of several issues you would have to deal with. Some of the other issues are going to include:

    Route finding - As you I'm sure you are aware, the LT is marked with white blazes. The same color as the snow press up on the trees. The trail is also not maintain, meaning some of the mark trees maybe on the ground under several feet of snow.

    Water. This is going to be the big one. There was only one place I found flowing water. Normal I had to melt snow/ice three times a day. Once in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. You will need to stop to make water. If you try make enough water in the morning for the whole day, it will end up re-freezing or take away heat from your body.

    Snow on the trees. The Long Trail has a lot of pine trees that will be cover with snow. That may not sound like big of a deal but when you constantly have snow fall down on top of you and then freezing, it can make things interesting.

    I could go on but simple put hiking the winter hiking the Long Trail is A LOT harder than winter hiking PA or the southern Appalachian.

    Hopes this helps,

    Wolf
    tell about the time i dropped you off at the north end in january and how unprepared you were

  16. #16
    AT 4000+, LT, FHT, ALT Blissful's Avatar
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    Shlep, you are just like my 19 yr old son.

    No fear and no reality check, even with others that give advice to the contrary.

    Guess it comes with learning lessons the hard way, as he is doing right now... it can't be talked about as you will not believe it...it must be experienced. That is what he is finding out.

    And we have to sit back and painfully watch. And pray hard.







    Hiking Blog
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  17. #17
    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    Maybe this trail might be better for snowshoeing (or skiing!) in the VT winter.

    http://www.catamounttrail.org/

    EDIT: What Peaks said.
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  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mags View Post
    Maybe this trail might be better for snowshoeing (or skiing!) in the VT winter.

    http://www.catamounttrail.org/

    EDIT: What Peaks said.
    Yes, that was what I was going to suggest. Sking the Catamount trail would be a LOT easier and just as rewarding. March would be ideal, the most amount of snow, longer and warmer days.

    I shutter to think what it would be like to snow shoe up or down some of those really steep climbs they have on the LT. Like going up the back side of Madonna. There are places which would take you all day just to go a couple of miles.
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  19. #19
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    One of my more dubious winter adventures was in VT. My friends were going downhill skiing at Okemo Mt., but I decided I'd xc ski from the house we were staying at to Okemo. I was told there were trails that led there -- there were not. The 'easy' part of the trip was fairly level, but pure ice -- stride, stride, fall, stride, stride, fall. I finally found what appeared to be a trail and started following it up ( it turned out not to be a trail, but was the National Forest boundary markers ).

    The snow here was waist deep with a crust. It quickly became impossible for me to ski on it. The crust was almost strong enough to stand on. The drill then became: walk one or two steps, fall through to waist deep, crawl out, crawl a few crawls, stand up, repeat...

    Eventually, what I thought was a trail to the top of the mountain was clearly not. I had no map except a sketch that I made from a topo map. I did have a compass, so I navigated by a bearing off the opposite mountain, until I was sure I could get to the top by just going up in elevation.

    I figure that I did almost half of the altitude gain by crawling.

    What was good about this trip? I was in places that were really seldom visited by people. I don't think the route could be done at all without 3 feet of snow. I know a couple of guys considerably younger and stronger than me tried it in the summer and couldn't do it. I passed through a deer yard, which I had never seen before. The poor deer were starving because of the deep snow and were eating bark off the trees. I feel bad because I probably scared them away and stressed them.

    What was bad about this trip? A few of the low points:
    No snowshoes!!!! This was definitely needed.
    No light.
    No sleeping bag or shelter.
    Nothing to make fire.
    No map.
    It was almost dark by the time I got to the top of the Mt. From there I could just ski down the ski trails (which were closed because of ice and me on edgeless xc skis).
    Once it got dark I would have had to stop and wait out the night (no light, remember).
    It was cold!! I would have survived the night, but I'm not sure how many toes I'd have by morning.
    Any injury would have led to a very serious situation.

    Lessons learned: It is possible to survive idiotically poor preparation, but proper gear is more reliable than luck.

    300 miles of conditions like that would have been pretty tough no matter how well equipped. Proper winter gear adds up to a lot of weight and bulk.

    Should you do the LT in winter? Actually, it sounds like fun to me! BUT, you need to get experience in winter hiking/snowshoeing/camping in situations where you can easily bail out if conditions get bad -- e.g., half a mile from the parking lot. You really should not do it the winter LT alone; too much can go wrong if you're by yourself.

  20. #20
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    I didn't read all the posts, so I'm sure I'll be repeating some. The LT is not built or maintained for winter use. There will be sections that are so trafficked you can walk in sneakers, but there will be lots of sections where the trail (if you can actually find it) will be a tunnel among snow-laden pines, and you'll be duck-walking for considerable distances. You may find yourself walking along what appears to be clear trail, but it only appears that way because you are walking above the trees, until you fall through and get stuck. Without a partner to help you out of the spruce hole, you're in serious trouble. Winter is the time to heed the advice not to hike alone.

    Hey, don't let me stop you, but the Catamount trail would be a far better choice. I'll reiterate: hiking the LT in winter can be pretty serious stuff. Finding it can be nearly impossible.

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