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  • Solo or company?

    I'm looking ahead to hiking more peaks this year, and because of travel logistics, I mostly hike solo, which I like just fine - but I was curious - which are the high peaks that are best hiked with a buddy or a small group? I guess I'm asking are there particular routes you think are much better/easier with another person along, because of boost-giving, navigation assistance, moral support or whatever? Or for that matter, which are your favourite peaks to hike solo?

  • #2
    Welcome to the forum!

    ​I think the need for companionship depends more on the individual than on the peak.

    Some hikers here have completed solo rounds so, obviously, they didn't need company for any of the peaks. Others may have not hiked a single peak alone. The former may do it for solitude or greater self-reliance the latter for camaraderie or reduced risk. Others hike alone or with others and their preference depends on the opportunity, or their state of mind, as opposed to the destination.
    Looking for Views!

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    • #3
      If you hike solo, make sure someone knows where you are going and do not deviate from that plan. Give them a reasonable time to call for help if you do not return.

      In Winter, I rarely hike alone.

      As Trail Boss says, there are many reasons to hike alone or in groups. If you go in a group, try to choose hikers of similar abilities.
      Tom Rankin - 5444W "In the depths of Summer, I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible Winter"

      Proud Member #0003 of ADKHP Foundation
      Volunteer Balsam Lake Mountain
      Past President Catskill 3500 Club
      CEO Views And Brews!

      Trail maintainer for the Dry Brook Ridge trail from Mill Brook Road to just past the Lean-to

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      • #4
        Are there routes, though, where it's really helpful to have someone along for a boost up boulder scrambles, or on Gothic cables, that sort of thing? Any route where you were "whew, glad I had a buddy along for that stretch to spot me"? Not trying to "eliminate" risk, but I don't want to make foolish plans either. I guess every peak is doable solo if you go at own pace and plan accordingly?

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        • #5
          Nothing specific comes to mind. I usually hike with my wife and although there have been many times that she had a better idea than I about how to negotiate a tough spot (and vice-versa), I'm sure either of us would have been just fine on our own. Winter, due to traction issues and the elevated weather-related risk is a different ballgame.
          Nature we have always with us, an inexhaustible storehouse of that which moves the heart, appeals to the mind, and fires the imagination - health to the body, a stimulus to the intellect, and a joy to the soul. - John Burroughs

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          • #6
            I wouldn't solo the Trapdike in any weather, or go anywhere that needed crampons. Even icy trails with just microspikes are on the edge, I've taken some falls where I wished I had a buddy with me, if only to cover my corpse until the rangers got there.
            46er #9404
            Pics: https://www.flickr.com/photos/145945713@N02/
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            • #7
              Originally posted by stone611 View Post
              Are there routes, though, where it's really helpful to have someone along for a boost up boulder scrambles, or on Gothic cables, that sort of thing?
              As in hiking routes?

              Short answer: No.

              Long answer: Yes if you have less than average strength, balance, or mobility.

              Longer answer: Saddleback's cliff has a few spots where, if you're not comfortable with scrambling, having a companion to spot you, or give you a boost, would be helpful. However, Saddleback's cliff is a High Peaks outlier in terms of terrain and challenge. Some hikers simply avoid it.

              ​There's nothing particularly challenging about Gothics' cable-route. The cable isn't there because the slope is crazy-steep. The slope is just steep enough that, under certain weather conditions, it may cause some hikers to walk off-trail for better traction. To protect the fragile krummholz from errant footsteps, the ~200 feet of cable serves as a handrail to keep hikers on the rocky path. That's it, that's all. IMHO, the trickiest part is above the cabled section just before the southern end of the summit. It's a steepish slab of bare rock that can be intimidating if slick.

              Any route where you were "whew, glad I had a buddy along for that stretch to spot me"? Not trying to "eliminate" risk, but I don't want to make foolish plans either. I guess every peak is doable solo if you go at own pace and plan accordingly?
              ​Hiking with others can add another dimension of enjoyment to a hike. It can also reduce risk because, in the event of injury, the able can assist the disabled. However, I can't think of any terrain I've encountered where I would've been stuck without someone's assistance. The only incident where it came close was a winter-time ascent of Saddleback's cliff (there's that outlier again) and we were obliged to do a little (very little) bit of rock-climbing to ascend the last bit of the so-called "winter route". I felt more confident knowing I had a trusted friend by my side. I probably would've been more stressed if I attempted the same stunt alone. However, we're talking about some extreme conditions and terrain here (i.e. back to the "Saddleback's cliff is completely optional").

              Honestly, I think weather poses a greater risk. Let me refine that, it's the combination of foul weather and challenging terrain that pose a greater risk. Peaks cease to be "doable", either alone or with companions, when the weather and terrain create un-survivable conditions. You can be a seasoned hiker, in fantastic shape, and with an iron will, but nature can easily create conditions that exceed your abilities (re: Kate Matrosova incident). When I'm above treeline in winter and the weather is iffy, I feel better knowing I'm with a trusted companion. If I'm alone in the same conditions, I'm a lot more cautious and conservative. If I screw up, help is 12+ hours away and that's no picnic.
              Looking for Views!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by All Downhill From Here View Post
                I wouldn't solo the Trapdike in any weather, or go anywhere that needed crampons. Even icy trails with just microspikes are on the edge, I've taken some falls where I wished I had a buddy with me, if only to cover my corpse until the rangers got there.
                LOL that sounds totally reasonable to me, considerate for the rangers too... and I'm not feeling the need to plan any trap dike climbs yet the handful of peaks I've done so far have been sufficient thrill, just looking for more of that!

                All of this is really helpful advice, thank you. Anything to maximize the success/fun of my trips is much appreciated, as I can get out there maybe twice a year on my budget.

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                • #9
                  Anyone doing a winter hike?

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                  • TFR
                    TFR commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Fretohike I suggest you start your own thread, and post where and when you want to go, along with a short resume of your abilities.

                • #10
                  My thought on this is I will attempt to go with anyone who is willing to take me. However, I will make it very clear from the start that if they want to leave me behind, they have every right to, and they aren't even obligated to bring me back with them, if I care more about reaching the summit than having a ride home. For me, the main determining factor is just getting there; not having a car, some trailheads are virtually impossible to access alone. Other than that though, as long as it isn't winter, there is usually enough traffic on the main trails (Marcy, Algonquin, Cascade, etc) that even if something goes wrong, as long as you're on trail someone will pass by within a day...
                  ADK 46*/46 CATS 5/35 FT 4/28 Saranac 0/6 Bristol 6/6

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                  • #11
                    I hike alone about 98% of the time. I love it and relish my privacy. After five winters of hiking without carrying even a cell phone, I got a Delorme InReach SE. Though I dislike being tethered, I do enjoy the fact that I can go wherever I want now without having to leave a plan. The Mr. MB can track me if he so chooses. We have contingency plans for what happens if I don't come back and when to call, in the event that the Delorme doesn't work.

                    In the winter, there are a few places I do not go alone...Saddleback cliffs, Gothics cables, are the only ones that come to mind...though I have done all the peaks alone in the winter. I am exceptionally cautious and will turn around if I do not feel as though I can ascend or descend safely. I do a lot of research on weather and summit forecasts, checking it daily even when I am not hiking. Much of the time, the weather has the final say in where I go.

                    In the summer, I do slide climb alone, but I am very selective about which slides. I also bushwhack alone.
                    #8335W, Solo 46W
                    Four Season 31/46
                    46 Grid 256/552
                    NE 111 113/115


                    One list may be done, but the journey is far from over...
                    Half Dome, 2009

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                    • bfinan0
                      bfinan0 commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Wow. I would never hike, if I had someone who actually cared about me tracking me like that. Being able to leave false plans, and if necessary a false message that I got home in one piece, with my parents has been absolutely essential a few times already to the fact that I'm able to hike at all, even though it's still only once every year or two in the high peaks.

                      (and before anyone asks, yes I do leave real plans with someone too - just not someone who will fly into an absolute panic if I'm lost or late, and who I can trust to respond, or non-respond, in an actually reasonable manner)

                    • moosebeware
                      moosebeware commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I'm not sure what you mean by that comment. The Mr. MB is never really concerned about my safety; not because he doesn't care, but because he knows I am capable. He did check in on my progress when I broke the Shorey from Basin a few weeks back. It was a 12-hour day for me and he usually hears from me much sooner. About 90% of the time, I leave my itinerary ahead of time.

                      I stopped using my parents when they said they almost called the DEC; it wasn't even my check-in time yet, but they assumed they would have heard from me sooner. My parents have learned that they aren't going to change my mind about hiking alone and have come to a reluctant acceptance of this choice, though they definitely feel better about my having the Delorme.

                      I have another friend I use for my check in when the Mr. MB is out in the backcountry as well. He has the link to my Delorme and will follow me all day. He thinks it's fun to show people where his hiking friend is (he teaches skiing at Gore on the weekends, so something to pass the time on chairlifts). He's been hiking with me and doesn't panic easily.

                  • #12
                    Originally posted by stone611 View Post
                    I'm looking ahead to hiking more peaks this year, and because of travel logistics, I mostly hike solo, which I like just fine - but I was curious - which are the high peaks that are best hiked with a buddy or a small group? I guess I'm asking are there particular routes you think are much better/easier with another person along, because of boost-giving, navigation assistance, moral support or whatever? Or for that matter, which are your favourite peaks to hike solo?
                    I've never really thought about a particular trail as the deciding factor if I solo or go with company. I don't think trails I've been on are that difficult, but then again I haven't been on a lot of the available trails out there. But I even did the Saddleback Cliffs that Trail Boss mentioned with no idea what I was in for as part of my first solo hike - and also my first hike period after I had not hiked at all in my 20's and was well into my 30's. Sometimes a little bit of fear is exhilarating. I didn't have any problems but ymmv. In recent years I've done most of my hiking solo, I'm just a quiet person that likes to enjoy nature, and I suppose being alone in the wilderness maximizes that experience. Mind you I'd certainly love to hike with a kindred spirit I just don't have any friends that are in to hiking anyhow, except my mom who actually just started hiking with me last year after not having hiked with me since my teens. I'll always go with mom given the chance. I have never done a true winter hike though, that I probably wouldn't solo right off the bat.

                    Good luck, and enjoy the hike whether you're solo or with company.
                    35/46 get'n closer
                    18/46 barefoot ;-)
                    ~Tristan

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                    • FlyFishingandBeer
                      FlyFishingandBeer commented
                      Editing a comment
                      That's the way to get Saddleback done; blissfully ignorant. You'll find that there are no "cliffs," just a couple fun little scrambles with a rewarding view at the top. All the doom and gloom talk about that damn mountain had me scared for years. When I finally pulled the trigger and hiked HaBaSa all together, I was thrilled at how awesome of a hike it is from start to finish. I went back and did it again very soon after, only during daylight. It got even better.

                  • #13
                    Originally posted by Adirondackiteer View Post

                    I've never really thought about a particular trail as the deciding factor if I solo or go with company. I don't think trails I've been on are that difficult, but then again I haven't been on a lot of the available trails out there. But I even did the Saddleback Cliffs that Trail Boss mentioned with no idea what I was in for as part of my first solo hike - and also my first hike period after I had not hiked at all in my 20's and was well into my 30's. Sometimes a little bit of fear is exhilarating. I didn't have any problems but ymmv. In recent years I've done most of my hiking solo, I'm just a quiet person that likes to enjoy nature, and I suppose being alone in the wilderness maximizes that experience. Mind you I'd certainly love to hike with a kindred spirit I just don't have any friends that are in to hiking anyhow, except my mom who actually just started hiking with me last year after not having hiked with me since my teens. I'll always go with mom given the chance. I have never done a true winter hike though, that I probably wouldn't solo right off the bat.

                    Good luck, and enjoy the hike whether you're solo or with company.
                    "I'll always go with mom" that's so awesome! - hope my guys at some point feel that way - they're younger, and not always sold on hiking with me (unless tempted with promises of post-hike junk food; actually I should tape a couple Mr. Goodbars on the back of my pack, they'd follow me anywhere...)
                    And I agree 100% a little fear can be thrilling - I'm a cautious solo hiker, but it's true that if hiking was 100% safe it wouldn't be particularly special.

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                    • Adirondackiteer
                      Adirondackiteer commented
                      Editing a comment
                      My parents loved the mountains and that was always our family vacations when we were growing up (they didn't have much money, and hiking was rather inexpensive, at least dayhikes). So hiking was always a family thing, until us kids moved out and went to college. I only got back into hiking in my 30's a few years ago, so basically took a decade or so off. Dad can't hike anymore unfortunately due to health problems but mom still loves to paddle, ski, hike, etc. Nice thing is mom is very quiet too, we do talk on the trail, but not obnoxiously so, and also enjoy a lot of it quietly too. Can't beat spending time with family on the trail though, never know how much longer that will last.

                      Good luck with your kids, my son isn't much of a hiker but he did his very first mountain last year (Mt Joe) and had a great time so hopefully we can do some more easy ones this summer!

                  • #14
                    I did the Trapdike with a buddy, and I did Big Slide with the HVCC outing club, the rest have been solo. I haven't found any that "needed" a buddy.
                    46er #9404
                    Pics: https://www.flickr.com/photos/145945713@N02/
                    http://www.athikerpictures.org/syste...jpg
                    https://smokebeard.wordpress.com/

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                    • #15
                      I'm on the fence. I like going solo because I tend to be able to maintain a faster pace by myself and can make some pretty exciting days.

                      ​oops I guess I don't really answer the question. Allen is one I'm never doing solo haha.

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