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Too cold to hike?

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  • #16
    The cold doesn't stop me. I guess the lowest I've been in is -10F.

    Where I draw the line is cold >>AND<< wet weather. Back in Oct of last year I did a bushwhack to Calamity in cold conditions w/ rain (at one point, there was sleet). Hypothermic conditions are not my cup o' tea.
    We are closer now than we were five minutes ago


    • #17
      I really should get a thermometer for winter hikes to see what I'm tromping through. Having said that, I've only had one hike where my fingers/hands got cold, and that was before my new pair of gloves.

      The only part of cold that gives me pause is waking up in the morning. At some point you really need to get out of the sleeping bag, either to get breakfast going, or that early morning emptying of the bladder.

      The coldest I've slept out in was measured at -26 at the ADK Loj. We were in the campsite near McIntyre falls on the trail to Wright/Algonquin, so it was about roughly 1000 feet higher than the loj. I guess another 5 degree drop. Brrr...
      17/46 & 14/46w


      • #18
        Minus 35F is the lowest I've started out. It was the Santanoni Range, midweek, solo. I figured I'd just mosey along the road and see if I felt okay. Set my expectations low. Kept going, kept going. Made it up to Times Square, did Panther, then a snowshoe binding snapped. Had to repair and retreat.

        When I got to the trailhead I discovered that the other snowshoe was damaged and on the verge of the same failure as the first snowshoe.

        Returned a few days later to finish the job.

        Takeaway - even if you feel fine, there are other things to consider. The probability of equipment failure goes up dramatically in extreme temps. The margin for error is very slim.
        Scooting here and there
        Through the woods and up the peaks
        Random Scoots awaits (DP)

        Eat, sleep, hike, repeat.

        It doesn't have to be viewtiful to be beautiful. (NL)

        "Pushing the limits of easy."


        • #19

          Let's see.

          The coldest I tried to hike in, was -35. The car would not start and I took that as an omen...we did not hike.

          Then there were a few hikes where the temp was about -25 when we started. That was cold enough or me....but I was goal oriented and those peaks needed to be in the bag

          Now to answer the question, these days, I find the cut-off at about -10. There seems to be a difference to me between temps over -10 and below -10. Above -10 things are a little more forgiving. It is possible to stop for more than 30 sec without adding a layer, etc.

          And of course, the subject of wind has been mentioned and that become a factor. Most of my cold days were those high pressure ble sky days where all you could hear what the eyrie crunch of the snow under foot. No wind to mention....compared to Mt Washington. The first time I climbed Mt Washington in winter the temp was -5 and the wind was 45 mph sustained with gusts to 55mph. It was an enjoyable testing of my limits.


          • #20
            Originally posted by Snickers View Post

            I have done a lot of winter hiking and backpacking on some cold, cold days and have never seen -30 in my hiking years.... Lowest I have seen is -15/-20 at the trailhead.
            Of course, some people consider wind-chill temps to be the temperature.... but..... How long do your hiking years go back? Maybe I'm starting to sound like an old man (.... back when I was young...), or maybe it's global warming... whatever..

            I cycle commute, and I note those temperatures that I ride in. I've been riding for 33 years now, and all of my lowest temperatures have not been in the past 17-18 years.... I haven't seen colder than -25... I can't remember when I've seen it down to -40.. that was a long time ago....

            So... unless you're talking about wind-chill temperatures, if you've hiked in real cold temperatures, it was some time ago.
            Guinness: Goes in brown, comes out yellow.


            • #21
              With you there, Pete. -40 F early 80's in the Laurentians. I was staying at the McGill Outing Club's house in Shawbridge, hoping to XC ski the following morning. That morning was spent warming car batteries in the house, draining motor oil out of engines (awesome watching it pour out very, very slowly) and warming it indoors on the stove! One enterprising fellow placed a camping stove under his oil pan and heated it (slowly). I don't remember if anyone went skiing. I know I didn't. As soon as the car was functional, I returned to Montreal.

              Coldest winter-camping evening was -20 F. I was hiking in to Marcy Dam at 2:00 AM by moonlight. I'll never forget the sound of tree limbs cracking in the cold!
              Looking for Views!


              • #22
                Picked up a friend at the Stewarts in North Creek a few years back - the thermometer there read -25F. Could not have been any warmer by the time we got to Upper Works. We hiked Marshall that day. I enjoyed the beautiful blue skies and no wind from the viewpoint near the summit while not enjoying my frozen pb&j sandwich.


                • #23
                  -22 on a clear calm Catskill day, not too many years back. I have made snow on colder days in the 70's and once walked to class at -40. Bic pens shatter at -40, equipment starts to fail below 0, which can cause lots of problems because of the difficulty of taking your mittens( gloves are for warmer days) off to fix at those temps. Wind and wet at +40 can be more dangerous IMO.


                  • #24
                    Wuss Group

                    Three years ago, I had signed up for an ADK day hike to Street & Nye in late January. I received a telephone call 2 days before to say that they most of the group had phoned to cancel due to expected cold. Disappointed because I had already booked a hotel room, my wife and I hiked anyhow. The Saturday temperature was not bad at -15 F, but Sunday was mitten weather, about another 10 degrees cooler, too cool for my better half, but I enjoyed the sun for a very pleasant hour at Marcy Dam out of the wind. My car was a reluctant starter Monday the 'good old days' nothing without a block heater would have been running.
                    Later I regretted to learn on this forum that another group had hiked Street & Nye, a good choice for a day with a strong wind.
                    Don't know what my minimum would be, but that was close.
                    Orono Stewie


                    • #25
                      I'm one of those people who tends to get cold easily but I've been pretty successful in managing my temperature. Here in the Daks I've spent the night out in -30 below. Making breakfast in the morning we got creative and did jumping jacks and pushups to keep warm while waiting for water to boil. I've since learned to cook in the vestibule of my tent making things much easier. I've hiked and ice climbed in -20 below and it make things much more fun
                      In Alaska I spent 5 days at 17K camp with the high temp being -25 dropping to -40 at night. It was in the area of -40 on our summit day but clear with no wind whatsoever making it much more bearable. Comfort in the cold is all about being prepared and having your clothing system down and making sure you don't make the simple mistakes that could cost you like loosing a mitt.


                      • #26
                        You could just train with "The Ice Man" Wim Hoff
                        ADK 46/46 4W CATS 39/39 8W ADK100 63/102 VT35 26/29 FT's 25/29 VT FT's 9/15

                        ScAtTeRbOnE's Adventures

                        "We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us. Our flesh and bone tabernacle seems transparent as glass to the beauty about us, as if truly an inseparable part of it, thrilling with the air and trees, streams and rocks, in the waves of the sun, a part of all nature, neither old nor young, sick nor well, but immortal." John Muir from My First Summer in The Sierra


                        • #27
                          Camped one night -35 in the early-mid 80's at Lake Colden. Temps never got to zero that weekend. Scary cold. Made an early exit. When I lowered my tailgate back at the truck, the clear plastic tubing that slides over the tailgate cables ( in U shape when closed) just shattered like dry ziti thrown at the floor when they straitened out.
                          And because of all their tears
                          Their eyes can't hope to see
                          The beauty that surrounds them
                          Isn't it a pity
                          -George Harrison


                          • #28
                            -20F forecasted low for Lake Placid tonight!
                            Catskill 3.5K: 35/35
                            Adirondack 4K: 30/46
                            White Mountains 4K: 34/48
                            Colorado 14K: 16/54

                            Appalachian Trail thru-hike
                            Sherwin NOBO 2013


                            • #29
                              I think its a pretty individual thing. For me, I'm a pretty warm hiker so I don't mind "hiking" in any cold temp. I found though that too much below zero, and I just don't enjoy it as much. You start focusing on keeping moving and then rather than on what your doing. It gets distracting to me, so I don't enjoy it as much.

                              I think that Random Scoots words of wisdom are more germane as it relates to outdoor activities in cold weather (reduced margins of error) then any comfort factor.

                              Bottom line, it's more of a "am I still enjoying this" when you get to extreme colds temps rather then physical. I actually find extreme heat more of a physical obstacle for me rather then cold. Too much over 90-95 (with humidity) and I struggle mightily.
                              "The forest is the poor man's overcoat. " Old Northeastern Proverb


                              • #30
                                There are so many conditions that factor in. Last year (not on purpose) we hiked on the two coldest days of the year. First we hiked Algonquin/Wright/Iroquois on a sunny bluebird day where it was minus 5-8 Fahrenheit all day but it was DRY and not much wind and we carried our BIG down puffy jackets from Feathered Friends. I wasn't cold all day. Even on top of Wright when it was pretty windy, we had on goggles, our big jackets and big hoods over hats, and we were actually warm enough to spend 15 minutes up there with no issue. We wore wool baselayers and good gear, so we stayed warm and dry. I was much colder and more miserable the day we hiked Seymour last winter when it rained for 4 hours, then snowed but the temp was 25-30F. I'll take -5 and windless and sunny to 30 with wind and rain any day. Wind and water are the real killers, not the temperature by itself.

                                You are more likely to get hypo-thermic in 30 and wet than 0 and cold. On another day last winter, we ended up doing Pyramid, Gothics, Armstrong in minus 10 (minus 40 wind chill on Gothics!). Because we were out for almost 10 hours, we did think the margin of error made the hike close to foolhardy. Crossing the ridge of Gothics in high wind was tough. We talked a lot after that hike about what else would make our hike safer.

                                Much comes down to what you bring for survival. We carry LOTS of extra gear in winter for emergencies. Fiddlehead carries at least 30 pounds all winter and I more like 20-25. I always carry my severe cold weather mittens as back up, my Feathered Friends down puffy which is for severe climates, sometimes my down pants, full set of dry wool top/bottoms and socks plus back up mittens/gloves, extra hats, glove liners, handwarmers, hot liquids in a thermos, a personal locator beacon, etc.... Fiddlehead carries a bivy, foam pad, tons of extra clothes/jackets/hats/layers, rain gear...

                                We talk often about "what if." Do we have enough gear to last 10 hours outside if one of us falls and breaks a leg? Some people think we carry too much stuff, but I personally wouldn't hike in super cold weather without all that extra gear. It's a good hike if we don't have to use it. It's different for everyone though. My hands get cold FAST. So I might bring more hand gear than the next guy. Everyone feels cold differently, but having the appropriate gear, enough layers and dry clothes makes a big difference. You clearly have a higher risk factor in extreme cold, so it pays to ask yourself these questions. As Altbark said somewhere in a post, it's all about risk management. Sure, you can carry 10-15 pounds all winter and that's great if you don't hurt yourself, trip, break a bone or bang yourself up in some way. But what if you did? Plus, think of how good shape you'll be in after hiking all winter with a 20-30 pound pack!
                                46R (#7146) ADK, 46W
                                48 (NH 4000) + winter
                                NE 115 (#706)
                                NE Winter 115 (#82)