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When do you call off the hike....weather

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  • When do you call off the hike....weather

    So I woke up 3:30 a.m. this morning checked the weather forcast and saw a chance of t-storms that was not in the forecast when i went to bed. I was on the fence but ended up canceling my plans for the day because mountains will wait and what not. In the interest of second guessing myself I'm curious when do you guys typically cancel? Like what % chance of thunderstorms would keep you from hiking assuming you won't be out of the woods when they are estimated to start ? Or do you all just not worry about it and go anyways?
    George
    18/46

    "Because in the end, you won't remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain." - Jack Kerouac

  • #2
    I never ever trust weather forecasts in the ADKs. Weather there can be so localized that it can be raining on Giant and sunny on Rocky Peak. (Happened to us.)

    There is a sense of solitude on a clouded in mountain too.

    That said, lightning is the one thing which will keep me off a summit. We turned back once, coming off Skylight planning to return via Marcy, when we saw lightning. We recently decided to keep going up Saddleback even though there was thunder but we never saw lightning. (That said, we probably should have waited it out in the col.)

    I'll also note that some of our most spectacular hikes came on days forecast for rain. Colden, Colvin/Blake, Marshall come to mind.

    The mountains will always be there for another visit if it's socked in at the summit, which gives you another chance to climb!
    ADK 46/46W + MacNaughton, Grid 277/552
    Photos & Stuff

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    • #3
      We have had the same dilemma. Usually if it's just the 2 of us we will cancel with 30% or more....i don't like rainy hiking and I enjoy the views on clear days too much. If there are others involved, we tend to go with the group decision.
      We had plans for today/tomorrow for Haystsack, but cancelled because Of forecasts. Going to try for Tuesday now. It's disappointing, but worth waiting for.
      Moo and Co
      42/46 and holding
      HPHikingmoo

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      • #4
        We use to use 35% but have really found that the mountains tend to draw in the moisture and rain seems much more likely. So now we look at the forecast but examine the radar before we make the drive. Looking at the radar will tell us if the moisture is coming in. Like Moo, 30% is our mark but also the radar.

        When we did the 46 we were on a schedule as the goal was to finish in 3 years so we took a few chances and accordingly got soaked.

        Just like mud, rocks and roots - rain is par for the course in the Daks. I find that now we are not hiking enough so I may be lowering my standards for weather.
        Enjoying the journey with my favorite hiking partner.
        Please visit ADKGurl's Blog: 46-High-Peaks

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        • #5
          Originally posted by HPHikingMoo View Post
          We have had the same dilemma. Usually if it's just the 2 of us we will cancel with 30% or more....i don't like rainy hiking and I enjoy the views on clear days too much. If there are others involved, we tend to go with the group decision.
          We had plans for today/tomorrow for Haystsack, but cancelled because Of forecasts. Going to try for Tuesday now. It's disappointing, but worth waiting for.
          I'm pretty much like Moo on this one. If I'm spending the time (and the gas money) I want to enjoy the day as much as possible. I hike solo and I see no value in trudging around in the rain by myself. If the forecast has changed considerably overnight and I wake up to unfavorable weather, I go back to sleep. For me it's easy to pull the plug. I've done it a bunch of times when forecasts have changed. But a lot of those times were weekdays where I would have been playing hooky had I gone hiking and it was an easier decision to stay home to work and push the trip off until the weekend. I would imagine it's harder to call off a plan if it's a weekend getaway with others and you only have so many weekends each summer/fall.

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          • #6
            The regular weather forecasts on weather.com etc. are a very broad average of what the day will be like. I like to check the higher summits forecast as it is more detailed for timing and location. It also let's you know the odds that the summit will be obscured with clouds.

            http://www.weather.gov/btv/mountain

            Also checking the aviation forecast will also give you good information about timing and the height of the cloud deck -- you want VFR (visual flight rules) and not a lot or any MVFR (marginal visual flight rules) as that means lower clouds and less good visibility. IFR (instrument flight rules) means the mountains are socked in.

            As far as the broad weather forecast, I hope to see 0 or 10%, will usually be fine with 20%, and would be likely go with 30% if the timing seems ok. Anything more than that is more of a gamble than I'd like to play with a 2 hour drive each way.

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            • #7
              I've found this forecast to be much more accurate than most:
              http://www.mountain-forecast.com/sub...acks/locations

              We've put off a day's hike when it was clearly just constantly raining, but other than that have been very happy getting out on 'iffy' days. Sure, we missed out on views from Big Slide (first time), Giant (second time), Phelps, and Santanoni, but we beat the forecast on Colden and others. In fact we had a stunning Colden to ourselves (except the trail crew) because of the ombrophobes.
              ADK 46/46W + MacNaughton, Grid 277/552
              Photos & Stuff

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              • #8
                With my work schedule I have to plan hiking trips far in advance of accurate weather forecasts, so I don't have the luxury of being a fair-weather hiker. If you can embrace the weather, whatever it might be, you can have a good day. Just think of all the time "wasted" with photo ops and admiring clear vistas on a bluebird day. There's something to be said for slogging along in a downpour - you usually have the trail to yourself (on a recent GRT in the rain I didn't see anyone for 12 hours until coming across two hikers huddled under Slant Rock on the way out) and you don't have to worry about keeping things dry - it's all soaked already! Ankle deep, knee deep - who cares? Don't fight it - accept it, adapt to it and move on. It could be liberating!

                But that's just me. I hike solo. Perspective changes when other people are along who may prefer drier conditions.

                The only thing that keeps me below treeline is lightning, or high winds if it's icy.

                T

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                • #9
                  It seems that weather forecasts in the HP's are just a gamble. After getting drenched on forecasted clear days and staying home to see forecasted rainy days end up as sunny, now I ignore them unless maybe its for several days of pouring rain covering the entire region. Prepare for the worst, as Thomas said embrace the rain if it comes, and lie low if actual lighting is present.
                  -Joe

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                  • #10
                    I don't mind hiking in light or moderate rain, sometimes I even enjoy it. Like everyone said, forecasts in the mountains are hit or miss.

                    What I do cancel trips for if the driving is going to be going through terrible weather, I don't enjoy driving in heavy rains and winds at all, especially if it's a day trip and likely driving to and from in the dark.

                    Multi day trips I usually go regardless, especially since people are usually taking days off of work.

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                    • #11
                      I have such severely limited free time that canceling is tough for me. Ive never canceled for rain except in hypothermia temps but lightning is a risk that I'm not keen to mess around with. Thanks for the replies. Sounds like 30% is a pretty good cut off.
                      George
                      18/46

                      "Because in the end, you won't remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain." - Jack Kerouac

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                      • #12
                        For me, 45% chance of rain is the over/under when climbing a high peak. Always keep an eye to the sky and turn back if thunderstorms are happening or appear imminent.

                        Well...there was this one time on Porter. Yikes. Dodging lightning on the summit of Blueberry. A wee bit scary.
                        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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                        • #13
                          I never cancel because of the forecast. It's not reliable. The mountain weather is unpredictable.

                          I may adjust the itinerary. Make sure you've got a backup plan.

                          Don

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                          • #14
                            READ THE DETAILED FORECAST! As a meteorologist, it can be very frustrating to get berated by people for "missing a forecast" when the forecast was just misinterpreted. So many times, I have had people call up the night before a hike to cancel because of a "40%" chance of thunderstorms...or showers...or snow. What these people did not bother to do, was read detailed forecast that stated: "40% chance of crappy weather after 5pm. Point is, if you take the probability at face, you will probably be disappointed more often than not. I know, I know, it's our job communicate the forecast well, so if it was misinterpreted it is our fault. That being said, it is really difficult to provide a probabilistic forecast and not be wrong somewhere.

                            The weather in the high peaks is not all that terribly unpredictable, sure you get an errant shower that comes up out of nowhere, especially during the summer ... the day after a good cold front. But for the most part the weather forecasts are pretty good, even in the mountains. True, you will have days when it will rain on one mountain, and be sunny on another, but usually the forecast those days calls for a chance of rain.

                            Weather.gov is great, the NWS at Burlington has the higher summits forecast, which is usually pretty good, except for obscured summits (though to be fair, predicting which summits are obscured is probably the greatest forecast challenge in this region).

                            Here are a few tips on bettering your chances for finding good weather on the marginal forecast days. These come from experience, research, and a solid background in atmospheric science.

                            1: Look at the timing of the precip probability. Most of the time you won't have a chance of showers all day ("before 9am", "after 2pm"). You can then plan your hikes around them.

                            2: Most of the time, the weather is a bit slower than anticipated, especially if it's coming with a relatively strong area of low pressure. So, if the weather is expected to get worse throughout the day (e.g., increasing clouds, chance of precip after 2pm) usually the weather will hold off until a couple hours after it is expected to come in.

                            3. Clouds love cold air, and clouds love mountains. The summits often take a longer time to clear up after cold fronts come through, beware of forecasts that read: "Gradual clearing," "Showers early, then mostly cloudy". Be doubly aware if there are also words like "Temperature falling" or "Winds becoming northwest."

                            4. Look at the predicted wind direction. Many times, if the wind is from the southwest or south, the cloud bases will be above the summits, as southwest winds are usually associated with large-scale rising motion which can help deepen the boundary layer and keep clouds above the summits. If the wind is from the west/northwest you are likely bringing in cold air behind a front, so be wary of fog.

                            5. If the weather looks marginal, but you still want to go hike something, choose a mountain that is farther downwind than other peaks. For example, if the winds are from the west, hike in the Dixes on the east side of the park, this way the mountains to your west can run interference for you and block the crappy weather.

                            6. During the summer, the first clouds will often form early on the summits of the highest mountains in the early to mid-morning. Don't fret! They usually lift above the peaks by noon, and these usually don't carry rain.

                            7. Lastly, when it comes to thunderstorms, it is best to look at the expected timing of the storms. Usually it's in the afternoon after the sun as heated the region. The Adirondacks act as an elevated heat source, so cumulus convection will form there first on a daily basis, but in general these mountains don't usually have the juice to form their own thunderstorms (showers maybe...but not thunderstorms). Some large/smallish scale atmospheric thing is usually needed to get storms going. If storms are in the forecast, maybe keep your hikes below the treeline, or summit early.


                            Are all of these tips applicable all the time? No. But in general, these work out pretty well, and a lot of them can be used just by looking at the weather.gov forecast. But please, PLEASE don't make your decision because you saw the little rain picture with a lightning bolt and a 60% next to it. Read the little blub down the page. We aren't always wrong, and we usually don't guess, many times our "crappy forecasts" are just miscommunications. Even in the high peaks.

                            Sorry for the rant.

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                            • #15
                              Rain doesn't bother me. But if there's even a mention of thunderstorms I'll either cancel or change plans depending on what time of day they are supposed to come through.
                              Firetowers - 29/29
                              46ers - 4/46

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