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  • The Mother of all Snowshoe Threads

    I can't even count how many times I've seen the question come up:

    "Do I really need snowshoes to climb Mt. Whatchamacallit?"

    Short Answer: YES!

    Much Longer Answer:

    It could be argued that one never absolutely needs snowshoes, or any piece of gear for that matter. But, think of it like this: Do you need a headlamp when you hike? Most of the time, no. But when you need it, you NEED it!

    Snowshoes are the same thing, but yes, they are typically heaver than a headlamp. And this is probably why there are so many questions. Hikers are lazy, even though that sounds crazy. Many of us want to carry the minimum amount of gear that will get us to the top. I admit it!

    If you scan this sight, you will see that it is generally considered a good idea to carry snowshoes in the winter. The bottom line is: You just never know. What someone says is a broken out tail can quickly be blown in, especially above tree line. In many areas of the ADKs, snowshoes, (or skis), are required by law, when the snow depth exceeds a certain minimum, and this is not the depth of snow on the trail, this is the general depth of the snow around you.

    Good rule summary here

    The Rangers generally do not issue these tickets, preferring a warning and a dose of education, but they can and they do, especially if you are postholing the trail, (making deep, boot-sized holes with your feet), or if you give them attitude.

    The reason for this rule goes back to what I just said about changing conditions. Also, just because the trail is hard packed at the parking lot has almost no bearing on conditions 5 miles in, and 3,000' higher. Wind can obliterate a packed trail very quickly, sometimes even the same day!

    Above tree line, all bets are off. Anyone who tells you what the conditions above tree line were yesterday, will have no clue what they are like tomorrow.

    The rule also helps keep trails usable for skiers. And if you have ever seen a trail that was postholed repeatedly over a few thaw / freeze cycles, it is sometimes almost impassable! The holes get frozen into place, and could result in a twisted ankle or worse. Being a good back country citizen is important.

    Trails are very narrow in the winter. One careless step off the edge w/o snowshoes can result in a plunge down to your crotch, or deeper. Ouch!

    Modern snowshoes typically have a lot of traction built into them. This can help on steep sections.

    How would you like to get within sight of the summit, only to find that the trail is almost impassable w/o snowshoes? What a waste of time, effort, money, etc.!

    Let's consider a scenario where one person bare boots and the other person wears snowshoes. Say there is 18" of new snow. Assume the postholer will sink down about 12" every time he/she takes a step. Over the course of just 1 mile, about 2,500 steps, the postholer has to climb an extra 2,500 feet just to break even! This can quickly lead to exhaustion, and hypothermia, etc., which might even mean you need to be rescued. The snowshoer on the other hand, may only sink 4 inches into the snow. So every mile is only an extra 800' feet of elevation gain. Obviously, this difference can add up fast. Granted, this is just one example, and it could be better, but it could be worse. I've seen postholes that must have been crotch deep a few times in the ADKs. You'd better be in SUPER shape if you are going to hike like that!

    In summary - Often required, makes sense, saves effort, think of them as safety gear, you never know when you might need them!

    (Feel free to chime in. I will edit this post if I see any other good points).
    Last edited by TFR; 01-10-2015, 02:22 PM.
    Tom Rankin - 5444W, etc., etc.

    Web Master - NY Forest Fire Lookout Association
    Member #0003 - ADKHP Foundation
    Volunteer - Balsam Lake Mountain
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  • #2
    In many areas of the ADKs, snowshoes, (or skis), are required by law,
    I believe the regulation applies exclusively to the High Peaks zone.

    "bear boots". Typo?



    Correction
    Removed "Eastern" from "Eastern High Peaks zone".
    Last edited by Trail Boss; 01-10-2015, 02:10 PM.
    Looking for Views!

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    • #3
      I agree with everything except for the 8 inch rule applying to ground conditions vs trail conditions. It is common enough that a trail is covered with less than 8 inches of hard packed snow/ice but the surrounding landscape has more than 8 inches of loose snow. Recently on just such a trail, with two exceptions, the 40 odd climbers I met that day were either bare booting or had microspikes. Not a single posthole was made and I figure that the two snowshoers probably didn't have any other traction aids. Furthermore, with the thin cover and rocks showing through, there were places where snowshoes would have made travel difficult at best.

      Unfortunately, rules are sometimes necessary but the downside is that they may preclude the use of common sense.

      T

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      • #4
        @thomas
        See The Grandmother of all Snowshoe Threads (382 posts, > 18000 views).
        Looking for Views!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Thomas View Post
          I agree with everything except for the 8 inch rule applying to ground conditions vs trail conditions. It is common enough that a trail is covered with less than 8 inches of hard packed snow/ice but the surrounding landscape has more than 8 inches of loose snow. Recently on just such a trail, with two exceptions, the 40 odd climbers I met that day were either bare booting or had microspikes. Not a single posthole was made and I figure that the two snowshoers probably didn't have any other traction aids. Furthermore, with the thin cover and rocks showing through, there were places where snowshoes would have made travel difficult at best.

          Unfortunately, rules are sometimes necessary but the downside is that they may preclude the use of common sense.

          T
          The problem with common sense is that it is very difficult to code it into regulations in a way that maintains the simplicity of the regulation, and doesn't provide loopholes for someone to exploit in attempt to completely circumvent the intent of the regulation.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
            I believe the regulation applies exclusively to the Eastern High Peaks zone.
            I would guess that TFR left this intentionally vague, as he only mentioned the reg in passing, making a broader point about snowshoe use anywhere. Singling out the narrow Eastern High Peaks region, gives license to those who are simply looking for a reason to do "whatever the hell I g.d. please, cuz I know more than all of you..."
            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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            • #7
              @PAR
              Maybe; I don't know what was his intention. The snowshoe regulation is not vague about the area, it's the High Peaks zone (I had incorrectly qualified it as being "Eastern").

              Post-holing up Phelps makes one a scofflaw and subject to a fine.
              Post-holing up Whiteface makes one ignorant of the consequences of post-holing and subject to the wrath of other hikers.

              Regulations - New York State Register and Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (NYCRR)
              Chapter II - Lands and Forests
              Part 190: Use Of State Lands
              190.13 Wilderness Areas in the Adirondack Park
              f. Miscellaneous restrictions.
              3. In the High Peaks Wilderness Area, no person shall:
              vii. fail to possess and use skis or snowshoes when the terrain is snow-covered with eight or more inches of snow.
              Looking for Views!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Thomas View Post
                I agree with everything except for the 8 inch rule applying to ground conditions vs trail conditions. It is common enough that a trail is covered with less than 8 inches of hard packed snow/ice but the surrounding landscape has more than 8 inches of loose snow. Recently on just such a trail, with two exceptions, the 40 odd climbers I met that day were either bare booting or had microspikes. Not a single posthole was made and I figure that the two snowshoers probably didn't have any other traction aids. Furthermore, with the thin cover and rocks showing through, there were places where snowshoes would have made travel difficult at best.

                Unfortunately, rules are sometimes necessary but the downside is that they may preclude the use of common sense.

                T
                I'm sticking with my story. This was meant to be a generic response to the age old question.

                You still never know when you will encounter deep snow. You are still in violation of the rules, if you are not at least carrying snow shoes. I agree in your specific case, snowshoes might not have been mandatory, but like I said above, mandatory is debatable. I'm still going to err on the side of carrying.

                You can do as you please.

                TB: Thanks, typo corrected. Let's not go back to that old thread though! I just wanted to have the handy answer to the question ready when next asked. Maybe the title is not the greatest, but I can not change it now.

                SS: Yes. I could readily adapt most of this to the Catskills as well.
                Tom Rankin - 5444W, etc., etc.

                Web Master - NY Forest Fire Lookout Association
                Member #0003 - ADKHP Foundation
                Volunteer - Balsam Lake Mountain
                Past President - Catskill 3500 Club
                CEO - Views And Brews

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by DSettahr View Post
                  ... and doesn't provide loopholes for someone to exploit in attempt to completely circumvent the intent of the regulation.
                  There are many multi-part regulations on the books so the following modification would not be more Byzantine than its many neighbors:

                  In the High Peaks Wilderness Area, no person shall:
                  vii. fail to possess skis or snowshoes when the terrain is snow-covered with eight or more inches of snow.
                  viii. fail to use skis or snowshoes when footprints become deeper than three or more inches.

                  Now you have a measurable and enforceable regulation that doesn't oblige you to don your snowshoes when the Van Ho is paved in hard-pack from the Loj to the summit of Marcy (but does require you possess them if 8+ inches of snow-cover).

                  Anyway, moot point; not gonna happen. There's no time or money to revisit regulations; everyone is busy with the (enforced) re-branding effort.
                  Looking for Views!

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
                    There are many multi-part regulations on the books so the following modification would not be more Byzantine than its many neighbors:

                    In the High Peaks Wilderness Area, no person shall:
                    vii. fail to possess skis or snowshoes when the terrain is snow-covered with eight or more inches of snow.
                    viii. fail to use skis or snowshoes when footprints become deeper than three or more inches.

                    Now you have a measurable and enforceable regulation that doesn't oblige you to don your snowshoes when the Van Ho is paved in hard-pack from the Loj to the summit of Marcy (but does require you possess them if 8+ inches of snow-cover).

                    Anyway, moot point; not gonna happen. There's no time or money to revisit regulations; everyone is busy with the re-branding effort.
                    I don't want to debate the rules, but I did modify the original post to reference a nice summary of the rules, that talks about safety as a big concern.

                    That's my big point here. Snowshoes are safety gear. We (most of us) bring safety gear with us, right? So...
                    Tom Rankin - 5444W, etc., etc.

                    Web Master - NY Forest Fire Lookout Association
                    Member #0003 - ADKHP Foundation
                    Volunteer - Balsam Lake Mountain
                    Past President - Catskill 3500 Club
                    CEO - Views And Brews

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
                      There are many multi-part regulations on the books so the following modification would not be more Byzantine than its many neighbors:

                      In the High Peaks Wilderness Area, no person shall:
                      vii. fail to possess skis or snowshoes when the terrain is snow-covered with eight or more inches of snow.
                      viii. fail to use skis or snowshoes when footprints become deeper than three or more inches.

                      Now you have a measurable and enforceable regulation that doesn't oblige you to don your snowshoes when the Van Ho is paved in hard-pack from the Loj to the summit of Marcy (but does require you possess them if 8+ inches of snow-cover).

                      Anyway, moot point; not gonna happen. There's no time or money to revisit regulations; everyone is busy with the (enforced) re-branding effort.
                      Perhaps. There are a lot of regulations that could be similarly revised so as to make more sense. But when the entirety of the regulations gets longer, fewer people are likely to read and comprehend it all and understand the intent behind the regulations, which would inevitably lead to more impacts, which many of those regulations are designed to prevent. (Expecting everyone to read the regulations in their entirety as they stand is already quite a bit to expect!)

                      It's also worth mentioning that, as I understand it, the DEC is only allowed to make a limited number of modifications to the regulations each year. Even if the funding and manpower is available to revisit them, certain needed revisions of lesser importance are apparently passed over in favor of more major updates. There are a few typos that have been in place for a few years and haven't been fixed, presumably for this reason. I'm not 100% sure on the specifics of this, though- perhaps someone with more knowledge on the issue than I will comment?
                      Last edited by DSettahr; 01-10-2015, 04:43 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by TFR View Post
                        You still never know when you will encounter deep snow. You are still in violation of the rules, if you are not at least carrying snow shoes. I agree in your specific case, snowshoes might not have been mandatory, but like I said above, mandatory is debatable. I'm still going to err on the side of carrying.

                        You can do as you please.
                        I did begin my reply by saying that I agreed with everything except the 8" on or off trail question, including the carrying and use of snowshoes where appropriate.

                        T

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                        • #13
                          Shouldn't this thread be in the Trip Planning forum? Perhaps as a sticky with the title "Yes you must bring snowshoes!"
                          Looking for Views!

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
                            Shouldn't this thread be in the Trip Planning forum? Perhaps as a sticky with the title "Yes you must bring snowshoes!"
                            I'm tempted to make it my sig!
                            Tom Rankin - 5444W, etc., etc.

                            Web Master - NY Forest Fire Lookout Association
                            Member #0003 - ADKHP Foundation
                            Volunteer - Balsam Lake Mountain
                            Past President - Catskill 3500 Club
                            CEO - Views And Brews

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
                              I believe the regulation applies exclusively to the High Peaks zone.
                              .
                              .
                              Correction
                              Removed "Eastern" from "Eastern High Peaks zone".
                              TFR's post states that in "many areas of the ADKs" snowshoes are required. IMO that statement stands as is, simply because of the word "areas" rather than "management units". The Upper Works area, the Heart Lake area, the John's Brook area, etc.

                              Originally posted by Thomas View Post
                              I agree with everything except for the 8 inch rule applying to ground conditions vs trail conditions.
                              Not sure if you disagree with TFRs interpretation of the rule, or with the rule itself. TFRs interpretation is definitely correct. The rule refers to the amount of snow on "the terrain", which is the general snow cover in the area, NOT the amount of snow on the trail.

                              Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
                              There are many multi-part regulations on the books so the following modification would not be more Byzantine than its many neighbors:

                              In the High Peaks Wilderness Area, no person shall:
                              vii. fail to possess skis or snowshoes when the terrain is snow-covered with eight or more inches of snow.
                              viii. fail to use skis or snowshoes when footprints become deeper than three or more inches.

                              Now you have a measurable and enforceable regulation that doesn't oblige you to don your snowshoes when the Van Ho is paved in hard-pack from the Loj to the summit of Marcy (but does require you possess them if 8+ inches of snow-cover).

                              Anyway, moot point; not gonna happen.
                              Not really a moot point, but rather the crux of the entire discussion.

                              The regulation as it stands IS measurable and enforceable. Those who are charged with enforcement are trained to interpret the regulation for the benefit of the user community. Those of us who hike the trails tend to interpret the regulation for the benefit of ourselves. And as human beings we want to change the rules to make it easier for us to satisfy our individual interpretations.

                              A good recent example of the rangers being reasonable about this was at the HPIC where there was a notice stating that "microspikes or snowshoes must be carried". That notice was written by one of the rangers, and it was referring to the specific conditions of a few weeks ago.

                              Another example was just last weekend when the ranger was instructing hikers w/o snowshoes in their possession to carry them. He also asked that they start wearing them after Marcy Dam.

                              Knowing that the rangers are putting in the effort to communicate their interpretations, it seems that we users should put in the effort to err on the side of not overstepping the regulation when we make our own interpretations. Imagine how much less effort would be required if all users interpretted the regulation for the benefit of the user community at large rather than for themselves.

                              Btw, 3" deep postholes are hideous. Just my interpretation.
                              Last edited by randomscooter; 01-11-2015, 08:51 AM.
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