What do you do when snow makes the trail disappear?

2:42 p.m. on March 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Yesterday I was at Grandfather Mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina and got turned back by snow (plentiful and often over a foot deep above 5,000 feet).

I was on a blazed trail but got to the point where it was impossible to discern the impression of a trail. Tried following other people's tracks to no effect.

Got off the trail for a few hundred feet, then noticed a red tag hanging from a tree, figured it had to be a trail marker, went that way, found two blazes marking a bend in the trail, but it vanished within 100 feet in either direction.

It was beautiful, cloudless, warm day. I had a map, compass, GPS with fresh batteries and about 700 feet of remaining ascent to the summit over about a mile of trail. Certainly could've gutted it out the rest of the way; instead I turned back because:

a) Didn't feel feel like fighting the mountain all the way up -- postholing and scraping around to find a trail.

b) My feet were soaked, which told me I wasn't wearing the right footwear for such an outing.

c) Another hiker came along and neither of us could find the trail.

d) The more spurious tracks I was leaving, the more I was apt to get somebody else lost.

e) All the flailing around looking for a the trail left a tangled mess of a track on my GPS unit -- dramatically reducing the effectiveness of the "trackback" feature, which is so good at getting you found after you're lost.

f) Hiking is recreation to me; when it stops feeling like recreation and starts feeling like work, I figure I might as well move on to something more fun.

Or, as the guy I met on the trail said, "sometimes the mountain wins."

3:34 p.m. on March 21, 2010 (EDT)
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I am curious to hear from the OGBO and others with more experience than myself. The few times I have dealt with a snow-obscured trail I was able to regain course by following the map and the logical route of the terrain. Never been out hiking in anything over a foot and a half, though.

3:46 p.m. on March 21, 2010 (EDT)
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My GPS unit had an installed map (but no tracks, unfortunately) -- it showed a pretty much straight dotted line where the trail was supposed to be. I was using that to make sure I didn't get lost, but it clearly was not showing any of the real bends in the trail, which zizags up the spine of a ridge to the summit, so it wasn't much use as an aid in trail-finding.

Normally a trail will have low places because water naturally tends to collect and drain, and the depression will show itself even under several inches of snow. We weren't seeing this at the point where we ran out of trail. It's like it vanished.

What really vanished, though, was my will to keep slogging up when I knew I had to slog right back the same way.

4:46 p.m. on March 21, 2010 (EDT)
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I once got lost from the trail while hiking in Yosemite's high Sierra in the winter. It was early Spring back in 1980, I was following a trail that lower down was completely melted off and the trail was easy to follow. Soon as the elevation rose the trail started getting more and more covered in snow. I followed someone else's foot steps in the snow thinking they had followed the trail properly. But soon after a few miles I figured out that it was not the trail as I came to a high cliff in front of me. I think the person had walked up to the cliff then climbed up. I did not want to climb so I backtracked to where the trail was visible at the lower elevation. It had no trail markers at all. I ended up backtracking all the way back to the Tioga Road where I had started and went back to Yosemite Valley.

5:32 p.m. on March 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Use the Force Tom!

The force will be with you always.


....and if that doesn't work, I guess you're making your own trail at that point, either that or turn back. Sometimes the latter is the smarter and more viable option.

6:50 p.m. on March 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Frankly I do not understand the question. Is there a problem with a foot of snow when it is winter? Here is a map of the snowdepth in my primary hiking area. Large areas have close to 4 metres or about 13 feet, but 4 feet is the minimum of what to expect. Oops, perhaps I forgot to say that we use skis. :)

Somewhere I have a picture of a hut we came to, where the shovel was tied to the chimney as this usually was the only object over the snow. We dug in and had a short stopover there. It was a dark place.

9:26 p.m. on March 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks, now I'll know not to recount this story if I ever visit Norway... I can see it now:

Wife: Why are home in 2 days when you planned to spend two weeks in Norway?

Me: Wasn't my fault, I told them that story about the foot of snow and they laughed me out of the country.

12:58 a.m. on March 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Tom--

It seems that perhaps you did about as much as your equipment, trail blazes/markings, and sense would let you.

In some cases, the terrain and a highly-used trail may combine to give hints as to the course of the trail, but in other cases one must rely on good maps, excellent navigation skills, and a willingness to keep trying until something works, at least until getting to a point where it's either (a) not fun, or (b) dangerous.

This sort of affair is where good blazes, cairns, posts, and so forth come in very handy. A trail poorly maintained/marked (or not at all maintained/marked) can easily disappear under a blanket of snow. By examining the map closely, looking for spots where the trail passes near, through, or over some recognizable landmark, one can often, after ensuring proper orientation of map/hiker/world, at least bushwhack to that point, picking up the trail there. Unfortunately, for you, that key point may well have been the summit you were seeking. No help there, I suppose.

I'm pleased that you recognized the situation for what it was, made a good decision, and made it safely out to try again some other day. Sometimes the mountain does, indeed, win, just as do the sea, the wind, and other physical elements. We never overcome them at their greatest. And sometimes not even at their least.

12:51 p.m. on March 22, 2010 (EDT)
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I'm pleased that you recognized the situation for what it was, made a good decision, and made it safely out to try again some other day. Sometimes the mountain does, indeed, win, just as do the sea, the wind, and other physical elements. We never overcome them at their greatest. And sometimes not even at their least.


Very well put. I agree wholeheartedly.

12:58 p.m. on March 22, 2010 (EDT)
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I really gave it the ol' college try before giving up. I even noticed while scanning the woods that there was a red tag on a limb about 30 yards away -- I figured that had to be a trail marker. It was, and I soon noticed a depression in the snow that clearly covered a trail, then a few feet later I found a double-blazed tree marking a turn in the trail.

Didn't matter, though, because that was the last trace of trail I could find.

2:40 p.m. on March 22, 2010 (EDT)
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(writing in 70 deg weather, after a sunny weekend in LA in close to 80 deg weather - and smog, of course - one week after driving to Donner Pass in blowing snow on I80 with chains or 4WD required, and leading a snowshoe clinic over 6-8 foot deep snow, the top being powdery enough that on snowshoes I was sinking in over a foot), through areas where no one had made any footprints and there were no trails) ---

Preface - this is not directly aimed at Tom or gonzan, though I will use Tom as an example (well, you did tell us what you did wrong - which is the first step in learning what to do right next time).

First, given that you were improperly equipped, you made the correct (albeit late) decision to turn back. I say "late" because you continued to thrash around even though you knew your footgear was inadequate for the conditions and your feet were soaked.

I do have to agree with Otto that a foot of snow, even postholing, is no big deal - IF you have proper footgear, that is. Map and compass is more than enough for a hike like that ("GPSR? GPSR? We don' need no stinkin' GPSR!). But then, Otto comes from the part of the world where orienteering as a sport originated, and I have been wandering the woods and hills for decades and orienteering competitively for almost 20 years (well, ok, not so competitively these days, but at least on advanced coursed), plus having spent a fair amount of my professional career in the aerospace industry working on the Navstar Global Positioning System satellites and ground segment, plus various user applications.

Ok, given all that blather (maybe "blarney" is the right term, since it is just past St Paddy's), what do I do in situations like that?

First is to know the conditions, either by talking to local rangers and guides or paying close attention to weather reports for the local area that I am headed into (emphasis on "local area"). I take gear according to the conditions, which in this case would have meant waterproof boots (all leather, no mesh), gaiters, microfiber pants, maybe long johns (depends on temperatures), etc. Among the 10 essentials, I would have a USGS 7.5 min quad (or print out the appropriate section from NatGeo Topo!), plus, if possible, a USFS trail map or map from a guidebook for the area. The maps would be in waterproof bags (the orienteering community has bags of a wide range of sizes - and there is a major orienteering supply house in NC).

Might I suggest doing a few orienteering events to build skill levels? There is an active orienteering group in the vicinity with frequent events.

Once on the trail, I follow my location on the map continuously, using what is referred to as "thumb navigation" (keep your thumb on the map following your progress, rather than the all too common "glance at the map, then stick it in the pack for the next 2 hours"). Blazes are convenient, but in many wooded areas, you can not see the next one from the one you are at without a lot of side to side movement, and even then proceeding in the direction you should go anyway. With a good trail map or USGS quad, you have a good idea of the trail configuration and you know the direction you should go (compass!!). So you can continue in the correct direction, and continue tracking with your thumb where you are on the map.

Oh, yeah, you were in NC woods. That means visibility is limited. All the more reason to use the bearing and map together and keep track of where you are on the ground and map.

Some things about winter and snow, though -

1. snow covers the trails (duh!), making them somewhat harder to see. But sometimes (as already said), you can make out the depression - depends on drifting snow and snow falling off trees, though.

2. best trail in winter is often different from the well-worn, well-maintained summer trail

3. snow can alter the contours of the land (drifts and that sort of thing).

4. progress tends to be slower.

5. winter daylight is shorter (even now, in spring, daylight is shorter than in summer), so you have less time.

Very important - when wandering the woods and hills, summer or winter, limited sightlines or unlimited, keep looking around - up, down, right, left, behind you. Stay very aware of your surroundings, where you came from, and where you are headed. Do not bury your head in your map, compass, or GPSR.

As I will be noting in my upcoming article on GPS receivers (if I can ever finish it), maps on current GPSRs are completely inadequate and virtually useless for anything more than confirming that you are where you thought were were. GPSRs are ok for helping stay oriented, knowing roughly the direction to go, and knowing how far various locations are from where you are. But a GPSR can not replace your brain, and the knowledge and skills you have stored in your brain.

3:31 p.m. on March 22, 2010 (EDT)
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I now feel that I'm truly a member of the Trailspace Community now that Bill has chastised me for flagrant rookie missteps!

What happens on a shoulder season hike like this in the lower Blue Ride is there is no snow of any kind below 3,000 feet, and it's scarce enough up to about 5K that you can kid yourself into thinking it'll go away after awhile.

I hiked every weekend for five years in the Bay Area, but almost never encountered snow. Did some snowshoeing in Yosemite and the Sierra but always had the right gear.

9:05 p.m. on March 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Tom

I won't chastise you.

It doesn't matter if you're on the "trail". What matters is getting in and out in STYLE and impressing the people at the trailhead as you come out looking fresh and in control. You want them to say "Wow you look like you know what yer doin."

Along my concept of a million wrong ways and a handful of very different right ways: Bill's sort of cantankerous and old fashioned, there are other methods for moderns who didn't grow up on reservations.

Enter more way points along the "trail" that you want to follow. Way-points are easy to return to, so do your home work on your topo software before you hike and enter those way points, or at the least write them down.

As soon as you start to feel lost, turn off the track recording so you only have the original track, by increasing the resolution you can tell whether you are on it and you won't add confusing lines.

And frankly considering that you are an assistant editor of an outdoor group - why don't you own and deploy the proper gear? Yer nor supposed to demonstrate noobism to us.

Jim S

9:12 p.m. on March 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Well, Tom, I, of course, am perfik and never make misteaks or misjugmuns, and never forget more than 5 items on my gear list (unless I am winging it without the written list, in which case I usually remember about 75% of the most vital items - you might recall that at the OR Winter Show, I got a call from Barb asking why there was a pair of ice tools still sitting on the garage floor). One of these days, I will learn to practice what I preach. At least I have not yet made the mistake my acquaintance Eugene made at least twice that I know of - arrive at the trailhead in the Sierra for a multi-day backcountry ski tour without his ski boots (he did have the skis, though!).

Then again you made the natural assumption that in the South (NC is part of the South, isn't it?) the weather is always 90F/90%RH. Only thing you have to worry about is copperheads and moccasins. (Notwithstanding our last winter in Mississippi before moving back to Sunny California, when it snowed 14 inches in one storm in Jackson, and got so cold that the watermains downtown froze and burst, creating numerous geysers downtown near the state capitol building and city hall).

Oh! I know your mistake! You said you went hiking on the 20th of March, something like 24 hours before the Vernal Equinox. You forgot that it was still officially Winter, and not yet Spring. You should have been forewarned by Punxsutawney Phil's prediction of 6 more weeks of Winter. No, wait, that was Feb 2, 6 and a half weeks ago. Must be due to Global Climate Change.

9:12 p.m. on March 22, 2010 (EDT)
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In Toms defense many of the trails in the Southern Appalachians are not marked with heavy snowfall in mind. Many of us do not have or carry snowshoes, skies etc. of course if you need them, you need them obviously. Unless you are at a ridge, peak, or bald, your line of sight can be almost nonexistent in the more heavily forested areas, so if you loose the trail, all you see if you look around are a bunch of trees. You can't see any major landmarks many times, and unless you have studied the topo very well and know how the trail cuts through the lay of the land or you can find a trail blaze it can be very frustrating.

Now hopefully you have kept up with your position on your map, so you know which way you came, and basically which way the trail heads. But once you have lost the trail, (unless you have a GPSR & the related info) and you are down in one of the many, many, valleys or coves that are heavily forested your line of site will be very limited, making navigation difficult unless you can use something for a handrail.

Experience in snow teaches you a lot of these things I'm sure, but traveling in the Southern Appalachians is not like areas where you can just look out across the landscape and see your next marker, blaze, hut, or a landmark of some kind.

Sometimes all we see is a wall of Laurel or Rhododendron, or other type of brush.

Plus, we ain't used to much snow down here, admittedly.

9:22 p.m. on March 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Aw, Jim! You and I know a certain person who has been teaching trip leadership, basic backpacking, and winter camping (among other topics) for a certain large, well-known conservation organization (initials S.S., in case you forgot), who broke his ankle twice on the same popular day-hiker's trail at about the same spot, and who was supposedly an instructor on a winter camping course I was director of, but had disappeared (along with his girlfriend) overnight, prompting a search that eventually found their snowcave some hundred meters away from the designated camping area, so deeply buried under a snowdrift we had to dig them out (they had not taken a shovel inside with them). Tom's minor error was trivial and self-recoverable, where S's multiple blunders required significant S&R efforts.

As a friend who is a professional guide said to me one time on a "casual" climb, "Even professional guides sometimes fall."

10:14 p.m. on March 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks, now I'll know not to recount this story if I ever visit Norway... I can see it now:

Wife: Why are home in 2 days when you planned to spend two weeks in Norway?

Me: Wasn't my fault, I told them that story about the foot of snow and they laughed me out of the country.

Ha,ha Tom, That was good :) No you may tell your one foot story, and two types of reaction is likely. Those who do not ski (unbelievable but they exist even here) will envy you, those who do ski will pity you for not being so lucky as we are.

If you however came to Norway for hiking in the winter without skis or snowshoes they would laugh you back to USA. I can see the scandal-press: "Assistant editor of US hiking forum claims he did not know that there are more than a foot of snow in the wintermountains in Norway".

10:18 p.m. on March 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Tommangan – First – You made the right choice you turned around to hike another day. You may take a bit of ribbing (in Norway) but so what.

You might want to evaluate your gear before you go out there again. Look at your boots, socks, gaiters, pants and their types of materials. Snowshoes and poles?

Navigation gear you had with you was enough to put you on the summit if you wanted/ needed to. A local map or trail map could have helped. (Personally I like to gather lots of info before I go). Don’t worry about it.

Locally (my area) some of the more popular trails have trail markers up high. Usually a 2” square or Diamond shape coloured sheet metal or aluminum.

When it snows, people make their own trails with either snowshoes or ski’s.

As for the trail markers, my last winter trip we got caught in a local white out (snow and fog) the trail markers became very hard to see. Quite often the trail breaker could not see the next marker. He had to sort of read the lay of the land while still looking for the markers.

This IS supposed to be fun. The type of people, gear, and experience all play into the adventure.

So Yup you made the right choice.

11:49 p.m. on March 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Just a few points so y'all know:

* I snowshoed all day in Utah at OR Winter Demo Day with the exact same shoes/socks/gaiters; got a little damp but no soaking. Lesson: Dry Utah snow is nothing like wet southern Appalachian snow.

* Despite five years of weekly hikes, this was the first time I'd ever done a shoulder-season day hike that started out warm and dry and ended up with crusty knee-deep snow. Lesson: unfamiliar terrain can turn anybody into a newbie.

* There were no visual points of reference to landmarks or landforms. This trail was all tree tunnel; at most I had the morning sun, the blazes, and the erroneous tracks of previous hikers. Lesson: outing risk goes way up if you haven't achieved Instrument Rating but really need it (meaning you can navigate comfortably and confidently with map/compass/GPS -- I stick to trails and while I always take a map, I usually don't need anything more so I don't feel comfortable puttying my fanny on the line with gear I use twice a year.)

Appreciate all your contributions.

10:12 a.m. on March 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I can second the reports about how difficult traversing the Southern Appalachians can be. They consist of an unending series of steep, deeply cloven ridges, peaks, and gulfs. Almost all of those deep drainages have extremely dense thickets of Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel that can be quite expansive. These thickets are actually called "hells", and for good reason. Many of them have names like "Jeffrey's Hell", getting their titles from the poor shmucks who got lost and died in them in decades or centuries past. Cheerful, no?

I have as well as Tommangan had the experience of starting out on a trail with mild conditions, and found myself in over a foot of snow just 1500 feet up the mountain. Fortunately on that occasion the temperature difference from below was enough that the snow wasn't too wet. We did have to fight our way through a half mile of rhodo covered and weighed down to the ground with 10 inches of ice and snow on that trip.

2:33 p.m. on March 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Tom,

I have indeed hiked (thrashed?) through Southern woods, swamps, bayous, and such, though almost always in 90/90 weather. The tunnel trails and walls of vegetation are no worse than places in the NH Whites and some of the Calif routes on the western slopes of the Sierra (though the mix of poison oak in the tangles of manzanita and madrone will challenge some jungles I have been in).

To add my own "shoulder season" tale, when Barb and I lived in Boston, we were preparing for a bicycle trip through Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden). We had assembled our kit, including home-made panniers, and wanted to make a test trip. This was in late March or early April. We decided to drive down to the Cape Cod Canal, leave the Kampwagen there, and bicycle out the Cape (Cape Cod), enjoying the beautiful, sunny spring weather, with a prediction that the whole weekend would be sunny and warm - perfect bike shorts and jerseys weather. Since we knew the state parks were still closed for the winter season, we planned on staying at a private campground. I won't go into all the adventures we had along the way, but will mention that we were refused at the private campground because I had "offended" the camp owner's dog (yes, that was the word she used). My offense was apparently that when the dog attempted to attack Barb, I had yelled at the dog and threatened it with my bicycle tire pump (it was clear that the dog intended to bite Barb). Having been turned out, we rode on to the state campground at the elbow of the Cape, lifted our bikes over the gate, and rode in a way to a beautiful campsite. Next morning, we woke to the sounds of a light drizzle on the tent. We had a hurried breakfast, packed, and headed back toward the car. Within the first 5 miles, the drizzle had turned to a light snow, which grew more serious as we rode on. We were in shorts and jerseys, due to planning according to the forecast, but snow started piling up on the brake handles. About half-way back, Barb was starting to show signs of hypothermia, despite the exercise of riding, and I was getting chilled myself. We stopped under a tree to dig out our wind jackets, when the owner of the house in whose yard the tree was (very huge oak), called us in to sit in front of the fireplace, to enjoy hot spiced cider and hot muffins. After a while, the husband gave me a ride back to our Kampwagen to return to pick up Barb and the bikes. By this time, about 8 inches of snow had accumulated. However, after we had driven the 8 or 9 miles back to the Canal and crossed over, the temperature took a sudden jump, the snow stopped, and by the time we passed Plymouth, it was sunny and quite warm (prediction was apparently for Boston and environs). The storm (a nor'easter) had gone over the Cape and missed the mainland, with a very sharp demarcation (we saw a number of storms with such sharp demarcations while we lived in Boston).

Actually, that was an omen of the Scandinavian bike tour - the first three days riding from Oslo southeastward were continuous pouring rain. But this time, we had the clothes for the weather.

11:38 p.m. on March 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Late to the fray. I just got back from a 20 day Appalachian backpacking trip where much of it was spent postholing in 24 to 36 inches of snow. At several points I lost the trail and one time had to "cut steps" with my boots to go straight up a steep mountainside(Hangover Mt/NC). It was about the worst hiking I've done in a long while.

Since I was wearing a very heavy pack, each step pushed my foot down 12 inches, then it slipped another 12 inches, and then finally another 12 inches, until I was swimming. The hardest part was lifting the deepest leg out of the hole and starting all over again.

I was wearing shorts and after about 4 hours of this(and I lost the trail of course but knew to be on or near the ridgeline), I developed snow "burns" on my left calf which developed into open sores and later scabs like road rash from a bike wreck.


These wounds were caused by simple snow friction against bare skin. Wearing shorts while postholing? Sort of stupid.

It took me hours to go the 2 miles I needed to go to reach the top at around 5,000 feet and then I realized I needed a shovel to prepare a decent tentsite. One good thing about deep snow, you can't get lost as you can always sleep at a spot and then retrace your steps IF you're not in an all-night windstorm or blizzard. Losing a trail in deep snow during the day is no problem as you can turn around at any time and follow your steps out.

Snowshoes? They are hardly ever needed but I imagine a pair of shoes rated for my packweight(around 80lbs)would've helped alot. Full trip report pending.

9:57 a.m. on March 24, 2010 (EDT)
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That looks and sounds positively painful, Tipi. Looking forward to the trip report though.

1:35 p.m. on March 24, 2010 (EDT)
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I experienced a mild variant on this snow chafing -- daytime melt followed by overnight freezing creates a thin crust that my shins kept banging into whenever I postholed. Unfun.

Snowshoes might not help much in this kind of snow -- seems like they'd keep getting snagged on the crust, causing more irritation than assistance.

12:24 a.m. on March 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Tom

My dog said you should mark the trail more often and pay attention to others scent marks, this way its easy to find your way back simply by keeping your nose to the ground. (why aren't there any smileys in this group?)

Tipi,

Sorry to hear this. I suppose besides suffering a lot you also will have some wisdom for us on the subject after you've had a chance to recover.

Jim S

9:31 a.m. on March 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Jim S

The main question is, should I have brought and used snowshoes? In the whole 50,000 acres I was backpacking, only about a 1,000 of those acres required snowshoes and demanded deep postholing, and so here is the dilemma. Do you carry snowshoes just for that small area?

As far as the snow abrasions, well, like any kind of "skid wound", they were sore but really never became a problem and were healing by Day 14 of my trip. Lesson learned? WEAR PANTS WHEN POSTHOLING. And/or gaiters.

12:07 p.m. on March 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Bill S in his first post lists 5 things. Each of those was relevant when I lost a trail in snow one November.

Following indentations in the snow I thought marked the trail abruptly ended. I pressed on.
Got further lost. Became even more confused by run-off, making a steram I was hoping to find even more hard to find.
I had map and compass and was headed down hill, so I was not all that lost, but bushwacking became fierce in thick growth. I headed for a clearing for what I hoped would be easier walking, but found it was a clearing because the floor was littered with dead trees making progress even slower. I lost daylight. Tried following stars rather than continual lighting of the compass. Ended up walking in a circle. Early stages of hypothermia set in.

In short, if the temps had gone lower, I would not be here.

Photo 1 On high ridge, the trail was easy to follow ..look to the right in the photo

Photo 2 I headed down from here, snow deepened

Photo 3 Here is what the "lost trail" looks like in the summer

Photo 4 The summer view of where I was headed

Even after the steeps, the trail was a barely visible foot path overgrwon with low ground cover-like evergreen shrubs....a poor choice for a winter's hike, but it was only November!

http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/1071517020045831896aWTjFv

http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/1071513133045831896vsdrrI

http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/1423535377045831896opSTEk

http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/1423532792045831896DReZgH

12:41 p.m. on March 25, 2010 (EDT)
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rambler,

Barb and I have hiked that trail! It's bad enough in summer. The time we did it, they were re-routing the trail, but hadn't marked the new trail as "under construction". So at one point, we took the new, really good trail (missed seeing the turn for the old, still to be used trail) until it ended abruptly in your "fierce in thick growth" at the end of that week's construction work (there were shovels and other tools there to continue the work). We backtracked about a half-mile to find the correct trail. That would have been an "adventure" in winter or snow conditions.

9:36 p.m. on March 29, 2010 (EDT)
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Attempting to following a snow bound trail; sometimes I wonder why I even bother. What I’ve found annoying is some popular Sierra trails have been re-marked so many times, over the years, you find yourself staring at half a dozen blazes telling you the trail is there.. or over there, or there, or there too - all options heading off anywhere in an 180 degree arc. And then there are those times you think you are following trail blazes, when in fact you are actually following a random collection of deer ruts.

The real bitch are trails that thread through aspen stands. One time we went to Dusy Basin starting out from South Lake, of the Eastern Sierras. At the start of the trip, the Bishop Pass Trail was snow free below 10K’. This trail traverses a steep aspen covered slope for the first ½ mile. Eighteen inches of snow fell during my weekend outing, completely obscuring the trail all the way back to the parking lot. Home bound, I missed the trail entrance into the aspen stand. Finding the aspen too dense to negotiate, I was forced to descend the steep hill side along the fall line, then make way across the piles of shattered sheet ice along the lake shore that the wind had blown off the lake during the winter. I have since learned to note the compass coordinates of where the trail enters aspen stands, so I can find it if a subsequent snow falls obscures my tracks.
Ed

September 2, 2014
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