Taking on the 46 peaks of the Adirondacks

11:21 a.m. on August 20, 2012 (EDT)
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This past May I started my personal quest to hike the 46 peaks of the Adirondacks. I am trying to find out what kind of gear I will need to continue through the winter. I just purcased an Osprey Exos 46 which I will be trying out this coming weekend. Hopefully that will be fine in the winter because I dont plan on buying aother pack for a while. I am looking for a tent and am wondering if a good three season tent will do or if I have to purchase a four season tent. I know the conditions can be rough is this area in the winter but do not have any experience with it myself. Besides the tent any other gear suggestions for cold weather backpacking / camping would be appreciated. Thanks.

12:23 p.m. on August 20, 2012 (EDT)
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#1 - 'Daks + winter = 4 season EXPEDITION tent MANDATORY!!!! No question about it. Yes, you may have some very benign days, where it is sunny, clear, and firm snow perfect for skiing (that means consolidated enough so no avy danger). But if you plan as you indicate to do a bunch of the peaks during the winter, you are guaranteed to have some severe weather, as tough as any range in the world (the 'Daks, Whites, and other New England mountains have been used for training for the toughest ranges in the world, and they catch people in winter all the time with fatal results).

#2 - full-on winter clothing

#3 - solo is strongly advised AGAINST!

Old New England Weather Saying - "If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes - it will change!" Between the time we lived in the Northeast and the multiple visits since then, as the saying goes "BTDT" (= "been there, done that").

12:35 p.m. on August 20, 2012 (EDT)
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welcome to Trailspace stp8027!

I'd echo Bill's points and emphasize some training in basic winter mountaineering techniques. Some of the "friendly" peaks I run up during Summer in Maine are entirely different beasts under a full load of snow, requiring crampons, and ice axe, basic rope skills and an understanding of cold-weather survival skills. I've always been better off loading up on the skills first and the gear second, despite the constant temptation to do it the other way round.  Best of luck on your ambitious project stp.  Please share some pictures from your exploits too!

7:06 p.m. on August 20, 2012 (EDT)
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general suggestions from the Adirondack Mountain Club:


winter hiking in the adirondacks requires a four season tent because wind and snowfall can be severe and can shred or crush a 3 season tent.  the fabric and poles need to be designed to handle the rougher conditions.  'rough' can mean temperatures that can get colder than -20f, winds that are tropical storm to hurricane force, and a couple of feet of snowfall within a relatively short period of time.  hypothermia and frostbite are major risks. 

i agree with what Seth and Bill already said.  in addition, your sleeping system (bag + sleep pad or pads) needs to be capable of handling the potentially very cold weather, and you need to bring either skis or snowshoes in addition to crampons and an axe.  goes without saying that you should learn how to use this stuff in a safe environment with instructors or someone knowledgeable.     

8:26 p.m. on August 20, 2012 (EDT)
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First, what Bill and the others have said is spot on, Winter in the 'Daks is not to be messed with. As was said; four season tent, ice axe, crampons, good snowshoes absolutely mandatory.

Beyond that, I don't think a 46 L pack will be anywhere close to enough. You'll be toting a serious subzero sleeping bag, two sleeping pads, considerable clothing, enough food for your trip plus enough to stick it out through a four day storm & the extra time to make it back out through the four feet of new snow, a reasonable bit of rope. It needs to be able to handle the ice axe & snow shoes on the outside, a serious Winter tent etc.

Depending on your navigation skills a GPS would be a good idea as the wind alone whips up white out conditions like nothing & it's dam easy to walk off a cliff up there.

I agree, doing that alone is a bad, bad idea.

A good expedition stove that will function at sub zero temps.

Beyond anything else the skill & wisdom to know when to abort and turn back or stop & dig in. Google Mt. Marcy+winter & watch some youtube videos, it will give you an idea of what you are getting into, then plan for worse.

2:59 a.m. on August 21, 2012 (EDT)
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I agree with Jersey, a 46L pack is on the small side for winter snow camping.  Just to compare: I use a 35L for winter day trips.  My winter day kit will have enough gear to bivouac overnight, if forced, but it only covers the “minimal” needs for a day trip and yet be safe, just in case.  I would consider a 60L pack for winter trips, instead of a 46L pack, especially if you eventually wish to entertain solo ventures with no one else to share hauling community gear, like tents, etc.

Before you go out and get another pack for this purpose, however, you will need to make some choices, regarding what activities you intend to pursue.  A winter pack needs to accommodate skis or snow shoes – or both – among other specialized gear, and these considerations require different accommodations in the pack’s design.  Thus I suggest you hold off on this purchase until you have a better idea of what your ambitions entail.

I would not recommend you consider any solo winter stuff until you receive some snow safety and snow skills training.  Proper knowledge will minimize the objective dangers of traveling in snow country; proper knowledge will also maximize the probability of a safe, warm, dry and enjoyable experience, versus a cold, wet, calamitous, ordeal.  For example we talk of the ten essentials to bring along whenever going on trail; most greenhorns are not aware that a sturdy shovel is high on the essentials list for snow country.  If you make a concerted effort to train up on winter skills this season, then work on perfecting your systems and techniques the following season, you might be ready for some soloing in the third year, assuming you already have solid 3 season skills foundation.


10:28 a.m. on August 21, 2012 (EDT)
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i'm not exactly a minimalist, and my large backpack for winter or long hikes shrinks nicely, but it holds 100 liters.  on more than one occasion, i have ended up toting friends' gear when their legs gave out or when they suffered an injury  (one fine day, my friends did the same for me).  having the extra space was extremely helpful. 



11:49 a.m. on August 21, 2012 (EDT)
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My doctor was killed in a climbing accident last week.  It is hard to say what happened for sure but he was peak climbing in Sequoia-Kings Canyon NP.  Searchers found his ice axe and crampons at the base of the trail to some obscure peak.  Sounds like a slip and a fall with no means of self arrest.

I got interested in snow and ice climbing while at the U of WA.  I started to meet people with dead friends- from falls, hypothermia in snow caves, getting lost, etc.  Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into by climbing snow country in winter.  It is a matter of time before the weather is terrible and similar to the Arctic.  Get some mountaineering instruction and go with some experienced people.


3:51 p.m. on August 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Alot of good advice so far.

I would just like to say that a 4 season expedition tent is not your only option. Yes they are nice and will do just nicely, but you do have other options.

I do not use a 4 season tent. I use a 4 season tarp w/doors and a hammock. I have also used the same 4 season tarp and a mil surplus goretex bivy. No matter what shelter system you go with you should be intimately familiar with it and not be experimenting with it for the first time at -30 miles from help.

I think a tarp and bivy combo require a little bit of experience for safety in severe winter conditions, and you should use them multiple times in good weather and close to home or car etc before going out backpacking with them in winter. The Daks can be downright deadly in winter and should not be underestimated.

After shelter the next most important thing is your clothing. Layers, a set of dry clothes to sleep in, 2 pairs of gloves, 2 hats, balaclava , and a very solid outer layer are essential. I like wool personally, and you can usually score some good deals on clothing at thrift stores.

A fool proof way to make a fire in an emergency, this can be the difference between life and death if the shtf on a winter outing.

11:06 p.m. on August 21, 2012 (EDT)
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I'm agree with the others. Gear up for winter excursions. I have a 50 liter day pack I use and carry a stove kit and an eVent bivy if I have to spend a night. I pack extra clothing but no sleeping bag. I can put all the clothing on and use the pad, which makes up the pack frame, for insulation from the cold ground.

4:03 p.m. on August 22, 2012 (EDT)
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I really appreciate everyones advice and opinions. After hearing what you guys had to say and watching some youtube videos (good call JerseyWreckDriver) I'll be sticking to day hikes this winter. I'm not trying to push my luck my first year. It also seems as though gearing up for the winter is more expensive than summer so thats going to take some time.  I'm looking forward to learning from you all as time goes on. Thanks.

6:07 p.m. on August 22, 2012 (EDT)
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stp8027 said:

After hearing what you guys had to say and watching some youtube videos (good call JerseyWreckDriver) I'll be sticking to day hikes this winter. I'm not trying to push my luck my first year.

 Aha! The wisdom to know when to reevaluate and change your plans! 'The mountain will still be there next year.'

THAT's the one that will save your life!

7:03 p.m. on August 22, 2012 (EDT)
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You can always practice car camping this winter, or camping in your backyard to help test any new winter gear you get or to test gear you already have.

12:14 p.m. on August 23, 2012 (EDT)
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Knowledge and judgement are the most important things to take with you in the mountains in winter.  Be prepared to spend the night if the weather really turns on you.  A bag, pad and shovel would probably be mandatory even for day trips.

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