Turned back on another hike

2:18 p.m. on February 10, 2019 (EST)
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Due to being too hot with my hardshell and the wind blowing right through my fleece. Air temp was the low teens, skies were sunny, wind probably 30-35mph in the trees @1900’ altitude (I was watching 3-4” birches move 12-16” maybe 20 feet up.) I had a silkweight polypro base, midweight Merino shirt over that, then my outer layer. Between the sun and going uphill I started sweating pretty heavily, taking off the WPB rain jacket and putting on the fleece had me freezing from the wind. I didn’t even want to think about how I’d be doing by the time I got above the tree line in winds that would probably be 50+mph, so I turned around after about 1/2 mile. At first I was thinking of getting a more breathable hardshell than my EMS Thunderhead rain jacket or ECWCS parka, but you can only get so much “B” out of a WPB membrane without adversely affecting the “WP.” So, it looks like it‘s softshell time. This is where living so far from everything sucks - you either have to drive a few hours to try stuff on or order onlone and trust the size chart. I haven’t heard anything bad about the OR Ferrosi, but I’ll be going over the different offerings on TS and probably buying a closeout when the 2020 models come out. 

6:58 p.m. on February 10, 2019 (EST)
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I will choose to be a little cool than too warm.  

A challenging scenario I've dealt with was ski trekking in similar conditions described by the OP.  We try to dress so the pace we maintain doesn't cause us to saturate our layers with sweat.  In a driving breeze I prefer to keep my hard shell on.  Obviously we remove underlying layers as we heat up, and open the hard shell if we need to.  I prefer being a little chilled while under way than saturate my layers with sweat.  The real challenge comes when you stop to dig a snow pit.  On this trip the snow was deep, it was early season and avalanche advisory services for the BC Sierra were rudimentary.  Thus a full depth pit going all the way to the ground was warranted periodically.  Everyone in the group participated.  We took turns in the pit, one at a time, digging hard for about 20 - 30 seconds, rotating out for the next to take their turn.  You go from high exertion digging, to idle rest while awaiting your turn in the rotation to come up again. We'd all strip down to just our hard shells over shorts and a thin skin layer top.  The digging would heat us up, and the rest period would cool us down such that we were happy to start shoveling again when our turn came up.  Some times we would be a bit too cool and other times hot enough to sweat.  It was always a challenge to strike a balance. 

I found it was impossible to preclude foot sweat, and back sweat due to carrying a pack.  I had a pair of socks worn exclusively while at rest in camp to address the foot situation.  Scuba booties or VB socks would also help in these conditions.  As for sweaty layers, this problem was partially reduced by avoiding overheating.  Also when we got the more physical camp chores done I would let the sweaty layers under the hard shell dry out before changing into my down items and dry camp clothing.

Ed   

8:20 p.m. on February 10, 2019 (EST)
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Absolutely, I always start off with less than I think I’ll need and layer up if necessary when everyone else in a group is layering down. I’m very warm-blooded and really look out of place in a group, wearing just a thin base layer shirt when everyone else has fleeces, softshells, etc. And still sweating in the mid teens LOL

One difference up here as opposed to the area around the Whites is that mountains are a little more isolated from each other here, meaning that the wind comes at you from every direction as it blows through the gaps between them. The forecast called for winds from the NNW (prevailing winds here), I was hiking on the southern side of a spur whenever possible but getting blasted by wind from the W/SW. plus the snow was deeper and more powdery from thecstuff  there from the windward side. 

7:00 p.m. on February 11, 2019 (EST)
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several years ago, i started bringing a second shell for the uphill climbs for exactly this reason.  i would be sweating my way up one of the trails adjacent to Tuckerman's or Lowe's path on Mt. Adams, fine in a base layer until the trees start to get shorter, and then the wind cuts through the non-shell layers and chills your core, fast....but with a hard shell, you're all wet from sweat.  patagonia's houdini, usually, though it's not cut to fit over more than a low-profile layer.  more recently a LL Bean anorak, which is much more roomy. neither is waterproof or even coated, both breath reasonably well for a shell. the houdini weights about 5 oz, the anorak around 14 oz.  they strike a good balance - they cut but don't completely block a strong wind.  that, plus unzipping them partway, helps avoid overheating.  they breathe better than any waterproof/breathable jacket I have ever used.  the houdini is kind of pricy for something that light, but mine has proved to be pretty durable; the anorak cost about 60, but bean sometimes sells less popular colors for under 40. 

i also tried a softshell in these conditions for a while - a marmot soft shell with a polartec neoshell membrane, so waterproof/breathable.  performed pretty well. i don't like how bulky it is, takes up a fair bit more pack space than a nylon windshirt, and while the soft shell plus membrane is pretty breathable, lets in some wind, the nylon shells tend to keep me cooler - that soft shell would have been better with armpit zips, but Marmot didn't make it that way.  

7:35 p.m. on February 11, 2019 (EST)
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I used the silkweight polypro/midweight Merino/fleece system while snowshoeing tonight and it worked great. Temp was around 5F, wind around 10mph with higher gusts, and the sun was down. I could feel the breeze through my layers but it wasn’t really cold. It actually felt pretty good most of the time, because I was really moving! (2.3 miles in 40:37.) I’m guessing yesterday’s failure was due to being very windy and me moving slowly. So I think I’ll do a little more work with this and keep the hardshell for above treeline. 

11:11 a.m. on February 13, 2019 (EST)
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Heat regulation in the cold is always a challenge especially when working hard.  I would keep the shell to fend off the wind and keep subtracting insulating layers unitl you stop sweating.  Turning around is usually a great idea. 

12:11 p.m. on February 14, 2019 (EST)
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Did the same thing this week as we hiking in Death Valley and the Mojave.  We were camping in dispersed areas on dirt roads.  When the weather report called for lots of rain, we bailed, for obvious reasons.  Rain in the desert is not a casual event.

1:08 p.m. on February 14, 2019 (EST)
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other alternatives:

soft shell or wind block vest, like the north face's soft shell vest here:  https://www.thenorthface.com/shop/mens-apex-bionic-2-vest-nf0a2tbc#hero=0  keeps your core warmer but allows a lot of moisture abatement.  

the arcteryx atom has light insulation and a wind-resistant outer shell, and the sides have no wind-block.  a hybrid, essentially.  https://arcteryx.com/us/en/shop/mens/atom-lt-jacket  pretty versatile solution, could wear something fairly light underneath if needed.  

another hybrid, patagonia's nano air, doesn't stop much wind, but it has a pretty wide temperature range and is a great solution for people who overheat.  I have hiked and snowshoed in it from sub-zero to low 30s, and with the right shirt underneath, I rarely get too warm - it's pretty warm but balances that by letting a lot of air through.  pricy, but i wear this in cold weather more than anything else I own.  had a tough time deciding between this and the arcteryx jacket above.  

6:47 p.m. on February 14, 2019 (EST)
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ppine said:

Heat regulation in the cold is always a challenge especially when working hard.  I would keep the shell to fend off the wind and keep subtracting insulating layers unitl you stop sweating.  Turning around is usually a great idea. 

 

I was down to the 1 insulating later, which was Merino wool not even as thick as a good quality T-shirt. Maybe I should have left the polypro shirt at home, but I’ve found it wicks moisture better than the wool. Part of the problem may be that they’re a little baggy on me now, it’s probably time to get some stuff a size or 2 smaller. That’s pretty much the case with my entire outdoors wardrobe other than down jackets and hardshells, but that’s way too expensive to replace right now. 

Whether I go with fleece or softshell, a hardshell will always be in my pack. My last really cold & windy winter mountain hike was Chocorua almost 2 years ago, and for at least half the climb to the treeline I was wearing the silkweight polypro top & bottoms, Merino shirt, and HyVent TNF pants. I’d started off with the EMS rain jacket but was sweating too much, taking that off allowed the sweat to wick through and freeze on the outside of my shirt instead of forming a humid microclimate inside the shell. Just below the treeline I added a Merino layer, put on the hardshell, and also switched from uninsulated softshell gloves to insulated hardshell gloves (it looks like my old model EMS Ascent Summits in a pic.) Air temp was around 0 to -10F near the summit and wind chill pushing -40 IIRC and I was perfectly comfortable even though we were going pretty slow, stopping to take pics, etc.

Our Kearsarge North (similar height to Chocorua but a little steeper) hike last year was done in a little warmer weather, the only pic with me in it showed me in an EMS down jacket at the summit with the same Merino shirt but a different baselayer under it. I know I would have worn the same EMS shell, I don’t recall sweating enough to feel it other than under my pack so maybe next time I’ll try that baselayer. 

6:53 p.m. on February 14, 2019 (EST)
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leadbelly2550 said:

other alternatives:

soft shell or wind block vest, like the north face's soft shell vest here:  https://www.thenorthface.com/shop/mens-apex-bionic-2-vest-nf0a2tbc#hero=0  keeps your core warmer but allows a lot of moisture abatement.  

the arcteryx atom has light insulation and a wind-resistant outer shell, and the sides have no wind-block.  a hybrid, essentially.  https://arcteryx.com/us/en/shop/mens/atom-lt-jacket  pretty versatile solution, could wear something fairly light underneath if needed.  

another hybrid, patagonia's nano air, doesn't stop much wind, but it has a pretty wide temperature range and is a great solution for people who overheat.  I have hiked and snowshoed in it from sub-zero to low 30s, and with the right shirt underneath, I rarely get too warm - it's pretty warm but balances that by letting a lot of air through.  pricy, but i wear this in cold weather more than anything else I own.  had a tough time deciding between this and the arcteryx jacket above.  

 

Thanks, I’ll add these to my list of stuff to check out. I cringe at the price of Arcteryx stuff but if it works it could very well be the difference between a completed hike or a cold injury at a very bad time in a very bad place. The cost would definitely be worth it in that case!

5:09 p.m. on February 16, 2019 (EST)
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Well I did a little more testing today while snowshoeing, and think the fleece is going to be my standard outer layer in all but the most extreme weather.

Today I did some cross-country roaming, just going whichever way looked most interesting. I was wearing silkweight polypro bottoms, my favorite Merino shirt, Cabela’s pants (that I reviewed several years ago), and my fleece jacket (a MH Octans.) I also had EMS uninsulated softshell gloves and an AMC fleece hat I probably paid way too much for in the Pinkham Notch visitor center.

Temps were in the mid 20s, wind felt like maybe 15-20mph, and the snow was DEEP. Tuesday into Wednesday we got maybe 15” of stuff that was so dry & fluffy it was like air colored white and offered about as much support. With temps right around freezing yesterday it did moisten up and consolidate a bit, but I was still sinking 10-12 inches on average with my Garneau 1036 snowshoes. So the going was a little slow, about 1mph, but pretty strenuous. 

I was confortable the whole time, not cold at any time and never too hot. Within a few minutes I unzipped the jacket most of the way, and not too long afterward I stuck the hat in my pocket. I could feel a bit of sweat under my pack, but nowhere else. The temp was too warm for escaping sweat to freeze in the outside of my fleece, but I know it was escaping because when I got back to the Jeep I didn‘t feel sweaty once out of the wind. I’m going again tomorrow, it’ll be a little colder (upper teens) and less windy so I’ll probably dress the same way. I think I’ve found something that works for me. 


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Some of the less-deep stuff I went through. 
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Trekking pole handle-deep, they were set at 150cm.
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To paraphrase a line from one of my favorite movies, “In all my years I've never seen the like. It has to be almost a mile and he brings us right back to his trail. That's snowshoemanship, Mr. Pullings. My God, that's snowshoemanship!” (A friend always accuses me of getting us lost when we go off-trail, she doesn’t know her directions, use landmarks or the sun, and would have probably thought it was magic how I came back to my trail a couple hundred yards from where I parked.)
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