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Winter Hiking, Snow shoeing and Peak bagging Adirondacks
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Dan Wisner
(dpw3868) - F
Winter Hiking, Snow shoeing and Peak bagging Adirondacks on 09/03/2008 19:29:11 MDT Print View

Hi, i recently started hiking last fall and over winter acquired most of my backpacking gear for this year. With winter approaching i want to get advice of layering systems and gear for winter snow shoeing in the Adirondacks high peak area. My hiking goals are oriented around summiting peaks. My main focus would be on what types of clothes to wear.

Thanks for any input


Michael B
(mbenvenuto) - F

Locale: Vermont
adirondaks on 09/03/2008 19:51:16 MDT Print View

I should first say that I haven't summited in the high peaks in the winter. It is a long drive around the lake and the hikes are mostly hard and steep and long, so they are tough to do in the winter. I usually hike alone and that is too dangerous in the winter, and many of those peaks will require crampons (which also adds to the danger). I do snowshoe in Vermont though, and our weather is similar if the peaks are a bit easier and less exposed.

For layering, you need to be prepared for bitter, extreme cold and blasting wind. It really can't get much nastier than on a summit in the winter. Most people use goretex or other hard shells still, but I do like my softshell jacket. A baselayer under a shell is usually enough for the ascent, and a mid layer added for the descent and a puffy layer for breaks or emergencies. Multiple hats/gloves/mittens and face protection are also necessary.

You may want to search for more info, including lots of posts on clothing, at either or both the adk forum or VFT:

Dan Wisner
(dpw3868) - F
Something like this? on 09/03/2008 20:03:30 MDT Print View

Yeah i frequent those forums. I was decided to ask here first because I am looking for a light weight approach. I would ask questions on VFTT forums but it requires sponsorship to join and i don't know anyone on the site.

So I am looking for something like a base layer - synthetic or wool shirt, an insulating layer like a fleece? and a wind shirt, a hard shell and an insulating jacket?

What about on the lower body?


Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Winter Hiking, Snow shoeing and Peak bagging Adirondacks on 09/03/2008 21:04:45 MDT Print View

Hi Dan,

I have hike the White Mountains of NH a few times in the winter. Trying to get to Mt Washington is seldom an easy task. I have had to turn back because of bitter cold and white out conditions but I lived to tell about it.

I was with a small group (5) and we had to carry two tents, snow shoes, crampons, ski poles, sleeping bags good to below "0" etc.

The activity you expect to be doing and with extra winter gear weight on your back, your body will be generating a lot of heat (at least mine does). Because of all that heat I would dress to control body heat and sweat. I wore only a jacket (TNF - Gore Tex) under it I had on a lightweight Patagonia Capilene shirt. Under my (TNF-Gore Tex) pants I only wore a pair of Patagonia Capilene briefs. A lot of the time my pants side zips were down some or a lot. I used the zips to help vent my body heat. I did carry extra insulating layers so as soon as I stopped for any length of time I pulled on insulated pants and an a insulated jacket. When we started moving again and I started to get warm I would quickly pull off that extra clothing. All my outer garments had venting such as pit zips on my upper body garments and full length 2-way zippers on the pant legs.

Other side items are very good gloves or Mitts and the right foot gear for the temperatures you expect. VB for your sleeping bag and your feet if that works for you. I always carry a few chemical heat packs to add some quick heat in my mitts or chest pockets if necessary.

Edited by bfornshell on 09/03/2008 21:05:38 MDT.

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Winter Hiking, Snow shoeing and Peak bagging Adirondacks on 09/03/2008 21:20:49 MDT Print View


It's been 25+ years since I winter backpacked in the Adirondacks, but I would suggest the ADK Winter Mountaineering School ( While they don't teach ultralight techniques, you'll learn solid techniques for winter backpacking/hiking in the Northeast. Safe crampon and ice axe use is something you don't want to learn by yourself.

The year I attended, we had record cold, followed by a warm spell with rain, followed by below zero cold. As long as I was moving, I was comfortable in a thin wool base-layer, and Gore-Tex pants. When windy, I added a Gore-Tex parka. In camp, an insulated parka was necessary.

Edited by jdw01776 on 09/03/2008 21:33:22 MDT.

martin cooperman
(martyc) - M

Locale: Industrial Midwest
The high peaks on 09/04/2008 07:31:02 MDT Print View

I've been to the high peaks several times between Thanksgiving and New Years. Among the more ordinary conditions, three instances stood out.

1) A trip up Mt. Haystack where the winds were stronger than anything I have ever experienced. 50, 60 mph? I have no idea. On the way to the summit a friend tried to tell me something and with his face a few inches from mine, I could not make out his words. Finally, ducking behind a huge boulder stopped the wind and he was yelling to me that in my pack were the lunches and jackets I was supposed to leave for several others below who had decided not to hike to the summit. Ooops.

As we reached the summit plateau I found that I could not walk, nor even crawl forward. I slithered on my belly to the summit cairn, touched it, and attempted to retreat back down. Crawling now, I was swept off my feet and crash landed about 10 feet down on top of some krumholz (tough, gnarled bushes) that broke my fall with the pack taking the brunt of it, thankfully.

So, bring absolutely windproof jacket and pants (gortex or the like) and ski goggles. The flying ice particles at the summit stung and blinded my friend, and prevented him, who lacked such goggles, from reaching the cairn.

2) One trip to Mt. Marcy, we received 3 feet of fresh powder snow just before arriving. Progress without snowshoes would have been impossible. Progress with snowshoes was just possible. In the fresh snow it required 3 kicking steps just to gain one foothold. Then 3 more for the next. The lead person had to drop off the front after just a few minutes of this, while the next in line took his turn.

If we stepped off the trail (not easy to see) we hit what looked like miniature pine trees. They were the tops of the pine trees buried in the snow. Taking a step in that direction resulted in falling through the pine tree branches to the ground, required removing both pack and snowshoes (which were tangled in the branches) and getting both hauled up to the trail before clawing one's way up too. These are called spruce traps. So, bring snowshoes and be prepared for slow going. We made about 3 miles in one day up a small mountain.

3) Hiking on top of firm snow/ice towards the start of Panther Gorge our lead person suddenly found his leg thigh deep in snow under the hard crust. We extricated him, laughed and tried it ourselves. No one could move more than a step without plunging through the crust into snowdrifts up to our crotch. We had no snowshoes. So we had to retreat from whence we came. Bring snowshoes.

You might also want to consider a shovel or two for a snowcave, should the snowfall be sufficient. It takes a long time, but is much fun, and is the most bombproof winter shelter there is.


Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Winter Hiking, Snow shoeing and Peak bagging Adirondacks on 09/04/2008 07:58:07 MDT Print View


One thing I can suggest is that you ditch the idea of UL snowshoes. In general, I think smaller snowshoes that offer less floatation but more aggressive crampons work best for the sort of hiking you want to do. Climbing the High Peaks in winter requires snowshoes that work well for, well, climbing. You'll do more work breaking trail on the approach, but you won't have trouble with steep sections and you'll be able to avoid switching back and forth from snowshoes to crampons which can be a bit fiddly in cold weather.

Also, in general, I think it's best to wait to go UL in winter until you have more expeience under your belt. I'm new to winter hiking too (as of last year) and I find it's best to protect your fingers and toes than to stress out too much about going UL.

Some gear that works well for me:

Boots: Keen Growlers

Snowshoes: MSR Denali Evo Ascent

Legs: Smartwool Longjohns + Hardshell (Marmot Precip or Rab Bergen) + Insulated Pants (Termawrap or Cocoon) + OR Verglas Gaiters

Torso: Merino base layer and Marmot Driclime while moving + some combination of insulation (Thermawrap, Micropuff Vest, Wild Things EP, Patagonia DAS) while not moving

Hands: OR Latitude overmits + various pairs of gloves/mittens to go under

Still working on finding some lightweight crampons that fit my size 14s though.

Also, it's not a bad idea to take a sleeping pad and bag/bivy. Just in case.

Hope that helps a bit.

Edited by Ramapo on 09/04/2008 07:59:22 MDT.

Michael B
(mbenvenuto) - F

Locale: Vermont
dacs in winter on 09/04/2008 11:58:49 MDT Print View

snowshoes are now required in the high peaks, on your feet. So people shouldn't be postholing anymore, and you shouldn't plan to carry your snowshoes at all for the most part (although you may be able to switch to crampons, but check the high peaks regulations).

I am too cheap and maybe too poor to buy all the gear I want, so I get by with what I have. If you really have an unlimited budget and need to buy everything, you do have some great choices these days. I really like softshells for deep winter (the midweight to heavyweight versions: wb400 or dryskin or powershield), since they are much more breathable while still providing snow protection, and rain is not much of risk. But, if buying new, getting eVent hard shells would also be very attractive.

Generally, I think you can skip a windshirt in the winter, since you are bringing a hardshell and probably wearing it most of the time. I do think about getting a hooded windshirt and using that over the softshell instead, but I don't know if I would skip a hardshell on a summit day type of hike. Any shell used in the winter needs to be tough and snag resistant. Once you get up over 3000 feet, into the deep snow and the spruce forest, the trail is often a tight, steep tunnel through the tops of trees, and that can involve a lot of dragging yourself through.

Not sure it makes much sense to focus on UL for the clothing you will wear in the winter, at least don't prioritize that over protection and moisture management. Weight makes a huge difference though in what you carry, so paying for UL can be well worth it. I would love the BPL cocoon pullover for example. But UL makes a lot of sense, and a huge difference, in the amount and weight of the survival gear you bring. I struggle with the question of:

bag vs. bivy vs. stove vs. insulation vs. tarp, etc

I don't bring a bag and that is probably pushing it, but my bags don't really fit in my pack and weight too much. I have a hard time thinking about sitting in a hole in the snow with a broken leg without a bivy, so I bring that. I sometimes bring an esbit stove, but I am pretty sure it is not worth it and should test that in my woods this winter in real conditions to see if that really works. I have been thinking about getting a poncho tarp to use as an emergency shelter in the winter, since you could maybe use a stove under that, but don't own one and would probably only bring that on group trips.

Water is the other killer. I carry 100+ oz of water for a day trip, and my days are much shorter than a high peak summit would involve. At some point you may need to just bring a stove to melt snow, but that takes time and you tired and I would not want to stop on the descent to do that. So 5-6 lbs of water most likely as a minimum, and you need to keep that from freezing.

But otherwise, it sounds like fun.

Dan Wisner
(dpw3868) - F
Winter Peak Bagging on 09/04/2008 20:27:36 MDT Print View

Yeah i've been thinking about gear selection and cost all day today and for what i want to do would its going to be very expensive, and require some trial and error type stuff.If i keep my eye out for gear sales it might not be so bad and get people to get me stuff for Christmas and my birthday will help me get what I want and need.

I have hiking goals of becoming an Adirondack 46er which in less then a year starting last November I have summited 7 of the 46 peaks.I also plan on summiting Mt Rainier in the summer of 2010 (some college friends and I have made long term plans to do this). I am really just starting out and hate for my hiking to be cut short by winter. I also want to start accumulating gear and experience for Rainier.

Thanks for the input.

Are there any good books on training and gear selection use for winter hiking/snow shoeing?

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Winter Hiking, Snow shoeing and Peak bagging Adirondacks on 09/04/2008 21:59:31 MDT Print View

Yo Dan, looks like you don't have PMs enabled yet. I was going to send you one.

We should chat about maybe doing some hiking together in the Dacks. Might be fun. You interested?

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: Winter Hiking, Snow shoeing and Peak bagging Adirondacks on 09/05/2008 18:32:29 MDT Print View

Hi Dan -

I'm from upstate New York originally and have done winter ascents on showshoes in the Adirondacks - I generally agree with the comments so far, and would say that the peaks are an area where ultralight gear will often be a problematic choice in winter.

A good, tough shell jacket is a definite necessity - whether a softshell or thicker WPB shell or both (I have an Arc'teryx Alpha SV that has been my first choice for Adirondack trips). I like tough softshell pants, but those can wet out in some conditions.

Plan also on aggressive strategies to keep your hands dry; mittens and gloves will wet out pretty easily there, and durable overmitts and backup insulating liners are a good choice (lightweight ones will fall prey to the thickets and krummholz).

I'm not completely convinced you need heavy-duty snowshoes, so I'll diverge a bit there. I'd be willing to try my Northern Lites or Crescent Moon Magnesium snowshoes there - my bigger concern would be footwear, making sure I could keep my feet adequately warm and dry (see Will Rietveld's excellent series on winter footwear elsewhere on this site for tips).

I also have found I need a lot of water - doing the Santanonis in a day, for example, I burned through 3 liters of water and wished I'd brought more, or a way to melt snow - and I ended up skipping Couchsachraga after hitting Santanoni and Panther to conserve energy and water. A shame after trekking the many miles into there.

All that said, doing the ADK 46 in winter will be a fantastic experience - it's beautiful there fall and other times as well, but I think the winter is magic, and it actually makes getting to many of the peaks more enjoyable if you're well prepared. Have fun up there.

Edited by slnsf on 09/05/2008 18:33:30 MDT.

John Brochu
(JohnnyBgood4) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
Re: Winter in the Daks/Northeast on 09/05/2008 22:05:11 MDT Print View

>>>snowshoes are now required in the high peaks, on your feet.<<<

Wow, I thought you made a typo until I googled it to be sure and found out this is really a regulation. In my mind, that is absolutely out of control. For one, there are many many places where crampons on your feet would be much safer than clumsy snowshoes. What a joke and violation of personal freedom. Ok, end of rant and on to your questions.

I have no experience in the Daks, but tons of experience ice climbing and general winter mountaineering in the Whites, which have similar conditions.

For your feet, the best bet for an all around boot if you're doing overnight trips is going to be plastic boots like Koflach or similar. I often wear leather for day trips or ice climbing, but if I'm camping overnight I usually opt for plastic. Leather boots are miserable in the morning if they're frozen! I usually use a wool sock with a synthetic liner. I don't use vapor barrier socks even with leather boots.

On the lower body I wear something like Patagonia Capiline 2, or you can use the merino wool equivilant. Over this layer a lightweight breathable shell pant combined with a pair of fairly rugged gaiters like those available from OR. I like the rugged ones to help protect the light shell pants from crampons/snowshoe damage. Some people like high loft insulated pants for camp but I never use them myself.

For the upper body, again Capiline 2 or equivilant. Consider two layers of Capiline 2 instead of a single, heavier weight base. Over this, wear a breathable and hooded wind shell like the NF DIAD or similar. (I love the NF Ama Dablam but the original is now discontinued and replaced with a crappy jacket.)

You will need a hooded down or syntheric "belay parka." Keep this readily accesable and throw it on immediately when stopping for breaks. This will also serve as insulation for camp.

On my head I usually wear a simple fleece hat and carry a lightweight balaclava, face mask, and glasses or goggles. I prefer glasses because goggles always fog up on me.

For the hands, windblocker fleece gloves with a light shell mitten and a back up pair of wool mittens. If it's expected to be really cold I will also bring high loft insulated mittens.

Don't forget sun lotion and lip balm. You will also need water bottles and bottle insulators of some sort. I don't bother messing with hydration bladders and drinking tubes in the winter.

I recommend Mark Twights "Extreme Alpinism" even though it's a hardcore climbing manual. The chapters on clothing, hydration, nutrition, training, and cooking are all top notch imo.

Good luck and don't be afraid to turn back when you're learning!

Edited by JohnnyBgood4 on 09/06/2008 10:47:50 MDT.

John Brochu
(JohnnyBgood4) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
re:daks on 09/05/2008 22:08:40 MDT Print View


(Thanks Christopher, I don't know how I missed the edit icon.)

Edited by JohnnyBgood4 on 09/06/2008 10:50:08 MDT.

John Brochu
(JohnnyBgood4) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
re: daks on 09/05/2008 22:13:11 MDT Print View

deleted - edited my first post to include the info.

Edited by JohnnyBgood4 on 09/06/2008 10:50:58 MDT.

Christopher Holden
(back2basics) - F - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: daks on 09/05/2008 22:41:43 MDT Print View

See that little pencil at the bottom of your post? Click it and edit to your heart's content.

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Winter in the Daks/Northeast on 09/06/2008 12:04:15 MDT Print View

Showshoes are required on Adirondack trails when the ground is "snow-covered" with at least 8" of snow; you can also use skis.

It's absolutely fine to use crampons or boots wherever appropriate, such as the icy rocks at the top of a peak. You wouldn't be wearing those in 8" or more of snow anyway.

John Brochu
(JohnnyBgood4) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
re: daks snowshoes on 09/06/2008 12:23:15 MDT Print View

I've been hiking/climbing/mountaineering in the White's for 21 years and resort to wearing snowshoes maybe once or twice per winter. I can't believe the Daks are all that much different. When you need them, you need them - I just find you almost never do.

Mostly I see people wearing them on hardpack trails tripping all over themselves while I walk by in my boots and either edge up steep sections, or put the crampons on and use french tecnique.

To each his own. I'm just baffled the govt would feel the need to get involved in this and am strongly opposed to that kind of meddling.

FWIW I use MSR Denali Ascent snowshoes and feel they are pretty well suited to conditions in the Whites. Ironically, I did break a pair -- on Denali of all places!

Edited by JohnnyBgood4 on 09/06/2008 12:24:24 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
"Search is Your Friend" on 09/06/2008 13:20:19 MDT Print View

Just search in the Winter Hiking section here and you'll see all kinds of threads on this topic.

As I see it SYNTHETIC base, mid and shell layers are the way to go - period.

Try Cabela's for great buys in the highest quality long johns in many weights and materials. I'm still using pairs I bought over 10 years ago. Cabela's has the same "satisfaction garanteed" policy as REI.


Edited by Danepacker on 09/06/2008 17:13:40 MDT.

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: re: daks snowshoes on 09/06/2008 15:34:28 MDT Print View

Unfortunately it's because so many people were being irresponsible, postholing in on well-used trails that are meant to be side-by-side snowshoe and ski tracks. Not everyone has the good judgment or experience to consider their fellow visitors and avoid endangering them.

John Brochu
(JohnnyBgood4) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
re: winter hiking clothes on 09/08/2008 07:53:20 MDT Print View

>>>As I see it SYNTHETIC base, mid and shell layers are the way to go - period.<<<

I used to use the system you advocate and I disagree.

In my experience - 2 layers of lightweight synthetic base, a shell, and a high loft belay parka donned immediately upon stopping is superior.

Edited by JohnnyBgood4 on 09/08/2008 07:53:59 MDT.