Winter stream crossings?
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Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Winter stream crossings? on 01/27/2010 07:57:36 MST Print View

I got to thinking after asking my boots vs shoes question about what I'll do when I go back to the Smokies (or anywhere with significant streams) in winter about how to cross all those streams.

Normally I just walk right through them in 3 season, but I don't think I'd be that brave (or stupid?) to do so in below freezing temps. I did watch Skurka wade through glacial streams during his Iceland trek though.

I'd think for some place like Forney Creek in GSMNP where you've got several knee depth crossings that you'd pretty much have to strip off your bottom half before each crossing (or carry those fishing waders) and replace on the other side.

Derek Goffin
(Derekoak)

Locale: North of England
Winter stream crossings on 01/27/2010 09:24:50 MST Print View

with my system as described in your other thread. my inov8s are wet anyway. If it will top my goretex socks, I strip off to the relevant height, if I dare at all, put back my inov8s, wade across, dry off as much and as quickly as I can, put back on my socks then my inov8s and set off briskly.

martin cooperman
(martyc) - M

Locale: Industrial Midwest
Winter stream crossings on 01/27/2010 10:50:45 MST Print View

Michael,
I've experimented with this for 2 winters and to my surprise it's almost trivial.

You'd think you'd have frozen feet but it doesn't work that way. Your feet are warm and the blood is really moving because you've been hiking. It's not like stepping out your front door and dunking your feet in a cold bucket of water.

I carry a pair of Crocs, or very light mesh shower sandals.
At the creek I strip off my shoes and socks, roll up my pant legs or take them off if it's really deep, put on the Crocs and just walk across.

There's an initial feeling of cold, then a bit of numbness, and then it just stays that way until I'm across. The streams, you understand, are only a hundred feet wide or so at most. We're not talking about a major river crossing.

On the other side, the first time I did this, I had a towel ready, shoes and socks ready and to my surprise, 15 seconds after I stepped out of the creek, my feet were warm. I sat down and had lunch still in my Crocs! Never used the towel.

This gets a bit more complicated if there's a lot of snow. The snow sticks to your wet feet and makes them colder as you land on the far bank. I'll generally put down a pad and either sit or step on that while getting my socks and shoes on.

Several folks have gone out with me and faced the grim, cold creek crossing. Some, including my wife and a backpacking friend gave it a try and were surprised at how little discomfort there was. 'Is that all there is to it?'
We do it regularly now. We actually seek out creek crossings.

Several others simply balked at it, and one fellow, determined to cross his own way, straddled a downed sycamore. It made for an interesting story when he fell in up to his armpits.

I recommend the Crocs or shower shoes. 30 seconds later you'll wonder what the fuss was about.
Marty Cooperman

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Winter stream crossings on 01/27/2010 11:22:30 MST Print View

Marty,
Thanks for your experience. I may be encouraged to take Crocs then. Normally I'd stay in my shoes, but even though they are mesh they never fully dry out. The dampness didn't bother my feet in summer, but I suspect they'd keep my feet cold in this case. Though maybe they'd be damp anyway from the snow. We don't get enough snow in this part of IN usually to test things out with.

I wonder if neoprene socks seal well enough at the top to help as well?

> It made for an interesting story when he fell in up to his armpits.

Ouch. Bet that made for a bad rest of the day. Hope he had a good pack liner and dry clothes and bag inside.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Winter stream crossings on 01/27/2010 13:38:43 MST Print View

I'm with Martin.

We tackle this in one of two ways. The first is the simpler: just keep walking. As Martin said, your feet are warm and the blood is pumping, so it doesn't get too cold. And you dry out fairly soon.

The second method, which we use in the snow, is to strip UP to the waist, put the shoes back on, and cross. Then dry quickly and put (dry!) socks back on. Yep, CCF pad for the snow, like Martin.

What we do NOT do in cold water is to go bare-foot. That is very, very dangerous as you can seriously injure your feet (or worse) while they are numb. And that is not clever.

Cheers

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Winter stream crossings on 01/27/2010 14:07:13 MST Print View

> The first is the simpler: just keep walking. As Martin said, your feet are warm and the blood is pumping, so it doesn't get too cold. And you dry out fairly soon.

My shoes never really dry though even in summer, which is what worries me in winter. While the mesh does NOT go all the way down to where the sole is, they have a lot of mesh and I can see right through them.

What sock layers are you wearing when you decide to trudge right through?

Why bother to strip the bottom half is there's snow?

I had thought snow would always be around 0 C whereas frozen ground without snow could be -10 C. Wouldn't using a CCF pad to stand around on regardless of ground cover be wise?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Winter stream crossings on 01/27/2010 17:05:07 MST Print View

Hi Michael

> What sock layers are you wearing when you decide to trudge right through?
Same as normal - Darn Tough Vermont Boot Socks, with Gobi Wigwam Liners.

> Why bother to strip the bottom half if there's snow?
Good question.
Very often we have wind. Can you imagine the cooling (chilling, freezing) effect of spending the next half hour with freezing cold wet trousers? Hazardous, seriously hazardous, in bad weather.

> I had thought snow would always be around 0 C whereas frozen ground without snow could be -10 C.
BIG mistake ! ! ! ! !
There is NO reason at all why the snow could not be at -20 C or lower. None whatsoever!

> Wouldn't using a CCF pad to stand around on regardless of ground cover be wise?
Another good question.
It's a question of trade-offs. There are quite a few factors coming into play here.
* It takes time to get the pad out and on the ground of course.
* I can alternately stand or sit on my gaiters.
* Soil has very poor thermal conductivity, so the contact layer does warm up quickly. Grass is even better.
* I usually sit down when getting my footwear back on anyhow.

So, if the ground is dry I stand on it at first and then I usually sit on one gaiter and put my heels on the other gaiter. A short bit of cold doesn't hurt. I sit down because it takes a bit of time to get ALL the dirt and sand off my feet before I put my socks back on.

But if the ground has heavy frost on it, or is covered in snow, I will get a small CFF pad out immediately. The reason is really because the snow or ice melts, and the chilling effect of that can be severe. Yes, I could manage despite the cold, but I'm a woose. Strangely, I find the water in the creeks not as cold as the snow.

5841FallenInTheGeehi
Here I am wringing out my clothing, having 'slightly misjudged' the snow and rocks in the creek behind me. Basically, what I thought was snow on a rock (and therefore solid) turned out to be snow bridging a gap. Sad.

The grass was quite nice to stand on. There was no wind (for a change) so it was OK to stand there. Once I had wrung everything out I put it all back on and was OK. But I would NOT have stood on the snow!

That's the difference between natural fibres like cotton and wool (which stay wet and cold for ages) and modern 'designed' fleece fabrics. The Italian fleece ski trousers held almost zero water and dried in 20 minutes. Yes, my socks were wool, but they only covered a very small bit of my skin.

What would I have done if it was windy? Lacking a spare pair of dry trousers (never carried any) I would have put my overpants on and started walking vigorously. Works well.

Cheers

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: Re: Re: Winter stream crossings on 01/27/2010 17:14:03 MST Print View

> BIG mistake ! ! ! ! !
> There is NO reason at all why the snow could not be at -20 C or lower. None whatsoever!

Agreed.

And, to head off any confusion, there is no conflict between that and the fact that snow is a good insulator, unless it is overly compacted. That's because of all the dead air it contains.

-- Bob

Edited by blean on 01/27/2010 17:28:33 MST.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Winter stream crossings on 01/27/2010 19:49:55 MST Print View

> Very often we have wind.

Ah, so it's a matter of wind and not actual temperature for the most part. That makes sense.

>> I had thought snow would always be around 0 C whereas frozen ground without snow could be -10 C.
>BIG mistake ! ! ! ! !
There is NO reason at all why the snow could not be at -20 C or lower. None whatsoever!

Indeed, I misspoke. It's ground temp that is about 0 C with snow cover. I recall a nice graph Richard Nisley showed last April with ground vs air temp that was linear until 0 C and then mostly leveled out after that if there was snow cover.

Are you wearing gaiters simply to keep debris from entering your shoes since you're clearly getting them soaked anyway?

Always nice to have a spouse with a camera to capture our mistakes, eh? ;)

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Winter stream crossings on 01/27/2010 22:49:50 MST Print View

> Are you wearing gaiters simply to keep debris from entering your shoes since
> you're clearly getting them soaked anyway?
Gore-Tex gaiters in the snow, to keep the snow out of my ski boots. They do work very well too.

> Always nice to have a spouse with a camera to capture our mistakes, eh?
Actually, she was a wee bit annoyed with me for being silly enough to fall in ... :-)

Cheers

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Winter stream crossings on 01/28/2010 18:03:34 MST Print View

@ Roger: jolies jambes : )

@ All: great thread. I have not yet done a winter stream crossing via wading through it. Bridges and rocks. But before this winter is over I most likely will depending on my final plans.

I have done unexpected post-holing twice wearing trailrunners and Rocky Goretex socks and wool socks. My toes were getting pretty cold. But after I was able to walk again, I walked as fast as I good and was fine.

The more I think about it and definitely will try a stream crossing soon. Maybe this weekend. Will follow your advice.

Elena Lee
(lenchik101) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest (USA)
Rocky goretex socks on 01/29/2010 11:41:53 MST Print View

I did lots of wading in about freezing temperatures wearing Rocky goretex socks, my trail runners, and gaiters.

I went into swamp, walked in creek beds, and at some point was thigh deep in water. The socks seemed to keep water from saturating my socks, however they still felt somewhat damp inside. That wasnt a big deal at all, i had thick smartwool socks on, and for the most part (as long as i was moving), my feet felt pretty warm. I put both Rocky socks and my smartwool socks in my sleep bag overnight and they were completely dry next morning.

I'm really happy with Rocky socks, i guess they also add some warmth to your foot system. The only "downside" is the art of taking them off your feet.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Rocky goretex socks on 01/30/2010 15:04:16 MST Print View

Hi Elena

I wouldn't worry about getting your socks wet. Some trips we have wet feet much of the time.

WadingMumbedah
Mumbedah Creek, Wild Dogs, NSW, Australia

Cheers

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Rocky goretex socks on 01/30/2010 15:22:14 MST Print View

"I wouldn't worry about getting your socks wet. Some trips we have wet feet much of the time."

Methinks there's a world of difference between getting one's feet wet in sub tropical conditions and getting them wet when the temperature is near, at, or below freezing.

Different ball game.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Winter stream crossings on 01/30/2010 18:05:19 MST Print View

Decided to day hike today because it was cold (less than 20F, -7C) and heavy snow was falling and I wanted to test this thread's suggested method for a stream crossing.

Unfortunately, I chickened out. When I took my over mitts and gloves off to take a before picture, my hands became very cold. The thought of walking through the stream with only trailrunners and bare legs changed to thinking more about making a U turn. The retreat won.

slope


I will try it eventually but maybe with when it is not snowing and a bit of sun is shining. Or when I have no easy way to chicken out.

What are the worst conditions where you have tried this method?


snow nose

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Winter stream crossings on 01/31/2010 03:49:27 MST Print View

Hi George

To be honest, we haven't crossed creeks like that in really cold bad weather. Too Risky. But we have done it when the sun was out, even with snow around.

You make a very good point here. Be Very Careful! This sort of stuff can be pushing the limits a bit, and the mountains can be a bit unforgiving. Even in fine weather we can spend 10 minutes getting ready and rehearsing our moves beforehand.

I remember seeing a party of 4 'fit' males stagger into a hut in the snow once around lunch time and just collapse for the rest of the day. They could not have gone much further that day. They had made the mistake of swimming a river in the snow without proper planning - only 1 km away from the hut. All wet clothing and no dry changes. Wind blowing. Very, very, very silly.

Cheers

Juston Taul
(Junction)

Locale: Atlanta, GA
Winter Water on 01/31/2010 06:21:55 MST Print View

I've done a lot of river crossings during the winter up in Alaska. Even during the summer, the glacial water proves to be quite cold. I remember a time about two years ago when a beaver had disturbed the natural flow of the river with his dam. It backed waist high water onto the trail for about a half of a mile. Talk about cold. Your feet go numb in a matter of seconds. Literally.

When i'm in Alaska or on a trail with expected crossings, I always carry a water shoe. In my case, the KSO Fibram Five Fingers. Not the lightest of options, but I can wear them all day if need be without recourse.

In Alaska, I normally hike in my Arcteryx Beta AR pants. I don't overheat for the most part, and if things do get warm... the side vents always fix the problem as long as you don't mind showing a little leg. :D

I like this option because I don't have to worry about my pants getting wet. When I come to a crossing, I slip off my shoes and throw them in my pack. Slide on the KSOs and away I go. On the other side, I'll put back on my warm Smartwool socks and my shoes and I'm good to go again. I don't even bother drying my feet. The socks do the job just fine.

+1 with what the others have said about not crossing streams barefoot. It's a recipe for disaster.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
ultralight waders on 01/31/2010 12:27:01 MST Print View

I carry a couple of heavy clear plastic bags. They are about like heavy trash bags, but these are only one foot wide and about three feet tall. I pull off my shoes, put my sock-feet into the bags, then affix the tops around my thighs or someplace with rubber bands. I walk through the water, then peel off and return to normal. Even if the bags would happen to leak a few drops, that is not critical, since my feet are kept fairly warm and dry.
--B.G.--

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: ultralight waders on 01/31/2010 15:06:01 MST Print View

"I pull off my shoes, put my sock-feet into the bags, then affix the tops around my thighs or someplace with rubber bands. I walk through the water, then peel off and return to normal."

Bob,

Do you put your shoes on over the bags?

If not, it seems to me the bags alone would not protect against sharp rocks or provide much traction on slippery rocks.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
shoes on 01/31/2010 15:25:00 MST Print View

Shoes? It depends.

If the stream bottom looks smooth enough, and if I have only the single pair of boots or shoes, then the pair is stored in the backpack during crossing.

If the stream bottom looks rough enough, and if I have some sneakers along, then they can go over the bottoms of the plastic bags.

The problem, of course, is when you can't tell what you have for a stream bottom, or if you have no spare footware.

One guy had the same kind of rig, and he had taken some old inner soles out of old shoes, and he had fastened those onto the outside bottom of the plastic bags. An alternative is to wear spare wool socks on the outside of the plastic bags.

You just have to have a good plan of what you are getting into before you start in. Trekking poles help a lot.

I was on a two-day X-C ski tour one time in winter, and we got to the river crossing and looked for the bridge. There was no bridge as shown on the topo map. Our vehicle was within a mile of us on the other side of the river. The nearest bridge was five miles upstream. So, we had to cross the knee-deep icy water right there. The question was whether to cross with ski boots on, or with ski boots off. I went in with boots on, and the other skier took boots off. Upon reaching the opposite shore, I tried to dump as much water out of the boots as possible, and then I had to ski like hell up the hill to the vehicle to try to warm up. Unfortunately, the vehicle battery was dead, and we had to wait four hours with cold, wet boots to get a ride. I figured out the plastic bags right after that.
--B.G.--