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Black Diamond Beta Mid in High Wind/Snow
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Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Black Diamond Beta Mid in High Wind/Snow on 09/27/2011 22:23:11 MDT Print View

So my brother is into mountaineering and wants to take me along on a Presidential traverse this winter. We had thought about sleeping in bivy sacks but with the long nights that didn't sound appealing.
We are considering splitting a Black Diamond Beta Mid so we have a place out of the weather to cook and hang out. My question is this. Does anyone know how well a betamid will do in wind like we might encounter in the White Mountains (and snow but moslty wind). If its not a good option anyone got a better idea that a bivy sack? We don't want to spend a lot of money buying a heavy mountaineering tent that might get used once a year.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Black Diamond Beta Mid in High Wind/Snow on 09/27/2011 22:41:56 MDT Print View

Luke, I have very limited experience in the White Mountains, so I can't say much about the weather there. I have been out in the Black Diamond Betamid in California.

We begin camp by digging snow blocks out of compacted snow. We lift those out of the hole and construct a wind wall around the hole. When it is done, the hole is about two blocks deep and the wall is about four blocks high. Then we put up the Betamid inside the wall and furnish the inside with plastic, bivvy sacks, and a white gas stove. It works.

Sometimes we get sloppy about the way that the Betamid fits over two ski poles, so sometimes we augment that with some thin cord running over the top of the wind wall.


Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Wind on 09/27/2011 22:55:02 MDT Print View

Thanks Bob, the Whites are infamous for their wind (on Mt. Washington a guest was recorded at something like 230 mph). Would you consider it pretty stable from the side? Basically our dilima is that anything thats big enough for 2 and not super heavy (and expensive) is going to catch more wind. Unless we hear hear different I'm thinking we might get something like the Betamid and just use our bivy sacks if the weather is really horrible.

Douglas Ray

Locale: Pacific Northwest
High winds and shelters... on 09/28/2011 08:17:54 MDT Print View

Camping in very windy winter conditions is more than anything about having the skills and working to create an adequate shelter. I think you could do it with the Betamid, or the similar Golite Lair 2, but you will definitely need to build snow walls and strong guy-out systems to make it work. Honestly that's what you will have to do with any shelter, probably you would need less work with a really good winter tent, and more work with the Betamid, but it could be done with either.

I've talked to Denali climbing guides who talked of stretching a cargo net over there tents and anchoring it to many pickets to camp in extreme wind. You can make good use of a climbing rope run back and fourth across a shelter to hold it down as well.

You will never quite be able to seal out all of the spindrift in a shelter without an inner tent/floor, but I think it will be much better to cook and sort gear in than doing it in the open. Digging down to get more space is an advantage with a floorless shelter like this. If you can create long enough poles a very deep trench might effectively get you out of the wind, and the Betamid would serve as a roof.

In really heavy winter wind, there is no substitute for snow cave or igloo. Perhaps one viable alternative would be to take bivy sacks and plan to sleep out if the weather is good, or dig a hole if it's bad. It's best to practice beforehand the digging of a snow shelter, as there are some tricks and some judgement required to make it work.

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
White mountains (NH) above tree line in winter. on 09/28/2011 08:24:37 MDT Print View

It's not a good idea to camp above tree line in the Presidentials.
"just use our bivy sacks if the weather is really horrible"
If the weather is really horrible you probably won't survive the night above tree line.
You have to know the escape routes.
If the weather turns bad, you need to get below tree line as quickly as possible. But, if the weather turns bad, you will go where the wind decides.
You must know the weather forecast and be ready to turn back if it looks bad.
Even in normal conditions, you must know how to dress and use your gear in very windy cold conditions. Can you adjust your gear and access food and water with mittens on? You must have wind protection (neoprene face mask) and carry spare mittens and hats for when one blows away (this is for normal conditions).
AMC ( and offer excellent winter mountaineering courses ( ).

Normal conditions: be prepared for wind gusts over 60mph and 0F temps.
Bad conditions: steady 70mph winds with gusts over 100mph, temps well below 0F.
Horrible conditions: steady 90mph winds with gusts over 150mph, temps of -40F.

You could also get a beautiful day.
Choose the day you do this carefully and don't start if the weather forecast is marginal. I don't want to discourage you from doing this hike, but I do want to discourage you from planning on camping above tree line. It's much safer doing it in a day or dropping below treeline for the night. Conditions below tree line aren't easy in bad weather, but much much safer than above tree line.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Wind on 09/28/2011 08:46:44 MDT Print View

"the Whites are infamous for their wind (on Mt. Washington a guest was recorded at something like 230 mph). Would you consider it pretty stable from the side?"

I know how windy Mount Washington is supposed to be. I've dayhiked it twice. I wouldn't want to be out in a storm there at even a quarter of that windspeed.

There are better places that earn my outdoor time.


Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re Wind on 09/28/2011 09:09:17 MDT Print View

Dougles and Walter
Thanks for the tips guys. I'm more interested in how the tent could handle moderate wind (for up there anyway), I know better than to try and weather a really bad storm up there. If it looks really stormy we probably wouldn't go. We would both us breathable bivy sacks instead of a ground cloth. The idea was that if wind was about to shred a tent we could just tough it out in those unless we felt like we needed to bail. My brother had a -20 degree bag and I would borrow his 0 degree bag with a very light quilt (BPL UL 60) on the inside as a liner so I would think we could handle "normal" conditions fine and survive if it was moderately bad. My brother has done Mt. Washington in the winter so he has some idea what we'd be getting ourselves into.
Any other thoughts? We're thinking about a combination of snow stakes and skewer stakes since we might be on snow or we might not.
Bob - Hope my saying the Whites are windy didn't come off like a "you're clueless comment." To be honest I'd never even heard of a Presidential traverse until recently so I wasn't sure my OP made it completely clear what I was looking at doing.

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
Presidential traverse resources. on 09/28/2011 09:44:47 MDT Print View

A really good resource on the presidential traverse, including escape routes with compass headings, clothing, possible camp sites:

Douglas said: "In really heavy winter wind, there is no substitute for snow cave or igloo." True, but above tree line in the NH White Mountains the wind will often blow the snow away, so you can't count on finding enough snow. Below tree line is a different matter.

Pyramid tents are often used in bad conditions, i.e., very robust and expensive pyramid tents are used in Antarctica. A pyramid could work well below tree line.

You could start from the Randolph Mountain Club's cabins; they're open year round and are an important resource to escape bad weather.

Your 0F bag plus liner might not be warm enough if it's cold; the quilt might compress too much to add enough insulation. Also, a 0F bag may or may not be truly good for 0F. EMS or IME might rent gear bags:

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Renting bags on 09/28/2011 10:12:28 MDT Print View

I'll look at the rentals. For what its worth the 0 degree bag is a down marmot, I forget the exact name. Its supposed to be conservatively rated. I think Daniel took it down to -5 once but I totally will be checking that out. There's nothing I hate worse than being chilly on a long winter night. Actually we probably wont' go in winter to be technical, more likely Thanksgiving or spring break which would be cold but we're hoping not as bad as January.

Gabe Joyes
(gabe_joyes) - F

Locale: Lander, WY
Mids are the bomb in wind and snow on 09/28/2011 12:03:04 MDT Print View

Black Diamond Mid in the Wind River Range, October

BD works well in wind and snow, only bummer is that it doesn't come with tensioners, but you can add those. I've found that a Golite Shangri-La 2 is even better.

Kai Larson
(KaiPL) - F

Locale: Colorado
Pyramid is best winter option. on 09/28/2011 22:03:47 MDT Print View

I've used pyramids for more than 20 years for snow camping.

I've been in heavy wind and temps down to 35 below. I've been in winds strong enough that the center pole was bowing and bending, and trees were blowing down. The guys camped near us in a North Face VE24 had their tent destroyed by that storm. We were fine.

If you have space to pitch it, and there is snow on the ground, a pyramid is the ideal shelter. Stake out the 4 corners with skis or snowshoes, bury the edges with snow, then go inside and dig out a comfy sleeping/living quarters. The only thing to be careful of is to ensure you have an air vent, or you will run low on oxygen.

If well staked out, a pyramid is very stable in high winds. Because of its shape, it sheds wind better than most other tent designs. Make sure that the edges are all buried in snow and secure, because you don't want the wind entering the tent, or it will inflate like a baloon and blow away. (don't ask me how I know this.) In heavy snowfall, you will likely need to periodically whack the walls to prevent too much snow build up.

For me, any time I'm camping in snow, and I'm not anticipating having to pitch a tent on a small ledge, I bring my pyramid.