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Winter Mt. Washington Summit List
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Dan D

Locale: Boston, MA
Winter Mt. Washington Summit List on 01/21/2013 11:03:10 MST Print View

Hello all,

I'm getting ready for my first summit attempt of Mt. Washington in the winter. I've previously done it in the summer a few times and in late fall in some icy conditions, but this will be the first shot in full on winter. I'm going with some experienced friends as guides. I think i just about have my gear straightened out, but i have a few questions.

light Ibex wool beanie
Heavy wool hat with ear flaps
fleece balaclava.
Ski goggles with flat light lens

Reebok running gloves
Dakine Titan ski gloves
OR Alti gloves (insulated goretex shell, insulated liners)

Smartwool midweight collared 1/4 zip OR EMS midweight synthetic collared 1/4 zip
Patagonia R2 fleece
Marmot Zeus down jacket (no hood)
Arcteryx Theta AR goretex shell
Old snowboard parka (200g thermocore, insulated hood, roomy)

EMS light synthetic baselayer
Patagonia R1 pants
Rab Latok bibs (Event hardshells, full zip)

Smartwool liner sock
Smartwook medium ski sock
plastic hardboots (rent from EMS)
crampons (rent from EMS)

Black Diamond Speed30 pack
Trekking poles w/ snow baskets
Ice axe (rent from EMS)
emergency bivy, safety/first aid kt
3x 1l Nalgene bottles, one bottle parka on hip belt

1. What's the current state of wool vs. synthetics as base layers or is it still a matter of opinion? I've been using my wool base layer ever since i replaced the smelly old synthetic but i do notice that it tends to get sweaty and take forever to dry. I'm normally ok with that since its still warm, but maybe on this mission i should go with what stays dry?

2. I don't have a proper belay jacket. What i do have is an old snowboarding parka. It claims to have 200g of Thermalcore insulation. Its big and roomy and has an insulated hood. It doesn't seem to have a whole lot of loft though. The other con is that its heavy and doesn't pack well. It takes up nearly half my pack. Do you think i could get by with just adding the Marmot Zeus under my shell when i need to stand still? Maybe if i brought the snowboard parka i could omit the Zeus?

3. The Rab Latok bib shells are new for this hike. My fear is that they may be a little hot for the initial hike up in the treeline. If it doesnt seem too windy, do you think i should start out with just the baselayer and R1 pants? The con to that though is that i can't take off the R1s later if they're too hot with the shells... Or maybe just leave the baselayer or R1s out and start off with the shells and one insulating later. Thoughts?

4. Trekking poles. I started using poles in the past year and really like them. I think they really take some work off the legs and give me a boost both up and down. I don't want to give them up for an ice axe just because its winter. My plan is to use them on the initial ascent where its basically staircliming 1-2ft boulders for 1.5 hours where poles work great. Then when we get up top where things get more dicey, i'll put them away and use the ice axe as a walking stick and have it ready if needed for safety. Does this plan make sense?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Winter Mt. Washington Summit List on 01/21/2013 14:10:53 MST Print View

Yes, I remember those 1-2 foot boulders that were covered with 1-2 feet of snow so that I couldn't tell where to step.

I don't see a GPS receiver on your list. You may have the idea that you've been up there before so you know the way. OTOH, in a white cloud, you can't see anything.

It would be good to have a paper trail map covered in plastic and held in a way that it can't flap or blow away. I stuffed mine into my outer jacket.


Dan D

Locale: Boston, MA
. on 01/23/2013 15:37:22 MST Print View

Good point, thanks.

I don't have a GPS, but i'll have a waterproof map and compass on me. Not that it'll do much good with 50mph+ winds. I'll ask the group what they have for navigation.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: . on 01/23/2013 15:56:26 MST Print View

On the first time that I was up there, fully equipped with GPS, I went up Tuckerman Ravine and came down the Lions Head. I made it back to my car rather tired. Then I heard on the news about some guy who had been about one hour behind me, and he got up around the Alpine Garden and got completely pinned down by weather. Eventually he was rescued, but there was some frostbite, I believe. There is a message there.

Be the first one up the mountain on any given day.

If you keep the GPS receiver running continuously, it will leave a trail of electronic breadcrumbs. That way, even if you get halted, it can lead you into an effective withdrawal or retreat.


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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Good Grief! on 01/23/2013 16:24:16 MST Print View

I just heard a weather report from Mount Washington, NH.

With the wind chill factor, it was -85 F.

Good luck.


Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Mt washington conditions on 01/23/2013 16:42:13 MST Print View

real time numbers

better for planning.. summit forecast

definitely don't want to be picking a particularly cold or very windy day to be up there.

Dan D

Locale: Boston, MA
. on 01/23/2013 20:19:36 MST Print View

Yeh, the weather right now is ridiculous. It's supposed to warm up a bit through Saturday so we're shooting for Sunday. It's also supposed to be clear so we could get some great views if we're lucky. Of course if its too cold we'll bail or maybe just go up to the tree line.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: . on 01/23/2013 23:05:09 MST Print View

Yea.. I'm waiting until mon or tues to do a short hike near Waterville valley

Have fun.. Washington isn't the only thing up there too.. if it doesn't look good there are tons of hikes that are just as good.

Dan D

Locale: Boston, MA
True on 01/24/2013 06:30:27 MST Print View

That's true. Can you recommend any other good hikes you've done in these circumstances? I tend to focus on the presidentials and haven't branched out a ton in this area.

What do you think about my gear list? In addition another person will be bringing a sleeping bag and pad for (one person's) emergency use.

Edited by TXBDan on 01/24/2013 06:44:34 MST.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: True on 01/24/2013 07:50:19 MST Print View

i dunno.. it depends where you are and where you're coming from etc. I haven't done anything in the Whites in the winter yet but would base it on tree cover if it was too windy.

no idea about the gear list. warm stuff is kinda personal preference. I know that i'm just bringing a bunch of layers and a few extra layers to either swap out or add

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
RE: Winter Mt. Washington Summit List on 01/24/2013 09:18:30 MST Print View

Neoprene face mask or tunnel hood for high wind chill:

Mittens are warmer than gloves. If it gets really cold and windy, gloves might not be warm enough. Use layers: thin liner glove to manipulate things without bare skin, warm mitten layers, wind shell.

Zipper pulls. You need to be able to manage your clothing with mittens on if there's high wind; practice this.

Winter experience: Do you have significant winter hiking experience? It's tough to add the challenge of high wind and extreme cold if you're not reasonably familiar with managing yourself and your gear and clothing in very cold weather in less windy conditions.

Ice axe: Do you know how to use one? Depending on your route, you mihg need one and know how to use it. Ice axe without experience and practice is dangerous.

Belay jacket. It sounds like yours might have lost loft? A relatively cheap down parka that is pretty warm is on sale at EMS for $120, EMS Ice Down jacket:
Check your local EMS stores for stock. The EMS Acton, MA, store had a bunch of them in stock Wed.

Spares: carry spare mittens and hats because it's easy to lose them in the wind, and
it snow they get wet.

Water: Start with boiling water. Be sure all your water is insulated, in your pack or insulated cozy.

Eat and drink: eat and drink constantly. Remember, the most common winter hiking injury in the whites is breaking a tooth on frozen M&Ms.

Weather: be prepared to back off if the weather is bad.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: RE: Winter Mt. Washington Summit List on 01/24/2013 09:46:12 MST Print View

Very good points by Walter. Including: "Spares: carry spare mittens and hats because it's easy to lose them in the wind, and
in snow they get wet."

I note that dog mushers here in Alaska always have their gloves/mittens on a cord. The cord can run through both of their parka sleeves. Or the cord can be outside their parka, run behind their neck and have a sternum strap and of a length such that the overgloves hang at about crotch level ready to slip your hands back into after using your hands.

Down to about 0F, I don't mind using big, thick gloves with no liner. Sub-zero, and I prefer inner gloves with very warm over mitts. Then, when I need to do fine work, I still have the inner gloves on for some protection.

I didn't see a PLB / SPOT listed. There are a lot of times I don't take mine along. Winter on Mount Washington, however. . . .

But the original poster may not have one - does anyone know the cell coverage, not just on top, but on the route up? I've been up a few times, but all before the cell-phone era. Personally, I'd be fine with GPS and cell phone for PLB-type uses, if there's decent coverage.

Dan D

Locale: Boston, MA
Re: RE: Winter Mt. Washington Summit List on 01/24/2013 15:06:56 MST Print View

Thanks a lot for the great feedback.

My balaclava has sort of a thick/tight fleece facemask with the pointy nose type nose cover. I see neoprene recommended a lot, do you think i need to upgrade?

The OR Alti gloves have 100g of Primaloft One in the shells plus 170g of it in a quilted liner. I've heard they're good to -20F so i'm hoping they'll cut it. If anything i'd say my hands run warm.

Good advice, i will practice working all my gear with my various gloves/liners on.

I have fairly limited winter experience. I've hiked Washington in the late fall and it was about 15F at the top and I've hiked a couple smaller Presidentials in the full on winter. I have no formal education or training, but i'm a fairly obsessive researcher for what that's worth. I'm going with a guy who is very experienced though. He ice climbs, winter camps, climbed Kilimanjaro, and is heading to Everest base camp in February. He's appointed "leader" so his judgement is the rule.

This will be my first hike with an ice axe. I've read a lot about how to use them (again FWIW), but haven't practiced. Maybe on Saturday we can practice with them a bit before the hike. At a minimum will have verbal instruction.

That's a great deal on that parka. EMS in Harvard Square is a few blocks away, i might have to stop by tonight...

I plan to bring the three 1l Nalgene bottles. Yep, i'll start them out hot. Two in the pack wrapped up in some insulation layers and one in the insulated "parka" on my belt.

Haha, yep, i'll keep my snacks handy and in my inner layer pockets.

Absolutely. We're definitely viewing reaching the summit as a bonus. We're out to check things out and see what happens. We'll of course have a conseravtive turn around time and we'll check in with the Rangers at Pinkham Notch for advice before we head out.


Edited by TXBDan on 01/24/2013 15:08:06 MST.

Dan D

Locale: Boston, MA
Re: Re: RE: Winter Mt. Washington Summit List on 01/24/2013 15:14:35 MST Print View

Ha, i used to have mittens on a string when i was kid. I have to admit, i don't think i ever lost them. Both pairs of my glove outters have the leash cords for around your wrists. I'll use those. The liners and running gloves don't have anything though. So all together I'll have

Fleece running gloves
goretex normal-medium warm ski gloves
OR Alti outters 100g Primaloft One
OR Alti lineirs 170g Primaloft One

I guess i have a lot of gloves, but none are redundant backups per say.

The few times I've been up Mt. Washington, cell coverage was pretty good. We've posted pics to Facebook, etc while at the top. I don't have a PLB/SPOT otherwise, though. I'll ask the group about this.


Dan D

Locale: Boston, MA
wups on 01/24/2013 19:12:05 MST Print View

I accidentally went to EMS and picked up that down parka... ha. I went to check it out and its pretty nice. I normally wear a Large and so i got an XL (only XL and XXL are on sale) and it fits over everything perfectly. Good length, nice big adjustable hood. It has probably three times the loft as my snowboarding jacket, weighs half as much, and compresses to about 3/4 the size. Thanks for the tip!

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Re: RE: Winter Mt. Washington Summit List on 01/27/2013 14:23:09 MST Print View

Dan you gotta post up a trip report or some photos. Hopefully you guys made it to the summit. looks like from the MWOBS site you had a good clear day.

Dan D

Locale: Boston, MA
I'm back on 01/28/2013 11:51:08 MST Print View

Ok, I'll write up the story in the trip report section.

But the trip was great. The weather was fairly cold and windy, but the views were awesome. Only 2 our of 5 in our party got the summit (i didn't). But we all got back safe and sound and no one got too cold. I actually used the down parka mentioned above in two sit-and-wait situations and i was darn glad to have it.

Dan D

Locale: Boston, MA
list w/ weights on 02/14/2013 16:26:04 MST Print View

I recently geeked out and weighed my gear. Here's what i took with me on the summit with weights. Looks like about a 19.3lb pack including food and water. Heavy, but then again this was a pretty harsh environment. -5F at the top with 75mph winds.

I'm happy with how things worked out for the trip. I used almost all of the items and was never left wanting for more. Things i could potentially do without are:

heavy wool hat: never needed it, but i brought it for emergency use. the light wool beanie is pretty light. i'm sure it isn't the most weight efficient head warmer

Marmot Zeus: I used it for a bit under my shell on the way down after i was chilled after sitting for a bit. It quickly got too hot and i sweated it out. In hind sight i should have just kept with the wool baselayer+R2 fleece and got to moving. My down parka is all the emergency insulation i'd need i think

Some water: i had an extra 0.5l left over at the end of the trip. I felt like i was forcing myself to drink pretty often. I peed twice on 9hr trip. Next time i might just go with 2 liters

The bibs are tanks, but i loved having them. My legs felt the perfect temp (R1 pants + bibs), comfy, free, good coverage, handy pockets.

Where would you guys shed some weight?