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  1. #1
    HandyRandy's Avatar
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    AT section in WMNF (Liberty-Pinkham) in December planning questions

    My hiking buddy and I are planning to section hike the AT in the Whites in mid December 2018. We値l be hammock camping. We値l be flying to Logan Airport and catching the Concord Coach bus to Franconia Notch, backpacking to Pinkham Notch and catching the same bus back to Logan. The trip will span from the 12th to the 23rd. We will stay in town the first night and catch the bus early on the 13th. The return trip on the bus will depart early on the 23rd. So we will start at Liberty Springs trailhead in Franconia Notch the afternoon of the 13th and need to make it to Pinkham Notch some time on the 22nd. That gives us about 9.5 days to traverse about 55 miles.

    There appears to be a potential resupply in Crawford Notch right around the middle marker. Should we plan on resupplying there or try to do without it?

    There are some long stretches above tree line, so I am wondering how to schedule everything. What sort of pace should we expect to accomplish at the various sections on this route given that it will be snowing. For example, will the long rocky traverse after Mount Washington be easier due to the snow smoothing things over? Or will it be slower due to crazy wind speeds and slippery terrain?

    We would like to add more miles along the way if we are ahead of schedule, so if that happens, what trails would you recommend incorporating?

    I will be using a 70L pack and I知 considering bringing a Ribz pack too.

    Will 10 straps be long enough?

    Will a 0ー TQ/UQ set with overstuff be adequate? Will we need to take special precautions due to the length of the trip and snow derating our down quilts over time? I just got a fleece TQ from Dutchware and really like it. Should I take that and should it go on the inside or outside of the TQ? If this goes on the inside, can it substitute for a sleeping base layer?

    I have ordered a top cover for my Raven hammock. Will just the one standard vent be sufficient? I will be using a UGQ Winterdream 11 tarp with snaps on the doors. It has internal pole mods. Should I bring the poles?

    Are two base layers enough? One for hiking, one for camping and sleeping, is what I知 thinking. Or should I bring a 3rd in case somehow, they both get wet?

    For a stove, we were planning on each of us taking a Solo Stove Lite (twig stove) with a Toaks 1100ml pot/pan set. What would be the best firestarter to bring? Charcloth and matches? Should we bring alcohol stoves as backup? How much fuel, if so? What痴 a good windscreen? Folded up foil?

    Can we do without a snow shovel and just use our ice axes, if need be?

    Do you have any recommendations for goggles and face masks?

    Would it be a good idea to switch to a bladder and insulated hose system to keep the water warm?

    I知 looking for whatever advice and recommendations you may have. These are just the questions running through my mind at the moment and I will inevitably come back here and ask some more once I remember the rest.

  2. #2
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    I'll make a couple of comments. I'm sure you'll hear plenty.

    If your suspension relies completely on straps (no whoopie), I'd want 12-15'. How will you hang above treeline?

    I wouldn't count on always being able to find dry wood. I'd bring the alcohol stove. I'd bring firestarters that have wax or some chemical impregnation. Foil works.

    Ice axes? Really?

  3. #3
    HandyRandy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TominMN View Post
    I'll make a couple of comments. I'm sure you'll hear plenty.

    If your suspension relies completely on straps (no whoopie), I'd want 12-15'. How will you hang above treeline?

    I wouldn't count on always being able to find dry wood. I'd bring the alcohol stove. I'd bring firestarters that have wax or some chemical impregnation. Foil works.

    Ice axes? Really?
    I suppose I could bring some 2-4 amsteel dogbones and lark it on to my CL.

    I have been experimenting with my twig stove and it works with such small twigs, I知 thinking wet wood won稚 be a big deal. I even came up with another firestarter idea after this post. I already use these little compressed paper wipe 鍍ablets in place of TP/butt-wipes. Usually you throw a bit of water on them and you know the rest. So I figured I would try hydrating them with alcohol instead. I just stretch them out a bit by hand before instead which makes them absorb everything, since the alcohol is more valuable than water, then drop a few grams of alcohol on them and it works! The wipes are only 3 grams at most. I got a fire going 3 times in a row with only this and some pretty small twigs. But I will bring a Starlyte XL2 as a backup as well. This way the backup fuel and the wipes can combine to start a fire and become multipurpose.

    I壇 rather not have to buy and carry an axe, but it appears to be highly recommended. Is it just for the fools? I will have good crampons and a pair of poles, so I do wonder how necessary it will be. I値l bring some beefy rope for hanging food, so I could possibly use that to aid in steep descents as well.

  4. #4
    Two Speed's Avatar
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    My experience of this area comes from going through on the AT in augustish weather last year not wintery stuff. I tried to give you my limited input on these questions based on what I know about the AT and what I know about hiking in heavy snow conditions on the PCT in the High Sierra this year in May.

    If you are talking about resupplying at the campground/store down from Crawford Notch I would make sure they are open in December since most of those type places on the AT are seasonal but this may not be an issue in NE where they deal with snow more. As to weather you need to resupply or not looking at your miles I probably wouldn't but take in mind the snow can slow you down a lot so if that happens you may need to resupply.

    Your pace is highly dependent on tons of factors. From what I recall of that long stretch above tree line there would have to be a large amount of snow for it to work in your favor for pace. I would count on it slowing you down. Snow fall on the PCT helped me go faster this year but thats only due to feet of snow being on the trail to the point it covered the entire trail. Also, if there is that much snow a strategy that can help you move faster is traveling early in the morning to take advantage of hard packed snow instead of making post holes up to you knees which slows hiking down to a crawl in the lunch afternoon hours. Once it turns to mush your spikes are mostly useless.

    I recommend just continuing on the AT. The trail is beautiful in that area.

    A 70L pack should be plenty. I use a 40L pack and it was good even with ice axe and micro spikes.

    10' straps should be adequate. Once you get to areas below tree line you can pick your set of trees to fit with your strap.

    A 0F set should be adequate depending on weather. Lots of people myself included use a 10F rule for which quilts to use so if the temps get to 10F you should be comfy. As for the length of duration I don't see this as an issue. If you suspect your quilt got a little damp or maybe some condensation find a nice sunny spot each day and dry them out throughly while you eat lunch. If I were using the fleece I'd put it on the inside of the topquilt. It could be a substitute for a base layer. For myself I normally just use my down jacket inside my topquilt if I get chilly.

    One vent should be ok but theres not harm in letting it dry out at a lunch break during the day. I did this all the time on the AT and PCT and it worked wonders for my TQ and UQ. I wouldn't bring the poles due to weight.

    two base layers should be enough. Your sleeping clothes should never get wet as they are stored safely in your dry bag. If you want to bring an extra layer based on what conditions you might expect I'd bring a fleece to put over top of your hiking shirt for hiking. Remember your rain jacket can be used to keep you warm while hiking if needed as well.

    I normally do this in moderately cold conditions over the fleece but folks like Andrew Skurka love the fleece layer.https://andrewskurka.com/2015/backpa...it-fleece-top/

    I would probably take the alcohol stove and a lighter. How much fuel is dependent on how many hot meals you want. I do 1oz per meal or drink. If you have two folks maybe even consider a good canister stove. Foil wind screens work ok.

    Ice axes dont make good snow shovels. the shovel part is only like ~2 inches wide. Not sure why you would need a shovel unless its to make a snow mound to block wind under your tarp? As for the ice axe, if experienced people are saying take it, take it. I never had to use mine this year for self arrest but there were several areas where I was very happy to have it in my hand and not a trekking pole.

    My advice would be to plan carefully and see what trails or roads you could bail out on if needed. Get up early to hike to get some miles in before the snow gets to mushy. If you do take an ice axe learn to use it and practice in a safe area before you need to use it for real. Take a balaclava to sleep in they keep your face warm at night. Enjoy your trip!

  5. #5
    HandyRandy's Avatar
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    AT section in WMNF (Liberty-Pinkham) in December planning questions

    Thanks for the tips, Two Speed. Bumping this up in hopes of getting some more feedback.

  6. #6
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    Check Weather.com. You'll be hitting highs in single digits, lows below zero, and winds in the 40s and higher. I've done a fair amount of winter hiking in the Whites, and they are not to be trifled with, particularly the Prezzies. It's not unusual in December to have below zero highs and winds in the 60s. Camping above treeline is doable in a solid tent, but still risky. There's a reason the signs at the Prezzie trailheads say "Many have died."

    I almost always carry an ice axe above treeline. Serious crampons, too, not just microspikes. We've had snow early this year, and that changes a lot. You are bringing serious mountaineering snowshoes, right? You'll need them. I've also given up on bladders with insulated tubes. They freeze up on me, even using the blowback technique. I carry nalgenes in insulated carriers, upside down, and melt snow on overnights.

    I'd recommend ditching the twig stove for more reliable fuel, but then again, I've never used a twig stove.

    There's not much in Crawford notch except the AMC luxury hotel. Closest serious convenience store is in Twin Mountain, and for a supermarket you have to go all the way to North Conway.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Grumpy Squatch's Avatar
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    I really have no idea what kinds of experience you have, but the questions you're asking give me significant concerns. Without hyperbole, you may be risking death or losing fingers/toes or worse without significant preparation.

    The answer to most of your questions about trails and conditions is this: no advice you will receive matters. Period. Conditions in the White Mountains, especially in winter, must be assessed literally minute by minute and the trail conditions posted yesterday may be completely different today and conditions in the morning may be completely different by afternoon. Someone's experience last year or two years ago does not apply to today. On or near the higher summits you may experience overnight low temperatures as high as +20 degrees F or as low -30 degrees below zero. Winds may vary between a gentle breeze and 110 mph. Conditions will change within hours.

    If you do nothing else, and I hope you re-think this trip, please read, several times, this guide from the Adirondack Winter Mountaineering School: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/954d1...583dc47f98.pdf. It has long been considered the bible of northeast winter hiking.

    Then read the account of Kate Mastrosova who died in 2015 on routes similar to whay you're comtemplating: https://www.outdoors.org/articles/ap...kate-matrosova and the book Where You'll Find Me: Risk, Decisions, and the Last Climb of Kate Matrosova. She was born and raised in Siberia, an ultra-fit mountaineer of significant experience. And she died in one day in 2015.

    Some specifics about gear:

    • Boots will make or break this hike and frankly, for multi-day trips, only double mountaineering boots are safe. You will need to change and dry the liners daily. A second set of liners is critical.
    • Even for a dayhike, prepared hikers will have snowshoes, microspikes, and full 10 or 12-point mountaineering crampons. You will change as needed, often several times a day. And walking in crampons can be dangerous if you have no formal training.
    • An ice axe (as opposed to ice tools for climbing) is helpful and one stays strapped to my winter daypack from November 1 through May 1 every year. I used it yesterday on a small 3500'peak.
    • Relying on a Solo stove is a recipe for disaster. You will need a backup of white gas and a lot of fuel - up to several pints of fuel a day for melting snow.
    • 70 liters is considered a winter overnight pack. I know people who dayhike with a 70 liter pack. For a week-long winter trip it is not uncommon to see 85L, 90L, or even 100L packs.
    • 0 degree quilts will not be enough. I would not attempt this with anything rated higher than -30 F. I normally stack my 0 and 40 degree quilts.
    • A bladder and hose, no matter how insulated will be useless. No matter what anyone tells you they will freeze. You must carry accessible water in insulated bottle sleeves and you should use HDPE and NOT the clear polycarbonate ones. Polycarbonate will shatter if cold and dropped. Everyone I know uses wide-mouth polyethelene bottles by Hunersdorf/Relags. Mainly because the caps are easy to manipulate with gloves and they can withstand the temperature extremes.
    • No, two under layers are not enough. You will sweat while hiking and layers don't always dry out at night because they freeze and ice sublimates very slowly.I would rotate a minimum of three. Same with socks although I have been know to change socks 3 -4 times a day in winter and carry 5-6 pair for multi-day trips.


    In the end it comes down to this: you MIGHT get lucky and have an unseasonably warm week with clear skies and you might be able to do the whole thing in Sorels and microspikes. Or it could be 40 degrees and raining followed by a front that drops the temperature to -10 with a 50 mph wind and you will be lucky to make 1 mile per hour with full crampons. Bad decisions are uncomfortable in Summer. They are life threatening in Winter. I suggest you think your plans through carefully.

    Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.
    - Daniel Webster

  8. #8
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    AT section in WMNF (Liberty-Pinkham) in December planning questions

    Hey guys, thanks for the advice. I知 at work, so I won稚 get too much into the details, but just want to say a few things in case others reply today before I get back. We have revised our plans a bit so far. We will be renting a car and no longer plan on doing a long single section hike. We will plan our route as we go along based on the weather forecast. We will probably resupply a few times. We will carry a white gas stove along with a twig stove and alcohol stove. We will have goggles, ice axe, crampons, micro spikes, snowshoes, and mukluks. We will have a good compass and a few waterproof maps. We will carry double wall insulated bottles and bladders for internal pack water storage. We will have lots of gloves and lots of clothing. We will have 0ー quilt sets with overstuff. We will have winter tarps and socks or top covers and sleep with warm bottles.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Grumpy Squatch's Avatar
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    I would seriously re-think using mukluks. In 25 years I have never seen them in the mountains of New England for two reasons: first, you can't attach crampons to them and our freeze-thaw cycles often make trails solid ice (we call it monorail in Spring because the frozen trail stays long after the snow around it melts) and because much of our snow or terrain is wet even in Winter. I've crossed plenty of streams still running in December and have walked through plenty of wet snow and even mud.

    There's a reason the ADK Winter School requires full double plastic mountaineering boots for multi-day trips. Their only allowable alternative are full waterproof military surplus Mickey Mouse or Moon boots. Mukluks are great for dry snow. Not so much for wet. For people dayhiking who don't use mountaineering boots around here (I normally use La Sportiva Baturas for dayhikes), good winter boots that can take a flexible crampon are preferred. My Keen Summit County boots take a Black Diamond Contact strap crampon fine and are great in the cold, wet, and mud.

    As a point of reference, I came back from a dayhike last night on a low peak and dumped my gear in a pile next to the sofa where I am writing this. You can see my Grivel G-10 crampons, my Petzl ice axe, and a pile of down gear. I also have a pic of my crampons on my normal winter boots.

    IMG_20181124_113920.jpg

    IMG_20181123_140446.jpg

    I'd also re-think the water bladder situation. Freezing is not the only problem with bladders. The opening is small so they are really hard to fill, especially with hot/boiling water. I's seen too many people burn themsleves or soak gloves spilling water trying to fill a narrow-mouth bottle.

    Good luck.

    Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.
    - Daniel Webster

  10. #10
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    Look at this weather report every day.
    https://www.mountwashington.org/expe...onditions.aspx

    It was -75 wind chill yesterday. I am looking at those peaks right now, even now what you are planning is not possible, judging from your questions. Better invest in a qualified guide. Seriously, it's deadly up there.
    Never more than one man left behind, so far !

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