Took a six-mile hike with the southeastern chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) on Sunday morning. It was eighteen degrees at the start, and two hours later the temperature reached an astonishing high of twenty-one. It was cold!
As I drove into the Houghton’s Pond parking lot of the Blue Hills Reservation, hikers were stamping their feet, pulling down their knit hats, and slapping their gloved hands to keep warm. Once we got hiking, we were less distracted by the cold. We all took short, quick steps, and I pulled my shell hood up over my hat.
Although there wasn’t any snow, this was, indeed, a winter hike. And I made one mistake. I didn’t prepare my water bottle properly. I simply filled it and let it hang, uncovered. It froze and I had to bang it against tree trunks to free up the ice and suck down the liquid of life. I hadn’t remembered what I’d learned in the AMC’s winter hiking workshop. Pack your water in a cozy; use a wide mouth bottle, not the skinny-necked bottle I had. And it helps to fill the bottle with warmish water. I had done none of these things and would have encountered problems on an extended hike.
We took an easy trail and finished ahead of schedule. I dressed in layers and felt comfortable most of the time. If I had worked up a sweat, I would have removed my fleece vest and yanked off my hood. One thing I did remember to do was to pre-cut my snacks into bite sized chunks and have them readily available in plastic baggies. I saw one hiker remove his gloves and struggle to tear open a Power Bar. I watched a woman fuss around as she tried to open zipped pockets with her gloves on. I’d made sure I had long ties on my zippers so I could pull them while wearing gloves.
See the picture with the log-branch? It lay right in the middle of the trail. We all tried to move it to the side, but it wouldn’t budge! Just like nature–tough, unrelenting. But this was a nice hike with good people, all out for exercise and camaraderie.
About hiking last Sunday – I was up at Cardigan Lodge on a Boston chapter trip, we started out at 8 degrees F. The hike had icy sections in snow covered ground. I had asked if we should take crampons and leaders thought microspikes would be sufficient. Wrong! The group missed a turnoff and ended up above treeline. The smooth face of the snow was so hard that unless you stomped down the microspikes wouldn’t grab. I went sliding down a dome, unable to get a grip, but managed to orient myself toward a tree during the slide. I was unfamiliar with the microspikes technique of stomping each step down in the direction of the fall line with the whole foot so all the spikes would engage, but gained that technique after the slide! However, I won’t go out in the winter mountains again without crampons.
Oh, and about your experiences with water and bare hands, my drinking bladder performed well in the new pack with built in insulated sleeve for the hose, but I bought an insulated mouthpiece cover as well, blew back into the tube after a drink, and carried warm water in the wide mouth thermos upside down in the insulated cover as backup (water stayed warm!). Learned my lesson about hands: on the ascent of course you get heated up and I offloaded the hat (going with an ear band and the jacket hood) and also offloaded the gauntlets (going with just the liners). Once one of the thumbs showed the warning signs, I got help from the trip leaders and someone was carrying warmers, so I stuffed one in the gauntlet thumb and took care of the situation, but you know what, it was STUPID to adjust heating with fingers! Once they get cold, they stay cold. We had a hypothermia talk before the hike, so I took the advice to warm up the hands on another body part – for the rest of the fingers, I made a fist inside the gauntlets and waved my arms around to attract more circulation – it worked.
About your new site – clicking through links on the way to your article, a green banner said “not found”, but once I posted “Take a Long Hike” in the search window, your menu came up. Here’s the heading: [New post] Posts ‹ Take a Long Hike — WordPress
Date: February 13, 2012 9:05:05 PM EST. Compliments about the site, it looks great! I often ask hikers if they know about it, and they don’t, FYI. AMC should give you a link, you perform a valuable service!
Thank you so much for your insightful and encouraging comments, Elizabeth. Obviously your winter hike in the mountains was more daunting than mine. I learned much from reading your account, and I’ll never attempt a hike like you did without crampons. I get cold easily. Ski gloves with warmers have always helped me, and I always wear liners like you did. I’ll check my site again; yeterday, I had a glitch so I sent out a one-word test. Thanks for spreading the word about my site, Elizabeth. Happy trails!
Great tips for cold weather hiking!
Thanks, Paul. The older I get, the colder I get. Stay warm.