My failed Mt. Liberty overnighter :(
Due the below list of things I had to abandon my overnight plans on Liberty on this lovely warm day.
- I was SOAKED with sweat and when I stopped I paid the price.
- Hiking mountains (as opposed to flat ground) in snowshoes is hard work! It makes muscles hurt I didn't know I had and makes them hurt rally bad.
- I fell at the 2nd crossing and twisted my leg up enough that I was wishing I turned around and didn't got all the way up the ridge.
- My water was freezing and it was strapped to ME!
I'm not in the best shape but I don't have problems hiking anything in the other three seasons and can run several miles without issue. Never in my life have I had this weird pain in my upper thighs toward the groin area from hiking, never. I'm guessing the snow shoes are causing the issue?
So due to all the above and the fact I was hiking alone I decided to take the safe option and just go home. I was very concerned that I would not be able to get my clothes dry even if I put them in my sleeping bag (which is down) during the night. It would have made for a disaster come morning.
All this leads me to seek some advice on the above items; the most difficult one for me is controlling sweat. In the summer this doesn't cause problems but in the winter this drives me nuts!
Is the answer to just slow down? I was down to just a base layer and windshirt. I can't remove the windshirt because the sweat on the baselayer will freeze to my skin (guess how I know this? LOL).
As a side note I if anyone reading this was on Liberty today I was the guy wearing orange who appeared to be in pain (because I was).
The general rule with me is start out COLD! I never start out in layers. If I do I'm sweaty before I know it. Sometimes you can't help getting sweaty, so I bring 3-4 dry shirts, they don't weigh much. Got to get them off and a dry one on out of the wind.
I don't put a hat on until I've wiped down. As soon as I stop I work on drying off and getting into dry things and then adding layers before eating or anything else.
Also have a spare hat or two, but usually hike in a bandana or fleece ski band which keeps my ears warm but lets the heat out the top. Pants that vent by zippers on the sides for lower body. Several pairs of dry socks.
Not knowing the trail conditions or your type of snowshoes or how much weight you were carrying it is hard to tell what was causing you pain, but I suspect a combination of the 3. Pushing too hard can cause problems and so can dehydration. You want to be peeing clear liquid to be sure you're hydrated enough, you need to replace what you're sweating out. If your pee is orange or if you're cramping drink more water. I prefer something with some electrolytes.
It was COLD out there today, hard to drink a lot and easy for it to freeze. Consider a thermos of hot coffee or soup as well, it really hits the spot when you stop. I use an insulated holder for my drink, but keep another wrapped up in my pack in case the insulated one freezes.
We're still getting used to winter hiking conditions with progressively more each year the last couple. I've had the same problem with getting hot and soaked with sweat before delayering (more often than not) and it definitely isn't pleasant. I think that Kevin definitely has the right idea with starting out cold. As long as you get moving and particularly if you're getting into an uphill early you'll warm up fast. When we did Liberty a couple of weeks ago I started with just a base layer shirt and a lightweight fleece. The fleece was gone in 1/2 hour and only went back on when we took a long break.
I also had my hat off almost the whole day because my head was so hot. A lightweight hat that can breath and still keep your ears warm is seemingly the key (just ordered a light smartwool hat today for just that reason). In my case my biggest problem is pushing too hard on the uphills. I like to move fairly fast and keep the momentum going. Doing this on steep uphills in snowshoes (like Liberty) it's going to be impossible to keep from sweating. If you're just wearing a single wicking layer then it will at least get away from you and dry quickly but a slower steadier pace seems like the best way to keep things under control.
I've definitely got a lot to learn in this department and look forward to the continuing advice of the many VERY experienced winter hikers here. That and lots more practice and experimenting
Last year I did Liberty on a day hike and it was cold like yesterday. I started in just a baselayer; about an hour into the hike I had this stinging feeling on my stomach. My sweat was freezing and my shirt was frozen to my stomach in a couple spots. I quickly added a layer and feared for frostbite but everything worked out. I wasn't in snowshoes though which take more energy IMHO.
How do you deal with the frost bite fear? Can I get frostbite while I'm sweating? When it is below zero and say a lite 20mph wind there is real danger which is why I kept my head covered. Am I being a little to conservative; is is not possible to get frost bite on my head?
-Chris <-- Still learning
If that was happening, I'd stop and change the shirt. The biggest chance of frostbite IMO is in the wind, if I'm going above treeline I'm stopping before I'm out in the wind and layering up and covering ALL my skin, so balaclava and goggles and maybe a hat and a hood over that, too.
Keeping your head warm AND dry is essential in weather below 0. You must carry extra gear to change into when your other stuff gets sweaty. Pacing yourself will help, too. Move fast enough to stay warm, but not so fast you're pouring sweat. It takes some time to get used to doing this.
i was hiking up Tucks a couple weeks ago and it was cold out .i took Kevin's advice and started the hike with a wicking shirt and my seek the peak long sleeve shirt over it and a light weight rain coat ,i had wicking long pants and a light weight pants over that . well it was not long before i took off the rain coat but my hands get cold so i had some down mittens on and no hat the hole way up .once we were in the open i needed a hat .
but in my pack was more gloved .a fleese shirt ,socks ,another hat and rain paints . i to sweet a lot but not that much on this day because i did not have a lot on to start .
i also used my camel back for water and it did not freeze. we all live and learn and the best thing you did was to know it was not safe to stay out that night ,so you live to hike another day
The Following User Says Thank You to Charlie For This Useful Post:
Thanks for all the comments!
Think I'm going to do a little experiment at home. Set up my tent and stuff just like I would on the mountain. Than go for a hard run and get all sweaty; change in my tent and see if those cloths dry out overnight. If I get cold I'll just go inside my house
Next trip out is the Carters on an overnighter with a few friends in a couple weeks. With any luck thinks will go smoother next time around.
I thankfully learned from snowshoing on flat land and small hills around my house, that starting out cold is a neccessity! First time I went out I had my down jacket and a scarf and had to admit to my boyfriend that he was right when he came out on the 4 wheeler to check on me. I gave him my coat to take back home with him! We did Tuckerman's ravine on the 1st day of Spring last year and I wore way too many layers. When I did this hike in the summer, I was surprised that it was easier than I would have thought. This made me think that it would be a cake walk in the winter, but with too many layers I was almost hyperventilating trying to keep pace with everyone. I stopped a lot and peeled off lots of layers and had to layer back up when we got to the ravine. Once I rested at HoJo's, all was fine and it was a great trip. So hard to plan for winter temps and the sweating thing...
I'll repeat much of what was already said as it bears repeating because it is so important. START OUT COLD. If you are warm and toasty in the winter while you are just standing around getting ready to hike, then you are dressed too heavily. If it's not windy, don't wear a hardshell when starting out - you don't need it. While gore-tex, event, etc are wonderful fabrics, they still don't breathe as well as lightweight fleece. If it's just a bit windy, go with a softshell - they breathe better than gore-tex hardshells. I have often used a one piece-gore-tex suit while climbing Mount Washington in the winter, for it's full on protection above treeline, but when I start down low near Pinkham, if it's say 10 degrees and little or no wind, I'll have the top part of it off, with the arms tied around my waist and the leg zips fully open for as much ventilation as possible, often with only a base layer (or 2) on top. If I'm wearing separates, unless it's windy down low, the goretex jacket stays in my pack until needed. If I get too warm - I take off my hat - If I'm still to warm, I may switch to lighter gloves. It's a constant adjustment game in the winter. The more winter hiking you do, the better you will get at fine tuning your clothing system and the more in tune you'll be with your body and how you react to different levels of exertion. You didn't do anything wrong - you just did what most people do the first time - wearing too much.
p.s. - the best way to stay dry is to prevent sweating in the first place. But it's always a good idea to have a spare top baselayer just in case - the extra weight is negligible - perhaps 6-8 oz.
Last edited by climbabout; 02-01-2010 at 04:35 PM.
Chris - as a follow up - I noticed a couple of more things that may help. You mentioned your sweat freezing to your skin when you had a baselayer and wind shirt on. I've never seen that happen with modern wicking fabrics. Usually the wicking base layer should WICK the moisture away from your skin and it's not uncommon to have a little frost on the outer side of your base layer and still be quite comfortable. Maybe your windshirt was trapping in moisture? You may need a windshirt that ventilates better. Or no windshirt at all. Or perhaps a slightly heavier base layer and no windshirt, or a light base layer and 100 wt fleece or light softshell. You need to solve this part of your clothing system with practice as you said - it is crucial.
Since you want to camp overnight, DEFINITELY bring an extra base layer to change into before getting in your sleeping bag as well as an extra pair of socks and dry hat. If you have things to dry, they can go in the bottom of your bag - your body heat will dry them overnight. If I have a damp pair of gloves or a damp hat I will put on a dry base layer to sleep in with a slightly heavier (100wt fleece) over the dry base layer. Then I'll stick my damp gloves/hat socks, etc between the 2 layers. You become your own personal clothes dryer. Also - don' have your water on the outside - have it in a pack when you travel - a bottle insulator helps as well. Make sure you use wide mouth bottles in the winter as small necks can freeze easily. Also make sure the cap is on tight and put the bottle in your pack upside down - any ice will then form on the bottom, not on the neck opening.
I have been on several multi-day & multi week expeditions and these tricks never failed me.
Last edited by climbabout; 02-01-2010 at 04:38 PM.