Winter Winds: Warnings and Tips

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daway8
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Winter Winds: Warnings and Tips

Post by daway8 » Wed Mar 03, 2021 9:06 pm

Several years ago while hiking from Redcloud to Sunshine someone coming back from Sunshine approached and told me I should turn back because the wind was too strong over there. I gave him a condescending smirk and said “yeah, ok” as I continued on while thinking ‘turn back because of wind? What a total wuss.’ A short while later I was hunched over with trekking poles dug into the ground, fighting to stay on the mountain.

That was a September hike – since then I’ve encountered even stronger winds, especially in winter. I’ve discovered a few super simple but easy to overlook tips to help out on those windy winter days. A little advance planning can make winter wind much more bearable.

Now I’ll also add a warning that people have been picked up like rag dolls and thrown to the ground and others have lost fingers/limbs due to exposure so please don’t use these tips to get in over your head. How much wind is too much? See this previous post for some great thoughts: https://14ers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=55107

1) Layering is essential.
Sounds basic but I've had days with wind chill far below zero on the ridge and far, far above zero back in the valley. Takes time to figure out layering to neither freeze nor sweat to death.

2) How you pack/exchange gear is critical.
Realize you need to add a layer but no longer have any wind break nearby? Lay your backpack on the ground as a partial windbreak. For a jacket, pull it out just enough to put one arm in while the rest is still in the pack. Position yourself such that the wind blows the jacket onto, rather than off of you as you slide the other arm in. You want the layer you’ll add first on top so you don’t have to pull out anything else to get to it.

3) Cover that skin.
Again pretty basic but with wind chill well into the negative double digits even pulling off a mid-weight glove for a couple seconds to switch to a heavier pair can be surprisingly painful. Having even a thin liner glove beneath that stays on as you switch to heavier gloves makes a huge difference. But again, consider staying at lower altitude when it's that insanely cold - frostbite can cost you fingers and toes - or more!

4) Cinch your hood(s).
It's not rocket science but often overlooked - most decent top layers have some manner of cords you can pull to cinch the hood tighter around your face. Since that feature is basically only ever needed in high wind, some folks forget about it but it's a life saver if you have to walk into the wind to get off a peak. On some jackets the cords are in odd positions so take a look before you go out.

5) Check that forecast.
Those who haven’t been knocked over by the wind might not think to watch the wind forecast but you soon learn to take it into account. On https://14ers.com/php14ers/weather.php wind speed is included in the forecast and the Forecast Graphs give an estimate of wind speed and gusts throughout the day. After the fact, you can check the weather station observations from CAIC at https://www.avalanche.state.co.us/obser ... -stations/ to see how strong the wind was at various locations and use that to determine where your personal limit is at.

I've successfully summited in some pretty fierce winds but I've also had some dangerous close calls due to wind and now pick a different objective when the wind gust forecast gets too high (for me >50mph tends to be too much to be worth fighting).

Have fun and stay safe!
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Re: Winter Winds: Warnings and Tips

Post by headsizeburrito » Wed Mar 03, 2021 10:23 pm

What do people find most effective for keeping their face warm (or at least nose un-frostbitten) with high winter winds? I've tried two systems with mixed results.

1) Doubled up wool buff around the neck and pulled over the nose. Pros: easy to pull down for drinking water and frequent blowing of my nose that runs quite a bit in cold weather. Cons: Gets stretched out and doesn't stay in place well, absorbs breath/snot which then freezes, no longer conforming to your face or staying in place.

2) Purchased this mask (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0018 ... UTF8&psc=1) based on some recommendations and wore it on Decalibron in winter conditions where the wind would nearly knock me over with the stronger gusts. Pros: warmer I guess, has open nostril space for nose blowing. Cons: Can't drink with it, so drinking requires pulling the whole thing off, which then pretty much requires taking gloves off to properly secure the velcro attachments at the back of your head to put it back on, which is time consuming and painful in cold high winds, not to mention you risk losing things to wind as you take them on and off.

National Weather Service has this guide to estimating wind speed: https://www.weather.gov/pqr/wind

I looked it up after a recent windy hike and laughed because most of the criteria is based on observing trees and of course my hike was entirely above treeline...
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daway8
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Re: Winter Winds: Warnings and Tips

Post by daway8 » Thu Mar 04, 2021 7:43 am

headsizeburrito wrote:
Wed Mar 03, 2021 10:23 pm
What do people find most effective for keeping their face warm (or at least nose un-frostbitten) with high winter winds?
In high winds I'll have on a fleece cap that comes down over my forehead, goggles to cover my eyes, a hooded jacket with the cinch cords pulled tight such that when the front zipper is all the way up it comes up to just below my nose.

This leaves only my nose slightly exposed. Over the years I tried every type of face mask, balaclava, etc to have my face covered but always had issues with my glasses fogging up, no matter how hi-tech and cleverly designed it was.

Finally I picked up a fuzzy wool scarf from Walmart clipped it onto my shoulder harness with carabineer run through it at two points. As my nose gets cold I simply hold the scarf over my face for a bit.

Sounds and looks a little wacky but this system has survived 60mph+ wind gusts and worked in double digit negative temperatures with wind chill added on (the main key is the wind proof jacket that zips up high enough to barely leave anything exposed - the scarf just fills that last little gap while preventing fogging).
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Re: Winter Winds: Warnings and Tips

Post by ker0uac » Thu Mar 04, 2021 8:21 am

Winds? Meh. After one has climbed Mt Washington in Winter, CO winds are a breeze :P :lol:

Image
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Re: Winter Winds: Warnings and Tips

Post by ker0uac » Thu Mar 04, 2021 8:26 am

headsizeburrito wrote:
Wed Mar 03, 2021 10:23 pm

2) Purchased this mask (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0018 ... UTF8&psc=1) based on some recommendations and wore it on Decalibron in winter conditions where the wind would nearly knock me over with the stronger gusts. Pros: warmer I guess, has open nostril space for nose blowing. Cons: Can't drink with it, so drinking requires pulling the whole thing off, which then pretty much requires taking gloves off to properly secure the velcro attachments at the back of your head to put it back on, which is time consuming and painful in cold high winds, not to mention you risk losing things to wind as you take them on and off.
Exactly for the reasons you mentioned, I would not get this mask. I use a balaclava that covers my entire head, leaving only my eyes exposed.

I don't have good circulation on my fingers so if I take my gloves off my hands will not warm up again. The only thing that helps is to put the gloves on while making a fist with my hand.
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Re: Winter Winds: Warnings and Tips

Post by ker0uac » Thu Mar 04, 2021 8:32 am

I've tried expensive goggles with vents on the side, had same issue. What worked best for me for serious winter climbs is to bring 2-3 cheap goggles and cycle through them. A fogged up goggle is a showstopper coz it seems like one really needs their eyes to climb. While wearing goggles, you must keep your head straight or even slightly elevated if possible to avoid fogging. If it does fog up, you can try stuffing the goggles next to your chest under all your layers. If you tend to get runny nose, which I do, you should constantly dry it with a buff or it might freeze and you will have to breathe through your mouth which will be covered by the neoprene mask. Oh s**t....
Last edited by ker0uac on Thu Mar 04, 2021 10:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Winter Winds: Warnings and Tips

Post by daway8 » Thu Mar 04, 2021 10:15 am

ker0uac wrote:
Thu Mar 04, 2021 8:21 am
Winds? Meh. After one has climbed Mt Washington in Winter, CO winds are a breeze :P :lol:

Image
In that case I don't think I'll bother with that peak in winter since I've had one of those CO breezes almost knock me over while crawling on all fours - that was plenty enough wind for me, I'll pass on anything stronger than that... :lol:
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Re: Winter Winds: Warnings and Tips

Post by ker0uac » Thu Mar 04, 2021 10:52 am

daway8 wrote:
Thu Mar 04, 2021 10:15 am

In that case I don't think I'll bother with that peak in winter since I've had one of those CO breezes almost knock me over while crawling on all fours - that was plenty enough wind for me, I'll pass on anything stronger than that... :lol:
I should have said that Mt Washington requires no scrambling and has mild exposure. I would not go on Class 3+ with high sustained winds.
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Re: Winter Winds: Warnings and Tips

Post by TomPierce » Thu Mar 04, 2021 11:12 am

I use something like this, but the actual model I use has apparently been discontinued:

https://www.outdoorresearch.com/us/gori ... ava-243615

Size it somewhat snug, you don't want any gaps or puffing of material, you want it snug next to the skin. To drink you just pull it down to expose your mouth, then pull it back up. The vents up front should keep the warm exhaled air from going up into your goggles. In past years I taped over the lower vents to prevent fogging, but I no longer see a need to do so (pun intended), I haven't had fogged goggles in...15 years? IMO it's all a matter of getting a good balaclava/goggle combo.

-Tom

PS: Ah, winter on Washington. Super fun climb. IMO maybe not high exposure, but there is a section once you get on the winter cut-off that's pretty darn steep, crampons for sure. Above that it's a breezy slog. Last time I did it the wind was sustained at 40+mph? Gusting to 53, I remember that number; confirmed by a dude who came out of the summit weather station for a break. Really fun change of pace from Colorado.

-Tom
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Re: Winter Winds: Warnings and Tips

Post by ker0uac » Thu Mar 04, 2021 12:49 pm

The worst wind is on the ridge right before the steep section. I've experienced 80+mph gusts there, and at least once I had to abort bc of it. I would say <50mph gusts is a good winter day there. It's 70mph right now with -40F windchill.

IMO, it's a fun climb not because of the terrain but because it challenges your pain tolerance. The gusts and windchill are just something I've never experienced anywhere else in the world.
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Re: Winter Winds: Warnings and Tips

Post by Hiker Mike » Thu Mar 04, 2021 12:57 pm

One tip I figured out early, thankfully not the hard way, was to always have a carbineer on the outside of my pack in order to clip my shell to while changing layers. I've been in very windy situations while changing layers and it sure gave some peace of mind to know my jacket wasn't going anywhere.

Mike
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Re: Winter Winds: Warnings and Tips

Post by SES_17 » Thu Mar 04, 2021 3:47 pm

Hiker Mike wrote:
Thu Mar 04, 2021 12:57 pm
One tip I figured out early, thankfully not the hard way, was to always have a carbineer on the outside of my pack in order to clip my shell to while changing layers. I've been in very windy situations while changing layers and it sure gave some peace of mind to know my jacket wasn't going anywhere.

Mike
+1
also works for gloves, hats, goggles, hiking poles....
If you can't fix it with duct tape... it's broke.
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