Friday, January 22, 2021

Outdoor Conditions (1/22): Wind chill warning, unstable snow pack for high peaks

outdoor conditions logoThe following are the most recent notices pertaining to public lands in the Adirondacks. Please check the Adirondack Backcountry Information webpages for comprehensive and up-to-date information on seasonal road statuses, rock climbing closures, specific trail conditions, and other pertinent information.

High Peaks Wilderness:

  • Weekend Weather Warning: There is an extreme wind chill warning for Friday night into much of Saturday at elevation. Additional snowfall is also forecast. Check the National Weather Service Northern Adirondacks and Southern Adirondacks Mountain Point Forecasts for selected summits.
  • Unstable Snowpack: There have been several reports of unstable snowpack on open slopes. Practice safe travel when crossing exposed areas.
  • Colden Caretaker Report 01/20/21: Two feet three inches of snow have accumulated at the Colden Caretaker cabin. Three to four feet of snow have accumulated on summits. Snowshoes are needed on all trails, starting at parking lots. Skiing is in, including the ski trail, South Meadows Road and the trail to the Flowed Lands. Both Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden are frozen.

Debar Mountain Wild Forest and Madawaska Flow/Quebec Brook Primitive Area: The gates on Snowmobile Trail C8 are now open. The Madawaska trails, including Blue Mt. Road gates and trails, are open and groomed. The Meacham Lake to Debar Meadow/Hatch Brook gate on County Route 26 is also open and the trail groomed.

Last Week

Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Easement:

  • Snowmobile trails on both tracts are now open.
  • Old Route 8 between Cave Hill Road and Robbs Creek Road in Perkins Clearing is currently a shared logging road and snowmobile trail. Snowmobilers must drive slowly, stay on the groomed trail, and use caution when driving near logging trucks and equipment.

Saranac Lakes Wild Forest:

  • The gates on Snowmobile Trail C7b have been opened. Snow cover is thin in spots – riders should use discretion.
  • Snowmobile Trail C7 is closed between Tupper Lake and Lake Clear.

Vanderwhacker Wild Forest: Snowmobile Trail C8A is open from the gate at Lake Harris through to Indian Lake. Snowpack is inconsistent and thin but rideable.

General Notices

Visit the main Adirondack Backcountry Information page for more trip-planning resources, including travel information, weather resources, and seasonally-specific information about Adirondack recreation.

Winter Conditions: Check the forecast for your destination and pack and plan accordingly. Conditions will be more severe on summits, with below freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and strong winds possible. Take wind chill into consideration when preparing for temperatures. Check the National Weather Service Northern Adirondacks and Southern Adirondacks Mountain Point Forecasts for selected summits.

Snow Accumulation: The following provides current snowpack depths in inches as of 01/19/21 at a selection of Adirondack locations. Snow accumulation data is collected every other week. Additional data and interactive maps are available on the National Weather Service website.

  • Northwoods Club Road, Minerva, Essex County: 14.5 inches
  • Goodnow Flow Road, Newcomb, Essex County: 14.3 inches
  • Tahawus/Upper Works, Newcomb, Essex County: 13.1 inches
  • Blue Ridge Road, Newcomb, Essex County: 16 inches
  • Elk Lake Road, North Hudson, Essex County: 17.3 inches
  • Lake Colden, Essex County: 27.1 inches
  • Cedar River Road, Indian Lake, Hamilton County: 19.1 inches
  • Sagamore Road, Long Lake, Hamilton County: 19.9 inches
  • Haskell Road, Ohio, Herkimer County: 20.9 inches
  • North Lake Road, Ohio, Herkimer County: 20.4 inches

Ice Safety: A minimum of three to four inches of solid ice is the general rule for safety. Ice thickness, however, is not uniform on any body of water. Learn more about ice safety.

Snowmobiling: Check local club, county, and state webpages and resources, including the NYSSA Snowmobile Webmap, for up-to-date snowmobile trail information.

Seasonal Access Roads: Most seasonal access roads have closed for the winter season. Check the Adirondack Backcountry Information pages for updates on specific road closures. Some roads may remain open if conditions allow.

Prevent the Spread of COVID-19: New cases of COVID-19 are on the rise throughout New York State, including in the Adirondacks. Help prevent the spread and keep yourself safe by continuing to Play Smart, Play Safe, Play Local.

Safety & Education

Winter recreation is fun and exciting. It can also be challenging and dangerous. Whether you’re going for a hike, a ski, snowmobiling or ice fishing, Hike Smart NY can help you prepare with a list of 10 essentials, guidance on what to wear, and tips for planning your trip with safety and sustainability in mind.

Decoding Traction Devices

Bringing and wearing proper foot traction is key to a safe and successful winter hike. But with so many options out there, knowing which traction is right for what conditions can be difficult. To help you prepare for your next winter adventure, here’s a quick guide to foot traction devices:

  • Snowshoes: Snowshoes help you float on the surface of deep snow by distributing your weight over a greater surface area. This makes travel easier and less tiring than if you were falling through the snow with every step. Snowshoes also help prevent postholing, the act of bare boots making deep holes in the snow. Postholing is dangerous both for you and other hikers and skiers. The act of postholing can lead to sudden falls and injury, and the deep holes left in the snow create hazards for those who follow. Snowshoes are recommended to be worn wherever significant snowpack has accumulated. They are required to be worn in the High Peaks Wilderness once snow depths reach eight inches.
  • Skis: Much like snowshoes, skis allow you to float on the surface of snow and make travel through deep snow easier. Skis can be worn as an alternative to snowshoes in some cases, but not all trails are suitable for skiing. Skis are a good option for flatter trails but add significant challenge on trails with variable elevation. Skiers should still bring snowshoes and other traction devices.
  • Microspikes: Microspikes are small metal spikes that attach to your boots. They provide stability on flat, thin ice. Microspikes are not adequately effective on thick ice or steep terrain. For high elevation hikes you will need crampons as well as microspikes.
  • Crampons: Crampons are larger, sharper metal spikes that attach to your boots. They allow you to penetrate the ice, providing grip and stability on thick ice and steep, icy terrain.
  • Other Ice Cleats: There are many other kinds of ice cleats ranging from small metal studs and coils to plastic or rubber treads. These might be helpful in your driveway, on sidewalks, or on flat, maintained trails, but they are not effective enough to keep you safe in the backcountry.

One of the most important things to know when it comes to foot traction is that practice makes perfect. Getting snowshoes, microspikes and crampons on can be difficult. Walking with metal spikes on your feet might not feel natural. Practice putting on your gear and using it in a safe, controlled, and familiar environment before you need to rely on it for safety in the backcountry.

It’s also important to remember that even the best gear does you no good in your bag. Stop as many times as is necessary along the trail to put on or change gear to ensure you are wearing the right traction for the conditions at all times.

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

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