Winter storms

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benmangelsdorf
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Winter storms

Post by benmangelsdorf » Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:10 pm

Hi there, sorry if this is the wrong board to post this in, but I figured it was the best place to ask this. Anyways, I started walking up some mountains this past season and realized I really love it and don't want to wait until next summer to continue doing it. I am slowly trying to gather up some experience + knowledge in regards to winter alpine conditions and am in general trying to go slowly and safely. :mrgreen: I've been reading a lot on here and learning a good deal but one thing that I am still confused about is winter storms. I've seen people on here and elsewhere talk about randomly getting caught in a whiteout storm. Are winter storms like summer storms, where they can come in the mountains even if there is no storm forecasted for the day? What is the best way to know whether a storm will come?

Thanks in advance for the help, any advice is welcome. Also, if anyone else is interested in slowly building up their winter skills this season, let me know! Suffering is always more fun with company....
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SkaredShtles
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Re: Winter storms

Post by SkaredShtles » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:08 pm

benmangelsdorf wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:10 pm
<snip> Are winter storms like summer storms, where they can come in the mountains even if there is no storm forecasted for the day?
No.
What is the best way to know whether a storm will come?
NOAA.
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Tornadoman
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Re: Winter storms

Post by Tornadoman » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:35 pm

SkaredShtles wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:08 pm
benmangelsdorf wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:10 pm
<snip> Are winter storms like summer storms, where they can come in the mountains even if there is no storm forecasted for the day?
No.
What is the best way to know whether a storm will come?
NOAA.
I agree with this. I have had a couple 'snow shower' type days on what were forecast to be a sunny day, but I haven't had any huge surprise snowstorms. Weather forecasts are reasonably accurate these days, the magnitude of a storm may be off but it isn't likely that the forecast is just going to completely miss a big storm.

In the winter season it is notoriously cold and windy in the mountains. My advice is to try to go on days when the forecast isn't as cold and windy as normal, that will help make suffering a little less. You probably know this stuff already but layers, zero exposed skin, being able to keep water from freezing, etc, are all necessary in the winter. Also make sure to be aware of avalanche danger, the daily forecast from CAIC is a good starting place but sticking to low angled terrain is very wise as you start out.
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cottonmountaineering
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Re: Winter storms

Post by cottonmountaineering » Fri Nov 13, 2020 4:08 pm

i'll echo some of the other comments and say that there aren't many surprises during winter, biggest thing you have to worry about is wind + temp
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Re: Winter storms

Post by Ptglhs » Fri Nov 13, 2020 4:15 pm

Winter storms which dump a significant amount of new snow are often predicted well in advance. Obviously don't go out if there's a winter storm warning. You can run into issues where it is a sunny day but it's incredibly windy. If this happens after a big snowstorm you may very well have a ground blizzard. A hundred feet in the air it could be a completely clear blue sky day, but your visibility at ground level might be only a couple of feet.

Look at what the avalanche forecast for the day is, look at what the weather forecast for the day is, and think about what conditions have been like over the past couple of days as well. Something which I have found when hiking out in late fall through mid-spring is that the conditions in Winter change a lot more quickly than conditions in summer. I don't mean just weather, I mean significant amounts of wind, or snow, or a warm day, can shift what the terrain looks like or even where you'll be able to walk.
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daway8
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Re: Winter storms

Post by daway8 » Fri Nov 13, 2020 4:18 pm

I would slightly modify the above comments to say that while I've never encountered a storm in winter that wasn't at all in the forecast, I have had an occasion or two where a storm showed up quite a few hours in advance of the predictions, thus leading me to race down the mountain just ahead of whiteout conditions.

So now I'm less likely to go out if there's a storm predicted to come in at, for example, sunset even if I know I can be down well before then, just because of concerns of it arriving early.
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randalmartin
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Re: Winter storms

Post by randalmartin » Fri Nov 13, 2020 7:29 pm

daway8 wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 4:18 pm
So now I'm less likely to go out if there's a storm predicted to come in at, for example, sunset even if I know I can be down well before then, just because of concerns of it arriving early.
Really important point there. I have seen this happen many times. Arrival of storm is a few hours early or worse, something goes wrong on your hike and now difficulty getting out before the storm hits are impossible. I wouldn't do backcountry things unless you have sunny conditions for the next 24-48hours. If a storm is coming in the afternoon or the next day I'll just do something below treeline and less remote to minimize risk.
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CaptCO
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Re: Winter storms

Post by CaptCO » Fri Nov 13, 2020 8:57 pm

My simple advice is to purchase the best clothes money can buy. I have invested more in clothing than any other type of gear this year, and it's soooo worth. Shop for deals! If you have common sense you will have no issues with rando storms
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daway8
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Re: Winter storms

Post by daway8 » Fri Nov 13, 2020 10:38 pm

CaptCO wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 8:57 pm
My simple advice is to purchase the best clothes money can buy. I have invested more in clothing than any other type of gear this year, and it's soooo worth. Shop for deals! If you have common sense you will have no issues with rando storms
+1 on getting high quality clothes for winter. I finally broke down last winter and bought some 250 weight merino wool base layers - wow! Expensive stuff but with that and just a couple more quality layers I was above treeline in a -20F wind-chill and was cozy as can be. I could barely stay on my feet with the wind blasting me but at least I wasn't cold!
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Re: Winter storms

Post by globreal » Fri Nov 13, 2020 10:42 pm

CaptCO wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 8:57 pm
My simple advice is to purchase the best clothes money can buy. I have invested more in clothing than any other type of gear this year, and it's soooo worth. Shop for deals! If you have common sense you will have no issues with rando storms
Having the right gear is essential....not necessarily having the most expensive gear is essential.

And having "common sense" really means you won't go out during bad weather. However, learning how to find accurate forecasts for weather is not always that easy. Learning where and how to look for your forecasting is very important and then deciding to only go out at the right time. Find others who can teach you these researching skills. (I'll help you if you like.)

Having the navigation skills is VERY important in winter. Can you navigate yourself out of the backcountry in white out conditions or complete dark (no moon, no city lights at all?)

PLEASE learn about avalanches and take the necessary classes if you plan to travel on snow (any time of the year!)
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Re: Winter storms

Post by greenonion » Fri Nov 13, 2020 11:13 pm

Tornadoman wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:35 pm
SkaredShtles wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:08 pm
benmangelsdorf wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:10 pm
<snip> Are winter storms like summer storms, where they can come in the mountains even if there is no storm forecasted for the day?
No.
What is the best way to know whether a storm will come?
NOAA.
I agree with this. I have had a couple 'snow shower' type days on what were forecast to be a sunny day, but I haven't had any huge surprise snowstorms. Weather forecasts are reasonably accurate these days, the magnitude of a storm may be off but it isn't likely that the forecast is just going to completely miss a big storm.

In the winter season it is notoriously cold and windy in the mountains. My advice is to try to go on days when the forecast isn't as cold and windy as normal, that will help make suffering a little less. You probably know this stuff already but layers, zero exposed skin, being able to keep water from freezing, etc, are all necessary in the winter. Also make sure to be aware of avalanche danger, the daily forecast from CAIC is a good starting place but sticking to low angled terrain is very wise as you start out.
+1
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nyker
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Re: Winter storms

Post by nyker » Sat Nov 14, 2020 6:19 am

benmangelsdorf wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:10 pm
Hi there, sorry if this is the wrong board to post this in, but I figured it was the best place to ask this. Anyways, I started walking up some mountains this past season and realized I really love it and don't want to wait until next summer to continue doing it. I am slowly trying to gather up some experience + knowledge in regards to winter alpine conditions and am in general trying to go slowly and safely. :mrgreen: I've been reading a lot on here and learning a good deal but one thing that I am still confused about is winter storms. I've seen people on here and elsewhere talk about randomly getting caught in a whiteout storm. Are winter storms like summer storms, where they can come in the mountains even if there is no storm forecasted for the day? What is the best way to know whether a storm will come?

Thanks in advance for the help, any advice is welcome. Also, if anyone else is interested in slowly building up their winter skills this season, let me know! Suffering is always more fun with company....
All good points raised in above responses. one key thing - IF you are aware of a winter storm coming in the next 12-18hrs as you start a hike, reconsider your plans, it's really just foolish to climb up into an oncoming storm unless you are rescuing someone with support. If you're 24-36hrs ahead of a known storm, it's a little less risky but not without avoidable risk, better not to commit to a long difficult route with no easy exit options ahead of that and reschedule for a more stable and longer weather window. Too many times I hear "Oh I'll be down way before that rolls in" or "nah, I'll be fine without [insert essential gear]" , or "today is my last day here, I 'have to' climb it now" and then either conditions change, in rushing they become off route or move slower than expected, become delayed and are caught unprepared. The mountain will dictate the situation no matter how capable, strong or fast you think you are.
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