AZT snow hiking strategies

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Quester
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AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by Quester » Feb 09 2016 1:13 am

I will be hiking S > N the entire AZT starting March 14. It looks to me likely there may be a foot or two of snow on the ground in many higher places. With that in mind, here's my snow apparel strategy which I would love feedback about from other experienced AZT hikers:

-- non-Goretex low-profile hiking shoes (such as Merrell Moab Ventilators) for breathability and easy drying;
-- wicking liner socks + merrill wool outer socks; plus an extra pair for dry in-camp use
-- small bag of Grabber Toe Warmers (about 8 oz for 8 pair) for extreme cold or post-holing in deep snow, since my toes tend to get painfully cold rather easily;
-- Hillsound FreeSteps6 Crampons (11 oz.) for traction when needed in snow;
-- convertible hiking pants so if bottom half gets wet I can detach them off later to stay dry/warm;
-- zPacks Cuben Fiber Rain Kilt (2 oz.) and Groundsheet-Poncho (5 oz.) for freezing rain/cold conditions, to prevent hypothermia.

Any feedback? Am I perhaps over-reacting to whatever snow may still be there? Or am I forgetting something else? Thanks.
~ Michael

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Quester
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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by Quester » Feb 09 2016 1:28 am

Oh, and I forgot, a pair of gloves to wear inside my wool mittens, since my fingers are as susceptible to cold pain as my toes.
~ Michael

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johnnyo979
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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by johnnyo979 » Feb 09 2016 6:57 am

I had no realization that there would be that kind of snow. For how long of a distance will it exist?

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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by cavaroc » Feb 09 2016 8:55 am

Maybe some others with experience can chime in, but I did a few of the sky islands last year and I'd be surprised if there's that much snow this year, even with the healthy winter they've been getting. You might get a chilly night or two into the 20s, but I wouldn't expect so much snow that you'd need crampons or anything like that. Plus, if there is any remaining snow, it'd be very patchy and only at the highest elevations. Also, as long as you're not in a snow storm, you can expect highs at least up in the 50s or 60s at the highest elevations. The North Rim of the GC might be a different story though. I'd expect there to be snow pack there, but not sure how much, nor if it will solid enough to walk on.
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Quester
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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by Quester » Feb 09 2016 10:43 am

Thanks for your thoughts. For reference, here are the SNOTEL reports for AZ. But I'm not sure which of these places are very relevant along the AZT. The range of snow depths shown currently is anywhere from 2" to 52", with most places currently showing about 2 feet.

http://www.wunderground.com/StateSnowDepth.asp?state=AZ

~ Michael

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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by johnnyo979 » Feb 09 2016 10:57 am

This concerns me. There is considerable more difficulty in hiking thru deep snow. I'm also concerned about being able to see the trail good enough to stay on it. I suppose a GPS loaded with the Arizona Trail chip is a necessity. I really don't know how to take the data from the previous snow data report link and apply it to the Arizona Trail. Perhaps I should find out which sections I should be concerned with and contact the trail stewards to see what type of depth to expect.

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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by big_load » Feb 09 2016 11:18 am

The biggest risk in mid-March is the Rincons. You probably won't hit snow again until Flagstaff, and by then it will mainly be on the mountain, although there could still be some up around the Rim.

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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by chumley » Feb 09 2016 11:20 am

There has been much information shared in this forum on the topic of snow and hiking the AZT. Some may be more relevant than others. A few other topics of interest are covered as well. You may wish to peruse that which has already been discussed:

viewtopic.php?f=78&t=7265
viewtopic.php?f=78&t=8637
viewtopic.php?f=78&t=9309
viewtopic.php?f=78&t=7999
viewtopic.php?f=78&t=9292
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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by cavaroc » Feb 09 2016 11:25 am

I don't think any of those are in the sky islands (unless I'm mistaken). Happy Jack does apply to the AZT, but it's highly likely that the vast majority of it will melt off by April. Most of those locations are up on the Mogollon Rim.
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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by Quester » Feb 09 2016 11:39 am

Thanks. Yes, I had read those previously, and in fact was the OP of one of those threads. ;) The last link you provided I find especially helpful -- I had forgotten you had suggested some segments to especially look out for... 27-30, and 34 -- which I would encounter in April, so there's more time for melting in those, fortunately. But I am especially wondering about the first several segments on the south end that are up high... those will be hiked in the latter half of March. Thanks.

~ Michael

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johnnyo979
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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by johnnyo979 » Feb 09 2016 12:17 pm

Would it be beneficial for us to contact the trail stewards in regards to expected snow depths in certain sections in question?

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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by johnnyo979 » Feb 09 2016 12:19 pm

But on a second thought there's not a damn thing we can do about it anyway. So maybe it's not as important as I think it is. I would still be concerned about any large accumulations, I believe, however.

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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by chumley » Feb 09 2016 12:28 pm

Quester wrote:But I am especially wondering about the first several segments on the south end that are up high
There are some remote weather stations across the state.
Find them all here: http://mesowest.utah.edu/cgi-bin/droman/mesomap.cgi

None in southern Arizona have snow-depth readings.

But many DO have precipitation gauges... so based on the elevation of the station and the amount of precipitation it has received, combined with recent temperature readings, you can do some guesstimation.

You'll want to change the region to ARIZONA and change the network to All.

When you select a station from the map there are options to view/download data from that station for different periods of time.

As you get closer to your hike time, I recommend calling the rangers office for Sierra Vista and Catalina districts. They would have the best information on current conditions in the forest.

Research is fun! :)
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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by steady » Feb 09 2016 3:23 pm

It's pretty unlikely(thought not impossible) that any of us is going to get trapped in a sudden freak storm the dumps tons of snow in March/April. Most of the snow to be concerned with is going to already be on the ground.

So you just have to start walking. If you get to a point that there's too much snow for you to feel safe you go back to civilization and get some better gear or take some time off. No point worrying about something you can't do anything about.

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Quester
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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by Quester » Feb 09 2016 9:09 pm

The suggestion of calling the rangers I will definitely do before starting. Right, it's the snow already on the ground that I am thinking about, not a new storm. Thus the lightweight Hillsound FreeSteps6 Crampons. Anyone else taking (or has taken in the past) traction aids like that?

~ Michael

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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by big_load » Feb 09 2016 9:44 pm

Quester wrote:Hillsound FreeSteps6 Crampons

I use Kahtoola Microspikes, which are very similar, but their teeth look a tad larger. They work really well on steep icy surfaces and are pretty durable. I wear them occasionally for winter hiking on mixed terrain, and more often for shoveling my very steep driveway. I keep a pair my car all winter.

I think they would work well for this application.

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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by Quester » Feb 10 2016 5:31 pm

Yay! Someone else besides me who sees a likely AZT need for an ice/snow traction aid. Perhaps I'm not crazy after all. ;)

Yeah, the Kahtoola Microspikes look good too. I am leaning toward the Hillsound only product because it's a little lighter and cheaper, and I am hoping its slightly smaller teeth won't be an issue. Thanks.

~ Michael

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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by JimAH » Feb 10 2016 9:45 pm

I used Hillsounds on sections 38 and 39 of the GET in 2014. They were great. I don't plan on bringing them on my NOBO AZT thru starting in early March. Yes, this has been a particularly snowy year, but it's still Arizona. It was 86F in Phoenix today. If there are slick bits, I'll have my trekking poles.

If, however, I was doing a SOBO in spring (Trew), I'd definitely want them for descending the north rim in March or early April. Trew -- I'd be happy to loan you mine if you'd like them for your split.

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Re: AZT snow hiking strategies

Post by Quester » Feb 10 2016 10:23 pm

I'd love to do without such cleets on this trip. But I'm concerned I might regret the 8 ounces saved, at least in a few segments in the beginning, and perhaps in north Kaibab. I'll have only one hiking pole with me, not two.

Btw, this is a very newbie question, but I am guessing NOBO = North bound, and SOBO = South bound. True?

~ Michael

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