Snow conditions and winter gear advice

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Snow conditions and winter gear advice

Postby amyannick » Mon 01 Jun, 2020 9:36 am

I'm an Australian that's been living in California for the last few hears and am finally heading back home. I'm intending to spend as much time as possible down in the Main Range. I have two broad questions.

1. Snow conditions. I am a little experienced in snow travel here in California but I have no experience of the conditions back home. I'd be really grateful if someone could point me to some information on what kind of conditions I can expect in the main range and what avalanche conditions are like. If anyone has experience of both Australian and Californian conditions it would be fantastic to get a comparison.

2. Winter gear. I'm trying to work out what gear I should bring with me. In particular I'm interested in knowing how much use I can expect to get out of snow shoes and how much flotation is enough down there. I'd also be interested to know if you think microspikes and crampons would get any use. Currently I use a -7C sleeping bag and a 5.4 R-value pad. How much of the winter/spring season can I expect this to get me through?

Thanks everyone, I'm excited to get back!
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Re: Snow conditions and winter gear advice

Postby crollsurf » Mon 01 Jun, 2020 7:37 pm

Snow conditions during winter are variable to say the least. Its windy most of the time so everything from blue boiler-plate ice through to deep fresh snow and even slush some days. You'll find some skiers up there in winter but most walkers tend to hang around the resorts. Spring time is a lot nicer, less cold fronts, corn snow but still variable. Avalanches are rare. What you do get is snow/slab slides which move relatively slowly but set like concrete within minutes of stopping. I haven't heard of anyone being killed by either for many decades but they are deadly if you get caught so you still need to be cautious.

Clothing you might find your US gear is too warm. It can get cold (-20C) but generally hovers around -7C to 5C. Getting wet on the other hand is a real danger even mid winter, so make sure you have some Goretex or something like it. I have a similar sleeping setup to you but a -15C bag and better R value would be recommended. Being a skier, others would offer better advice re snowshoes, spikes etc.

You can see the weather records for the last 12 months on the BOM site http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/dwo/IDCJDW2132.latest.shtml
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Re: Snow conditions and winter gear advice

Postby Neo » Mon 01 Jun, 2020 8:07 pm

The BOM app showed 100km winds yesterday, struth. Plus snow.
My plans to walk about Kosci were skewed by the restrictions, not sure if im up to it solo say July or August.
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Re: Snow conditions and winter gear advice

Postby rcaffin » Mon 01 Jun, 2020 9:09 pm

May I suggest starting out very very carefully?
Australian winter conditions are so different from Californian ones that one cannot carry over much knowledge.

The weather here is normally extreme - sometimes bright and sunny, so the surface gets wet in the PM, sometimes hard ice, especially AM, and sometimes a howling storm. Winds of 100 kph are NOT uncommon: the record is at Betts Camp near Kosci and is, iirc, >200 kph. We had sleet one Boxing Day.
As OP mentioned, one hazard you get here and seldom in Cal is getting wet. Another hazard is that the weather can flip across extremes in <1 hour. We will not go into KNP without winter gear - in summer. Special gear is needed for winter.

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Early morning near Kosci after a full night of hammering hail. It rattled.

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This was the good morning. By evening I could barely see my feet, and the wind was clocking 100 kph all night. Those clouds on the horizon were NOT harmless fluffy things!
Better note: American tents need NOT apply here. A tunnel tent would be a safe move. Unlike in the USA, they are common here.
Figure on cooking inside your tent: outside it the pot might get blown away.

But we love it.

Cheers
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Re: Snow conditions and winter gear advice

Postby amyannick » Tue 02 Jun, 2020 1:21 am

Thanks all, this is super useful information. It seems like my hard shell layers are probably the weak link (and I could probably leave some of my insulation behind).

Do you find that really beefy 3 layer gortex is needed/desired? Or do you think I can get away with a lighter 2.5 layer hard shell? In 95% of situations here I've found a soft-shell + pata Houdini to be totally sufficient but that's clearly not going to be the case back home.

Also, how often do you find yourself pulling on hardshell pants? I don't think I've ever worn mine apart from when I've wanted to speed up my glissade! If I'm expecting to wear them a lot it is probably worth me investing in a more breathable/sturdy pair.
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Re: Snow conditions and winter gear advice

Postby rcaffin » Tue 02 Jun, 2020 10:02 am

We don't use hardshell gear or 3-layer GTX gear ourselves any more. It is too expensive and too heavy. The GTX membrane does not last very well either.

For rain we use silnylon ponchos. Very waterproof and you can get them on and off in a flash as the weather changes. Nice warm fug inside one too. Ours are MYOG, but the American 'Packa' is the idea.

In the snow I use an Epic jacket I made myself. This is not 'waterproof', but it does not need to be that in the snow. It certainly does shed the snow and the wind. It breathes, which I think is essential when working hard (like XC touring).

I use either very light silnylon overtrousers or light DWR-coated uncoated nylon overtrousers for heavy rain. These do not have zips, just wide legs. The coated silnylon fabric is rather sweaty, so I prefer the uncoated version. The water tends to run down the outside, and any that gets inside dries off quickly when I am working.

The one place I do use light GTX fabric is on snow gaiters and snow overmitts. Both are good uses.

Yes, all this is very different from what current Marketing is preaching and selling. But remember: their goal is their profits, not your comfort. A lot of what is sold in America is aimed more at the street (fashion) market than genuine wilderness travel. (I am a noted cynic here.)

Cheers
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Re: Snow conditions and winter gear advice

Postby crollsurf » Tue 02 Jun, 2020 10:26 am

I think the best advice is don't go unless you are with someone you trust and has a reasonable amount of experience. I've met Mike Edmondson a few times in the 90's and he struck me as being well prepared and very experienced even back then. He runs tours in Spring, so if you want to pay you would be in good hands and learn a lot from him.
https://mikeedmondson.com.au/page.php?Kosciuszko-Spring-Tours-12
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Re: Snow conditions and winter gear advice

Postby clarence » Wed 03 Jun, 2020 9:54 am

Crollsurf's first post sums it up perfectly.

I have always used 2 or 3 layer goretex (or similar) jackets and trousers for alpine walking, ski touring etc. Either a Mont austral or Ground Effect storm trooper depending on the trip.

I think the location is as important as anything for your first trip. There are a several locations in valleys at lower altitude with more trees (eg from Guthega Power Station up towards Schlink; or Dead Horse Gap along Cascades track). Snow may not be as good, or you might have a bit of a walk, but these are a far safer option than the Main Range.

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Re: Snow conditions and winter gear advice

Postby amyannick » Thu 04 Jun, 2020 2:27 am

Thank you all for the advice. I want to ensure everyone that I am not going to wonder out onto the main range alone and in questionable conditions immediately. I do have some experience and importantly this has taught me to recognise my limits. Hopefully over the next few years I'll build up some knowledge and become one of the locals. See you out there!
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Re: Snow conditions and winter gear advice

Postby rcaffin » Thu 04 Jun, 2020 8:21 am

A good start would be to take the SkiTube up to Perisher and to do some of the poled XC loops around there. Plenty of them, some of them can be 'exposed', and you can retreat to Perisher and the XC hut there if you need to. There are food shops and gear shops in Perisher in the winter too (and paid accommodation).

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Good weather - it happens.

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Bad weather - it happens too.

Cheers
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Re: Snow conditions and winter gear advice

Postby north-north-west » Thu 04 Jun, 2020 4:45 pm

That second shot is more what I'm used to up there, particularly in winter.

But you get it any time of the year. My most memorable mainland Christmas Day was waking up in a camp on the side of the Abbotts and walking out to Thredbo in a snowstorm, with 3m viz in the good bits.
"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."
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Re: Snow conditions and winter gear advice

Postby rcaffin » Thu 04 Jun, 2020 5:49 pm

Changeable weather, very changeable.
This was late summer or early Autumn of a week-long circuit from Cesjacks to Wheelers and back.

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^^ This was morning tea on the second last day. Sun hat weather.

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^^ This was the morning of the last day. We had the gear needed.

"You have gotta have the gear Min, gotta have the gear."
(with apologies to British comedy)

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