Adirondack Bivy

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Adirondack Bivy

by triyoda » Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:16 am

A friend and I are planning an overnight in January, most likely at the Colden Shelters. I was looking for a few suggestions.

1. I have a zero degree bag and good winter gear, parka, base layers, etc. Assuming it is not unusually cold, anyone see a problem with this (need warmer bag?) I assume I would sleep in basically regular clothes, e.g. full base layer plus fleece pants and a light insulated top and hat.

2. We do not have a 4 season tent. Would you pitch a three season tent in the leanto, just use a bivy sack? What about wind in the shelter, is this typically a problem. What could you even do about it?

Anything else to look out for? I have plenty of winter experience in the Adirondacks and Mt. Washington, just have never gone overnight and thought a one nighter in a lean to would be a reasonable start.

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Re: Adirondack Bivy

by mtngrl » Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:59 am

I'm not familiar with the Colden Shelter, but last year I overnighted in a shelter on the way to Avanlanche Lake. It was 10 -15F, not much wind. The shelters are usually pretty protected from the wind. We each had 15F bags, pads and slept in our layers. I was fine, but my husband was a little cold.
We had planed on pitching a tent, but were too tired. We had hiked to one shelter, but someone had a pitched a tent in it and there was no room for us. So, we had to hike back to another shelter. I guess I could have made them take the tent down - it is clearly posted no tents in the shelter, but it didn't seem worth it.

We have also used our three season tent in the winter. It was fine, but the weather was pretty mild - no wind!

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Re: Adirondack Bivy

by Bark Eater » Wed Dec 22, 2010 1:39 pm

Best winter use I have ever seen of an Adirondack leanto was to turn it into a snow shelter. Coincidentally it was at Lake Colden. Bring a snow saw, and build a wall of snow blocks along the front of the leanto. That plus the snow on the roof and you'll have a comfy shelter in no time!

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Re: Adirondack Bivy

by Alpinisto » Wed Dec 22, 2010 1:58 pm

IMO, a 0-degree bag should be fine, assuming A) you don't typically sleep cold, B) it's not ass-cold (i.e., below zero) on the night you're camping out and C) you have additional layers you could put on if you did get cold at night.

A tent will be noticeably warmer than the lean-to, simply because your bodies will be heating up a small enclosed space, rather than the great outdoors. Yes, it's verboten to set up a tent inside the lean-to, but as mtngrl points out, people still do it, though I would hope they wouldn't be dicks about taking the tent down if asked.

If the Colden Shelter you're talking about is on the east side of Mt. Colden (opposite side from Avalanche Lake) then I stayed there in March '09. It was one of the coldest, most miserable nights I've had in the backcountry, as we got soaked with a light rain on the hike in from the Loj, and then the temps dropped into the single digits overnight.

Type II fun, for sure.

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Re: Adirondack Bivy

by climbhighnow » Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:56 pm

i slept in a lean to last winter, reached -17F. i'd keep a very close eye on the weather if all you have is a zero degree bag. -10/-20 overnight is not uncommon at all. it will be miserable. have fun!

-check the lows overnight for lake placid and knock off at least 10degrees for where you will be.

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Re: Adirondack Bivy

by MattGreene » Wed Dec 22, 2010 4:46 pm

I spend a couple of nights each winter in ADK lean-tos. I always take a -30 degree down bag, and stuff it inside my bivy sack. It'd have to be a pretty mild night for a 0 degree bag to work.

Although it can be a pain in the neck, probably the best advice I could give is to keep your boots and any damp clothes that you'll want to wear the next day inside your bag overnight. They'll freeze solid if left out!

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Re: Adirondack Bivy

by nartreb » Wed Dec 22, 2010 8:43 pm

I like a warm bag; I don't actually sleep if the outside temperature is anywhere near the bag rating, even if I'm wearing a down jacket inside the bag. So for me, a zero-degree bag is insufficient for the 'Dacks.

If you carry a big tarp and some screws or nails, you can block off the opening of the lean-to; this retains more heat and reduces wind. Wind shouldn't be a major issue (lean-tos are built facing away from prevailing winds) but you will be glad for the extra warmth.

Expanding on MattGreene's advice: keep your gear dry. Carry spares of socks and of anything else that might get damp. If you're using insulated boots, either bring them (or their liners) into the bag or use a vapor barrier to keep the lining dry.

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Re: Adirondack Bivy

by beaudittl » Fri Dec 24, 2010 11:05 pm

One suggestion I might have is buying an emergency blanket sac. They aren't the same as regular "sheet" type of emergency blankets, they are enclosed on the bottom like a sleeping bag. If you slid one of these down into your sleeping bag you would probably stay nice and warm. I bought one for $16 at EMS in Lake Placid, but they had an even thicker one for $30. Hope this helps.

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Re: Adirondack Bivy

by febbom » Sat Dec 25, 2010 6:32 pm

I use a WM Antelope (0 to 5 degree bag) for the 6-10 winter nights I normally do in the Adirondacks... almost always in a snow trench covered by a shaped tarp (below tree line). I always wear my belay jacket (DAS parka) and down booties inside the bag, and use VBL socks. I've never been cold, and I am a very thin person who chills extremely quickly.

Shelter floors (in my experience) seem to transfer heat away from the body more rapidly than snow.

It is very important to use adequate sleeping pad insulation- you want a combined R value of at least 5; possibly higher if on the shelter's wooden floors. Be sure to eat high caloric/fat foods prior to sleeping. And, as Matt et al. suggest, stay dry and well hydrated.

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Re: Adirondack Bivy

by DersuUzala » Fri Dec 31, 2010 1:19 am

In my experience, it's warmer to setup a tent (with tarp footprint) in a packed down spot in the snow rather than in the leanto. The wind whips around inside the leanto and some leantos don't have solid floors. Save the leanto for a cooking and congregation area. Definitely, a zero degree bag and I like to use two spleeping pads and a bivy sack finishes it off for a toasty night. Sleeping in the leanto can be an experience, the more warm bodies the merrier! Hanging a tarp from the front of the leanto will help keep the heat in, but sshhhh - not allowed!
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Re: Adirondack Bivy

by Autoxfil » Sat Jan 01, 2011 4:02 am

Second the tent idea - a double-wall tent adds a huge amount of warmth, even moreso when it's windy. "Four-season" tents are kinda silly, yours will work fine.

Sleeping pads are at least as important as the bag. A $6 12oz blue pad from Wal-Mart adds a lot of insulation for cheap when layered under your regular pad.

You will be just fine with that setup: tent, 0 degree bag, two pads, and a puffy jacket will keep you warm in anything the DAKs can throw at you.

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Re: Adirondack Bivy

by triyoda » Tue Jan 18, 2011 1:34 am

Thanks for all the tips. Camp out went smoothly. It went down to about -10F, but I was never cold, maybe my face a little bit. The hardest part about getting through the night was some guy in the shelter (Feldspar Brook Lean-to) who was snoring. I had an EMS 0F down bag and a North Face Flight Bivy. Seems like all the reviews of bivy bags were split, "this bag is awesome" or "this bag sucks and I was soaked due to condensation". The bivy worked fine, I did not zip it up all the way, there was some condensation but it ended up as ice crystals, so no problem.

So camping out was totally worth it, because you can bag summits late in the day. We did Gray and then ended up on Skylight at 5:00 pm to watch the end of sunset. Here is just one of the views of Marcy:


Did Redfield in the morning, but could not get Cliff. Had very little water and after breaking trail in a foot of fresh snow on all three peaks it was time to call it.

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