Elfin Lakes first winter hike? - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 11-09-2009, 09:42 AM Thread Starter
Scaling New Heights
 
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Default Elfin Lakes first winter hike?

Hello everyone,

I'm hoping to do Elfin lakes with a couple of friends at some point this winter. The thing is, while I've been summer camping all of my life, none of us have done any winter hiking. I know there's a cabin up there, so we don't have to worry about somewhere nice and dry to stay, but the rest of the stuff is a mystery to me. For instance, I've only been on snowshoes once, for about a couple of hours. I know the winter trail is well marked (orange posts every 25 feet?) so there's no chance of straying. There's a heated cabin halfway up there, so if SHTF we can always decide to turn around and come down. Sadly, I'm the more experienced outdoors-man in my group of friends. I've been reading up on the trail over the last little while and it doesn't sound like a difficult hike provided you're dressed for the weather, but I want to make sure. Also, does the cabin get real full in the winter months? I'd appreciate any insight!!

Thanks,
Dmitry
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 11-09-2009, 10:38 AM
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I'll use my first post to reply to your first post!

Elfin shelter is a great area to get your feet wet (or cold) with winter hiking. The trail is well marked with orange posts, but that doesn't completely eliminate the chance of straying. You should have a back up plan.

In my experience as long as you leave early in the day you'll find room in the shelter (maybe not between Christmas and New Years), but when it gets crowded good hut etiquette is a must! There are lots of rules posted inside and unfortunately some people fail to follow many of them.

Beginners and well seasoned mountain folk share the shelter. It's a great opportunity to learn from those with more experience.

And bring ear plugs for a quiet sleep.


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post #3 of (permalink) Old 11-09-2009, 10:57 AM
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You might want to reconsider some of your assumptions. People with similar ideas have died on that trail in the winter. It is always a good idea to carry enough gear that you could survive the night if you had to. On the other hand it is a beautiful area and a great hike.

The orange poles are more than 25 feet apart and the next pole is not always visible, especially in a blizzard or at night. There is a very good chance of straying, and lots of people do (including yours truly). There are a couple of switchbacks that are really easy to wander off in bad weather. The trail between the two cabins can get some extreme weather - hurricane force winds, zero visibility. Your tracks can vanish in minutes.

The cabin always fills up at New Years, but otherwise there is usually room. It can be a bit squalid - you would be a lot more comfortable if you brought a tent and just use the cabin for cooking and hanging out. A lightweight 3-season tent works fine.

Be aware that the damn parkees are extorting parking, hiking and camping fees.

Also, the road can be quite treacherous - chain up early and leave them on until you get down.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 11-09-2009, 12:12 PM
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I would recommend doing a couple of easy day trips before jumping in to an overnighter. Dog Mountain, things like that. shakedown cruises before the main event. Your crew can find out whether or not they like it that way.

Especially given current snow conditions you may find that it takes you a long day just to go to Red Heather and back.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 11-09-2009, 12:30 PM
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Getting to Elfin can be anything from a 3 hour jaunt to an all day sufferfest with high winds, zero visibility and deep difficult trail breaking. In good conditions it's a reasonable outing for beginners. In challenging conditions you will be in over your head. If you make plans, and the weather turns out to be poor, don't be afraid to reschedule or pick an easier destination like on of the day trips that Drew is suggesting.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 11-09-2009, 12:52 PM
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Also, Red Heather (midway cabin) isn't 'heated', it just has the ability to be heated via a wood fire. However, go easy on the firewood as it's expensive to chopper in.

The cabin can get extremely busy and extremely loud, I have found. I haven't stayed over in winter but someone who has told me it also gets uncomfortably warm with all the body heat and near perfect insulation from the snow.

As suggested previously, attempt a couple winter day hikes first.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 11-09-2009, 01:01 PM
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The cabin can be very difficult to sleep in.

* Some idiot always cranks the heat up just before bedtime.
* People are tired, so they snore - all night long.
* Others apparently have too much energy left and use it for amorous adventures - all night long.
* People bring small children and when one begins wailing they all join in.
* Mountaineers and ski-tourers will use the cabin too. They can arrive at any hour of the day or night.

On the other hand, if you pitch a tent outside the cabin, you have all the advantages of cabin cooking and hanging out. And you will have a good night's sleep too.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 11-09-2009, 01:44 PM Thread Starter
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Hey everyone, thanks for your responses so far. This is pretty much what I wanted, to start a discussion to see if I'm really off base here.

I know hiking is inherently dangerous, much more so in the winter, so I'm going to have to really think about this carefully. Especially if I'm bringing people along.

With respect to loud and dirty cabin -- I think I can handle that, if it's only for one night. I'm looking forward to not having to lug a tent with me

I hear you about a practice snowshoe trips. That's a great idea.

I'll keep doing more research, thanks guys!
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 11-09-2009, 04:34 PM
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try the one of the tet cabins on the sunshine coast.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 11-09-2009, 05:22 PM
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Once you have camped outside a cabin a few times, you may come to realize the cabin does not add much value to your trip. The advantages (warm, dry, spacious) are easily outweighed by the disadvantages (rodents, noise, greedy parkees, etc). When you remove the requirement for a cabin, you have a lot more choices for places to go and things to do.

But that might be looking a bit too far ahead if you haven't tried winter camping yet.
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 11-09-2009, 10:57 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by weedWhacker

The trail between the two cabins can get some extreme weather - hurricane force winds, zero visibility. Your tracks can vanish in minutes.

Originally posted by scottN

Getting to Elfin can be anything from a 3 hour jaunt to an all day sufferfest with high winds, zero visibility and deep difficult trail breaking. In good conditions it's a reasonable outing for beginners. In challenging conditions you will be in over your head. If you make plans, and the weather turns out to be poor, don't be afraid to reschedule or pick an easier destination like on of the day trips that Drew is suggesting.
I would add to these wise words by suggesting that extra care be taken on the east side of Round Mountain and on one or two sections on Paul Ridge where the terrain is steep and vulnerable to avalanches during snowstorms.
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 11-09-2009, 11:56 PM
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One more thing to consider about Elfin this time of year - navigation can be difficult. I went up Nov 22 last year after a fresh dump of snow. The trail was completely covered and they hadn't put up the winter bamboo poles yet. I had a map and compass and a gps track from a summer trip, and I know the area quite well, so I didn't have any trouble. However, I ran in to a group ahead of us that was incredibly lost. There were other groups that were very thankful to find our tracks that lead them to the cabin, but otherwise, they had no idea of the route.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 11-10-2009, 12:38 AM
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Watch the weather reports: here's a report from Remembrance Day 2005

https://www.clubtread.com/sforum/topi...TOPIC_ID=13979
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 11-12-2009, 04:35 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by ChuckLW

Watch the weather reports: here's a report from Remembrance Day 2005

https://www.clubtread.com/sforum/topi...TOPIC_ID=13979
Oh wow.
If the weather is shitty - turn around. If the trail is not visible, turn around.

I'm thinking of going in early spring I think.
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 11-12-2009, 05:37 PM
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Quote:
quote:There were other groups that were very thankful to find our tracks that lead them to the cabin
I'd also want to add that it's not safe to assume someone else's tracks lead to where you want to go/should be going. That may sound obvious but it's very easy to fall into that trap.

I hope all this isn't discouraging you though. You are obviously cautious enough to be asking questions, which is good; next step is to get out there and enjoy it, safely.
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