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Thread: Determining the Temperature in the Mountains

  1. #1
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    Default Determining the Temperature in the Mountains

    I'm planning a hike for the weekend and was wondering if there is a method for determining how much colder it is in the mountains than it is in the city. I'm only really used to hiking in the Smokies where the normal rule of thumb is that it's usually 20 degrees colder in the highest part of the mountains than it is in the lower elevations. I'm going out this weekend and the highest elevation will be around 4,500. Any help is greatly appreciated! Thankz!

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    I don't have any good rules of thumb, but I'd bet that this weekend you'll be looking at a 10-15 degree temperature differential this weekend. For what it's worth, if you're going to be around this winter you'll find that it's often actually warmer in the mountains - sometimes significantly so. I've experienced temperature inversions where it is below zero down in the city while it is up in the 20's at 3,000' and above. It makes for some very nice days in the mountains for sure.

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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Wear layers!! It will be anywhere from 55 down to 0 and possibly colder and could actually swing that entire range in the course of the day. I take a rain shell, puffy coat, soft shell, and a merino wool base layer in either medium or heavy along with a good set of gloves and windproof stocking hat. I carry rain pants and puffy pants as well in case I have to stop moving for an extended period. One of the cheap e-bivi's isn't a bad idea either just in case. With that setup I can weather most any really bad situation and still be comfortable with good weather.

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    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Brian, you really think only 10-15 @4500'? With wind chill I bet it will be a good bit colder than that. What range are we talking about? Snow looks to be down below 4500 in the chugach.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LuJon View Post
    Brian, you really think only 10-15 @4500'? With wind chill I bet it will be a good bit colder than that. What range are we talking about? Snow looks to be down below 4500 in the chugach.
    Yep, there's snow...maybe 15-20? I figure it's been in the high 30s to mid 40s around my house (50 at best), so I figure that a range of 20-30 is a reasonable expectation. I'm not including wind chill in that, though, so your points about layers are good ones.

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    Thanks guys, I appreciate your info but I have one more question that I forgot to ask. I will be heading up to wolverine peak to camp and was a little worried about bears. Do you think a bear canister will be necessary as we don't have any yet?

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    I don't carry a bear canister, but it couldn't hurt to either carry bear spray or a firearm. There are still certainly bears out and about, but I wouldn't cancel the trip because you don't have one.

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    In aviation the rule of thumb is 4 degrees per thousand.

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    Just got back last night, and the weather was a lot more pleasant than I had expected. It was incredibly warm higher up in at near point, but when we got very close to the peak, we spotted way too many bears to be comfortable with camping overnight so we made the trek back down. Still a great trip though.

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