Walking speeds in Winter

Posted by: TeacherRO

Walking speeds in Winter - 11/28/13 01:28 AM

Expecting to hoof it home on foot in a Winter storm is possible, but unrealistic.
If your car/ public transit isn't getting through, you probably aren't either.

Normal, unimpeded walking speeds are 2-5 mph. In a true blizzard, with high winds, drifts and very low visibility 1 mph would be good. Plus most of the roads and all of the sidewalks would be snow filled.

You would have to wear additional, heavy gear and:

And half of the time, its dark.
Being seen by cars and plows would be chancy.

In nearly every case, its better to stay with your car ( or move to a very nearby building)
Posted by: hikermor

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 11/28/13 03:02 AM

There are all those stories of folks on the high plains who got lost between the house and the barn during a blizzard. Bodies were not retrieved until the spring thaw.....
Posted by: Am_Fear_Liath_Mor

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 11/28/13 03:47 AM

Quote:
Expecting to hoof it home on foot in a Winter storm is possible, but unrealistic.
If your car/ public transit isn't getting through, you probably aren't either.


There have been a few times walking back from the city centre when public transport or taxi services wasn't running during a winter storm. Distance was about 3 miles and height gain would be about 100 metres 330 ft. Typically takes me about 50 min in normal conditions. I would add another 20-25 minutes for the trip in a winter storm. I will usually be wearing a Goretex shell jacket and over trouser if necessary.

There have also been some deaths over the years nearby who have died about 200-300 metres from their house during similar winter storm events who were not found for a few days. Don't attempt it when worst for wear from alcohol during the Christmas party season and if you do you must fight the urge to have a little snow nap on the way back home.
Posted by: AKSAR

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 11/28/13 04:09 AM

Back about 1980, when I lived in Denver, one of our geologists was going out to a well in eastern Montana one winter evening. It wasn't a blizzard, but was very cold, and she got stuck in a drift. She could see lights from a ranch, which appeared to be only a mile or so away.

She was a young women from the east coast, without much outdoors background, and in her first year or so working in the Rockies. Back in those days, management wasn't too carefull about field safety training for new hires, or for making sure they were properly equipped before sending them out in the winter. In fact, management paid almost no attention at all to such things.

Long story short, the ranch was more like 7 or 8 miles away, and the young woman ended up getting frostbitten feet before she reached the ranch. Fortunately she recovered without losing any toes. It was a good wake up call for management, a "teachable moment" so to speak. After that they started making sure people had at least some minimal training and had some proper winter gear. They also started to require folks to carry some minimal emergency gear in the field vehicles so they could wait in the rig if they got stuck. It still wasn't as good as it should have been, but it was at least a step in the right direction.
Posted by: Phaedrus

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 11/28/13 06:17 AM

Originally Posted By: hikermor
There are all those stories of folks on the high plains who got lost between the house and the barn during a blizzard. Bodies were not retrieved until the spring thaw.....


When my dad was a boy growing up on a farm in South Dakota they had a rope line running from the house to the barn in the winter. You just held/followed the rope. It was pretty common to know someone that died or lost a family member that got lost trying to reach an out-building.
Posted by: Herman30

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 11/28/13 07:35 AM

When walking through deep snow it is of great help to have ski poles. Preferably cross-country poles with larger baskets. Helps keeping balance and also increase walking speed.

grinMight look stupid but in a snow storm needing to get home, looking stupid is of little concerne.
Posted by: Lono

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 11/28/13 05:37 PM

This actually depends on so much - the distance the terrain safety how much snow the temperature your level of preparedness your other options.

A few years back I walked 7 miles home in pleasant but steady snow through the suburbs of Seattle. Temps were an ideal 30 F, I had boots and warm clothing. It was mostly level terrain as I cut around and between glacial tarns and hills; I cut through neighborhoods where I was the only person out and about, and got home in just over 2.5 hours. There was perhaps 5inches on the ground when I got home. I had not broken much of a sweat but my feet were tired.

A couple days later when the snow had melted I caught a ride in to work and found my car where I had left it in the lot.

I could have slept in my office or stopped at friends' houses along the way, but the situation didn't require that. That was about as unfriendly as the PNW gets, in snow - unfriendly to cars and auto travel routes but not to those willing to strike out on foot. All in all it made for a pleasant night. My one regret was no open pubs en route.
Posted by: Pete

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 11/29/13 01:21 AM

very slow going without snowshoes.

the rope from the house to the barn was a very good idea.
that idea also works any time visibility is poor, and/or peoples' attention is degraded.

Pete
Posted by: unimogbert

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 11/29/13 03:42 AM

It's not the Winter that slows me down. I had a very pleasant 45F walk of 5 miles this morning.

I think you mean that it's the snow that causes problems.

We can get some pretty amazing Spring snowfalls that cause the same problems.

I'll hunker with my co-worker who lives within very short walking distance until conditions are clear enough to walk the 50 miles home. (or she'll give me a bicycle and I'll get home in a day)

Mostly I'm just super-sensitized to weather and the forecasts so that I bail out and go home when bad things threaten.
Posted by: Bingley

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 11/29/13 04:54 AM

Originally Posted By: Phaedrus
It was pretty common to know someone that died or lost a family member that got lost trying to reach an out-building.


Would you elaborate? I'm entirely unfamiliar with such tragedies. How do they happen? I assume people get lost in big snow storms because the visibility is so poor? Do these things happen on big open plains that lack "navigating features" within what little visibility you have?
Posted by: Phaedrus

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 11/29/13 08:12 AM

Well, blizzards here on the plains can be pretty severe. With nary a tree or rock on the mile after mile stretch of open plains the straight line winds in a blizzard can hit 30 mph or more. Even when the snow stops it can be a white-out situation, with visibility limited to the end of your arm. Combine this with wind chills of -50 to -100 F you have a dangerous situation. With no natural cover and no visibility you can die pretty quickly from hypothermia.

Farm families, especially in years past, relied on themselves and had little hired help. Livestock still needed to be tended and you could easily lose most of your animals. Trips to round up cattle or sheep could be dangerous but failure to do so could be your financial ruin. Just going out to the barn to milk the cows or feed the animals could be risky in those conditions. Dad told me of a friend from school that died in that situation when he was young, and he told it happened more often in his dad's time. In fact, his dad is the one that strung the rope to the outbuildings, to prevent him or his brother from wandering off and freezing to death.

If you've never been in a bad blizzard out in the open it's hard to understand just how disorienting it is. Wind stings your eyes, blinding you. There's no way to tell direction and no visible landmarks. You could be fifty feet from your front door and never see it. And your outbuildings are a way away (if you've smelled a barn you know why it's not 30 feet from your house!). Our barn was about 120 yards from the house, our garage was maybe 50 yards. If it's -35 F (the coldest temps I recall as a kid) you won't last long out in 40 mph winds. When my dad's dad was a kid they didn't have electricity, and even my dad didn't have it til he was maybe 10. So no porch light to follow, even if you could make it out through the storm (and you may not be able to, especially in the day time). Pretty dangerous at night.

It's not a person but we lost a dog to a blizzard when I was a kid. Dad's spaniel 'Clem' was out in his doghouse; it was well insulated and heated, and he had a leash clipped to a wire run between stakes so he could run around. Dad sent my brother and sister out to make sure he was in the doghouse during a bad storm. They ran out and didn't see him, and thought he was inside. The next day we found him at the end of his run, frozen stiff. The leash got tangled on something and he couldn't get to his doghouse. He was pretty much frozen solid, poor little guy.
Posted by: Bingley

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 11/30/13 02:11 AM

Thanks, Phaedrus. Sorry about the dog. What a sad end.
Posted by: Phaedrus

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 11/30/13 04:43 AM

Yeah, sad. But it was like 35 years ago. Note: Man, I'm old! blush
Posted by: MDinana

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 12/03/13 08:47 PM

Good thing about living in the south: No snow.

I'd argue that either cold or snow can cause issues. Certainly you don't need snow to get hypothermia, but it exacerbates things. Loss of visual landmarkes, windchill, clothing getting wet (either from lack of waterproofing, or sweat from exertion).

Don't forget to factor in that you NEED to slow down in heavy snow, or you over exert, sweat, chill, and start to do yourself in.

Smartest thing, often enough, is to tough it out. Yeah, it sucks if you're stuck at the bus station overnight, but dead in a snowbank is pretty crummy too.
Posted by: JPickett

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 12/03/13 09:40 PM

You're wrong, MDinana. I lived in Macon, Georgia for 17 years and I distinctly remember 3 occasions when we got snow. (one was only a dusting though). I miss the South.
Posted by: AKSAR

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 12/03/13 10:22 PM

Originally Posted By: MDinana
Good thing about living in the south: No snow.
Hmmm..... I would say that no snow is one of the bad things about living in the south. The skiing sucks when there is no snow! (That getting pulled behind a boat thing you guys do down there doesn't count as skiing.) grin
Posted by: hikermor

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 12/03/13 11:42 PM

You may not have snow, or at least not much,down south, but you do get lots and lots of heat, and sometimes plenty of humidity, as well. I think I would just as well prefer to deal with the cold and snow - there is no such thing as bad weather, there is only bad clothing - and after all, it usually a dry cold.
Posted by: clearwater

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 12/03/13 11:50 PM

Sunny Day in the Sierra Nevada, Crust on snow, skate skis,-- 50 miles a day.

Same location (Think Donner Party) Fresh series of storms with 7 feet of new snow-- 100+ yards a day.
Posted by: gonewiththewind

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 12/04/13 03:02 AM

Originally Posted By: hikermor
You may not have snow, or at least not much,down south, but you do get lots and lots of heat, and sometimes plenty of humidity, as well. I think I would just as well prefer to deal with the cold and snow - there is no such thing as bad weather, there is only bad clothing - and after all, it usually a dry cold.


Part of the problem living in the South is the humidity in the winter. Winters can be very wet, and hovering a little above freezing. It is difficult to get warm sometimes, and these old bones tend to ache. One reason I am still a fan of wool.
Posted by: UTAlumnus

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 12/04/13 03:59 AM

Yeah, depending how far south you are, you don't get snow. You get ice!
Posted by: MDinana

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 12/04/13 10:36 AM

The south comment was a bit tongue in cheekl obviously elevation can overcome latitude. Growing up in So Cal, we drove to weather.

But regarding snow here: sure we may get a dusting or a rare storm but its no where near the intensity or duration of other areas. While I personally have clothing appropriate for that type of weather, its not something I actively plan for. Even took the wool out of my truck.
Posted by: Phaedrus

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 12/04/13 09:24 PM

Hahaha! Go far enough south and you have snow again (like the South Pole)!
Posted by: hikermor

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 12/05/13 12:28 AM

My experience and thinking about BOBs stems primarily from a couple of decades of fairly intensive SAR work in th highly variable climate of southern Arizona, so first of all, I would suggest that an effective BOB will need to be seasonally adjusted, at least for most of us. In southern Arizona, we faced temperatures ranging from -35F (at altitude in winter) to 108F (amid the cactus in summer). Since the SAR pack in the summer was essentially a giant water bottle, our winter packs were actually lighter.

Everyone's scenarios will be different, and the minimal contents of your pack should reflect the varying possibilities. Like Russ, in the case of wildfire, I will definitely bug out - I have actually had the car loaded and ready to go on two occasions already. In case of earthquake, my preference will be to bug in, at least initially.

Obviously, if circumstances permit, leaving in a vehicle is preferable. It certainly helps if you have looked at worst case scenarios and thought and packed for leaving on foot. For me,an attractive option would be BOOB (bugging out on bicycle - a lot more range than on foot, and not as restricted as a vehicle).

Basically, if you have the ten (or fourteen or so) essentials covered, you will probably be in business. And your pack will likely bear a striking resemblance to a backpacker's rig.
Posted by: MostlyHarmless

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 12/05/13 11:19 PM

Originally Posted By: Herman30
When walking through deep snow it is of great help to have ski poles. Preferably cross-country poles with larger baskets.


And skis. Or snow shoes (which usually are slower and more energy consuming than skis, except in some limited circumstances. But some find them easier to learn than skiing. They are also easier to pack in a standard vehicle).

But then there's snow, perhaps with a little breeze to make things more fun. It doesn't really take much of either to make trafic grind to a halt. And there are what I call proper blizzards (snow storms). Phaedrus gave a pretty good explanation of what that feels like:

Originally Posted By: Phaedrus

If you've never been in a bad blizzard out in the open it's hard to understand just how disorienting it is. Wind stings your eyes, blinding you. There's no way to tell direction and no visible landmarks. You could be fifty feet from your front door and never see it.


I'd like to add: Communication is hard and cumbersome, bordering impossible for anything but the easiest excange of really simple messages (turn the back to the wind, get really intimate, then shout - slow and clear, pronounce every syllable clearly).

Once it gets bad enough, googles and face mask are really, really sweet (or forget about facing the wind). A hood that actually works is absolutely nescessary (most hoods are not anywhere large enough, or you can't make the opening in front small enough). To prevent you from going mad you need gaiters or trouser with built-in gaiter-like function to stop snow from creeping up your trouser leg (it will find its way to the naked skin of your ancle, and this will make you go mad, trust me). You must be able to use your GPS and/or maps with thick mittens or gloves - you really don't want to take those off your hands in a blizzard. Drop a glove and it's gone, period. (Find some shelter if you really must take anything off.) Be prepared to dig in and wait it out (shovel, bivy bag, drink, snack, extra clothing).

In most civilized places, trafic will usually stop a long time before you have conditions that bad. But moving on foot can still be anything from quite easy to very challenging, and visibility can be very limited. If it's blowing _*at all*_ you can bet your life that the snow banks will be much deeper once you get past the point of no return. Not to mention that the weather can turn much worse while you trudge your way.
Posted by: Phaedrus

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 12/06/13 04:03 AM

Right now it's -5 F, but it feels better than it did this morning; it was +2 with a 25 mph wind! We got four inches of snow and the wind was driving it like bullets. Driven like that it stings your eyes, pricks your skin and makes it hard to see. You really feel like the fluid in your eyeballs in going to freeze! And that's not even "really cold" compared to how cold it can get here, much less what they have to deal with in somewhere like AK or NWT.
Posted by: TeacherRO

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 01/31/14 04:27 AM

In nearly all cases - stay with your car.

- easier to find you
-warmer
-less likely to get lost
-less likely to get hit by a passing plow
Posted by: Teslinhiker

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 01/31/14 04:48 AM

Originally Posted By: TeacherRO
In nearly all cases - stay with your car.

- easier to find you
-warmer
-less likely to get lost
-less likely to get hit by a passing plow


Sometimes, the only option is to walk. Brain Surgeon walked six miles for emergency operation.
Posted by: dougwalkabout

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 01/31/14 07:02 AM

Originally Posted By: Teslinhiker
Originally Posted By: TeacherRO
In nearly all cases - stay with your car.

- easier to find you
-warmer
-less likely to get lost
-less likely to get hit by a passing plow


Sometimes, the only option is to walk. Brain Surgeon walked six miles for emergency operation.



Generally, staying with your vehicle is the clear winner, statistically, from a survival perspective.

But I have to say that this is the emergency brain surgeon I want on my side, who didn't hesitate to walk six miles:

He [the patient] had a 90 percent chance of death, Hrynkiw said. If he didnt have surgery, hed be dead. Its not going to happen on my shift, he added."

Big round of applause.
Posted by: Phaedrus

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 01/31/14 08:56 AM

Agreed! I admire the doc's drive and compassion. Not gonna let a missed tee time or raging blizzard stop an operation- good on him!
Posted by: Jolt

Re: Walking speeds in Winter - 01/31/14 04:13 PM

Originally Posted By: dougwalkabout
Originally Posted By: Teslinhiker
Originally Posted By: TeacherRO
In nearly all cases - stay with your car.

- easier to find you
-warmer
-less likely to get lost
-less likely to get hit by a passing plow


Sometimes, the only option is to walk. Brain Surgeon walked six miles for emergency operation.



Generally, staying with your vehicle is the clear winner, statistically, from a survival perspective.

But I have to say that this is the emergency brain surgeon I want on my side, who didn't hesitate to walk six miles:

He [the patient] had a 90 percent chance of death, Hrynkiw said. If he didnt have surgery, hed be dead. Its not going to happen on my shift, he added."

Big round of applause.


Kudos to Dr. Hrynkiw for not letting the mess on the roads stop him from getting to a patient in need.