Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Winter Fourteener - Two Ways to Dress

I recently went up Quandary three different times in Calendar Winter. I also did a few earlier in the season, but the contrast in clothing will illustrate the options in dressing for a Winter Fourteener.

I took my kids up, ages 8, 11, and 14 and knew that it would be a relatively slow day. As it was, it was over four hours to the summit and another couple hours down. It was about 15 F and very little wind, which was great for a hike with children. We all dressed similarly.

Clothing for this hike of a Winter Fourteener:


  • Base Layers, top and bottom
  • Fleece jacket
  • Ski jacket
  • Ski pants
  • Wool socks
  • Sorel style lined boots
  • Wool cap
  • Mittens or ski gloves
  • Face mask or Buff

It was perfect for the conditions. We all started out in snowshoes but then took them off and stacked them on a large cairn (pile of rocks to mark the trail) at about 13,200' and did not put them back on for the rest of the hike up or down to the parking area.

In the packs were a couple pair of spare gloves and hats, a liter of water each, and about 6 snacks each. We were wearing just about everything we had for the hike.

Petting the Pug at 13,200' on Quandary

Hiking the East Ridge of Quandary - Winter Fourteener in Ski Clothing


Later when I went back to Quandary to set a speed ascent PR (personal record, otherwise PB or personal best) while testing the possibility of training for Elbrus Race 2015, I planned on going very quickly so breathability, mobility, and weight were a concern.

You want to get the most you can out of each item of clothing.

Clothing for Fast Winter Fourteener attempt:


  • Kahtoola Microspikes
  • Pearl Izumi Trail N2 Running Shoes
  • Point6 Wool Summit Socks
  • Pearl Izumi wind-pro tights
  • Columbia Omni-Heat Tech Tee
  • Monkey-Fur style fleece jacket
  • Soft-shell gloves
  • Thin Wool Liner Beanie

With hood up, vest and wind shirt on at summit - a winter fourteener
I wore an Ultrarunning Vest and had two 16 oz. bottles of liquid, one of which was Accelerade Hydro, which I'm trying to get used to using as my primary fuel source while training. I also had a few Hammer Gels, a Honey Stinger Waffle, and a pack of Jelly Belly Energy Beans. But those were for back-up only. I had no real intention of using them unless I bonked.

With wind shirt and buff at summit
In my pack I had a thin TNF Primaloft vest, a wind shirt, a Buff, and a spare pair of gloves.

Different Options - Clothing for a Winter Fourteener


These are two different extremes. Dressed all in winter ski clothing, or dressed in cold weather running clothing. There are a few key points to consider selecting clothing for a winter fourteener.

Time on the trail
Current and expected weather
Exertion and sweat level
Willingness to bail at first sign of trouble
Willingness to suffer a little bit
Speed with which you can get to the car if needed

I hope you can consider for yourself which approach is best. That being said, unless you are a skilled, trained, fit athlete, do not go as light as I did with my speed attempts.

By the way, I did in fact get 3 PR's in this 10 day period included in this article. On March 9 I got a PR for the ascent using the winter route, and then on March 17 I beat it and also got a PR for the descent of the winter route. The condition of the snow is deteriorating rapidly so I don't know if I'll be able to beat my time again before the route switches to the summer route and I start all over again.

Running shoes, wool socks, tights and Kahtoolas - perfect if you're trained and experienced


If you want to get updates on my training for the seven summits SUBSCRIBE TO THE NEWSLETTER and stay in the loop.