Hiking/Backpacking/Camping/snowshoes and crampons in harriman
I was wondering about your experience with snowshoes and crampons in Harriman in a "normal" winter. Not like last year. My question is both in terms of needing them, and opportunity to use them. I am talking about mountaineering snowshoes - so doing steep hikes with elevation gain in winter using equipment like MSR EVO Ascents and Black Diamond crampons.
I have microspikes and this year I am delving further into winter hiking. Before I head up to the Cats and Daks I wanted to do some hiking in Harriman. Do you know if there are opportunities for hikes of that type in Harriman in winter? Of course...conditions can always vary.
Keep in mind when I answer this question that I speak as a tall man with the advantage of long legs. YMMV, as they say.
I have used both snowshoes and microspikes in Harriman and other local hiking areas. Both have worked well for me. But I would choose snowshoes over spikes in very deep snow (frequent drifts of more than 24"), because post-holing every step is a nuisance and exhausting. But snowshoes are inherently more tiring to use for two reasons: 1) they add 1-2 lbs weight per foot; 2) when you step into deep snow, a quantity always falls onto the upper surface of the shoe, adding yet more weight. They are also significantly more expensive -- double to triple the cost of spikes, at least. Spikes are best for shallower snow or icy conditions. I do not think that full-on crampons are really that necessary in most hiking situations outside of glacier travel or high-angle mountaineering. Since purchasing spikes several years ago, I have seldom needed to use snowshoes, at least not in Harriman.
One thing that you should understand is that it is difficult to predict conditions in the hills based on conditions where you live. The incident that caused me to make my initial snowshoe purchase occurred in late March more than 10 years ago: It had been a fairly snowy winter, but almost all of the snow had melted in the area where I live, about 25 miles due west of the GWB. I went hiking on hills above Greenwood Lake in NY and found that the snow was still 2 feet deep. I was fine so long as I stayed on the heavily traveled trail, but when I veered off onto a less popular trail, I seriously struggled in the deep snow. I had no way of knowing that the snow would be that deep. In fact, Greenwood Lake -- located in the valley -- had almost no snow on its streets. The hills above the town, on the other hand, had some serious snow conditions.
So, my advice wrt snowshoeing in the Catskills or the Adirondacks would be to talk to the locals to get a sense of what to expect.