Some Basic Elements of Winter Hiking

Clear cold days, rime ice, outstanding views, ice crystals hanging from spruce bows, solitude on a snow-covered trail and no bugs — these are some of the many reasons many take to the mountains during the winter season. A winter tramp in the woods and mountains can be an experience that some would say is addicting. Others cannot fathom the idea of trekking up a mountainside in three feet of snow, with the wind howling and temperatures hovering around zero. But with careful planning, appropriate skills, and knowledge, it can be a wonderful, exhilarating experience with incredible intrinsic and physical rewards.

However, a winter hike can also end in misery or even disaster if you are not properly prepared.

If you are contemplating a winter hike, there are several things you need to consider. First and foremost is planning. Research the route or trail you plan to hike. Write down the trip itinerary (route, day/time start and end the hike) and leave this with a friend or spouse. Check the most recent weather report. As most of us know, weather can change quickly in the mountains, so you need to be prepared for any and all conditions. In addition, the conditions at the base of the mountain or the trailhead are usually much different than at higher elevations, particularly on the summits.

Dress like an onion, in layers. Proper clothing and layering are the most important part of any winter journey. Layering enables you to easily adjust your clothing to regulate body moisture and temperature. After you begin hiking, your body will start to warm. You do not want to get overheated and sweat. Adjust your layers of clothing to prevent heat buildup and sweating.

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