Winter is one of the best times of the year to hike. The air is fresh, the trees have lost their leaves so the views are longer and more spectacular, and there are only a handful of people, if that, on the trails. So if you like solitude this is your time to hike.
But winter hiking comes with some very particular risks, the most serious of which is the cold and the immediate change in the weather. I’ve had experience where the sun was shining and we were hiking along only to see in the distance the front change direction and we had to hike quickly to a more sheltered location. I’ve had experiences where the wind shifted direction and what was scheduled to be a fairly routine climb turned into an ice pelting blizzard. And while I do have three weather apps on my phone, not one can tell me the physical experience of being out on the mountain when the weather changes.
What does this all mean? First, prepare for the worst, hope for the best. I carry in my pack four extra shirts and two extra pairs of socks. I carry two sets of goggles and one pair of sunglasses, all of which have been prepped with Sven Can See to keep them from fogging and frosting up. I have my insulated water bottle and 3′ feet of duck-tape wrapped around it. I have 1/2″ marine line with a bow loop already sewn in, along with my compass, topographical GPS, reciprocal cutting knife sharpened and ready to cut down a tree. I have my snow shovel, micro spikes, snowshoes, hiking poles, two sets of spare gloves and three hats. One of the hats my daughter sewed for me when she was little. It has a tail and two weird looking eyes. I take that hat with me on every hike and take a picture with that hat. It’s my hat and there is not another one like it in the world.
As you noticed, I did not mention food. I’ll tackle that one in another blog.