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25 Winter Climbing Ideas for Staying Heat and Secure within the Snow – Bearfoot Idea

As the times get shorter and the climate will get colder, it’s straightforward to lose the motivation to get exterior. It’s not as easy to move outdoor in winter as it’s within the hotter months when you may simply throw in your sneakers and hit the path.

However, with a shift in your mindset and these winter mountain climbing suggestions, mountain climbing in winter is definitely actually enjoyable and might even enhance your temper and enhance your psychological well being. Spending the final 7 winters in Utah, I’ve personally discovered winter mountain climbing to be an effective way to remain lively and wholesome in the course of the darker months once I would possibly in any other case really feel inclined to hunker down in entrance of the television.

Whether or not you’re winter’s greatest fan or not, I need you to really feel snug getting exterior and having fun with all 4 seasons. Listed here are my greatest winter mountain climbing suggestions and advisable winter mountain climbing gear for staying lively and getting exterior within the snow!

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Primary Winter Climbing Ideas

Climbing in winter requires extra planning than an everyday mountain climbing tour as a result of it is advisable take further security precautions to arrange for the tough components. Listed here are some primary suggestions for getting began with mountain climbing within the snow.

1. Lookup winter path situations

When selecting the place to go winter mountain climbing, one of many first belongings you’ll have to do is lookup present path situations. Many trailheads will not be accessible in winter, so that you’ll need to be sure you can get there safely in your automobile.

You’ll want to examine snow situations and climate earlier than leaving the home as properly. If it’s a blizzard with poor visibility, it will increase your possibilities of getting misplaced…so possibly it’s not one of the best day to go mountain climbing. When unsure, don’t exit.

The path situations will even decide what sort of winter mountain climbing gear you want. If the path is well-traveled with hard-packed snow, you may hike in winter mountain climbing boots and a pair of microspikes. If the path is just not compacted, then you could want snowshoes to keep away from sinking into the snow.

Women on a winter hike in Golden BC
Figuring out the path and climate situations will dictate what sort of substances you want on a winter hike

You’ll additionally need to pay attention to avalanche situations. That is of specific concern within the Western US, and it’s not solely backcountry skiers that fall sufferer. Learn to the top of this submit the place I share some particular suggestions for avoiding avalanche hazard.

2. Get an early begin

Set your alarm! Daylight are shorter in winter, so hit the path early to keep away from being out at nighttime (which is could be a lot extra harmful within the winter than in the summertime). Winter mountain climbing additionally takes longer than summer season mountain climbing – you have a tendency to maneuver slower and encounter extra obstacles. By beginning early, your threat of a worrying state of affairs is minimized.

3. Have a dependable navigation software (and a backup)!

For mountain climbing in snow, I counsel you carry a superb map, compass, and GPS system. Snowpack can disguise the path and path markers making it simpler to get misplaced. You’ll need to concentrate and know methods to keep away from getting off-track.

Whereas a paper map is greatest, I do know that realistically most individuals (myself included) are likely to depend on their telephones for day hikes. Earlier than starting your winter hike, be sure you obtain any maps and routes to your cellphone so you should utilize them offline. That means if it is advisable, you may put your cellphone into airplane mode to preserve your battery and nonetheless entry your maps.

Utilizing a compass to seek out my means on a winter hike in Salt Lake

Additionally, digital gadgets are likely to go lifeless rapidly in chilly temperatures, so if you happen to plan to make use of your cellphone for navigation, be ready by bringing further batteries/battery packs and attempt to preserve your gadgets heat. You’ll additionally need some type of backup for navigation, similar to a GPS or or Garmin Watch with preloaded topo maps, so that you aren’t relying solely in your cellphone.

4. Carry a communication system

Relying on how far you’re out within the backcountry, you could not have cell service. My prime winter mountain climbing tip (and actually a tip for anybody who spends time exterior) is to put money into a Garmin inReach Mini 2-way satellite tv for pc communicator. This enables for 2-way texts and offers you the power to name for assist in case of an damage, an avalanche, or if you happen to get misplaced.

Garmin inReach Mini // Learn our top winter hiking tips to keep you toasty and safe on cold winter hikes. Learn how to layer, pack warm gear, stay hydrated & more.

5. Inform somebody your mountain climbing plans

Whereas that is necessary all 12 months spherical, a key winter mountain climbing tip is to inform somebody your mountain climbing plans. If one thing have been to go flawed, this could possibly be your lifeline to assist. Your mountain climbing plan ought to embody if you find yourself beginning and whenever you plan to complete your hike (and be again in cell service), the trailhead, your route, and who you’re mountain climbing with. If you wrap up your hike, ship that particular person a fast textual content and allow them to know you’re off the path.

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What to Put on Winter Climbing

The important thing to consolation when mountain climbing within the winter is staying heat AND dry. If you happen to begin to sweat and are carrying the flawed materials, you’ll find yourself moist and chilly. This implies you’ll need to keep away from cotton and go for baselayers that wick moisture and are quick-drying as a substitute. Under are some strategies on what I put on for winter mountain climbing.

6. Costume in layers

What to put on on prime

When mountain climbing in chilly climate, you must have 3 layers on prime plus a neck hotter. These are my go-to’s:

I’ve acquired all of my winter layers on throughout this chilly winter hike in British Columbia

What to put on on backside

On the underside, you’ve acquired some choices. If it’s actually chilly or snowing, you’ll need to take into account carrying a base layer and a water-proof layer over it. You may even put on ski pants. In any other case, a pair of fleece leggings will do the trick, preserving you heat and cozy.

I share further suggestions for girls’s winter mountain climbing attire right here.

Kristen looking back at camera on snowy hike with mountains in background

7. Alter layers as usually as wanted

On the uphill sections of your winter hike, it’s necessary to delayer if you happen to begin to get sweaty. All of that moisture will finally make you chilly whenever you get to the highest and it’s time to return downhill. The identical goes for including a layer as quickly as you begin to get chilly.

It might seem to be a ache within the butt to consistently cease so as to add or take off a layer, however being proactive in regulating your physique temperature will make sure you keep dry and cozy all through your hike.

8. Preserve your extremities protected

After I hike uphill in winter, I discover my arms run heat, and I can usually hike with none gloves on. However as quickly as I flip round and hike down, my arms get chilly once more. Out of all the areas in your physique, your fingers are one of the vital susceptible to frostbite. This is the reason it’s necessary to at all times pack a pair of gloves, even if you happen to don’t suppose you’ll want them.

Woman on winter hike wearing gloves, a teal puffy, hat and a backpack

I like to recommend gloves which have touchscreen functionality. That means you don’t should take them off to make use of your cellphone to navigate or to take pictures. Ideally, you additionally need your gloves to supply water resistance in case they get snow on them.

North Face etip gloves

9. Pack a beanie AND a baseball cap

You lose a major quantity of warmth by means of the highest of your head. Sporting a hat is among the most necessary winter mountain climbing tricks to retain your physique warmth. It additionally retains your ears shielded from the wind. Even if you happen to don’t suppose you’ll want one, it’s good to hold one in your pack simply in case.

And whereas I’m a sucker for a cute beanie with a pom on prime, it’s most sensible to carry a easy beanie that packs down small and doesn’t take up an excessive amount of room in your bag for whenever you don’t want it.

I additionally at all times pack a traditional baseball cap. On the uphill stretches, I simply overheat if I’m carrying a beanie, so I’ll swap it out for a baseball cap to maintain the solar off my face. Talking of the solar….

10. Use solar safety

Whereas sunscreen may not be the very first thing you seize whenever you’re making ready for a hike within the snow, you’ll need to lather up. Snow can replicate as much as 90% of UV rays and might trigger fairly potent sunburns if you happen to’re not cautious.

Earlier than you begin your hike, apply sunscreen to your face, ears, and another a part of your physique that’s uncovered. Don’t miss the underside of your nostril close to your nostrils – a spot that’s infamous for burning as a result of reflection off the snow and is simple to miss. I additionally like to use chapstick with SPF to keep away from cracked and sunburnt lips.

Lastly, carry a superb pair of polarized shades that present full protection for the areas round your eyes.

Sun shades and a hat have been vital to guard our faces from the brilliant solar on this snowy hike in Idaho

11. Say no to cotton socks

If you happen to occur to get snow in your boots, cotton socks will trigger your toes to remain moist and chilly for the rest of your hike. It’s possible you’ll even get blisters. As a substitute of cotton, go for wool socks that insulate even when moist. My absolute favourite socks are made by Darn Robust Vermont. For winter mountain climbing, you’ll desire a lengthy, thick pair, however not so cumbersome that your boots really feel too comfortable.

Women on a winter hike in Mount Fernie Provincial Park
I put on lengthy wool socks that attain above the cuff of my boots

12. Put on insulated mountain climbing boots

It’s possible you’ll be tempted to put on your regular mountain climbing boots on a winter hike. If it’s chilly, however there’s no snow, then that possible might be fantastic. Nonetheless, in case you are mountain climbing in snowy terrain, you’ll thank your self for getting a pair of insulated girls’s winter mountain climbing boots. Like your fingers, toes are additionally susceptible to frostbite, and when you get frostbite, it’s prone to be a repeat offender. So for me, having a winter particular mountain climbing boot that can final me a number of seasons is well worth the expense.

Kristen crouched down next to dog on snowy trail in Utah wearing winter hiking gear
Sporting my Oboz Bridger Insulated Climbing Boots on a snowy hike close to Park Metropolis, Utah

I personally put on the Oboz Bridger Insulated Climbing Boots (males’s winter Bridger boots right here). The ladies’s (7″ cuff) and males’s (8″ cuff) have 200g of Thinsulate, and the insoles incorporate a thermal layer prime and a mylar backside to additional insulate your toes from the chilly. The outsole can be designed to supply grip in icy and snowy situations. You’ll nonetheless doubtlessly need microspikes (extra on that in a sec), however a winter mountain climbing boot’s beefy lugs gives you extra confidence than your common ol’ summer season mountain climbing sneakers.

Want extra suggestions? Try my submit on the greatest girls’s winter mountain climbing boots.

13. Use gaiters to stop snow from getting in your sneakers

If you happen to’ll be traversing throughout ungroomed snow, put on a pair of gaiters to stop snow from getting inside your boots. They simply clip on by operating a strap below your shoe, making a barrier to entry for snow falling into your sneakers. Gaiters will assist preserve your socks and ankles dry, preserving your toes hotter as you winter hike.

Outdoor Research Men's Crocodile GORE-TEX Gaiters

How you can Hike on Icy and Snowy Trails

So you bought your winter layers down. Now I’ll cowl the necessary winter mountain climbing gear that makes it simpler to hike on ice and snow.

14. Take into account whether or not you want snowshoes

This winter mountain climbing tip I realized the laborious means. Lugging snowshoes round could seem to be a ache, however snowshoes are available very helpful for mountain climbing in snow. A few years in the past, Ryan and I have been in Fernie, British Columbia on a Powder Freeway highway journey. We rented snowshoes at a neighborhood store and ready for a enjoyable day exterior.

As soon as we acquired to the trailhead, we took a take a look at the path, and in opposition to the recommendation of the store workers, we determined we didn’t want the snowshoes. We left them within the automotive and set out. At first, it was fantastic. The path was agency, however not icy, and we have been proud of our selection.

However as soon as we acquired simply far sufficient from our automotive, the path began to get softer. Earlier than we knew it, we have been post-holing (sinking down into the snow with every step) like loopy, and Ryan truly ended up actually hurting his knee. The hike ended up taking endlessly and will have doubtlessly ruined the remainder of our journey. By no means once more!

In fact you don’t want snowshoes on each winter hike, however if you happen to plan to take the path much less traveled – one which isn’t plowed or packed down as a result of foot site visitors – snowshoes are extraordinarily useful. And the excellent news is, they’re means lighter and extra environment friendly than they was.

Snowshoeing in my native Wasatch Mountains close to Salt Lake Metropolis

Snowshoes are mild and vast frames that connect to your shoe, ideally suited for mountain climbing on deep snow. By growing the floor space of your toes, you’re in a position to float on prime of the snow with out sinking in too deep.

When selecting a pair of snowshoes, you’ll need one thing designed for the terrain and situations that you simply sometimes encounter on a winter hike. For mushy, deep snow, you’ll desire a longer snowshoe, whereas a shorter snowshoe is ideal if you happen to sometimes keep on with densely packed trails.

If you happen to’re searching for an all-around versatile snowshoe that’s environment friendly on the paths, however can nonetheless carry out in deeper snow, the MSR EVO Ascent Snowshoes are an awesome selection. At 22″ lengthy, they gained’t make you are feeling clumsy on consolidated snow, and if you find yourself spending lots of time off-trail, MSR sells some add-on tails that stretch the size for improved floatation.

You’ll need to pair your snowshoes with a set of trekking poles with interchangeable ski baskets so whenever you plant the pole, it doesn’t sink into the snow.

For extra on snowshoeing, see my information to Snowshoeing 101.

15. Use microspikes or crampons when the path is icy

Winter mountain climbing usually means you would possibly encounter ice on the path, and microspikes can add an enormous quantity of traction to stop slipping, particularly on trails the place snowshoes are overkill.

Microspikes are product of chains and tiny spikes that slip on over your boots. The Yaktrax Professional Traction microspikes are cheap, and so they make a world of a distinction.

Photo of woman's feet wearing microspikes on boots on winter hike through snow and ice
If you happen to’ll be mountain climbing on icy trails, microspikes might help stop slipping

If you happen to want one thing beefier for steeper terrain, crampons are a bit extra sturdy with greater spikes that grip into ice, making them particularly useful on steep, slick inclines. It’s good to have the ability to pop these on and off whenever you want them as a result of they add some weight to the shoe and aren’t that snug to stroll usually on.

The Petzel Leonard FL Crampons are good entry-level crampons which can be light-weight and simple to connect and take away out of your winter boots.

Petzl Leopard FL Crampon

16. Keep off frozen lakes and rivers

It’s very laborious to inform how thick the ice is over frozen lakes and rivers, so keep off the ice and away from our bodies of water when mountain climbing in winter. When mountain climbing in chilly climate, it’s at all times greatest to play it protected.

Different Winter Climbing Ideas

You can be extra snug staying lively outdoor in the course of the winter when you’ve got applicable winter layers for mountain climbing as I shared above. However, there are further steps you may take to remain heat that may make a giant distinction in your skill to manage your temperature.

17. Deliver a heat drink in a thermos

Considered one of my favourite winter mountain climbing suggestions is to replenish an insulated thermos, like this 20oz Stanley Set off Motion Mug , together with your favourite scorching beverage. Sizzling cocoa, cider, chai tea, and even soup broth is nice for fast sips to heat you up on the path.

Stanley 20 oz. Trigger Action Vacuum Mug

Whereas I in all probability don’t have to say it, go with out alcohol on cold-weather hikes as alcohol reduces your physique temperature. You may get pleasure from that scorching toddy when you’re again at dwelling!

18. Keep hydrated

Dehydration expedites the onset of hypothermia, so keep hydrated. If you happen to really feel thirsty, it’s time to drink up. Even higher if you happen to throw in some electrolytes (Nuun Tablets are a simple, tasty repair for replenishing your electrolytes).

On 99% of my hikes, I take advantage of a hydration reservoir to make it straightforward for me to drink water with out stopping. The issue with utilizing a hydration reservoir on winter hikes is that if it’s chilly sufficient, the water within the hose can freeze (or on the very least, the water could provide you with mind freeze).

To fight this, you may both replenish your reservoir with heat water or you should utilize an insulated hydration reservoir that can stop your water from icing up.

CamelBak StoAway 2L Insulated Reservoir

19. Select sunnier trails

In the summertime months, you need to select shady trails to keep away from the blazing solar. Within the winter, it’s the alternative. For winter mountain climbing, strive to decide on a path that will get some respectable solar publicity. Thick evergreen forests are going to be rather a lot colder than a forest the place the leaves have dropped and the solar can penetrate or a path that traverses extra open terrain.

Keep in mind that the solar units fairly early in winter (often by 5pm in most locations within the US)! As quickly because the solar drops behind the mountains and the path turns into shady, temperatures can drop considerably.

If you happen to plan on catching the sundown, we suggest not being too removed from the trailhead and ensuring to pack further layers.

Person hiking on snowy trail through aspen trees as sun drops down over snowy mountain ridge

20. Select trails with some uphill

Similar to climbing stairs, the uphill sections of your winter hikes will get your coronary heart pumping. This helps to extend your circulation and lift your inner physique temperature, which can preserve you good and toasty. That is particularly useful if you happen to begin your hike within the early morning when the temps are actually chilly and the solar isn’t out but.

If you happen to do get sweaty on the uphill sections, it’s necessary to put on sweat-wicking, quick-drying base layers and delayer earlier than you get too moist.

Man and two dogs at the base of Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park on a snowy winter day
Uphill sections will provide help to keep heat, particularly if the solar isn’t out, like at the present time we hiked to Wapta Falls in British Columbia

21. Deliver easy-to-eat snacks

Exercising in winter burns extra energy as a result of your physique burns energy in its efforts to remain heat. Staying nourished on the path is a vital winter mountain climbing tip, and I counsel you pack snacks which can be excessive in protein and carbs to offer you power.

It’s necessary that the snacks you carry for mountain climbing on snow are fast and simple to eat whereas on the transfer. Depart the sandwich fixings and picnic at dwelling. You need to make your lunch cease fast since your muscle mass should work more durable to heat up once more. Try my roundup of one of the best straightforward mountain climbing snacks for concepts.

An alternative choice if you wish to eat one thing heat is to make some soup, chili, or mac and cheese at dwelling. Throw it in a thermos and pack your favourite spork for a fast pick-me-up.

Having fun with some vegan mac and cheese in my Hydroflask thermos on a winter hike in Utah

Security Ideas for Winter Climbing

Security is the primary precedence at Bearfoot Idea as a result of it ensures that you simply, your pals, and everybody else can have a superb time exterior with fewer worries.

22. Have a winter mountain climbing security plan

Climbing in snow at all times begins with a stable security plan. Listed here are a couple of necessary tricks to observe:

  • If you happen to’re in a gaggle, base the plan on the least skilled/ready particular person.
  • All the time inform somebody your plan: the place you’re headed, your estimated return time, who you’ll be with, and so forth.
  • Be ready for worse climate than the forecast requires, simply in case.
  • Be sensible about your objectives. If you happen to’re new to winter mountain climbing, begin small so you may acquire confidence in your talent set earlier than you deal with tougher trails
  • Be sure you are snug utilizing any technical winter mountain climbing gear you carry (like a beacon)
  • Have a hard-set flip round time that you’re dedicated to starting your return to your automotive. That means you don’t get caught out after darkish
Man and two dogs on a winter sunset hike in Fernie British Columbia
On this hike, we caught to our turn-around time so we might get again to our automotive earlier than it acquired darkish

23. Pack the ten necessities

Whilst you could go away a few of these at dwelling in the summertime, in winter, you actually need to pack the ten Necessities for Climbing. The results of a mishap can exponentially improve if you happen to don’t have the correct security gear. Whereas I’ve coated a few of these gadgets within the earlier winter mountain climbing suggestions, right here’s the complete record of the ten Climbing Necessities as a refresher.

  1. Navigation
  2. Headlamp
  3. Solar safety – sunscreen, hat, sun shades
  4. First Help Package
  5. Knife/Multitool
  6. Technique to begin a hearth
  7. Shelter/emergency bivy
  8. Further meals
  9. Further water
  10. Further layers

Not like summer season when you may get away with a 10-15 liter day pack, in winter, you must plan to carry a bigger mountain climbing pack that may match all the 10 mountain climbing necessities. In case you are mountain climbing in avalanche terrain, a backcountry ski pack particularly could have a pocket that makes it straightforward to entry your shovel and probe.

24. Know the indicators of hypothermia

Hypothermia happens when your physique’s core temperature decreases to a degree through which regular muscular and cerebral features are impaired. Hypothermia can have an effect on your skill to suppose clearly in addition to your skill to evacuate rapidly to security.

Earlier than you go mountain climbing in winter, it’s necessary that you realize the warning indicators and are in a position to acknowledge them if you happen to or a good friend begin to present signs of hypothermia. 

Circumstances That Can Result in Hypothermia:

  • Chilly temperatures
  • Improper clothes and gear for altering climate situations
  • Wetness
  • Fatigue, exhaustion, dehydration, insufficient meals consumption
  • Alcohol consumption expands your blood vessels which might lead to elevated warmth loss

Signs of Hypothermia:

  • Uncontrollable or violent shivering
  • Slurred speech or incapacity to speak
  • Fumbling or feeling torpid

You may learn extra info on treating and stopping hypothermia right here.

25. Know (about avalanche dangers) earlier than you go

“Know Earlier than You Go” is a typical saying in avalanche coaching programs, and it’s precisely that – know the avalanche situations earlier than you head out. Whereas this doesn’t apply in all places, it’s actually necessary out West the place slopes are steep and could be susceptible to sliding.

A essential winter mountain climbing tip when planning to hike within the snow is to do your analysis, keep away from avalanche terrain, and keep dwelling on high-risk days. Your greatest supply of knowledge is the native avalanche forecasting workplace or the close by Ranger Station.

Avalanches aren’t simply one thing backcountry skiers want to pay attention to. Anybody who’s spending time within the mountains in winter ought to take the time to know some avalanche fundamentals so you may keep away from unknowingly mountain climbing on or under high-risk avalanche terrain.

Ryan and I took an AIARE 1 – Stage 1 Avalanche Coaching course in 2021 to raised perceive avalanche dangers

The two main sorts of avalanches are free snow and slab. Free-snow avalanches can happen in moist or dry snow, starting close to the floor and gathering extra snow as they slide. Slab avalanches, just like the one pictured under, happen when a complete shelf of snow breaks free and slides down the mountain – these are probably the most deadly.

Skiers on snowy slope above slab avalanche
That is an instance of a slab avalanche, the place a complete hillside slides

Avalanches are the results of a mixture of 4 various factors: a steep slope over 30 levels, snowpack and climate situations, a weak layer within the snow, and a set off. Triggers could be pure, similar to wind, or human prompted.

Whereas we don’t have management over terrain or situations, we do have management over ourselves. So, it’s crucial that you simply and your mountain climbing companions perceive the following pointers for avalanche security so that you keep away from placing your self in peril.

  • Verify situations earlier than going. is a dependable web site that hyperlinks to native forecasting places of work across the US. Earlier than you propose to hike within the snow, it is a good place to start out to ensure snow situations are steady.
  • Simply since you see footprints or different individuals on a path doesn’t imply it’s protected.
  • Don’t take dangers in terms of mountain climbing in snow. Plan your route earlier than you allow the home to be able to keep away from mountain climbing on or under terrain that’s susceptible to sliding.
  • Group pondering can cloud your judgment belief your intestine. If one thing doesn’t really feel/appear proper, communicate up. Communication is vital.
  • It’s okay to show round earlier than reaching your objective vacation spot. Many accidents occur when individuals forego their higher judgment as a result of they’re too dedicated to reaching the objective.

Whereas not vital for mellow winter trails, if you happen to plan to continuously hike round steeper winter terrain the place avalanches are attainable, you must put money into avalanche gear. This features a beacon, probe, and shovel.

A beacon is a essential piece of backcountry winter mountain climbing gear that enables search and rescuers to seek out you if you happen to have been ever in an avalanche. You may as well use a beacon to seek out others who’re buried by an avalanche in the event that they too are carrying a beacon.

A probe is a software that permits you to pinpoint the placement of somebody who has been buried by an avalanche, and the shovel is the way you dig them out. If you happen to do get a beacon, probe, and shovel, discover ways to use these instruments and get actually snug with them earlier than venturing into the backcountry.

After studying this entire information stuffed with winter mountain climbing suggestions, I hope you are feeling assured to exit and benefit from the outdoor this winter! Winter is a fantastic time to expertise a unique aspect of nature and I hope you are feeling assured and impressed to get on the market.

Get extra recommendation for winter mountain climbing in these posts:

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Learn our top winter hiking tips to keep you toasty and safe on cold winter hikes. Learn how to layer, pack warm gear, stay hydrated & more.


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