Heading out into the great outdoors has a magical allure for a lot of us. Once you get a taste for it there is no turning back. There is nothing quite like heading out just before sunrise, taking a deep breath of the cold winter fresh air and contemplating your hiking day ahead..
Winter is by far my favorite season for hiking, there is that added challenge of unpredictable weather and that added sense of danger which gets the adrenalin pumping. For beginners, winter hiking can be a lot of fun, but its also the time of year when most accidents occur. 99% of them are avoidable with the right training and guidance.
The difference between winter hiking and the rest of the year hiking is radically different. Simple movements you would not think about while hiking on a summers day, become very apparent do not work when scrambling with snow or ice underfoot.
Taking the time to practice, learn and adjust to winter hiking will mean a safe day out and a fun day also.
Here are 5 of my top winter hiking tips to get you started.
1: Apply For And Sit A Basic Winter Hiking/Mountaineering Skills Course
This style of skills course will introduce you to a good range core abilities and give you the confidence and awareness to navigate the local hills or mountains in a safe manor. You will be taught a wide range of skills and be taught on mountain safety awareness.
2: Sharpen Your Skills Before Winter Comes
Pretty obvious I know but it would surprise you just how many people join my local club as newbies in the winter time. If you are thinking about taking up Hiking I highly recommend starting in early spring, this gives plenty time to cut your teeth when the weather is good.
If you are starting in the winter make sure you do your Winter Skills Test first and I highly recommend seeking out a local hiking club to join.
3: Get The Right Hiking Boots (Essential)
The importance of this cannot be underestimated. For winter Hiking you are going to need boots which are crampon compatible. Winter Hiking boots can get expensive and with the addition of crampons can put a large dent in your hiking gear budget, but please do not scrimp and go for the cheaper pair as a good fitting pair of boots fit for the weather is of paramount importance.
4: Test Yourself
Once you have your winter skills test under your belt and a few hikes, start stepping up the challenge. If you have been Hiking a few 3000 foot peaks, step it up to a 4000 foot peak. If you are not challenging yourself you are not really getting much more experienced. Join a local hiking club, you will be amazed at the level of experience some of the guys and girls will have. I guarantee they will be very forthcoming to help you along.
There is a great sense of camaraderie in Hiking circles and some of the nicest people you will ever meet. I have the pleasure to have made countless friends over the years and meet up regularly with a lot of them to take on challenges etc..
5: Keep Your Hiking Equipment In Tip Top Shape
Don’t take this last tip lightly, maintaining your hiking gear is very important, finding yourself in a whiteout blizzard with a wonky broken compass would not make for a great day out. Wet, damp or snowy weather takes a big toll on hiking clothing that you might not notice in the fairer months. Always check all your gear thoroughly at the start of the hiking season and replace any worn out gloves, goggle, hats etc.
Well that’s it for now. There are so many small bits and pieces of advice to give but covering the basics is definitely the first step. Take this advice and go learn and have the time of your life. Hiking is a lifestyle and once you get going there will be no turning back.