With the arrival of winter frosts, the tourist’s soul yearns for the mountains, wishing for a real holiday. Hiking in the mountains in winter not only offers fabulous landscapes, an amazing atmosphere, and unforgettable impressions but also tests endurance. Between drifts of snow-covered meadows, on a silver blanket of snow that envelops tall fir trees and beech forests, encases the windows of cozy wooden mountain houses with crystal – this is where an indescribable winter miracle is born.
Which hikes in the mountains to choose from in winter depends, first of all, on what “mountain” experience and training you have. After all, beginners don’t always have the “teeth” of routes that experienced extremes “fly by” with ease, and the concept of “comfort” in the mountains does not always coincide. Moreover, it is worth remembering: winter in the mountains is full of surprises, for which you need to be prepared mentally and physically with equipment and information.
Erik Larsen’s experience
Erik Larsen is an expert in the cold. He skied to both the North and South Poles, climbed Everest, and made a large number of Arctic expeditions. He shares his experience in his polar courses available at ericlarsenexplore.com.
In order to summarize his experience and pieces of advice, we have decided to provide you with the 10 most crucial tips and principles of behavior in harsh winter conditions that Erik Larsen shares when camping in the arctic.
Using a torch in a tent is usually a bad idea. This leads to an excessive carbon monoxide CO concentration, which can lead to severe poisoning. But in the most extremely cold conditions (-30°C with arctic winds over 70 km/h), cooking in a tent can help heat the air inside, saving fuel and energy.
On Arctic hikes, he usually takes two stoves: one for cooking and one for heating the tent and drying clothes and gear. So, if you are seriously prepared for a winter hike, always use the burner in the vestibule of the tent. Open the entrance of the tent by at least 20-30 centimeters; use a stand for the burner (do not put it on snow or ice); open and ventilate the tent immediately at the first sign of headache or dizziness.
Improve flies on zippers. Most zippers on jackets and pants vents are not large enough to use with large mittens or gloves. He recommends always attaching additional ropes about 6-7 centimeters long to them.
Is the phone or camera dead? This could have happened due to overcooling of the battery. Place it in your pocket close to your body for a while. Most likely, this will be enough to warm up the battery, and the equipment will “come to life.”
4. Overheating of the body
Don’t sweat it! It doesn’t matter how “cool” your membrane jacket and thermal underwear are, you should sweat excessively, stop for a few minutes, and it will be very cold. He shares that he must constantly adjust his clothes to achieve the optimal body temperature at a specific moment. Even at temperatures of -35°C and below, it is worth unbuttoning the jacket if you feel too hot and may begin to sweat excessively.
5. Drink and food
Build a routine of eating and drinking for yourself. In cold weather, stopping and refueling can be a difficult task. He follows a mandatory setup: he has to stop for 5-7 minutes every hour and has a snack and drinks. In the middle of the day’s journey, he prepares hot soup.
Have your glasses fogged up? This can happen if the body has warmed up too much and started sweating. In this case, it is necessary to cool down. Glasses can also fog up due to warm air that is exhaled through the mouth or nose. It can get under the glasses through the slits in the lower part of the glasses. The biggest culprit, in this case, is a scarf or neckband pulled up to the very nose.
Keep socks and boot liners dry. Erik Larsen says that he always takes them out and puts them in his sleeping bag at night. A good solution would also be to remove the insoles from the boots.
8. Vapor barrier on the legs
Use a “vapor barrier” for evaporation from the skin of the feet. These “socks” do not breathe at all, but they will help keep your feet warm and prevent your socks and shoes from getting wet. Plastic bags are well suited as such an insulator.
Light a candle. Larsen says he is a big fan of LED lights, but he still takes a small candle lamp with him when camping for extra heating in the tent. Often, he carefully lights a candle in the evening, and it burns all night.
Add 40 grams of butter to each meal on long hikes. In cold conditions, the body uses much more fat to maintain body temperature.
You should go on your first winter hike with experienced friends and group leaders. Even if you go as part of a group, remember about quality training and pay attention to the instructions of the leader. And most importantly, a trip to the winter mountains is serious. This type of trip is not recommended for those who are not ready to take responsibility for their actions and safety.
The most crucial point that we would like to set separately is the ability to turn back before reaching the top. Even if it is already close to get there, the peak will remain, and it is better to have still the opportunity to return to it. And in good weather, it will be much more pleasant to return to it. There is no heroism in climbing to the top in bad weather, especially if this is your first winter hike.
Be careful, and love the mountains!