Win­ter High

Who needs an off-sea­son? Take on the chal­lenge with Colorado moun­tain guide Ja­son Antin’s top tips for alpine travel in the fourth sea­son.

Backpacker - - Skıll Set - By Ryan Wichelns

1) KNOW THE REAL FORECAST.

Lo­cal weather re­ports of­ten pre­dict con­di­tions around the base of a peak, not the sum­mit, but temps usu­ally drop by about 5.4°F for ev­ery 1,000 ver­ti­cal feet you gain. Antin uses Moun­tain-Forecast.com, which of­fers pre­dic­tions for var­i­ous el­e­va­tions. Plan for the lows, not the highs, and check for both pre­cip and wind speed. Con­sis­tent winds over 25 mph? Con­sider reschedul­ing.

2) IN­TER­PRET PRE-TRIP WEATHER.

Antin starts check­ing the forecast for his ob­jec­tive at least a week in ad­vance to get a sense of how much ice or snow he might be deal­ing with. (Rule of thumb: Af­ter two days at 50°F, you’ll lose 2 to 4 inches of snow, which could be the dif­fer­ence be­tween snow­shoes and bare boots.) And if you see sub­freez­ing temps af­ter a warm spell,

ex­pect ice. De­pend­ing on slope an­gle and mode of travel, you’ll want cram­pons, ski cram­pons, or mini spikes, and an ice axe for steep snow.

3) STAY ON TRACK.

Snow cov­ers more than just trails—it can also bury cairns and other land­marks you might use to nav­i­gate. That means you’ll want some sort of GPS or nav app to sup­ple­ment your map and com­pass. (Antin re­lies on his phone as his pri­mary nav­i­ga­tion and rec­om­mends the Gaia GPS app.) Keep your gad­gets in a ch­est pocket of your baseor mid­layer to pre­serve bat­tery life.

4) AVOID AVALANCHE TER­RAIN.

Down­load Gaia’s Slope Over­lay (pre­mium sub­scrip­tion re­quired) or use the same tool for pre-trip plan­ning in CalTopo (free), and avoid hik­ing on or di­rectly below yel­low, or­ange, red, or blue slopes, which in­di­cate an­gles be­tween 30 and 50 de­grees, on days with con­sid­er­able to high avy dan­ger (see right).

5) BE PRE­PARED TO BE ALONE.

Soli­tude is great, but it means your group’s on your own if you get into trou­ble. Antin rec­om­mends trav­el­ing with at least one buddy and get­ting trained in first-aid (take a WFR course, or BACKPACKER’s on­line class at backpacker.com/wilder­ness-firstaid). On more com­mit­ting hikes, Antin car­ries a small shel­ter and a stove, just in case. “If you get stuck, day­light might be as many as 16 hours away,” he says.

7) KNOW WHEN TO RE­TREAT.

Does the ter­rain feel above your pay grade? Turn back. In­suf­fi­cient food or wa­ter? Ditto. Frost­bite is also a risk. Make sure you can feel and wiggle your toes, and for cold hands take this test: Touch your thumb to your index, mid­dle, ring, and pinky fin­gers in that or­der to make sure you still have full mo­tion in each. If not, call it.

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