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One More Week of Winter

Last weekend, the groundhog promised us only two more weeks of winter.  Spring, and some of the best hiking of the year, is coming in just 6 more days!  Please ignore the record snowfall the last few days in much of North America.

Actually, you can hike in the winter.  You can’t hike as far as you can in the summer, since hiking in snow, much like hiking in sand, is hard work.  For about 6″ of snow, I figure it’s about a 2-1 ratio — every mile you hike can feel like two, especially when there’s plenty of hills present.  A few things to make your winter hiking easier, though…

1) Drink far more water than you think you need.  You won’t feel as thirsty, but you’ll still be losing water through perspiration and respiration.  At a minimum, 1/2 liter per hour.

2) Take turns in the lead.  The more packed down the trail gets, the easier it is to walk.  The front person is breaking trail for those behind.  By the time a dozen people have walked the trail, it’s nearly as solid as a well-packed dirt trail, although likely slipperier.  If you get tired, drop toward the back to take advantage of the easier trail conditions.

3) Bring more food.  I mentioned hiking is snow is hard work, right?

4) Take plenty of breaks, but keep them short.  More than a couple minutes and some people will start to get cold.  More than 5-10, everyone will start to get cold.

5)  Keep an eye on the others in your group.  A lot of people aren’t comfortable saying they’re struggling, so they won’t.  If someone seems to be struggling, breathing especially hard, making odd noises, etc, take the lead and slow down, which will slow the whole group.  Take some extra breaks, too.  The person in the lead generally sets the pace and the break schedule.  If there’s stuff just off-trail, don’t hesitate to go exploring, either.  It’ll give you an excuse for a slightly longer break.

6) If you’re struggling, speak up!  If you’re not comfortable speaking up, you can try taking the lead and slowing the group, exploring something just off-trail, or say you need to step behind that cluster of bushes to “water a tree.”  You can also always break out the camera and take a few shots until you catch your breath.

7)  If you’re not wearing it, you should have a waterproof, windproof jacket (at least) in your pack, in case the weather turns worse.

Oh, and just keep telling yourself, “The groundhog promised us that we’ve only got a few more days!”

February 10, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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