Winter camping, hiking, backpacking and mountaineering are not without peril. If you have never done them, it’s best to receive some training from your local outdoor club or a professional guiding service before you try it yourself. I just started last year myself after a three-day Intro to Mountaineering Class with a guide in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It was an eye-opening experience.
If you are in New England and are interested in becoming a 4 season hiker, there are a few winter training programs that I’d recommend you look into. The Adirondack Mountain Club hosts an annual Winter Mountaineering School near Lake Placid, New York that typically covers the following areas of instruction:
- Trip planning and leadership
- Snowshoe, crampon, and ice axe technique
- Use of map, compass, altimeter, and GPS
- On and off trail navigation
- Winter backpacking skills
- Constructing snow caves, igloos, and other snow shelters
- Steep snow and ice climbing
- Safe above-treeline travel under winter conditions
- Wilderness first aid and safety
- Avalanche Awareness
- Hydration, nutrition, and winter backcountry kitchen skills
If you live in the Boston Area, the Boston Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club has a Winter Hiking and Backpacking Program which I’ve taught for in the past. It includes 4 lectures and 10 hiking, backpacking and cabin trips in New England and the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. I already know quite a few of the instructors and trip leaders including Mark Warren who has been a guest poster on section hiker.
If you want to learn more about winter camping, hiking, backpacking and mountaineering, here are a few online resources and books that I have found very helpful:
- Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills
- NOLS Winter Camping
- Allen & Mike’s Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book: Traveling & Camping Skills for a Winter Environment
- How to Build an Igloo: And Other Snow Shelters
Written 2009. Updated 2015.