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Leading Winter Hikes for the Appalachian Mountain Club

A Winter Backpacking Trip in the White Mountains
AMC Winter Backpacking Trip in the White Mountains

Last night was a big moment for me because my application to become a full 4 season winter leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) was approved. This is not an easy qualification to get and builds on the 3 season leader qualification I’d already earned. It means a lot to me that the steering committee of my chapter voted to approve my application and I’m humbled to be part of the group that can plan trips and train co-leaders year round.

Learning how to safely lead day hikes and backpacking trips in winter conditions takes a lot of technical hiking skills and people skills, something that is factored into the training that leaders interested in pursuing the 4 season qualification get. That’s ok because leaning how to be an effective 4 season leader is not a qualification you can rush and  requires a lot of mentoring by leaders with decades of guiding experience behind them. It’s a remarkable process to be involved in and to benefit from.

AMC Backpacking Trip in the Adirondacks
AMC Backpacking Trip in the Adirondacks

If you’d asked me 3 years ago whether I’d be interested in becoming a 3 or even a 4 season hiking and backpacking leader for the AMC, I’d have probably said no because there are a few aspects of the club that I’m not too keen on. But when you get down to it, the part of the AMC I love, and have always loved, are the volunteer leaders who give so much of their time to educating and mentoring others on trips and club-sponsored activities. AMC leaders have opened up  so many opportunities for me over the past 10 years that I wanted to become one myself.

An AMC Trip in the White Mountains
AMC Winter Hiking Trip in the White Mountains

Becoming a winter leader – technically a 4 season leader – is a huge responsibility, particularly in the White Mountains where winters typically last from November through April (see Why are the White Mountains So Tough?)

But it’s also a responsibility that is shared among the other leaders in the chapter. For example, every trip has multiple leaders on it working together, and it’s not uncommon for leaders not on the trip to sub for one another if one is ill or indisposed rather than cancelling a scheduled hike. Being able to count on other leaders like that seems like such a precious gift and something I’d like to be able to carry on.

AMC Bushwhacking Trip in the White Mountains
AMC Bushwhacking Trip in the White Mountains

So what’s next? I plan to start posting a few winter day hikes and backpacking trips of my own design for the end of winter  (March, April) while full winter gear is still required, including some bushwhacks and backpacking trips.

For the  next few years, I think I’m going to simply focus on leading trips and honing my leadership skills, but I’d like to eventually get involved with the training that the AMC offers to people interested in becoming trip leaders. The leadership training I received from the senior leaders in my chapter was just fantastic and it’s something I’d like learn how to teach myself.

If you’re interested in seeing what trips are on the Boston AMC hiking and backpacking schedule, click here. There are usually trips available for all levels of expertise and stamina and you don’t have to be a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club to participate.

See you in the mountains and on the trails!


  1. Congratulations on joining the “club”!

    • I remember you telling me how the committee vote felt like a meeting of the Cardinals of the Papal College. I attended the H/B meeting on Tuesday, so I had to leave the room while my application was voted on. Anyway, when I was called back into the meeting room I said, “who is the next pope?”. It was very funny, and timely given the current pope’s resignation.

  2. Congrats.
    I hope to tag along on one of your bushwhacks soon.
    Learning some leadership skills is also an interest of mine, as I end up being the default leader on most of my hikes anyhow.

  3. Congratulations, you earned it! For sure this will be a new challenge, since the northern appalachians mountains can be really hard. That’s a great responsibility you’ve got! I live just above you in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec Canada, and I know for a fact that they are not as harsh as the White Mountains. Do you know which trail is the hardest in the white mountains?

  4. Just Your Average Hiker

    I can barely lead my kids to a drive-in campsite. Let alone a handful of people in cold, icy, and steep terrain. So, a big congratulations to you!

  5. congratulations. for me who live in tropical country sometime i couldn’t imagine how is the feeling of camping on a snow area :)

  6. Well done. Lots of learning, hard work and dedication paying off.

    • Training hard for Scotland. Big peaks this weekend over the northern presidentials where we walked in August. Hope to summit Adams again and will think of you standing at the summit.

  7. That’s wonderful, congrats!!

    I’ve been reading your site for a few months now and am so thankful for all the great information, advice, and chronicles of your adventures that you post.

    I’m a Boston Chapter member myself in Young Members division and completed the leadership training last fall. I’m a beginner outdoors-woman and like you have been so grateful to volunteers who are helping me learn and contribute.

    From comments above, looks like we know some of the same people. It would be so cool to meet you. Hope to see you around!

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