I went up a local trail yesterday and really enjoyed the challenge. The snow was very deep, but the trail had thankfully been packed by a snowshoer probably on the weekend and I wore my microspikes. When I stepped off the trail to gain traction on a very steep part, I sank to my upper thigh. The crust was very hard in places, but softer in other places and I did posthole a few times.
I arrived after about 3 miles of climbing to a beautiful view eastward which I have enjoyed many times in every season. The sun had just gone over the ridge as I pulled on my jacket and headed back down the mountain.
I stopped at another viewpoint to the north on my way down the mountain. The sun’s golden glow reflected on snowy Lincoln and Lafayette mountains, Mt. Washington, and likely Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine. I reached the trailhead at just about dark and reminded myself that I must take a flashlight every time in the winter.
Though I mostly hiked up, I was able to do a slow trot on some spots as I descended the uneven trail, frequently getting thrown off balance by holes and ice chunks. Poles would have been helpful, but I was afraid that my hands would have been cold holding them.
This is the very trail that a lady yelled at me a few years ago in shorts weather “you shouldn’t be going alone – it’s dangerous!” If I had to find a friend every time I wanted to run or hike a mountain, I would never get out the door.
Winter hiking and trail running does require special preparation. At a minimum, take extra clothes, a light, and a way to communicate in case of injury. Or leave a note so that your relative or friend knows exactly where you are going and when you plan to return. A GPS unit is preferred over a cell phone. Plan shorter outings, know the trail and route and how long it will take to complete it. Prepare for ice and don’t be afraid to turn around and go back if trail conditions deteriorate. Don’t step off the trail when the snow is deep. Avoid avalanche terrain. This is an incomplete safety list. Consult winter hiking guides or seek to learn from organizations that train individuals for winter hiking.