Tips for alpine mountaineering and winter snow camping

Please also see my updated equipment lists for 3-season and winter trips, on a separate page….

Having just returned from an outing to Joshua Tree National Park, CA in true desert winter conditions, I’m reminded of the following gained from experience:

-If you aren’t ABSOLUTELY sure that your equipment is correctly assembled and in working order, it’s a good idea to go through a detailed checklist befo’ leaving. CHECK BATTERIES.

-Start keeping track of what really works well FOR YOU, and what is nonessential, and re-evaluate after each trip using a spreadsheet. I like Microsoft Excel. If you like, import or download one of many free templates online.

-Trend toward what you feel is very reliable, simple equipment which translates into speed of use. This is really important with stove systems, rock and ice gear, and rope management in particular. The best system for creating multiple liters of hot water in the least amount of time is worth a lot of consideration in the winter, so you must titrate what you take in view of anticipated weather conditions.

-Practice using your sleeping bag/s until you’ve mastered all of the features needed to keep you comfortable. I know that doing that with my winter bags has been especially helpful, because in that environment it’s crucial to get quality rest.

– Do not neglect carrying basic first aid materials, again especially in winter (sharp tools, crampons, remote areas,……………………….)What I recommend is to be very frank with yourself about your health status, and the potential consequences of a bleeding injury or head injury in a remote area. Example: I have had 2 kidney stones in the past. I take special precautions against dehydration, but have not required any medication; this clearly relates to what I mentioned earlier about being able to generate adequate amounts of water.

-LEARN from not only your personal experience, but that of others. It’s often easy to find online. Dedicate yoursef’ to modifying or discarding how you’ve been doing things in light of new information or experience– that’s just being intelligent.

-Never forget these things: Alpinism is the art of suffering. And try to actually have fun. I know- it doesn’t make sense, but that’s what my mother has been telling me for my entire adult life.

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