Trails for everyone, forever

Home News Blog How to Navigate Winter Hazards

How to Navigate Winter Hazards

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Jan 17, 2018 01:30 PM |

Hiking in winter requires a bit more care, but armed with the right skills and information, you can hike year-round in Washington. Here are a few of the common winter hazards you might encounter and how to navigate them.

Hiking in winter requires a bit more care, but armed with the right skills and information, you can hike year-round in Washington. Here are a few of the common winter hazards you might encounter and how to navigate them.

Grey Wolf Basin by Sarah Wright.jpgTrail finding in the snow—taking a moment to check the topO map against the view from a high vantage point. Photo by Sarah Wright.

Water

If you’re winter hiking in Washington, you’re bound to run into water, even if it’s just falling from the sky. Only cross water sources when you have stable footing in areas with slower water flow. Check downstream of your crossing area for fast currents, waterfalls or logjams that could be dangerous if you were to fall in. Also be aware that conditions can change rapidly, particularly at high elevations or if heavy rain or snow is forecast.

Snow

Snow can mean a great day outside—or a slog. Snowshoes are often a good choice unless you’re dealing with compact snow conditions. Wet snow, which we often deal with in this area, can be slick and drench clothing fast. Avoid cotton clothing that will soak up water and keep you cold. Gaiters are always a good call when you’ll be dealing with snow (they’ll keep the snow out of your socks and boots), no matter how deep it is. If you are traveling on snow outside of an official sno-park or ski area in Washington, you’ll need basic avalanche awareness skills.

Ice

An icy trail is the bane of winter hikers unless you have a set of Microspikes or crampons. Ice tends to form over or near water sources, so water crossings on rocks and logs should be tackled with extra care. Frozen lakes are another place you’ll encounter ice. Keep in mind that just because ice looks stable doesn’t mean that it is. Avoid walking or camping on frozen lakes to avoid taking an unwanted swim.

For more info on mastering water crossings and hiking safely in winter, visit wta.org/trailsmarts.

Comments