I recently took the AMC’s Winter Hiking Program. Five nights of classes taught by leaders at AMC, covering the many topics that are important to know for hiking in the White Mountains in winter.
Why do you need a class for hiking in winter? Well, in the White Mountains, conditions can change drastically mid-hike, and having the right clothing, gear, knowledge, and skills could save your life. The classes are taught by leaders and co-leaders, who have loads and loads of experience. If the content wasn’t worth it, their hard-earned tips and ideas that they shared were completely worth it.
Mt Washington (which has its own weather observatory, so there’s data for the actual summit) has an average January temp of 14F, but can of course go much much lower. Much, much lower. The average wind speed in January: 46 MPH. But again can be much much worse, much much worse. Average snow in January: 44”, it snows a lot which can cause white out conditions, or on a good day just hides the trail.
So why would I want to hike in winter?! Many reasons, in no particular order. The snow covers all those pesky rocks. No bugs. No bears. No snakes. BUTT SLEDDING. Some folks buy small butt sleds and sled down the trail. I’m nowhere near that brave yet, but when I am, WHEEEEEE! I miss hiking when I can’t do it. It’ll be a lot easier to knock out those 4000-footers if I can do it year round.
The classes culminate in several hikes of varying levels led by AMC leaders, with the express purpose of attendees trying out their newly learned skills (and likely, their newly purchased gear). I hiked one of those hikes today (write-up coming up next!).
I highly recommend the class. I HIGHLY recommend the hikes. So much knowledge gained. And I’m looking forward to my next winter hike!