Walking in the snow in the mountains: 9 dangers to avoid

The walking in the snow in the mountainswith the ski lifts closed, and after a winter mostly confined to their own municipality due to the limitations linked to the colored zones and the Coronavirus emergency, they are one of the most easily accessible activities for anyone who wants to spend a few hours in the mountains.
We are not talking about snowshoe excursions in fresh snow, or even ski mountaineering trips, but rather walks, on beaten paths or on snow-covered driveways, to reach panoramic points, some mountain pastures, a refuge.

Walking in the snow in the mountains: 9 dangers to avoid

What German-speaking countries call Winterwanderwegor winter hiking trails, they can hide dangers far greater than those you can imagine. As unfortunately also recently hit the news. Because what are pleasant itineraries in summer that are perhaps only a little tiring, in winter, with snow, can hide dangers that are difficult to predict, even for those who consider themselves mountain experts. Like these 9 dangers to avoid by preparing well for your snow excursion.

1. Calculate your itinerary well

In the mountains you don’t count the km so much as the difference in altitude, and if this rule is valid in summer it is even more important in winter, when snow and ice can make progress slower or more tiring both uphill and downhill. And there’s nothing worse than finding yourself tired, late in the evening, and weakened on a slippery path.

2. Calculate the hours of light carefully

In winter the days are shorter, which is a wrong way of saying there are fewer hours of daylight. And often in the valleys the darkness comes even earlier. And in this case too it’s not at all pleasant to find yourself in the dark, on a snowy or icy path, and the real risk of putting a foot wrong. At the very least, a headlamp should find space in your backpack, but it’s always best to get to your car or home before it gets dark.

3. Boots on your feet (and crampons in your backpack)

What is an easy path or an easy driveway in winter can turn into real traps. The compressed snow can become a sheet of ice, mounds of compact snow can form to overcome, perhaps even exposed towards the cliff, or there can be unexpected more “technical” passages that require firm support and good grip. A pair of winter boots on your feet, with a nice “lug” sole and maybe even a winter compound are the minimum wage. But when in doubt uA pair of crampons in your backpack can solve a lot of problems: as we explained in this article, they cost a few tens of euros, weigh little and take up little space, they slip over your shoes and work exactly like snow chains. A real master key.

4. Watch out for the cold (and the heat)

Sudden temperature changes in the mountains are the rule, both in summer and even more so in winter. It’s a moment to go from a sunny mountain pasture where you can take off your jacket and sweatshirt to a shaded gully where the cold penetrates your bones. It’s still: It’s easy to sweat profusely while walking uphill and find yourself drenched in sweat and feeling cold at the first stop. The advice is well-known but it is always worth repeating: dress in layers, in synthetic or natural technical fabrics (for example suitably processed merino wool), and always also have a shell with you against any precipitation and at least a baselayer, the first layer in contact with with skin, spare.

5. Watch your trousers

There are many who think this way: I go for a walk, even jeans are fine. Then the jeans, which are made of cotton, get soaked in snow, the cotton retains moisture, the fabric sticks to the skin, and you feel cold or struggle to walk. So also for the trousers technical fabric is bettereven better if really waterproof (water resistant) and not simply water proof o water repellant (which means that it lets rain droplets slide off, certainly not that it doesn’t let moisture pass through when in contact with the snow).

6. Fill up on energy

Just walking in the mountains, up and down, burns a lot of energy. Doing it in winter, in the cold, burns even more. And running out of energy in the mountains is a bit like cycling: it takes the cuddle and your legs no longer work. Not that it is necessary to carry who knows what with you, but chocolate, dried or nut fruit, biscuits can really solve the situation.

7. Watch out for thirst

The classic mistake: it’s winter, it’s cold, I’m in the snow, I won’t be very thirsty. And yet exactly the opposite is true: even in the cold, liquids are consumed quickly, if not faster. While it is difficult to notice it even just from sweat in the summer, in the cold in the winter it is more difficult to regulate. So always have something to drink in your backpack, even better if a thermos with a hot drink (which doesn’t get too cold by the hour).

8. Don’t trust your smartphone

In the sense of not trusting that you can always check the road only on your smartphone. First of all, because smartphone batteries last less in the cold, and it could leave you suddenly. And then why the signal in the mountains is not always guaranteed. So don’t trust your smartphone too much, a traditional map or paper map is still the most reliable and low-cost solution (or there are also GPS navigators for the mountains, but obviously they have a different cost).

9. Don’t trust your smartphone / 2

Even in the unfortunate event that I had to request help or assistance Don’t trust your smartphone too much. Calling is not always possible, and rescuers are not always able to reconstruct the position of hikers from a simple phone call. If you can’t afford a satellite locator, at least download the Where Are You App from the European Rescue number 112 through which they can geolocate you immediately (we’ve explained how to be found by mountain rescue in this article).
Credits photo: erge from Pixabay

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2023-12-05 08:37:47
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