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Why do I suck at winter climbing?

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Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby CSUMarmot » Mon Dec 12, 2011 5:10 am

I realized something just now; I've never actually summited a mountain in the winter with considerable snow on it. Granted, I dont try very often and usually stick to the snowless lower elevation stuff in the winter months, but I never reach my destination when I slap on the snowshoes if I do try.

For example: Two weeks ago I planned on a short loop (<6 miles, 2k EVG) that included 3 small peaks below 10000 feet. I didn't expect too much snow, but brought along snowshoes just in case. When I got to the trailhead, there was on average of a foot of snow difted across the trail. About a quarter mile in, I lost the trail and all desire to continue, then walked down the road a few miles with my tail between my legs.

Anyone else just get in that 'F it' mindset when dealing with snow? I'm certainly not like that in the summer, I'll walk 5 miles through rain to get to some distant lake or ranked point, but give up really easily in the winter.

Should I find easier destinations to start out with, then work my way up? Before I was thinking I could just blow off the learning curve with winter climbing and attack mountains like I normally would, but now I'm not so sure.

Any thoughts?
Dammit kid get off mah lawn!!!
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Re: Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby goldenhopper » Mon Dec 12, 2011 7:42 am

Sounds to me like you're being cautious. No problem there! Why don't you find someone to go with that is willing to make sure you don't get lost, buried alive or freeze to death? I myself am not one to bag a 10K plus peak in the dead of winter, unless I'm very familiar with the conditions or with someone who can advise.
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Re: Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby mvs » Mon Dec 12, 2011 9:55 am

For a long time I went hiking in the summer, and nothing in the winter. Then climbing in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter. Eventually winter "caught up" in terms of the kinds of things I might pursue. Totally natural that it's discouraging and difficult at first. Back up and go hike some popular/easy snowshoe peaks.

Better yet ditch the slowshoes and switch to AT gear! (oh noes! starting a flame war! :D)
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Re: Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby lcarreau » Mon Dec 12, 2011 12:35 pm

Chris, I had this same problem when I was living in the Pacific NW.

For some reason, it helps to tackle a popular area (first) where you're subjected to peer pressure and better able to work up your confidence level.

In other cases, you gotta have a mentor or TEACHER to give you a bit of guidance and/or direction ..

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Re: Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby Sarah Simon » Mon Dec 12, 2011 3:42 pm

Hi Marmot,

I go out a-peak-hunting throughout winter and have a high success rate of reaching the summit (which I personally enjoy). Here are a few things that work for me - maybe they'll work for you, too.

1. Climb with good friends and solid partners. The stakes are high in the hills during the winter! Having at least a 3-pack of friends means a) trailbreakers b) checks and balances on route finding c) checks and balances on risk assessment d) laughs and good times. Breaking trail alone is just demoralizing and exhausting! It is suffering better shared with company you enjoy.

2. Weather conditions often result in getting shut-out from summits above 12,000 ft. That can get really frustrating if it happens weekend after weekend - waking up at 4:00 AM only to turn around 800 feet from the top, etc. If I find myself getting frustrated by "near misses" in the high country, I turn my attention to peaks below 12k to remind myself that I do this for fun. :)

3. Just like backcountry skiers have their powder stashes, find your own "sunshine and warm rock" stashes - places where you know you can get away from winter conditions if you want (without having to drive to the Utah border) and enjoy warmer temps, less snow, etc.

4. Always have a flask of Tuaca / Irish Mist / Rumple Minze / whatever, handy for long slogs (when the risks involved aren't too high, of course [straightforward route finding, no dicey scrambling, no avy slopes])such as during long slogs through crotch-high powder through the trees on some un-named 11er. ;)

5. Remind myself that even when the going is tough-as-hell in the winter and the summits are elusive, I am out getting more done before 10:00 AM than a lot of folks back in the Springs do all day! I'm not watching TV, shopping at WalMart, drinking beer (until later...) or whatever. I'm out doing what I love, punishing myself in the hills, enjoying fantastic scenery and camaraderie, plus getting a great workout.

6. Escape every once and a while down to see my folks in Arizona and climb in the dead of winter...in a t-shirt and wide-brimmed hat. Changes in latitude, changes in attitude.

Have fun and be safe!

Sarah
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Re: Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby Foxy Long Bottoms » Mon Dec 12, 2011 3:59 pm

Listen to Sarah! The woman knows what she's talking about. She nailed it.

My boyfriend completed his first winter summit yesterday. I know. Technically it isn't winter. There was lots of slogging in deep snow which, which can be so exhausting. All of the guys who exited my vehicle last night were literally groaning due to muscle soreness. It was awesome. We all toughed it out for close to 10 miles.

Tackling winter summits takes a lot of mind over matter. If your body is fit enough to hike the high peaks in the summer, you're probably fit enough to do it in the winter. My recommendation is to start with peaks that are short on the roundtrip mileage and also peaks that already have the trail broken. Have you been up Colorado Mines Peak off of Berthoud Pass? I think it would be a great one to get you started.
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Re: Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby blazin » Mon Dec 12, 2011 4:14 pm

Foxy Long Bottoms wrote:All of the guys who exited my vehicle last night were literally groaning due to muscle soreness.


:o :o :twisted: :twisted: :lol: :lol: :wink: :wink:
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Re: Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby Foxy Long Bottoms » Mon Dec 12, 2011 4:31 pm

OMG! hahaha. OOps.
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Re: Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby blackhawk » Mon Dec 12, 2011 5:20 pm

Or in simple laymans terms...because its not easy or for the faint of heart....and I also agree with the statement of "mind over matter"

Maybe try green or bear mtns just above boulder...they're lower...also anything above berthouds as mentioned,or loveland as well to get to high ground quickly and would be a good training ground for getting in the higher elevation stuff,and you can easily decend and retreat to your vehicle. And as mentioned go with someone. Carry and know how to use appropriate gear if heading into avy territory,avy beacons,shovels,picks...etc...also you can hike at most ski resorts before lifts open to train on snow and know you'll be safe avy wise(for the most part) and there be certified folks around if you get into trouble. This might be a good option if you go alone and can't find anyone to go with you.
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Re: Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby Clark_Griswold » Mon Dec 12, 2011 5:28 pm

If you get the chance, go summit Humphrey's Peak, near Flagstaff, AZ. That and Agassiz are the ones that got me into winter mountaineering. Both very easy, prominent, and aside from potential for very high winds, can be pretty fun with little risk. Sure, aside from Humphrey, Agassiz and Fremont, all on the San Francisco peaks, I've only done one other mountain in winter, Mount Whitney, but that will change. Sometimes you need to get a taste for it on a safe, easy mountain and then go from there.
...
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Re: Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Mon Dec 12, 2011 5:55 pm

Winter alpine climbing is a low percentage game. Legendary winter hardmen, Jim Nelson and Kit Lewis, made 9 attempts before succeeding on the FWA of the NE Buttress of Slesse, a feat not yet repeated. They eventually resorted to helicoptering to the base of the climb to take maximum advantage of the short weather windows.
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Re: Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby Hotoven » Mon Dec 12, 2011 6:06 pm

Sarah Simon wrote:Hi Marmot,


4. Always have a flask of Tuaca / Irish Mist / Rumple Minze / whatever, handy for long slogs (when the risks involved aren't too high, of course [straightforward route finding, no dicey scrambling, no avy slopes])such as during long slogs through crotch-high powder through the trees on some un-named 11er. ;)


Be a competent winter hiker/climber first, if even slightly dehydrated (extremely easy during winter hikes) alcohol can have a catastrophic effect on the body.
"Hey, careful, man, there's a beverage here!"
- The Dude, Lebowski
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Re: Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby CSUMarmot » Mon Dec 12, 2011 8:22 pm

Thanks for the suggestions everyone, Ive got a long break coming up to work on it!
Dammit kid get off mah lawn!!!
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Re: Why do I suck at winter climbing?

Postby lcarreau » Tue Dec 13, 2011 12:27 am

Hotoven wrote:
Be a competent winter hiker/climber first, if even slightly dehydrated (extremely easy during winter hikes) alcohol can have a catastrophic effect on the body.


Great point ! - I've seen guys get dehydrated during the summer here in AZ, just by drinking "a couple beers" the night before.

I think Sarah is talking about AFTER the climb, when she has her feet up in the ski lodge next to the burning Yule log and is listening to Lady Ga Ga ... :D

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