Hiking in the Snow or Winter Mountaineering?

Every year, tragedy strikes in the mountains when snow covers the trails.  The accidents are unfortunate, but not surprising. What in the dry, warm months of summer might be a straightforward hike, after snow falls can become full-on winter mountaineering.

Kurt Wedberg, founder of Sierra Mountaineering International in Bishop, California joined us to talk about when a “hike in the snow” becomes winter mountaineering, and what that means for gear, knowledge and experience requirements. Learn basic techniques and hazard assessment that will help keep you safe (and know when to turn around).

This is a recording of a webinar held on January 30, 2023.

Learning More about Winter Mountaineering

You can connect with Kurt at Sierra Mountaineering International. SMI is based in Bishop, California and regularly runs classes on snow travel skills, avalanche awareness, and winter mountaineering in addition to guided climbs both in California and around the world. I took my AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Awareness training there several years ago, and the instruction and hands-on learning was top notch.


The final 20 minutes of the video included live Q&A with attendees. If you have questions that were not answered in the video, you can add it as a comment below and we will do what we can to get you an answer.

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  1. Great video Jeff and Kurt! I wish I could have attended the actual webinar, but I guess this is the next best thing. Great information! I have limited mountaineering experience myself. I’ve next taken a formal course, but I have learned some great knowledge and gained some experience through friends like Greg Glass and Chris Simpson. I’ve been up the bowl a few times but always with someone more experienced than I; and, I’ve done many snow hikes/climbs over the past couple years up Baden-Powell, San Jacinto, and San Bernardino. To name a few. I’ve always wanted to take an Avalanche Course, so I’ll need to check into that, as well as a Snow Travel Course. Thanks again Kurt for a fantastic presentation and to you Jeff for making it happen! I hope this webinar helps to aide hikers to make smart decisions and potentially prevent a future accident.

  2. Great presentation! My biggest take away was that mountaineering is needed anytime you would be in trouble if something went wrong.

  3. I have very little knowledge in mountaineering and it’s something I’ve wanted to dive into more. This webinar had loads of helpful information. I was surprised to see the “common mistakes” section where micro-spikes should not be used. Proper traction and footwear all play a part in mountaineering and it’s interesting to see the dos and donts with them.

  4. The breathing techniques Kurt teaches were very helpful to me for high altitude hiking and mountaineering, with or without snow!

  5. Really great webinar! Thank you for taking the time to share this. I hiked Mt Baldy mid-November for the first time as part of the SoCal SixPeakChallenge and there was snow on the mountain, especially at the top of the peak. We were fortunate to make it back in one piece but it had to of been one of the most scariest thing I have ever accomplished. We did our research prior to trekking the mountain and purchased micro-spikes crampons, but those in my group have had no experience or training hiking in snow. The main trail toward the top was not visible so we followed the same path toward other hikers that day. The video was very educationally and wish I would have seen this prior to hiking Baldy. We didn’t have the proper shoes, just light hiking shoes and did not bring an ice axe or crampons suitable for the conditions that day. We were slipping on the ice too often, and the descent was just as scary. I plan on looking into training services that are offered prior to my next hike in the snow.

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