Solo in Winter

By Chris Townsend

Winter is exciting, challenging, beautiful. The mountains feel bigger, remoter, wilder. And they are. Winter means cold, short daylight hours, snow, storms. Time shrinks. Everything takes longer. The weather really matters in a way it doesn’t in summer. A storm doesn’t just mean you might get wet, it can mean blizzards, white-outs, hurricane force winds. Snow can bring avalanche danger too. Before every trip I check the mountain forecast and the avalanche forecast, and then decide on my plans. Winter mountains are not to be taken lightly. Especially when solo. It’s not the time to take risks.

Solo in winter 2

At the same time the rewards of winter are immense. Being alone in the mountains as the stars sparkle in a dark sky above the ghost-white snow or the sun rises above a frosty camp. Making a new ski or snowshoe track through unbroken snow in the deep silence of a calm day. Navigating through a white-out with only your skills and equipment to keep you safe.

Solo winter adventures mean self-reliance, confidence in your abilities. There’s no-one else to turn to.

Townsend stands next to tent in snow

How do you start though? Cautiously! Ideally, take a winter skills course to learn the basics of ice axe and crampon use and navigation. I did this many decades ago and it proved invaluable. Then go out and enjoy the magnificent winter world.

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