During your winter trek
On the trail, smiles prevail
The whole point of going on a trek is to transport yourself from one point to another. This is what you have dreamed about and planned for. Hopefully your skis are gliding as they should, your backpack is sitting comfortably on your back and the only thing you need to do is enjoy your surroundings. You are following a regular schedule that consists of travelling, eating and resting and life for the most part is pretty simple.
When the weather and visibility are good, simply follow your schedule. While focusing on your next target, you should constantly observe the landscape in front of you and choose the path that allows you to continue onward in the most energy-saving way possible. This means avoiding obstacles in your environment or, if you are in the mountains, following the altitude curve, even if this path is longer, instead of climbing straight up.
It is difficult to move in deep snow, particularly for the person at the head of the group laying the tracks. In order to conserve the group’s total energy, you have to take turns. Remember to look far ahead and plan the route, particularly if you are pulling a sledge, so you do not need to make sudden turns around obstacles in the terrain.
Take it easy downhill
Sometimes the terrain demands careful attention. Skiing downhill in such conditions and overestimating your own ability are the frequent cause of injury in the mountains. It is difficult and sometimes dangerous to ski downhill with a heavy backpack, while at the same time the snow can change at different altitudes and between shaded and sunny areas. In some cases it can be better to take off your skis and walk down the hill than risk an injury or equipment problems after a fall.
You should likewise be particularly careful when crossing ice-covered lakes and snow bridges over hills or crevasses. Make sure that you have a good safety margin and never cross questionable areas – particularly if you are alone. If you are skiing solo you will have major problems getting yourself out of a hole in the ice or a crevasse! Also, remember to never enter into avalanche risk zones and watch out for snowslides in ravines – both when you are skiing and when you are setting up camp.
In poor visibility
Bad weather and poor visibility impairs the group’s judgement and ability to navigate. If you cannot wait for better weather, it is important to plan your route in such a manner that you avoid scary surprises, such as precipices or gullies. Also, watch out for uneven terrain. An obstacle that would normally be considered completely benign can cause serious problems when there is no visibility. Here are some other tips for how to make your trek safer:
• Stay together. In bad weather and fog it can be a good idea to link all members of the group together using a safety line.
• Keep an eye on your equipment. For example, it is good to have straps that attach your gloves to your jacket so they do not blow away when you take them off to adjust something.
• Use a compass. As soon as there is a risk that visibility will deteriorate you should rotate your compass toward a point of orientation and then blindly trust the compass.
• Try to keep the wind in your back. It can sometimes be safer to take a longer route with the wind than a shorter route against the wind.
• If you have to face the wind, it can sometimes be a better idea to take off your skis and walk using your poles.
• Stay calm. It is a good idea for each person in your group to have an assignment to focus on: one person holds the compass, one (or more) breaks the trail, one counts pole strokes, one keeps track of the distance covered, etc.