Hiking in winter can be challenging and a lot of fun -- and dangerous. Lives have been lost on Mount Washington and other peaks when hikers were ill-prepared, ill-equipped, ill-informed, or simply surprised by bad weather. The Appalachian Mountain Club magazine AMC Outdoors devotes several pages of its January/February issue to winter hikes on Mount Washington, and advises, ''Start slowly, and learn all you can about winter safety before you go."
For even experienced climbers heading up Mount Washington in winter, according to the magazine, ''with well-below-freezing temps, gale-force winds, and snow as deep as 20 feet, this is a serious trip." The magazine urges hikers to ''always take a friend. Winter's not the time to practice solo hiking."
The AMC recommends hikers ''check avalanche and weather reports before heading out and be ready to reschedule . . . if necessary." It also includes a checklist of clothing to take along, including top and bottom long underwear, a lightweight synthetic or wool shirt and pants, fleece jacket, down vest, down or fiberfill parka, waterproof and windproof shell jacket and pants, liner socks, synthetic or wool socks, vapor-barrier socks, insulated boots, liner gloves, and synthetic or wool gloves and mittens, waterproof/windproof mitten shells, synthetic or wool hat, face mask, and goggles.
As for gear, the AMC recommends a day pack, winter-rated sleeping bag and cover, sleeping pad, compass, maps, guidebook, headlamp and other light sources, extra batteries, first-aid kit, water bottles, high-energy snacks, cooking stove, waterproof matches, pot and spoon, fuel bottles, jackknife, an ice ax, and good maps.
The AMC also offers Mount Washington workshops for all levels and abilities. Find them at www.outdoors.org/education or call the AMC at 617-523-0636.