6 Tips for Hiking Above Treeline in Winter

February 17, 2014


  1. Don’t overlayer. You generate substantial body heat even in the coldest and windiest conditions, especially if you’re powering up a mountainside. 
  2. Leash your mittens or gloves to your wrists to prevent strong winds from blasting away these critical items. Secure loose straps on the outside of your pack or clothing to prevent them from flapping wildly in the wind. 
  3. Carry a simple thermometer to better assess current conditions. 
  4. Though conditions can vary dramatically over the course of winter, as a general rule crampons, not snowshoes, are the best traction choice for secure winter footing in the rocky, wind-blasted terrain of the Northeast’s high peaks. Switch to crampons before you ascend above treeline, where windy conditions can make the switch much more difficult. 
  5. Practice, test, and perfect your above-treeline system before your peak-bagging adventure. 
  6. And, of course, don’t hesitate to turn around if conditions are too severe. Remember: Getting to the top is optional. Getting down safely is mandatory.

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.