Routefinding On Snow

Snow gives us passage over some frustrating obstacles, such as tundra, talus, brush, streams, and logging debris. At its best, it provides a smooth, uniform surface and a straight shot up the mountain. But because its very nature means it constantly changes, we always have to study typical seasonal weather patterns as well as current reports for an idea of what conditions to expect on any climb.

Snow can be too soft to support our weight, or it can be hard and slick. It covers obstacles in our path, but it also obscures trails, cairns, and other guideposts to the route, especially above tree line. Dangers often lie beneath the surface: crevasses, moats, or creeks hidden by a thin snow cover. Unstable slopes avalanche.

You can minimize the frustrations and dangers of snow by studying the medium. (The appendix in this book on "The Cycle of Snow" provides information on snow formation, types of snow, and the creation of glaciers.) Mountaineers let the snow work for them. They read the snow surface and terrain features to determine a safe, efficient route.

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