What: Snow Travel: Skills for Climbing, Hiking and Moving Across Snow
When: May 9, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Boulder REI, 1789 28th St., Boulder
More info: http://rei.com/stores/boulder.html
B oulder author Mike Zawaski’s new book, “Snow Travel: Skills for Hiking, Climbing, and Moving Across Snow”, describes how to make snow travel a friend, not an enemy. He writes instructions for climbing and hiking in snow using ice axes and crampons.
Zawaski will speak at the Boulder REI on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. about how to travel safely across snow.
What’s this book about?
The basic premise of the book is that it teaches you how to kick-step using ice axes and crampons when appropriate. I tried to focus on the actual techniques of how you kick-step when going up, traversing, resting and descending. Most books don’t give you the talk about the nuances of those techniques.
When did you decide you wanted to write this snow travel book?
I’m not sure where it had initially come from. I think doing some instruction for years with the Colorado Outward Bound school I had thought a lot about the nuances of this, especially in training staff and working with students.
Last year was my 17th year working in the field. I worked as an instructor, training staff and running courses.
What do you hope people take away from this book?
I would like folks to think of snow as a medium to travel on, not something to avoid. If they’re going to do that, there are some essential skills to travel safely. It’s an extension of hiking, but that’s where people can go into the high country and follow a trail and for the most part be fine. But wanting to travel on snow is a big, big next step and there’s training involved in that. You can have not hiked before and just drive to the trailhead and be fine. Climbing snow is something if you want to pursue it, there’s a progression of skills you can work on.
What makes snow travel so enticing?
The reward is that you get to travel in places where at times there’s just fewer people. It’s the standard hiking route up peaks, which is totally covered and blocked with people. Then climbing snow gives you the opportunity of climbing peaks or routes on peaks that there’s much, much less people.
It also gives you the freedom if you want to go on some backpacking trips. If you just want to go hiking in the high country, if you want to go in the early season, then there’s some routes that are going to have snow. It gives you the freedom to travel much more throughout the year, and certainly more safely.
There’s a lot of wonderful routes that don’t require more than what you probably own — a pair of hiking boots. Get yourself an ice axe and helmet and you really open up a whole new world.
Can you share any quick tips for snow travel?
If you really want to travel on snow, you have to commit some time to being better at it. That means finding some hiking up toward the Fourth of July trailhead (above Nederland) and hiking up west of Arapaho Pass. It’s a great little circuit up in there and a great low angle snow slope you can start off on. If you fall, you can slide down a bit. It starts really gentle.
Consider the probability and consequences of falling. When you’re new to climbing now, choose somewhere the consequences are low.
If you’re not familiar with avalanche safety, then wait until the snowpack is stabilized for the year, around May. The best time of the year for climbing peaks is May and early June.
–Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.