Winter hiking in the Catskills can get dangerous very quickly. One minute you could be trotting along atop a magical winter wonderland, but take your gloves off for a few minutes to take a picture and end up with frostbite.
Water can freeze in your backpack by the time you’ve reached the summit of a mountain when you’re most dehydrated. If you’re layered with cotton and start sweating on your ascent, you’ll stay wet and soggy for the duration of the hike, which makes you more vulnerable to plunging temperatures. Your food can freeze and be impossible to bite or cut up. And then, of course, you can get lost or step into a deep snow pile and twist an ankle, which is easy to do on very rocky summits like Balsam and Giant Ledge.
Perhaps we should call this the Pessimists Guide to Winter Hiking. As we’re all keenly aware however, life in general is sort of dangerous these days wherever you go, and the outdoors is the safest option to enjoy the company of friends and extended family. Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying than eating your lunch while absorbing the views from some the Catskills’ highest ledges and summits.
Top tips: Don’t hike with a hangover. Start drinking water the night before and drink few pints of water before you set out, so you don’t have to carry extra, because water makes your backpack much heavier. Take an empty vessel so you can melt some snow in an emergency. Eat a hearty breakfast. Include highly calorific, but light foods in your backpack like grilled bacon, sliced meat, nuts, chocolate or boiled eggs. Take a hot beverage in a light flask to drink at the summit. Always take a lighter, some pocket hand warmers and a sturdy knife to break ice. Have a full battery on your phone. Most important: take the number of the local forest ranger before you start hiking and tell family or friends where you’re going.
A wild year at Upstate Dispatch is hurtling to a close and due to the uptick in COVID-19 cases we are being advised by epidemiologists, doctors and the media not to have Thanksgiving with people outside our immediate household. The Atlantic declares that there’s only one pandemic rule.
This year’s hunting season seems to be more popular than previous years as these mountains ring out with gun fire daily, one incident shaking the rafters of my house like a thunder clap. Food is expensive and this year has been financially difficult for everyone, but most of the Catskills is open for hunting, and so extra precautions – over and above the COVD-19 precautions for outdoor recreation – must be taken during this hiking season. See links below. Watch this space for winter hiking tips coming shortly.
November has been taken up with research and development for 2021’s TV station, Catskills Air. I’m now taking names of people to interview for my new Women of the Catskills segment for Catskills Air, and my Upstate Dispatch You Tube channel. If you would like to participate, or know a woman of the Catskills you would like to nominate, please email me on [email protected]. Candidates will be coached on Zoom lighting and back-drop set-up.
The Catskill Mountain Club has reported that we have already had four hunting fatalities in the region. Most of the Catskills is open for hunting, so all hikers and their dogs must wear blaze orange when hiking the Catskill State Park. The CMC has published a list of other places to hike during hunting season.