This article covers realistic situations which you may encounter during SHTF, as well as details top winter survival gear you will need to have for traveling on foot.
Modern technology and snow crews have made winter mountain travel safe and possible.
Crews at local, state, and federal levels work around the clock to clear snow as it falls over the Rocky’s.
Without those crews, interstate commerce would be much different.
Those who live deep in the ranges would be cut off from the rest of the United States six to eight months per year.
Those living East or West of the Rockies would need to journey around the mountains during the winter months.
If you’d like to learn how mountaineers properly use a base layer system to keep warm during extreme conditions, check out my Layering Guide for Traversing Frozen Tundra.
If your new to prepping and are just starting out, check out my article Two week bug out bag layout for safely exiting urban areas, where you can find more winter survival gear.
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You’re skiing on Monarch Mountain for the weekend, and your home is in Colorado Springs, 126 miles East.
As you get off the upper ski lift above 11,000 feet, everything suddenly shuts off.
You have no cell reception and head to the main lodge. There is a large gathering around an AM/FM radio that’s reporting widespread power outages throughout the state.
You understand things can quickly move from bad to worse on a dime, so you start heading back home.
You planned on topping off your half empty fuel tank in Buena Vista, but quickly find there is no power to the town and gas stations are unserviceable.
Knowing that you have enough fuel to travel 28 miles to Hartsel, you head east.
Your vehicle completely shuts off while driving as you approach the highway junction. All of your electronics have powered off and you have no means of communication.
The area becomes still and quiet with no sounds of sirens, distant radios, cell phone chatter, or running engines.
You are located on the western most edge of the South Park Basin, where temperatures easily drop below -30f degrees.
Do not expect significant aid from minor towns along the way. Follow US 24 East straight through until arriving in Colorado Springs.
Depending on your fitness level and equipment, the journey should take between 3 and 6 days.
• Current Location: Antero Junction, CO.
• Final Destination: Colorado Springs (77 miles).
• Closest Town: Hartsel, 12.4 miles (population 909).
• Resupply Area: Woodland Park, 58 miles (pop 7,500).
• Landscape: High dessert, vast basin, few hills or trees to block wind.
• Time of Year: Winter, mid-January.
• Avalanche Risk: Minimal
• Temperature High: 0 degrees.
• Temperature Low: -40.
• Windshield: 20 to 50mph.
• Storm Watch: 12 inches of snow within 24 hours.
• Highest Altitude: Wilkerson Pass, 28 miles (elevation 9,505 ft).
As we move into a second volatile year with high political animosity and unprecedented amounts of doubt, it’s not far-fetched to imagine one thing or another slowing down US production lines.
Oil and gas are the driving force behind the US economy, and without those two, planes, trains, cars, and automobiles would completely stop functioning.
With as unpredictable as 2020 and now the year 2021 is turning out, we need to be prepared for an event like this.
The catalyst which has the potential to carry us to such an extreme point would most realistically be one of the following:
- EMP Attack
- Collapse of the US Dollar.
A quality 4-season mountaineering tent will keep you warm and dry when freak blizzards blow in.
It’s important to invest in a quality brand and choose a 4-season choice, as the style is double walled for better heat retention, and are built to withstand heavy winds and snow.
Make sure that your tent has a proper vestibule so that you can cook without exposing yourself to the elements, and always plan on purchasing a tent one size larger than you need (example; for only one-person, use a two-person tent).
Hiking in winter requires far more gear than other seasons, and if a storm blows in, keeping that gear dry and close is of vital importance.
An all season tent needs to be able to accommodate you and your gear, which will take up as much room as about two persons.
A sleeping bag should be compact and able to stuff into the bottom of your pack. Weight should be around 5 lbs. or less.
Keep in mind sleeping bags range from $100 to $1,000+ depending on the materials used, how heavy the bag is, and its ability to compress.
Everyone’s heat and chill sensitivity is different, so don’t automatically assume that a sleeping bag with a -20-degree rating will be warm enough for a -20-degree night, and vice versa.
If you’re on a budget and want to make sure to stay warm, you can combine two sleeping bags together, add a sleeping bag liner, or wear warm base layers while sleeping.
Use this link to read my winter base layering guide.
Recommended Sleeping Bag:
When sleeping in winter climates and on top of snow, it can’t be stressed enough how important having two sleeping mattresses is.
The cold ground sucks warmth from the body into the earth, so there is a need to put as much distance between the ground and your body as possible.
When outfitting yourself for a sleeping mattress, aim for lightweight and compressible features.
Don’t make the mistake of relying on only an inflatable mattress, as those can easily get holes and leave you with no viable alternative.
Instead, aim for the combination of inflatable and a traditional foam.
Snowshoes are an essential piece of equipment in mountainous terrain, and are the one thing that will keep you from falling through deep snow.
If you plan on crossing an elevation above 8,000 ft at any point on your route, you should secure a pair of snowshoes before leaving.
Trekking Poles are modified and adjustable ski poles with inner springs which are designed to help stabilize balance when trudging through uneven and heavy snow.
If you plan on carrying a heavy pack while snow shoeing, this item will be essential to the success of your journey.
Recommended Trekking Poles:
MICROspikes and Crampons
Micro spikes are useful for when trail conditions do not require snowshoes, and when the trail is icy and poses significant fall risk.
Do not attempt to climb ice waterfalls or frozen rivers with MICROspikes, as slipping will be inevitable, and most likely result in death.
Use crampons for traversing solid ice blocks and high altitude cliff faces and hard packed snow conditions.
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- Book: Wilderness Survival: Staying Alive Until Help Arrives
- Book: Winter Hiking and Camping by Basic Illustrated
- Book: Glacier Mountaineering: Glacier Travel And Crevasse Rescue
- Book: Snow Sense: A Guide to Evaluating Snow Avalanche Hazard
- Book: Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills
- Book: A Guide To Staying Safe In Avalanche Terrain
- Website/ Free Topographical Maps: https://caltopo.com/about
- Website/ Colorado Snow Conditions: https://www.avalanche.state.co.us/
- Website/ Colorado Road Conditions: https://www.codot.gov/travel