Winter Travel Tips for Climbers

Ah winter, that magical time of year when snow blankets the earth and creates untold possibilities for endless fun in the mountains. For a dedicated few, however, winter offers some of the best rock climbing of the year, but it usually means driving farther to get to sunny stone. And it’s not unusual to run into some nasty weather along the way that can add to the stress of an already long journey. When it comes to bad weather and driving, going slow is the number one thing you can do to make sure you safely get where you are going. However, most of us are generally in a hurry, especially when covering large distances, and here are some things we’ve found helpful for dealing with the unexpected snowstorm that shows up the day you leave for your week long climbing trip in the heart of winter.

Let’s face it, tires are expensive, and it’s all too easy to let them get so bald that your mechanic refuses to let you take your car home from your last oil change until you promise you’ll get new ones. However, there’s nothing that affects your driving during winter as much as worn tires. If you live in a place that gets a lot of snow, you might have seasonal snow tires you can swap out and put off getting new ones until spring. If not, you should really get some new rubber before it’s too late, or you’ll be wishing you had when that 8.5 hour drive to Vegas takes 14 due to slow speeds through bad conditions.


Now that you are gonna stick to the road, it also helps to be able to see it. Even when you can no longer ignore the heinous noises coming from your wipers as they move back and forth across the glass, it’s easy to think they are good enough. As soon as you switch them out for a new pair, however, you’ll have much better visibility, so you can see and avoid all the cars spinning off the road around you. Most rest areas sell wipers, so this is an easy last minute purchase to make.

This is one of those items that you can easily get by without for a long time, but if you need them, you’ll wish you had them. You can also consider them an alternative to upgrading your tires, though you aren’t supposed to go over 30mph with chains on. For all wheel drive and 4×4 vehicles, this is probably unnecessary for 99% of the conditions you’ll encounter, but if you have rear or even front wheel drive, chains can make all the difference between pulling over to wait it out or continuing on ahead with confidence.

Those are the big three, but there are other things that can be equally important. It’s all too easy to think about the warm stone you are heading towards, and give little thought to what you might need along the way. Your boots, warm gloves and puffy jacket might seem unnecessary at your destination, but if you have to stop along the way to put chains on the car in a blizzard, you’ll wish you had all that warm stuff. Likewise, it’s a good idea to have a sleeping bag and some extra clothes, along with some food and water should you have to pull over and hole up for awhile. Thankfully, most storms don’t just come out of nowhere, so if you see bad weather is coming up, you can plan ahead to make sure you’ve got your bases covered.

In this day and age, there are also several technological advantages for the winter road warrior. If you have broadband Internet, or just a smartphone, you can access relevant websites that show the road conditions of the state you are driving through, as well as any closures, restrictions (chains only) etc. Also, a current membership to AAA doesn’t hurt either.

In the end, getting there quickly isn’t worth endangering your life, so if it gets really bad, just pull over at a safe spot and wait it out. If you’re with a group, split a hotel room and watch some TV while the plows clear things up for the morning. Be safe out there, wherever your winter travels take you!

(I’ve never had any of these things happen to me, but I know this guy…)

3 Responses to Winter Travel Tips for Climbers

  1. Pingback: Featured Road Trip: Las Vegas : Splitter Choss

  2. making sure you have the kind of windshield wiper fluid that doesn’t freeze is kind of important, too. a couple days ago mine was frozen solid and i had to keep stopping to pour water over the windshield while the wipers were going to clear the windshield.

    nick January 5, 2011 at 6:42 am
  3. AAA saved me last year. I blew out a tire during a bad snow storm. Paying for the year membership was totally worth it in that case!

    Gif January 6, 2011 at 2:13 pm
Locals Corner

Bulldog Creek Dog Walk (IV WI 4+)

Hayden Carpenter and Tom Bohanon recently repeated an obscure ice climb on the south side of Mt Sopris. Given a brief mention in Jack Robert’s ice guide, Bulldog Creek Walk is described as being 100 meters of WI 4. What they found was seven pitches of ice in a remote setting that makes for one […]

Connect with Us

Real Time Web Analytics