When you have a winter mountaineering accident and come to terms with your own mortality, it’s a humbling and frightening experience. As much as I learned from last winter’s debacle, I knew the that the best way to overcome my fear of winter mountaineering was to get back up on that white horse and face the music.
This winter I have something in my arsenal that I failed to carry with me the previous year: a GPS. This is by far the single most important equipment I have bought and it has saved me at least a half a dozen times when I encountered poorly-signposted terrain. I carry this thing with me on every outing and have learned how to utilize it to my advantage.
The other thing that I carry with me is knowledge of conditions. In the days before a planned outing, I scour the archives of Yamareco in search of recent trip reports. Web cams have also kept me abreast of current snow depths and I have also been wiser in my choice of mountains. This year I decided to only go for peaks that others have already visited.
With the recent winter hiking boom, it means mountains that would usually never see any traffic are suddenly having visitors in the ‘off season’. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t needed to blaze my own trail.
The other thing I rely on is companionship. I decided to avoid hiking alone during the snow season. It only makes sense to have a friend along to help in the decision-making and to share in the memories.
Next winter I will still approach snow-capped peaks with the same conservative philosophy: there’s no point in heading head-first into an alpine blizzard. I have winter ascents of both Mt. Asama and Mt. Tateshina under my belt, and that’s enough to keep me satisfied for a lifetime. I don’t need eternal glory.
What I do need, however, is a supportive life partner that continues to support my endeavors. Kanako is much more at ease when I err on the side of safety.