Winter Mountaineering
Winter Mountaineering School group on Mt. Colden

The drive up the Northway was foggy and decidedly lacking in
snow, though it was not quite as bad as I had feared it would be. By the time I arrived at the Loj, it was in the high 40s and beginning to rain. Not exactly the greeting you want when gearing up for the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Winter Mountaineering School. As an instructor for the school I’d seen this before, last year in fact, and was trying to be as un-fazed by it as I could. Luckily I was arriving early to participate in a Wilderness First Aid course for the instructor corps; the school wouldn’t start for another whole day.

I greeted my fellow instructors in the great room at the Adirondak Loj as we waited for the staff to open the doors to the dining room for dinner. The simple and tasty fare at the Loj is always anticipated by this hungry hiker as is the fellowship and warm atmosphere of this storied place. Post dinner we made our way over to the Wiezel Trails Cabin across the depressingly muddy parking lot and began our first aid course. As the evening wore on, the rain began in earnest and continued on through the night. We had sodden dreams of impaled objects and flap avulsions.
By the time we awoke the rain seemed to have stopped and the world was green and brown. As we set out toward breakfast the tiniest of snowflakes began to fall. During breakfast, as we sipped our coffee and noshed on French toast and sausage, the snow seemed to get serious. We smiled and chewed and thought snowy thoughts.
As we made our way back to our first aid course, the snow was beginning to obscure the muck and mire we had trudged across only an hour before. The lessons went on and the snow seemed to come in waves providing us with distraction and joy as we talked about heat stroke and spider bites.  The sun even poked through a time or two but each time we motioned him away in favor of more snow and wind.
By mid afternoon we’d completed our course work and the world was white again. We celebrated with a short perambulation to check the trail conditions and help work up an appetite for another meal at the lovely Loj. The trails were indeed white and the mud was starting to freeze up.

As I sit here typing, the snow has stopped for the moment but the temps are looking good for the next week and the forecast calls for a chance of snow almost every day. Old man winter may be down, but he’s not out, and the Winter Mountaineering School fun is just gearing up. Proving that old adage, “Don’t like the weather? Wait a minute and it will change.”Photo Credit: Mark Eis

Mark Eis

Mark Eis is a volunteer with the Adirondack Mountain Club and has been an instructor with Winter Mountaineering School since 2000. He lives in the lower Hudson Valley with his wife and two children, anxiously awaiting the next snow storm.