Summer vs. Winter Mountain Climbing: The 6 Differences

Whether it’s an easy day hike or a week long trek, climbing to the top of a mountain is one of the best experiences this world has to offer. Choosing a mountain to climb can be an arduous experience depending on the size, difficulty and location, but the decisions don’t stop there. Choosing which season to take your adventure can change the experience drastically and present an entirely new set of challenges. Here’s a list of the 6 major differences between climbing mountains in the summer vs. winter.


The first and most obvious difference in choosing a season to climb a mountain is the weather. In general, winter climates present a large number of more difficult challenges than in the summertime. The temperature alone is one of the most challenging aspects of a winter ascent. People move slower in cold weather and the risk of injury from frostbite or hypothermia make the climb more risky. Snow and ice present a serious issue and can make certain routes or even mountains impossible to climb during the winter season.


Another major difference in seasonal climbing is the type and amount of gear you need to take with you. The huge amount of gear required to keep warm during winter ascents is heavy and just the weight can make climbing very difficult. From zero-degree sleeping bags to windproof tents, your pack will most likely more than double in size for a serious winter climb. Snow and ice may also require added gear such as crampons and pick axes that are difficult and awkward to carry.

Length of Time

Climbing a mountain in the winter rather than the summer will undoubtedly take you more time to reach the top. Extra weight, cold temperatures and walking through snow are just a few of the plethora of reasons why winter ascents are much longer. The slippery conditions that often occur in winter also make it so climbers need to exercise far more caution when moving up a mountain. Hikes that seem like a brisk walk in the park during the summertime can turn into multiday endeavors depending on how the snow falls, so always be prepared to spend more time than you think during the wintertime.

Type of Climbing

The type of climbing that you enjoy is another one of the most important factors in choosing a season to climb. During the winter many new types of terrain are made available such as frozen waterfalls that can be climbed with axes or plains of snow that require snowshoes or skis. While the mountain may be the exact same, the features change entirely depending on the season.


What do you like looking at, snow or rocks? This extremely simple question is actually very important in choosing a season to climb your desired peak. If your climbing a large enough mountain odds are your journey will take you above the tree line so you will be looking at either a whole lot of snow or a bunch of rocks. While this statement is seriously underplaying how awesome simple rocks or snow can look from the top of a peak it still holds truth.


If you’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this list you are probably thinking to yourself, why would anyone bother to climb mountains in winter? It seems more dangerous, more difficult and ultimately more expensive due to all the added gear. The answer is just that, because it is more difficult less people will choose to undertake the adventure. As the idea of climbing a mountain is to get out into nature and isolate yourself from other people, winter is the best time to avoid other climbers and hikers alike. The more adventurous choice can often be rewarding.

By Alex Vere Nicoll