Stay safe & keep going
Much easier this year.. Bookmark this page, tell folks what they need to know , and then show them with a photo if you like. Your report comes in handy when the weather gets dicey. People like to know about adverse conditions but they also like to know when conditions are better than expected.
Winter Safety ideas
There are many types of winter traction devices for your shoes/boots. A good pair will make a world of difference. If you've never used them, you'll be amazed. While YakTrax are the most popular and very effective, There may be better options for you.
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There is also the tried and true DIY Screw Shoes. The Butte Lady has a pair just for winter that she had for for free at a FootZone clinic like this one from 2016 . But you can easily make your own, You can also remove the screws when not needed and when you need extra traction, the devises above usually fit right on top.
Everyone will have their own preference. Best advice is find a system that fits what you do. Some say the disadvantage of YakTrax is they aren't as durable as some of the others, especially in mixed surface conditions. There are other factors to consider as well.
Google it and you'll find all kinds of opinions. When that happens, how do you know which one is right. One thing for sure is an ice ax beats trekking poles in almost every article. But it may be a little extreme on Pilot Butte and it really requires training too. The best way to know is to try, Here's a good list of winter tips and it briefly describe the advantages of using poles. Bottom line is when was the last time you saw someone with an ice ax on the Butte?
Really, the best thing to do is be set up for any day hike. You'll then be fully covered for Pilot Butte. You can adjust down if you know the conditions and you'll have less of a tendency to over adjust. Being prepared is just that.. Don't go out under prepared, especially in extremely cold or extremely hot/humid conditions. Here's a comprehensive list of clothing options to get you going. This is something everyone should think through now and then to make adjustments. Extreme conditions are no joke. If you find yourself saying, "it's just the Butte," you've already made a big mistake.
DON'T BE SHY
This may be the most important tip that can save you from injury or worse. You'd be surprised by how many there are who don't think to do it. LOOK FOR SOMEONE COMING DOWN AND ASK, "What's the trail like?"
Make sure you know what trail they were using and specifically ask how it was coming down since that's when most slips and falls happen. Just use common sense. If they are 20 and say it's great, it might not be so great if you are 70.. Try to ask two people if you can, There is no better heads up than someone who just did what you;re about to do. On the Butte, remember that it may look fine at the trailhead but the north side and places near the to can hold ice and snow for weeks. Ask even if you're pretty sure there are no problem spots.
ADJUST YOUR GOAL
Common on the Butte is a situation where going up or down is great at first and then you start running into problems on the north side. Many people push through wanting to get to the top. Just keep in mind that it's always harder to come down and therefore less safe. Injuries in winter are a bummer. You don't want to be sidelined for weeks or months when it's much harder to get exercise to begin with. Consider going up to the problem area two times and enjoying the views on the way instead of the one on top.
A lot of people hike up the nature trails and down the road in winter. On the whole the nature trail can be more dangerous coming down. But it can be the exact reverse sometimes. Follow the advice in "don't be shy" above and you'll minimize your risk for injury.
Check the weather, then adjust
If it is windy anywhere in town, it's often windiest on the Butte. The wind can be howling on the Butte and barely noticeable less than a mile away. It can also be much colder on top or much warmer in the case of an inversion. Checking the forecast helps but getting to know how weather happens on the Butte can help at least as much. Pay attention and ask questions and you'll be a Butte weather experts in no time.