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Try Walking Like a Mountaineer: The Rest, Kick & Plunge Step

Walking up a mountain trail in summer is one thing, but trying the same thing in winter is a lot more of a challenge. Snow and ice mixed with steep slopes and cliffs are a nasty combination. Mountaineers use different techniques for traveling across these Hoth-like landscapes to keep their balance and maintain their energy. Walking like a mountaineer isn’t easy, but it has a lot of benefits! Let’s learn more about the Rest Step, Kick Step & Plunge Step.


Saving Energy with the Rest Step

The Rest step is really just a fancy way of climbing slowly to give yourself mini-breaks between each step. It’s perfect when climbing snow-covered slopes for long periods, and the white landscape barely seems to change. Take a forward step with your left foot, lock your right foot behind you, and transfer your weight to your right foot to give your left foot a short rest. Then repeat with your right foot. They key is getting a good rhythm that you can maintain for sometime without additional breaks. With the rest step, you’ll reach the summit in no time!

Walking Like a Mountaineer

Creating a Path with the Kick Step

Kicking steps is a classic mountaineer technique for travelling uphill on snowy slopes softer than ice. To kick steps, you kick the front of your boot into the snow above you to cut a flat platform into the snow. This gives you a stable place to shift your weight, before repeating with your other leg. If climbing with a team, you can take turns in the lead, as kicking steps can quickly become tiring if you’re in the lead the whole time. Each team member should kick in the same steps further, improving them with each passing climber. If the slope is too hard to kick into, you should consider wearing crampons.

Keep your Balance with the Plunge Step

On your way down a snow-covered slope, it’s easy to lose your balance and go for a slide. The plunge step helps you descend without slipping and falling by sinking your foot securely into the snow and creating a flat, stable platform for your weight. Take your foot in front of you and plunge it straight into the snow, locking your knee and bearing your weight on the leg. Use your heel like a dagger to dig into the snow. While this can be difficult on harder snow, it’s still possible to do as long as you dig your heel into the snow a bit. Here’s a good source with more info on the Plunge Step.

Walking Like a Mountaineer

Walking Like a Mountaineer Takes Practice to Perfect

The Rest, Kick and Plunge Step don’t come automatically. If you want to perfect walking like a mountaineer, you need to practice. Grab the right winter gear, and head out to an easy winter 14er to get started learning your new skills today!


Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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