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Backcountry Awareness: Pre Trip Planning. By Doug Chatten

May 07, 2020

Backcountry Awareness: Pre Trip Planning. By Doug Chatten

Thinking your tour through in its entirety as best you can helps to formulate a realistic & achievable experience. Due consideration will identify weaknesses which can be averted allowing you to maximise your day & increase your safety margin. Contingency plans are a must allowing you to have a Plan B if required & cater for unexpected accidents, illness or mechanical failure.

Doug Chatten

Many considerations are interconnected & will adversely affect one another so a mishap in one area could become a compounding problem.

  • Too arduous a route plan could exhaust lesser experienced group members who are on gear setups that are too heavy for that tour; ROUTE PLAN, GEAR, GROUP

  • A poorly fitting skin could see a group member with less technical experience fall on an icy climb & take a long slip. Without comms they would be unable to raise the alarm….they wished they’d brought that emergency shelter along; GEAR SELECTION, EXPERIENCE, COMMS, EMERGENCY GEAR


Doug Chatten dog boxing in the Australia Snowy Mountains

The following points are not a gear list but some of the considerations when planning for a backcountry mission

  • Realistic route plan to suit the group; how much time is available, is the group up to it

  • Contingency plans; no alternate plan could see you wanting in an uncomfortable situation, set your intentions & preferably only divert to your contingency plans


  • Forecasted weather conditions

  • Skill level, experience & endurance capabilities of your group considering your least experienced members


  • Equipment selection suited to proposed route; heavy-weight rig wouldn’t be suited to a long haul approach, if steep or icy you be needing your crampons


  • Equipment condition; a poorly fitting skin or old glue could see you wasting energy struggling on an icy ascent, do you have a repair kit.

  • Approach conditions & Access; what elevation is the snowline at, does your pack have good ski carry


  • Don’t over-engineer or gear your aspirations too highly. Consider what you want to achieve & be ready to reduce your intentions…..contingency plans! It's ok to turn back!!!

  • Current snowpack conditions; recent instability, cornice formation, wind drifting, icy surface, Snow bridges

  • Trip Intentions; leave detailed info with a responsible person


  • Comms; phone, PLB, spare battery bank, GPS

  • Emergency Gear; you should have enough gear to endure for 24hrs. An insulation jacket, down or synthetic & a lightweight emergency shelter like the Vango Bothy bag & a shovel will serve you well if necessary

backcountry gear

Doug's Mont Moondance 2 Tent setup

It is very important that aspiring backcountry enthusiasts undertake tours that suit their skill level, journeying not far from the trailhead & making a point of debriefing their experience & processing the results. As skills, knowledge & experience develop their safety margin is increased allowing them to undertake more complex tours.

Hurry slowly alpinists... How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

By Mont Ambassador and backcountry guide Doug Chatten of Snowy Mountains Backcountry

Shop Mont's Backcountry range

Doug Chatten, NSW Snowy Mountains

Doug skiing the north face of Mt Twynam

Have you got an adventure story and photos of a recent trip with Mont gear that you'd like to see on our Blog? Then please send it to mont@mont.com.au with the subject line "Adventure Story for the Mont Blog". Please note that we get a large number of submissions and cannot post every story.


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