Postholing is a miserable way to spend a winter hike. Imagine the type of hole a fencepost sinks into: Narrow, straight, deep. Now imagine taking a step on what you think is hard-packed snow, only to hit a soft spot and sink straight down into it. Your leg creates, then immediately occupies, a posthole in the snow.

Once you’ve started postholing, the only way to make forward – or backward – progress is by pulling each half-buried leg straight up out of the snow before you take your next step.

This takes a lot of energy and shortens your stride quite a bit. If you sink in really deep, say up to the hip, just extracting your leg from the hole is a real chore.

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