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Is winter on the way? Are you hill ready?

Posted on December 29 2018

Is winter on the way? Are you hill ready?

Sudden Stratospheric Warming is in the news and its all about predicting cold weather. The Beast from the East was caused by such a phenomenon. So perhaps in January the white stuff and the cold will return? I hope so, but I also appreciate it will cause all kinds of problems, especially for Mountain Rescue services across the country. In the mountains, people will also die as a result. Why? Well some will be unlucky. Most, (if last time is anything to go on), will be caused by a lack of appropriate skills and equipment. So avoidable. Here are a few hints and tips to thoughts that hopefully will help.

Know the limits of your experience. It’s an obvious one, but oh so true. Winter conditions, be it mountains or The North York Moors, demand expertise to remain safe. If its mountains, get some tuition. There are plenty of outdoor schools that will teach you the necessary skills. Ice axe and crampon skills are essential. It’s not just enough to carry them, they require the knowledge to use them. We stock and use the Grivel axes and crampons. We have used them for years and they have proved reliable.

Climbing a gully slope with axe and crampons

You also need the correct boots for the job. B1 for walking crampons and B2 for more adventurous routes and gullies. We sell and use Scarpa. The new SL Active is a wonderful B1 boot with lots of mountain potential outside of the snow. The Manta Pro is a great B2, but pretty much just aimed at use in the snow. There are no substitutions here. If you need the boot, you NEED it. That’s the thing with winter mountaineering, you need the skills and the kit. A compromise is a compromise in safety.

Helvellyn The Lakes

Even on the Moors, you need the right skills and kit. The main difference is there’s no real places to fall off and keep sliding! (Bar a few, but you would have to be very unlucky/daft). However, appropriate kills are needed, as are kit. No axes or crampons this time, but still some metal on your feet can go a long way. From pavement crampons, (such as the Yak tracks), to more aggressive ones like Grivels Ran, they can provide essential grip on the iced paths.

Rosedale with ice and snow

Clothing is a huge one. While breathability is an issue any time of year, it becomes crucial in winter. Moisture build up in clothing leads to rapid heat loss and that can ultimately lead to hypothermia. Paramo is what we all use, for this very reason. All their clothing is built to allow movement of moisture away from you, base layer up.

White winter is my favourite time to walk outdoors. I love winter mountaineering, its my favourite outdoor activity. However, I have built my skills up over years and have attended winter skill course. I am also very lucky to have friends who have a wealth of experience to share.  I would recommend it to anyone who has a spirit of adventure and loves challenges. However, do it properly, no half measures. Get the skills and kit and push your comfort zone, but don’t break it! Otherwise you might well end up breaking yourself.

Here are a few vids to wet your appetite-



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