Getting Ready for Winter Mountain Adventures

One of my (now not so secret) lock-down guilty secrets is a weird enjoyment of really bad horror films. You know, the ones where victims end up running through the woods in the dark with no light and manage not to run in to any number of trees or trip down a rabbit hole, despite the pitch-black darkness. If only they’d had a decent torch…

So with that obtuse introduction, on to the matter in hand… we are now well in to the time of year when it’s darker longer than it’s light, cold more often than not and wetter than the pocket of the proverbial otter and occasionally snow and/or ice covered. Andy’s night-time bike riding highlights just some of the hazards of venturing out after dark. Or more likely becoming caught out by darkness when your plans go awry.

If we follow the #beadventuresmart messaging then we have a good guide to the extra precautions we need to take

Know what the weather is doing… check a reliable forecast. The Mountain Weather Information Service is a good one and covers other regions as well. Weatherline: Daily Lake District mountain weather forecast is also excellent and includes an assessment of conditions by real humans who walk up Hellvellyn almost every day of the winter season.

Have you got the right gear… waterproof jacket and trousers, decent footwear, and if it’s likely to snow or freeze then crampons as well (or at least shoe grippers). An ice axe is also essential for negotiating frozen ground. Warm clothing, and a spare jacket, and some kind of shelter eg a bothy bag or survival bag. A headtorch plus a spare is essential. The torch on your phone is not adequate (poor light, handheld, and with the battery already hammered by a day’s use for all the other things you’ll have done with it).

Have you got the skills…  can you navigate well enough? Old school map and compass is recommended again because your multi-function phone will have had its battery depleted. Are you fit enough (and all your party members) for the planned days activities? Can you walk, climb in crampons, and use an ice-axe? Winter skills courses are available via a number of providers including Weatherline, who offer winter skills courses on Helvellyn, and Icicle, as well as navigation courses. All involve days out on the mountain with skilled professionals which will be fun as well as provide valuable skills.

For further safety advice you can browse AdventureSmartUK where you’ll find advice on many other activities both summer and winter, for both land and water.

Winter really is a fabulous time to enjoy our hills and mountains, takes a little extra thought and care, but can provide you with some breath-taking days that you’ll remember for a long time.

– Nick