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Winter Mountaineering

By Martin Chester

Whether you are a committed winter walker, going winter mountaineering or even a winter climber, this could be for you. So much of a winter day out in Britain involves sensible mountaineering decisions. The secret to a safe day out in winter is often to think ahead a bit more than summer. Here are a few ideas:


Stop to gear up (or have a brew/change layers) in safety. What's above you? Could that slope avalanche upon you? Could that other team fall or knock things on you? There is rarely 'safety in numbers' in winter time. Be organised with that kit as well. Put something down in Winter and it will be gone!


Winter Mountaineering

Put your crampons on sooner rather than later. It's so easy to delay the decision, and put it off, linking one snow patch to another boulder field etc. Before you know it you are teetering around on a steep frozen slope trying to balance on one foot, putting crampons on with one hand. If you think they might help put them on ASAP. That said:

Think Ahead About Terrain/Route

As always - think ahead. Don't stop to put crampons on if you could go round the tricky patch. Is this your spikes on for the whole day? Don't forget good 'old fashioned' skills like cutting a few steps to cross an awkward patch, or cutting a stance to gear up in. They knew what they were doing those old timers!

Think Ahead About Stopping

Think ahead again - it's nice and sheltered here, but what about round the corner, or the other side of the ridge, or over the top of the corrie? If you are about to head into the full force of the weather, stop before you do. Put an extra layer on now, have a drink and some food, have a look ahead at the navigation. You may even take a crucial bearing now - while you're comfy. It beats battling that map and compass in a storm once you are on the plateau.


Winter Mountaineering

Think ahead about conditions. If things are great where you are - where are you going next? As we travel around the mountains things get colder as we get higher, more windy as we round the corner, more deeply drifted as we reach a sheltered place, etc. Where are you going next - will things be getting safer or worse, what about later on, or your way off the hill?


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