/ NEW ARTICLE: Ten Top Tips for Winter Climbing
From boots and gloves through to how to dance on a belay; after reading this you'll be ready to tackle all that the UK winter can throw at you. Maybe.
Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=3416
Actually you can. Proven by my good self two weeks ago! :-o
Good article Jack. Adam's Last Post photo is great.
Here's another couple:
1. Set off from the car somewhat cooler than you'd like - you *are* going to warm up no matter how slowly you think you are going. If necessary this means just a thin thermal layer and carrying your main climbing outer layers.
2. At the foot of the route change your now sweaty base layer (Usually just the top rather than trousers!) for that nice warm dry one that you packed in your sack (you did remember didn't you?). It takes a bit of grit to strip off in a Scottish gale but it's well worth it.
Never bothered with a belay jacket myself but each to their own.
> 2. At the foot of the route change your now sweaty base layer
Or use merino base layers and avoid the extra faff :P
> Or use merino base layers and avoid the extra faff :P
There is a point where even merino is overwhelmed. I'm usually able to find it. But then I'm naturally very sweaty.
im just a bit adverse to consuming all that sugar. fat calories go further and i notice that partners who go hard just on sugar tend to have a rollercoaster of moods and energy slumps.
chocolate which is also fatty i think is a better option, with nuts, pepperoni and bits of pretzl providing more - and better sustained - calories for the same handful.
I wish I could afford stuff like features in these articles.
Looking forward to saying hello to the braying jeffries in their trainers wearing 5 pairs of gloves, fumbling with a GPS whilst trying the moonwalk in an expedition down suit with their grannys thermos stuffed down their pants as they try to take a self portrait for a profile shot !
Are you insane?
I once got asked by somebody what was good winter climbing food. I managed to keep a straight face and recommend Yorkies, Mars Bars and Fruit Gums.
Looking back, that person may have at best, lost a tooth, and at worst died of starvation in intense pain. Probably shouldn't have done it.
To the rest of the thread: Some of it is true, some of it just ain't.
I have a belay jacket in my bag, it gets fairly little usage.
I sometimes have a spare pair of gloves, if I know they're going to get soaked. Often as not I have the liner gloves and the gloves that go on over it. They've started to lose their proofing I think, started to get more hotaches this winter. Could be lack of fitness too. Still, hotaches are part of the fun and you have to experience them once.
I wouldn't ever take more than a litre of fluid, normally about 600ml, half of which is sugary tea in a mini cheap stainless thermosy thing. And I'd try and drink as much from burns on the walk-in, and be hydrated before I leave the car.
The person who suggested changing their baselayer - Jesus man! Take less stuff and you won't sweat as much!
If everyone followed all the advice, they'd have in their bag, two sets of baselayer, five pairs of gloves, about 2kg in fluids plus assorted fancy ridiculous insulating case, a GPS (!!!), their approach shoes (!!!!?), and their camera.
How are you meant to climb with all that shite?
The other thing is that there seems to be a lot of bag removal and rummage and assorted faffing.
I don't know what other people are like but generally I make a belay, pull rope up, bring second up, then we continue climbing! I'm not exactly rapid either as countless benightments will attest. If you add five or ten minutes of pissing about taking off rucksacks and getting out belay jackets and all that at every stance you're going to get in trouble.
Seems to me the most likely concern as a beginner is that I will probably take too long on a route and get benighted, or get destroyed by the weather/conditions. So adding more stuff to slow you down and suggesting everybody fannies about in their rucksacks at every stance.
Gear doesn't really come into it, otherwise how did all these routes get climbed in the first place before Goretex, belay jackets and Nalgene insulating cases? And to be honest, you're in the mountains. You're not meant to be perfectly warm and dry. Sometimes you have to get a bit wet and cold so you appreciate it when you get a bluebird day. You're not meant to have somebody tell you exactly where you are. Sometimes you have to get a bit lost so you can tighten up your navigation.
I'd say to a beginner: don't worry about equipment.
Understanding navigation is important. Fitness is important. Slick ropework is important. Knowing how to climb fast and when to do so (tell me when you've figured that one out) is important. Avalanches are very important. Following the weather before and during is important. Hot squash is nice, but it isn't important.
Camera...I've never had one and it's never really made much of a difference. I'm on facebook so partners often take photos, and it is nice to see them. But I've never really seen a photo that's done a route justice after the fact, and quite often they make it look really easy when it felt really hard!
abrasive and on the mark.
Amongst all that telling other people what to do you just slip in that you've been benighted "countless" times? To be benighted once is unfortunate, to be benighted twice is positively careless.
> Amongst all that telling other people what to do you just slip in that you've been benighted "countless" times? To be benighted once is unfortunate, to be benighted twice is positively careless.
steady on Toby, he may be hard of counting?
I'm admitting that I'm human.
Also when I say benighted, I don't mean having to stay out all night, I just mean finishing the last bit of a route or walking off a route in the dark, which I'm pretty sure is a fairly common thing. Should have used a different word.
I wasn't telling anybody what to do, sorry if it seemed that way. To be honest I was questioning whether the gear detail was really the right way to be looking at stuff. I'd never suggest I'm super experienced at all. More observations from what I've been getting up to that I thought seemed relevant.
Do you think my countless late finishes could have been solved by having more kit?
I was thinking earlier Mr (or is it Mrs?) Solo - you seem to climb in some amazing places, so why don't you have a gallery? It would be really cool to see some photos of ice climbing in China or Japan. But in connection I was thinking, and I think you've said it yourself, that conditions in the British mountains are quite different from 'continental' ranges, so gear solutions will be different. I don't think any of Jack's suggestions are dumb in the Scottish context, so don't really deserve Tdubs' dismissal.
Also I've just re-read it and I make it fairly clear on a number of occasions in that post
a) I'm not telling people what to do really, just saying what works for me personally and
b) I'm a bit shit.
I'm just saying more stuff won't make me less shit.
Sorry it wasn't a dismissal. It's just I've never seen anybody else do it and to be honest I hadn't considered it really that big a deal or that important. Certainly not for one of a top ten crucial beginners list. Spare baselayer would be really far down the list, maybe once everything else is dialled.
OK so that was about as "abrasive" as that post got but it was meant in a light-hearted manner. Sorry I seem to have ruffled your feathers.
And perhaps if you had walked up in your fell shoes, you wouldn't have started up the route so late! ;-)
And I agree as well, you shouldn't expect to always be warm in the mountains. I was hanging off a pine tree at the top of an icefall on sunday trying not to p*ss myself with hotaches destroying my finger - and had to keep telling myself spending another 70 euros on gloves wasn't going stop this from happening! ;-)
Yeah I suppose so. To be honest, like I say, I have a belay jacket because I dress fairly light and I've experienced some nasty weather a few times so it's worth it for peace of mind when things go to shit, and my bag always seems totally empty anyway. But it doesn't really get used at all in Scotland much. I'd be more comfortable on belays but I can't be bummed to take my bag off and look for it when I want to keep climbing, and sometimes you aren't meant to be comfortable. I guess it gives me the freedom to not have to invest in a proper expensive hardshell because if it started to get really grotty I could put it on.
I guess what I'm trying to say - my total clothing "system" I'm wearing when climbing cost me between £100 and £200 depending on what I'm wearing. Maybe £250 including gloves and balaclava. Which seems a lot, but many people seem to have spent that on just their hardshell, and then theres everything else underneath and a decent baselayer isn't cheap.
Now, if I wore that super expensive hardshell jacket, and had a belay jacket, and hot squash, and approach shoes, would it change the fact that I'm a shit climber? Not really. Would it help if I was lost in bad weather? Not really. Would it help if I got hit by an avoidable avalanche? So I just don't think these things are really that useful tips compared to the mundane and not especially secret stuff. Fitness, nav, av, weather, ropework, balls. Unfortunately the first and last often elude me.
Anyway maybe I've been being too serious, the article is a bit silly - the dance tip isn't really that helpful considering you'll do that when cold anyway without being told to!
> Yeah I suppose so. To be honest, like I say, I have a belay jacket because I dress fairly light and I've experienced some nasty weather a few times so it's worth it for peace of mind when things go to shit, and my bag always seems totally empty anyway. But it doesn't really get used at all in Scotland much. I'd be more comfortable on belays but I can't be bummed to take my bag off and look for it when I want to keep climbing, and sometimes you aren't meant to be comfortable.
Just out of interest, on the sort of routes you are doing, how long might you spend belaying? If you are doing routes where it might take 15min to lead a pitch, you might have much less need of lots of gloves and a belay jacket than if a pitch might take 2 hours (and then the time spent putting it on would also be less significant!). And don't go telling me that carrying a bit less will mean you can always run up a pitch in 15min....)
Last route I did, I suppose I was belaying in the 40min-1hr region. Although you are right now I think about it, that was fairly long for what I normally do and I wasn't exactly hot. Much longer stances and I would have changed gloves/cracked out belay jacket.
But I still take them and think they're useful for those situations. I wasn't questioning that. If I'm doing a route that doesn't have many difficult pitches or running water ice or lots of soft snow (daggering into soft snow is often the glove-soaker for me) I won't take the spare gloves.
Most people tend to do easier routes with lots of movement, the people doing routes with only pitched technical V/VI and upwards know what they're doing. I'd do more like that if I wasn't weak, scared and mateless.
Anyway I didn't mean to criticise the articles existence or other peoples points of view. I'm glad it was written, and I'm glad they exist. It's just idle debate while I kill an evening where I would normally be in the pub but I have some things to sort out on the computer.
I agree with what you say Tdubs and I don't think your post was unduly critical. I also think the tips in the article are very good, but the key thing is to be selective rather than just following them all. The question of course is always balancing comfort and gear with faff and weight which is ultimately personal.
" I was thinking earlier Mr (or is it Mrs?) Solo - you seem to climb in some amazing places, so why don't you have a gallery? It would be really cool to see some photos of ice climbing in China or Japan. "
I'm fairly sure that ice.solo will have lots of better pics of climbing in Japan than me, being Japanese and a guide (I think?), but in the meantime, if you're interested, here's my blog with pics and details of a few alpine climbs in Japan. It's just practical info for people rather than an "I did this at the weekend"-type of blog, as I'm keen to help non-Japanese speakers to find the kind of info that I've had such trouble getting hold of in English over the last few years... but some of the pics will give you an idea of what things look like out here perhaps.
PS ice.solo... Are you based in Tokyo? I've enjoyed a lot of your posts over the years on here. It would be cool to get out for a climb or a good long trail run together sometime :-)
it wasnt tdubs apparent dissmissiveness i was praising. i like the forthright questioning of the article on some points i agree with - mainly the ideas of refining things, especially the food and fluids consumption bit.
agree, none of jacks ideas are bad or wrong (nor do i think they are all that different from ideas for winter climbing anywhere).
oh, and its just plain old ice.solo, no need for formalities :) i have plenty of photos, but like many things, dont feel UKC is the best place for them. this is just a place for banter, opinion and hearing others ideas whereas my photos relate to work and personal projects. i keep the 2 separate.
contact me personally tho if youre really interested.
fcuk me, thats you!!
been lookin at your site for a while. good stuff.
yeah, lets go for a climb sometime (or a run when it warms up). im out guiding/training for most of feb, but from around the 24th im more freed up.
yeah, im half way between tokyo and yokohama (machida). you?
as it goes im not japanese, nor female. im assuming the confusion is from my then girlfriend starting the ice.solo profile as a way to learn english and about climbing. i effectively kidnapped ice.solo.
the elitist, opinionated and sometimes misinformed stuff is all me tho :)
i will pm you.
> I have a belay jacket in my bag, it gets fairly little usage.
Lucky you. I have been winter climbing for 30+ years and the advent of belay jackets was a revelation.
More fool you.
> The person who suggested changing their baselayer - Jesus man! Take less stuff and you won't sweat as much!
Mmm, maybe you need to walk a little faster.
> If everyone followed all the advice, they'd have in their bag, two sets of baselayer, five pairs of gloves, about 2kg in fluids plus assorted fancy ridiculous insulating case, a GPS (!!!), their approach shoes (!!!!?), and their camera.
Now I'm beginning to suspect you haven't done much serious winter climbing. Have you ever used a GPS on the plateau in a white-out on a December evening? - brilliant.
You said it.
This is such bollocks. You have one belay jacket that get's transferred to the second. You shove climbing gloves down your jacket. No faff - get organised.
> Seems to me the most likely concern as a beginner is that I will probably take too long on a route and get benighted, or get destroyed by the weather/conditions. So adding more stuff to slow you down and suggesting everybody fannies about in their rucksacks at every stance.
This is also utter bollocks. I suffered with crappy winter gear in the 70's and the modern gear and techniques have transformed the experience. Perhaps you should try some of it.
Agreed - perhaps if you practiced what you preach you wouldn't get benighted so often
> Camera...I've never had one and it's never really made much of a difference. I'm on facebook so partners often take photos, and it is nice to see them.
OK I give up - obviously being on Facebook is better than carrying a camera.
Chill Winston. The point is though, you got out climbing in the 70s. Before belay jackets, before £400 Goretex jackets. You climbed the routes because you ticked all the boxes I mentioned first. The gear stuff came after.
The other day I was on the plateau in the dark, strong winds, with some mates. Walked on a bearing, kept to it to the top of the ridge and walked parallel on a bearing ten paces from each other until we found the cairn. It wasn't 100% straightforward, but I'm thick as pigshit and can do it, and have done it or similar on quite a few other occasions and in other locations in whiteout and dark. I guess the point I'm making is you don't need to spend silly money on a GPS to get out climbing. I appreciate it makes life easier, and I also appreciate at some point in the future I may f*ck up and die because of shit nav skills, but I'm working on it and I don't think I'm that bad at it.
I don't actually get benighted that often, it was a throwaway self-deprecatory comment that everybodys jumped on. And in the above example to be fair it's not easy to walk in to Carn Etchachan, climb as a three, and walk back out in January without at least an hour of the day being conducted in darkness. No worries if that's what you've signed up for.
I appreciate you've been winter climbing longer than I've been alive.
I'm just saying, from my perspective, for me, subjectively, personally, for me and me only, not telling you what to do (!) having my belay jacket isn't going to mean I get up a route, and not having it isn't going to mean I won't. The fact I'm shite is. Getting killed in an avalanche also affects success rates, and falling down Five Finger is going to ruin my day as well. Therefore I think they are more important.
Finally, if we're recommending stuff to take have you considered Mogadon? It's just the internet, and what I do won't impinge on your fun.
> This is also utter bollocks. I suffered with crappy winter gear in the 70's and the modern gear and techniques have transformed the experience. Perhaps you should try some of it.
Also, and I'm not trying to antagonise, but you say this - do you really enjoy winter climbing so much more now than in the 70s? Why did you keep doing it if it was that bad?
My clothing gear isn't that bad, and will definitely be better than maybe even 90s gear I imagine, but its nowhere near top spec, some isn't really designed for climbing, mostly cheap non-brands and its almost all exclusively second or third hand. But I don't ever really suffer, and I'm not "hard". It certainly isn't what holds me back in winter climbing and I won't let advertising tell me otherwise. I do think a decent baselayer is crucial though.
As for modern hardware - different game entirely - very glad to have that and that definitely does make a difference to what I can climb. The step cutting thread is an eye-opener, much respect there.
> Also, and I'm not trying to antagonise, but you say this - do you really enjoy winter climbing so much more now than in the 70s?
>Why did you keep doing it if it was that bad?
I was young foolish and mad keen
Blimey you're up late/early. I'm in the US - what's your excuse?
And I did fall down Five Finger in 1979. Probably why I think GPS is great.:)
Glad you survived, doesn't look ideal. What happened?
Sorry I put a lot of peoples noses out of joint - I thought it was quite a good article but I just thought I'd throw in my opinion that a lot of kit recommendations make life easier for those who are already experienced, but getting to that level in one piece is a much more important part of the game. It's really difficult for me to debate on the internet without pissing a lot of people off and my words appearing arrogant or abrasive without them meaning to.
Am I not allowed to be young, foolish and keen as well?
I don't know, I wouldn't want winter climbing technology to develop much more - it's already way too much about the gear. I'm not especially good but I won't blame that on my kit, it outclimbs me. I can't see myself enjoying it more in the future with any further equipment changes, I'm happy with it the way it is. But I can imagine if you were step cutting why you would enjoy it more these days, sounds nuts and big respect.
Having said that, the best tip of them all is the leashless one. Every single time I do a route with my leashed axes I spend half the time swearing at them.
My excuse is that I left it too late to pack my bags for a little alpine jaunt, and have just finished. Now I'm going to bed because I'm off in a few hours.
actually i dont think you can moonwalk in b3s. a flexible sole is paramount to the slide and shuffle. b3s would just stomp.
maybe a move in its own right, but i wouldnt call it a moonwalk.
Well done Jack. Useful tips. I'd add this one - pop a hand warmer in your chalk bag... oops, have I got the wrong end of the stick?
LOL. Yes, that would be a bit confusing! :-)
Tony - thanks for the link. Looks very interesting. And if I ever get the chance to visit Japan, I'll look you guys up!
I've written a long article for UKC that I still need to sort out some photos for on winter clothing - but this is one of my points. Some gear is so cheap now. Anyone who looked at prices of goretex jackets in the early 90s compared to now can see it, and if that's still too much - go to Decathlon - amazing gear for very little. There 6 quid micro fleeces aren't as good as a 100 quid patagonia R1 hoody, but the functionality difference is a lot less than cost difference!
BTW, almost as soon I moved to Scotland and was climbing most weekends (back in the 90s) I got the Buffalo system - big face shirt, salopettes, belay jacket - pretty much all you needed; because at the time, all in it was about 200 quid, which was about what a TNF Guide gtx jacket cost back then.
any time toby. theres some great stuff here and a good scene. can see why japanese climbers do what they do in the big montains.
ive been going out solidly the last 6 weeks, over new year and all, and yet to have anything short of brilliant weather, negligable crowds, access hassles or bad vibes - all within 3hrs of a city of 10million!
just dont tell everybody, its a bit of a secret ;)
No 7: Maps & compass - overrated IMO.
Would have missed out on so many fun epics!
Even if Jack can moonwalk in B3s, he defo can't with crampons on!
Actually wanted to reply to Tdubs in that he may have a good point that like so many other aspects of climbing, 'what is in' is important to remember about Jack's article (for example, given that the median winter grade of UKC users is probably IV-V, how many actually NEED new Nomics - i could buy a pair, but i ain't never gonna be Ueli Steck)
BUT (waiting for the fight between the lightweight obsessed & those with any knowledge of physiology) not being dehydrated will significantly improve your speed up & down the mountain. Obviously, how much fluid you need depends on you...
I would have thought that tip 0, which is surprisingly often ignored is...pack your bag the night before, then get up and out early enough.
> actually i dont think you can moonwalk in b3s. a flexible sole is paramount to the slide and shuffle. b3s would just stomp.
> maybe a move in its own right, but i wouldnt call it a moonwalk.
I have an idea on how I will accomplish said move,it will be filmed and posted so that all will know it is possible and a must do.
and you're blaming jelly beans?
Granted it's not winter climbing, but jelly babies seemed to work for Es Tresidder when he broke the Cuillin Ridge record!
My idea of a perfect day would be to do both :-)
> To be benighted once is unfortunate, to be benighted twice is positively careless.
That is a poor attempt to paraphrase An Important of Being Earnest, but it did make me smile!
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