/ advice needed - starting winter climbing
I'm after some advice I've been doing winter walking and summer scrambling (upto grade 2) and would like to do some of the grade 1 & 2 routes in winter, so in preparation could you help with the following:
- what training/courses are available? (I'm based in north wales) or are there any clubs that offer training, I was talking to two nice chaps from Chester mountaineering club on snowdon around Easter time so I know there an active club but would I need training before joining
- what extra/different gear would I need, currently have b2 mantas, g12's, walking axe, helmet. I know I'll need two axes but will the boots and crampon combination be safe on steeper ground?
Go on a winter skills course. Plas y Brenin in N Wales or Glenmore Lodge in Scotland are the best bet. Have fun!
For grade I routes and ridge style mountaineering routes a single axe will do but you'll want two eventually. Whether you pair a semi technical tool with your walking axe or buy two specifics tools is up to you and how in to it you get as well I suppose.
There are plenty of clubs around, google is your friend for that one.
There are course run by the national outdoor training centres Glenmore lodge and PyB as well as plenty of guides offering the same thing. People to keep an eye out for would be Mike Lates (Skye), Allan Halewood (Lochaber), Di Gilbert (Cairngorms) and Mike Pescod (Lochaber).
My advice would be get your avalanche awareness skills Shit hot before focusing on climbing routes.
Have fun :-)
I have been up grade I/II gullies in trainers and flexible 10 point walking crampons so I think you will be ok. Get some goggles to protect against spindrift and a system of gloves to suit yourself - waterproof as you will be leaning onto the snow quite a bit.
> I have been up grade I/II gullies in trainers and flexible 10 point walking crampons so I think you will be ok.
I don't think this is good advice to someone who only climbs upto summer 2, a lot of winter I's can seem harder than summer scrambles, some of the grade I gullies on Helvellyn for instance can seem harder than many grade 3 summer scrambles for example, imo anyways.
You'll be fine on grade 1/2 routes with a walking axe.
Just saying, not recommending. And yes, winter grades seem to be -1 compared to scramble grades.
Grade II ridges by contrast are a piece of (slippery) cake if you can scramble confidently.
Grade III is where you actually start to recruit climbing skills. And begin looking in gear shops for technical axes and screws. Before this level, a single axe and some B1 boots C1 cramps are all you need (for most routes).
Good luck finding the right conditions. And partners.
I've been glad of two tools on several grade I gullies for sure. And found a second axe a hindrance on a patchy grade IV.
Thanks for all the replies,
I thought the boot/crampon combo would be ok but thought best to ask the question rather than finding out the hard way.
So is it a good idea to take a walking axe (or mountaineering axe) and one technical axe in case I stray onto more difficult terrain by mistake?
could anyone recommended any decent guide books with grade I routes (gullies & ridge)
1. Appropriate equipment.
2. Guidebook: choosing suitable routes for your level of experience; identifying when these routes are in condition; route-finding; backing off.
3. The skills to manage the hazards of steep terrain in winter conditions.
I'd recommend the idea of a 'decent guidebook' as the complement to the experienced partners you might wish to consider finding first, or the winter course organised by professionals, or the mountaineering club with a meet schedule suitable for a climber developing their winter skills.
Route finding is not really a problem on easy winter routes in my experience, at least once you have located the start close up! I make do with one walking axe (though with a slight bend in the shaft to give better clearance for knuckles on flat slopes and to allow better placement of the pick on top of any rocky bits) but an additional technical axe is the obvious upgrade. Welsh guidebook is called Welsh Winter Climbs (not the newer one with a similar name), plenty of easy classics in there.
I know its hard to say but in past experience are conditions good in December (they have three dates, early and late Nov and mid Dec)?
Read Martin Moran's 'Scotland's Winter Mountains' and find someone who'll take you out, hopefully they won't be a buffoon.
As they start to develop more experience of different snow conditions and routes, they begin to understand how the snowpack conditions can very dramatically on a route - even within the same day. Route-finding means having the skill to make judgements about the best line to follow on the route; this can take the form of knowing where the snow will be supportive as opposed to being unconsolidated, where potential avalanche trigger points might be, flanking cornices, knowing when to find a belay, and aspects of the route where there is greater potential for injury or worse; knowing how the weather conditions impacts on their route choice - the snowpack is dynamic and continually changing - and so on...
Others have alluded to avalanches above - it doesn't need to be a big slide to have a serious consequence. The slide that killed an experienced climber last week was 4m wide and 300mm deep; he was on the approach route to the climb, and was swept over a cliff band.
Mantas & G12's fine as Cameron said. Heres a few ideas that may help you into winter climbing-
I came from a rock climbing background where grades are pretty reliable and the rock either wet or dry. What took me ages to work out is that the grade of winter routes are entirely dependent on conditions of snow and ice. Grade II can range from a pleasent steep slope to an avalanche channel. Grade III with only 4mm of ice on it is more like grade V! Get to grips with this concept and get out in as much white stuff as possible. You'll then begin to be able to use your judgement as opposed to trusting a guidebook.
Walkers with mountaineering experience tend to transfer to winter climbing better than pure rock climbers. Navigation, weather, kit, early starts, big packs etc are the majority of winter climbing skills; the climbing is only a small part of the day & tecnically far easier than rock.
If you rock climb the rope skills are similar. To stay warm (well your partner anyway) you have to choose a route you can cruise up easily. Another factor I took a while to work out was the need to excavate & bury around under the snow for rock gear. A rule of thumb I use is never go past a good runner.
Last winter Scottish conditions were harsh and extreme; great for climbing but very serious. This was caused by short thaws & plentiful freezes. Often winters aren't as drastic but always err on the cautious side.
I went on a intro to winter climbing course at Glenmoore in 2012.
very good learnt quite a lot.
if you are serious about this I would suggest investing in a good set of axes the ones requiring leashes were fking awfull.
I climbed in mantas no problem up to about a grade 4.
a good instructor will show you more about technique in short time than you could learn just fooling around by yourself.
if youre heading to Scotland don't underestimate some of the walkins with climbing gear in winter you could be knackered by the time you get to the first gully
Never go past a runner, thanks that is a good tip. See you on the cuillin on day
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