/ Doing summer ML in November/December?

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SenzuBean - on 11 Oct 2016
So for various reasons I might need to do my ML in November/December. I'm wondering if anyone has done so before, and can offer any advice? What happens if there's lots of snow about? How did the short daylight hours affect things? i.e. were objectives scaled back, or was it lots of walking in the dark? Anything else to be aware of over an assessment earlier in the year?

Thanks for any advice
Alex Riley on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

Its colder, so warmer sleeping bag. You dont have to wait until the wee hours for night nav (bonus). A good assessor will know good mountainous areas which are at a low altitude. I did my ml training in north wales in Feb a few years ago. We managed for the most part to stay out of the snow (of which there was plenty), whilst still ticking all the relevant boxes, if not many summits.


Si Withington - on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

FWIW, when I did my summer ML assessment it was during November. There was one occasion when we passed over Ore Gap that the assessor 'took over' due to us being in winter conditions for a short period (a foot of snow on the ground) but this was only at height on one evening. I do remember having to clear my compass of slush and sleet quite a bit during night nav, but I'd say it was no worse than a bad-weather early summer ish night on the fell.

I'd say the shorter daylight hours are an advantage anyway, as we walked into camp both nights on exped in the dark, thus ticking off night nav early and meaning that when we'd pitched camp, we stayed in our tents until morning.
ian caton on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

The weather can be truly awful.
Ron Rees Davies - on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

If you're doing it in N Wales / Lakes there's rarely continuous snow cover / sub zero temps in Nov / early Dec. Feb- April can be worse.

Providers in Scotland will be well aware of possible issues and won't be offering assessments if they don't have alternative plans.

Shorter days mean if you make any navigation mistakes in the daytime you have less opportunity to make it up later in the day, but conversely you're not having to wait till midnight to do the night navigation legs, so get more rest.

Kit can be heavier (winter weight sleeping bag and more layers) which in turn makes getting your temperature/clothing management right more difficult.
SenzuBean - on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to Alex Riley:

> Its colder, so warmer sleeping bag.

That will also mean bigger sack too, so presumably the amount of travel is quite short?

> You dont have to wait until the wee hours for night nav (bonus).

That is good
SenzuBean - on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to Si Withington:

> FWIW, when I did my summer ML assessment it was during November. There was one occasion when we passed over Ore Gap that the assessor 'took over' due to us being in winter conditions for a short period (a foot of snow on the ground) but this was only at height on one evening. I do remember having to clear my compass of slush and sleet quite a bit during night nav, but I'd say it was no worse than a bad-weather early summer ish night on the fell.

No ice axes being carried then?
That is a very interesting experience however and reassures me somewhat.

> I'd say the shorter daylight hours are an advantage anyway, as we walked into camp both nights on exped in the dark, thus ticking off night nav early and meaning that when we'd pitched camp, we stayed in our tents until morning.

Bonus indeed. I guess the fact that you're night navving to the camp site means the objectives aren't so arbitrary as well.
SenzuBean - on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to ian caton:

> The weather can be truly awful.

Yes I'm dreading the freezing sleet and wet snow to be honest
SenzuBean - on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to Ron Rees Davies:

> If you're doing it in N Wales / Lakes there's rarely continuous snow cover / sub zero temps in Nov / early Dec. Feb- April can be worse.

I was thinking of doing it in Scotland (partially because I likely wouldn't be familiar with the hills, and partially because it's more similar to New Zealand, where I'd like to operate) - but realistically most of my experience is in England/Wales, so it might be a daft idea.

> Shorter days mean if you make any navigation mistakes in the daytime you have less opportunity to make it up later in the day

That's good to know.

> Kit can be heavier (winter weight sleeping bag and more layers) which in turn makes getting your temperature/clothing management right more difficult.

Also good to know.
girlymonkey - on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

I did mine in Scotland in November. I chose to do it as late as possible for the night navigation being at sociable hours - i like my sleep!

There was snow, first weekend of skiing for the season, so we went quite a distance to get snow free hills. It was fine though.
Oli Greg - on 11 Oct 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

Thanks for asking this, I have my assesment early December in north Wales.
A colleague did his assesment in late October and recommended it as you weren't up too late waiting for and completing the night nav.

On my training the the leaders talked about 'winter' assesments, they have plenty of lower level areas you can visit and still cover the requirements and they have done their 'wild' camps fairly close to the valley if needed.
saintlade - on 12 Oct 2016
In reply to SenzuBean: Reiterating mostly what others have said. If you're doing it in North Wales there's unlikely to be full on snowy wintery conditions (the weather can be much worse!) but the fact that you can get some proper poor visibility conditions through the day and shorter daylight hours means you might not be hanging around quite so long for night nav which is a bonus.

Wainers44 - on 12 Oct 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

Mine was split Lakes and Snowdonia in early December. Weather in Wales was ok and the night Nav was indeed at a nice early hour.

Lakes was interesting. Weather blew up worse than forecast. Night was spent waiting for the tent to take off, and by morning 3 out of 5 tents had been damaged (Terra Nova stuff, expensive!). Watched the top 4 inches of Sprinkling Tarn get torn off by the gale and dumped in a wall of water on the grass alongside. Assessor decided it was time to find something a bit lower....

A little rough stuff gives you the chance to show that you know what you are doing, Nav and camping skills and organisation/leadership especially. Much more interesting!!
LJC - on 12 Oct 2016
In reply to Wainers44:

I did my ML in the first week of November in north Wales. Sleet, snow, and freezing temps all week! Whilst it was still 'summer conditions' (e.g no crampons etc) it definitely added to the challange.

The worst part for me was security on steep ground. Standing around waiting for 20 minutes, for someone who wasn't confident to tie a loop round a block, I felt like I might actually need hoisting up the hillside!

As others have said, the possibility for poor visibility and early darkness can mean less night nav. I think I was in my bag asleep by 10:30pm that night.

The last two days we had utterly foul weather. 110mph gusts, sleet, constant rain. We were asked to do the absolute minimum. I think it's actually quite good for the examiners because in those conditions you can really see who has got it together and can function effectively.

Gavin - on 12 Oct 2016
In reply to LJC:

I did my assessment in December in Wales and we had sub zero temps, but no snow.

Things I remember were that the assessor stopped us as darkness fell ~4:30 to get the tent up and then we had a couple of hours rest/brews before going out for 2hrs of night nav. It wasn't until we returned to the tent that we cooked the evening meals so that we could eat and go to bed, thus being fed and warm (and getting a full night of sleep).

We were lucky that we had clear and starry nights, much to the disgust of the assessor, who was hoping for a 'pea souper'. As for staying low, we still crossed the summit of Snowden!

One thing that he did acknowledge was that, for the most part, people who book assessments in the winter months must be reasonably confident of their abilities as they would be expecting poorer conditions to work in.
SenzuBean - on 12 Oct 2016
In reply to Gavin:

> One thing that he did acknowledge was that, for the most part, people who book assessments in the winter months must be reasonably confident of their abilities as they would be expecting poorer conditions to work in.

I was afraid of that. I don't have any choice as to when I do it really, but it's good to know to be prepared for what could be a proper battle

Ron Rees Davies - on 12 Oct 2016
In reply to Gavin:

> we still crossed the summit of Snowden!

They should have failed you for bad spelling then !
Dave Perry - on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

I did my assessment in N.Wales and there was snow around some of the areas we used. As we crossed the stuff the assessor quite rightly stated that we were not being assessed whilst we crossed the snow slope.

As for the darkness. As others have said, it simply means you'll be in your bag earlier rather than wandering around much later in the short summer nights.
Gavin - on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to Ron Rees Davies:

And to think I was being so careful to make sure I avoided calling Yr Wyddfa Mount Snowdon!
Lantys Tarn - on 13 Oct 2016
In reply to Gavin:

I done mine with PYB November last year, weather was awful and the course director mentioned it was some of the worst conditions he'd personally ever assessed on. Course was brilliant and they took a common sense approach to things by not adding anymore 'challenge' etc than was required. I think on both nights of exped we were in sleeping bags and fed by about 8pm ready for sleep. They stressed that in those conditions it was as much about showing you could be comfortable in the mountains for a few days as much as anything else. I enjoyed it and found it wasn't as hard as I had expected
SenzuBean - on 26 Oct 2016
In reply to Oli Greg:

> Thanks for asking this, I have my assesment early December in north Wales.

Out of interest who is it with? I'm now looking at an assessment starting 5th December also in North Wales (with Phil). Might be an idea to do some practice on the Saturday beforehand if you're up for it.
lordyosch - on 30 Oct 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

I trained in north Wales in February half term. There was snow higher up but in the lower reaches the glyders and the carneddau we were fine.

I did the assessment in October half term and as others have said, no late nights for night nav was a bonus.


I was advised not to be assessed in summer to avoid the very late nights!
Roadrunner5 - on 05 Nov 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

I did my training in February, in the snow. Night nav was so easy. snow on the ground, a moon, it was like day light.

I then did the assessment a few months later in May and it was much harder in clag but was fine.

There's still plenty of hours in the day, we typically weren't out that long.

I'd day loads of clothes, keep warm, eat loads, its normally pretty slow walking so wear more than you probably normally would.

m0unt41n on 10 Nov 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

Did mine at the end of Nov north wales. Cold, wet, rained for a solid day. In fact it was so bad it was good since you just accepted it and we all helped each other. I suspect cold drizzle would have been worse in an odd way. Make sure your sleeping bag is in a waterproof bag. The Sea to Summit Ultra Sil compression bag is really good. You can compress the sleeping bag but it is still waterproof as the end is Event so it lets the air out but not the water in.

I used dehydrated meals so just poured boiling water into the meal bag and stir. Not going to win any awards for taste but no mess, no clearing up, you eat out of the bag, no pans etc
SenzuBean - on 10 Nov 2016
In reply to m0unt41n:

> Did mine at the end of Nov north wales. Cold, wet, rained for a solid day. In fact it was so bad it was good since you just accepted it and we all helped each other. I suspect cold drizzle would have been worse in an odd way. Make sure your sleeping bag is in a waterproof bag. The Sea to Summit Ultra Sil compression bag is really good. You can compress the sleeping bag but it is still waterproof as the end is Event so it lets the air out but not the water in.

> I used dehydrated meals so just poured boiling water into the meal bag and stir. Not going to win any awards for taste but no mess, no clearing up, you eat out of the bag, no pans etc

Good advice there. Mine is in a waterproof bag atm.

I've found some dehy meals as well and am gonna test shortly.

I'm mostly worried about the nav - even though I'm pretty okay at nav. I think the problem is that in practice when I do nav I tend to try and move between features where you can seek the highest/lowest ground (since that's so easy! Just take a rough bearing to a ridge, whack up the side, you're now on top, whack to the highest point - rinse and repeat, job done), but I have felt in the past that this wasn't a "real" technique.
An Exiled Northerner - on 11 Nov 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

I did my ML in November, on the expedition we walked well into darkness, but then we didn't have to go out again when in camp. A colleague of mine did his in July and he was doing night nav at 0200.
I got wet through on the first day as the weather was horrendous. I never really dried out for the rest of the exped. I took a decent sleeping bag which made a massive difference to my moral as at least I was warm.
We had a little snow on the second day, but we just kept going.
drunken monkey - on 11 Nov 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

Did mine in mid December in North Wales. Shorter days, so don't plan epic routes.

Gets dark early so you'll at least get the night navigation stuff out the way early and in the tent at a reasonable time.

Take the best sleeping bag you can afford/carry. We didn't - it was pretty miserable. I slept with dachstein mitts on my feet!
SenzuBean - on 11 Nov 2016
In reply to drunken monkey:

> Take the best sleeping bag you can afford/carry. We didn't - it was pretty miserable. I slept with dachstein mitts on my feet!

Hmmm that sounds like a common theme. I have been using my 3 season bag with a 1 season bag inside (and wearing loads of clothes!). But it sounds like that might not be enough. Admittedly the main reason I've been getting cold is my mat (which I've now upgraded but yet to test). Thanks for the advice (and others who I didn't reply directly to)

jezb1 - on 11 Nov 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:

Don't sleep in your clothes.
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SenzuBean - on 11 Nov 2016
In reply to jezb1:

> Don't sleep in your clothes.

Not even a belay jacket that's specifically for camp?
jezb1 - on 11 Nov 2016
In reply to SenzuBean:
Nope, stops your sleeping bag working efficiently.
SenzuBean - on 11 Nov 2016
In reply to jezb1:

> Nope, stops your sleeping bag working efficiently.

I'll give it a try next time. Thanks for the advice.
Wainers44 - on 12 Nov 2016
In reply to jezb1:

You are right, and it makes a big difference, but its amazing the number of people who feel cold so put more and more clothes on before they go to bed!

I always get in the bag warm, even if that's after a run much further than necessary for a last wee! And if I want to really be snug a sigg bottle of hot/near boiling water inside the sock in the bag makes even the coldest night comfortable.

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