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Looking for advice on tackling the lakes in December

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 RaulDuke 26 Jul 2020

Hi guys, 

I'm relatively inexperienced when it comes to peaks in the colder months. A friend has arranged for us to go to the Lake District in late November/early December, planning on doing scafell, helvellyn maybe. I'm looking for some general advice on the weather and conditions to expect, I know its hard to predict. Also some advice on a good jacket to buy would be really appreciated. I was reading that a good gore tex shell is pretty mandatory, got my eye on the montane ajax. 

Post edited at 17:45
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In reply to RaulDuke:

Most likely temperatures of 3 or 4 c on the tops with low  visibility (cloud), showers or longer periods of rain.

But could be 10ç lower or higher than that. Be prepared for almost anything and make clothing decisions on the day.

If it was me I'd go on the tops if there was a good forecast for at least some clear spells. But if low cloud forecast all day I'd do a nice low level walk where I could see something.

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In reply to RaulDuke:

Unlikely there'll be much snow. It'll be cold up there and it would be pretty unpleasant on a windy, rainy day (so I wouldn't bother). You might get a lovely calm day with the sun out and a dusting of snow on the tops, which would be fantastic. So you just need some sturdy, waterproof footwear and warm clothes. You'll get hot walking uphill, I generally don't stop for longer than it takes to eat a flapjack, but I do sometimes put on a big warm jacket for flat/downhill sections, especially if it's windy.

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 RaulDuke 26 Jul 2020
In reply to mountain.martin:

Yeah thats good advice, no point in not being able to see anything all weekend  

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 RaulDuke 26 Jul 2020
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Yeah I run at a pretty high core temperature generally so I heat up pretty quick, thats why I was thinking a good gore tex shell was a good investment in terms of breathability if the weather is a bit rough. 

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 C Witter 26 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

Winter is one of the most rewarding times to be on the hills, but it can be pretty brutal in December if the winds are high and there's snow about.

Tips:

- Mountain-specific forecast: https://www.mwis.org.uk/forecasts/english-and-welsh/lake-district
- Get good with map and compass and back it up with a GPS (e.g. OS maps on phone) for when visibility is particularly awful (but don't rely on this, as it isn't always accurate, sometimes you forget to d/l the map or else the battery dies)
- If there's ice, be prepared to turn around if you don't have proper crampons - or to turn around in general if it's too awful
- waterproof, waterproof trousers, buff, hat, pair of gloves
- hot drink in a flask and plenty of snacks
- think about light, set out early and make sure you have a decent headtorch
- put extra layers in a waterproof bag, or even plastic bags, in your sack - most rucksacks aren't waterproof!

Enjoy!

Post edited at 20:40
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In reply to RaulDuke:

This is a pretty useful site to be aware of too

https://www.lakedistrictweatherline.co.uk/blog/fell-top-assessors-job-explained

Good waterproofs likely to be essential! 

But if you get lucky, you might not need them...
 

Post edited at 21:05

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 Dave the Rave 26 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

The two hills you mention are nice objectives but quite serious in both nav and route choice.

A better choice may be Skiddaw from Keswick if you’re both new to hillwalking.

Still a 3000 ft peak but a good path all the way to the top.

I don’t know the jacket that you’re thinking of but any brand will be better than an old school nylon jacket. Try some on and go for the one with the best hood.

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 Jim Lancs 26 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

You'll need a good alarm clock: the days are getting very short by early December and you need to get up and out of bed.

And an efficient headtorch.

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 mysterion 26 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

It's not the month or season but the presence of snow or ice that matters. A walk in December is just a colder version of a walk in June so you need a hat, gloves and fleece alongside your summer windproof and waterproof. If there is snow or ice you get into crampons, ice axe, goggles, an extra layer and extra gloves.

A good jacket? That's the wrong way of thinking. Think only of layers and their function - wicking, warmth  windproof, waterproof.

Post edited at 22:09
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 GrahamD 27 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

Do you have comfortable boots ? There is a fair chance of wet feet which exacerbates any rubs and niggles you might have.

You don't need to spend a fortune on mid or base layers.  Budget brand stuff works pretty well at a fraction of the money of big brand names.

A decent jacket is a good investment. Ideally you want to try it on.  Check it's not too baggy whilst still allowing the arms to work.

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 veteye 27 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

I agree with the several layers approach. It is often sensible to stop briefly to assess what the conditions are like, when you are just short of the summit, and better to put extra layers on at that point, as if you get to the summit and are cold it is not as easy to add layers. Partly as you are colder, partly as it tends to be more exposed and windier.

I would always tend to take an ice-axe, as you may encounter unexpected snow, and a longer, walking axe can be useful in high winds. Crampons are useful with ice etc, but you do not sound as if you have encountered similar conditions before, so need to get clued up about use of them.

Gaiters are always useful to avoid some of the problems of walking on poor and wet ground.

I would take a day trip or similar, to the Lakes, and go and visit a walking/climbing shop, and get advice about such things as an outer shell. I would always want a thicker one for winter, as it is mainly to reduce heat loss from the wind, as well as the rain. On that day, you could take a lesser walk up a smaller hill, just to get a feel for things.

I personally would go out on the less good days, just because it is a good way to keep up navigation skills, and I often go to Scotland in December/January to go Munro bashing, for the challenge. I not uncommonly have been known to arrive at a peak in the dark, and come back to the car late: BUT, I always take a bivvy bag, and more clothing, and more food. 

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 AukWalk 27 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

On a nice day it might be similar to a clear summer's day, just a bit colder and with much less daylight time.

On a not so nice day it could be a lot worse than a typical summer's rainy day - think mist / low cloud the whole day, constant rain, strong winds, temperatures just above freezing. 

If it's snowy then that can be beautiful but also brings its own challenges. 

I'd say main practical things to think about are:

Route planning will need to consider when it gets dark, and make extra sure you've got a headtorch and spare batteries (or a spare headtorch). 

Navigation can be much harder in mist / bad weather, so make sure you definitely have a map and compass (as you would in summer anyway) and are confident navigating. Practice measuring distance with paces! If you normally rely on a phone, remember that batteries run down much quicker if they get cold. 

Clothing - more layers, full waterproofs even if the forecast looks great, hat, gloves, consider balaclava and goggles. A synthetic 'belay jacket' that you can throw on over everything else when you stop can be very useful. 

​​​​​Emergency stuff - make extra sure you've got some kind of emergency shelter with you. 

If it's just a little bit icy with very small patches of snow in places then some microspikes and a pair of walking poles with hard tips (or just good balance) will probably see you right. If there is more snow higher up then should probably be bringing crampons and ice axe with you (and be able to use them). Extra hazards to think about too such as overhanging cornices, ankle twisting holes being covered over etc. 

It does depend on the conditions a lot and what route you have in mind on a particular day.  In general I'd say if you stay in the valleys then the main difference is needing more clothing layers, but if you're going up higher somewhere like Scafell Pike then things can be a lot more challenging if the weather doesn't go your way. 

​​​

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 jdh90 27 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

In 2016 I was making regular visits to Borrowdale, I remember there was a dump of snow really early in the season, perhaps even early November.  As others have mentioned snow and ice makes it more serious.  Crampons (not all boots are suitable for them) and ice axe might be required and a change of objective might be wise if you're new to them.

More often than not it's just a bit minging with temperatures in single digits.

Occasionally you get the perfect crisp winters day, bluebird skies all day and you come home with rosy cheeks, unsure if its wind burn or sun burn.  Sometimes the ice lies in ambush on these days and the days are still short, so caution is still required, but these are the days.  Don't forget your camera!

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 SouthernSteve 27 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

In addition to the comments above. I would make sure your navigation is in good shape. Shorter days, grim weather (keeping your head down and padding on), poorer visibility and much shorter battery lives on electronic aids makes a navigational error more likely. 

I would not make the crossing between Scafell and Scafell Pikes in icy conditions if you are not experienced. More generally if it is snowing, exploring the smaller hills and valleys can be fantastic due to the transformation that snow allows. When we have been with the dog, we don't usually do steep and high if winter conditions, but we have had great days out.

If you want to feel snow competent a course at Glenmore Lodge on the use of an ice axe, snow conditions etc might serve you well.

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 RaulDuke 27 Jul 2020
In reply to GrahamD:

Hi Graham , i have some good salamon boots that have already done snowdon and y3p a couple of times but my experience has all been in fair weather. I also have some good base/midlayers , its mainly the hard shell and trousers im short on , my current walking trousers are pretty lightweight.

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 AukWalk 27 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

Everyone has their own preferences on clothing, but I generally like wearing mid weight softshell trousers in winter, like the mountain equipment ibex. I usually find my legs don't get that cold (and easily get too hot if I wrap them up too much!), and if it does get really windy or wet then I'll have waterproof trousers on as well providing a bit more protection. If it is really cold or you just feel the cold a bit more then I'd stick a thin pair of long johns on underneath (merino ones are nice, synthetic ones also fine for less money). 

I like softshell trousers because they breathe pretty well and are easy to move in while providing decent wind resistance and mild water resistance, and about the right level of warmth. Generally they dry fairly quickly too. 

Post edited at 11:37
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 mysterion 27 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

> I also have some good base/midlayers , its mainly the hard shell and trousers im short on , my current walking trousers are pretty lightweight.

Assuming you already have a windproof top I would go for a hardshell top (waterproof) and softshell trousers (windproof and water resistant).

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 Lankyman 27 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

Some of the best money you can spend would be on guidebooks. The Lakes have more than any other area for all kinds of walk. Rather than test your brand new top-of-the-range Goretex on a white out walk in a gale up high, plan for something low or mid level. One of the joys of the Lakes is the sheer variety of options from lakeside, woodland, old mines, waterfalls and fells big and small. Depending on which bit of the area you're in I'd personally recommend the three Lakeland walks guides by Aileen and Brian Evans (Cicerone). Lots of great ideas that you can follow or adapt with the relevant 1:25000 OS map.

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 GrahamD 27 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

I just put lightweight running leggings under my normal walking trousers if it's cold.  For overtrousers worth looking at the sale rail.  They're not something most people choose to wear most of the time.

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 jdh90 27 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

On second thoughts my "bit minging" could be misleading - the commonplace weather goes from here, all the way up the range to "utterly foul".  Another vote for brushing up on nav in poor vis.

Jacket wise, for the last few years I've just worn my lightweight goretex pro hardshell that I use in all seasons.  It was a marmot one picked off a sale rail around 2013 and possibly accidentally a ladies'.  It wouldn't keep me totally dry sometimes due to age and wear in persistent rain, underneath would be a merino t shirt, thinish fleece and synthetic jacket (arcteryx atom, brill bit of kit), with a spare heavyweight fleece in a dry bag in my sac.  I'll often be damp, but warm.  I've just invested in a new jacket for plodding through downpours.  This setup has been versatile and has meant I haven't had kit that only rarely gets out of the wardrobe.

Trousers wise, unless its very cold, I still wear the same lightweight Mountain Equipment ones I wear in the summer, but with a pair of goretex overtrousers on standby.  I also bought some heavier weight trousers but overheat in them in all but the coldest conditions.  You see from other posts that its about finding what suits you.

I possibly had the same Salomons - is it the Quest?  Excellent in summer and they were alright for "warm" winter conditions (though I found the waterproofing near my toes went - where the boot folds during a stride - so I would invariably finish with wet feet).  I found they are pretty shocking on ice and snow.  A friend of mine has used another pair of them in C1 cramps and it didn't look amazingly secure, they're quite floppy.  My other boots are La Sportiva Nepal Extremes, bought to do a trekking peak in the Himalayas.  I use those if snow is on the ground and cramps are in my sac but they're often a bit overkill.

Ski goggles if a blizzard blows in and they sometimes go on for sideways rain too.

Waterproof gloves also recommended - I like sealskinz.

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In reply to RaulDuke:

You need to be self-sufficient and able to deal with properly bad weather and the results of something like a twisted ankle which slows you down massively.  There will be relatively few people out there, so you need to rely on yourselves.  For me that's the most noticeable thing about winter walking - compared to summer the chance of bad weather is much increased, and meeting someone who can help with difficulties is much reduced.  Everyone else has said everything else you need to consider.

Oh - keep your eye in - make sure you're getting out regularly so you don't go straight from summer walking straight into winter walking.

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 RaulDuke 27 Jul 2020
In reply to Toerag:

Yeah i tend to out for a long walk every saturday , for fitness and also to test out combinations of clothing in different conditions. 

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 RaulDuke 27 Jul 2020
In reply to jdh90:

Yes its the salamon quest 4d gtx , theyve been great to be honest and have done alot of miles but mainly in fair weather. The only bad weather they see is standing on the sidelines watching my son play football through winter which they have stood up pretty well so far , always staying warm and dry. Theyre probabaly around 5 years old now, they were bought for my first y3p.

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 jdh90 27 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

Yeah those are the ones I had, so does the mate I referred to.  Really comfy straight out of the box and good ankle support.  Only niggle was the kind of outward flare the sole has made edging on smaller footholds when scrambling difficult, the rubber rolls off the hold.  Had two pairs of them and the 3D before that.  I think I tend to go onto my toes quite a bit as I walk, especially when going uphill.  This might have been the reason for the waterproofing to go in the crease near the big and little toes, maybe tramping through bog got some grit worn into the membrane too.  I didn't blame poor design for the leak, rather abuse.  If yours are like mine though, then after a few years they might be looking a bit worn underneath.  They were my day-to-day shoe when living in a ski resort and got a good test tramping up the piste to my digs after trips to the supermarket or pub.  In deep fresh snow and slush they were slippy but not awful, on refrozen snow or ice, or shallow snow/slush overlying a hard surface I'd quite often be on my arse.  So I wouldn't be super confident in them in a snowy/icy flavour lake district and would think twice of say striding edge with some snow or cold temps on it.  If temps are high enough that its all thawed and rain I'd say they're fine though.  Last year I changed to a pair of scarpas, about the same price bracket but noticibly stiffer and a bit chunkier on the tread and been really happy with them.  I think I'd trust these a little bit more and they look as if they would cope with a crampon a bit better.  I can't recall if they saw any snow and ice this winter or if I exclusively wore the bigger boots.  I've also had the option of the bigger boots for as long as I've been doing snowy and icy, so others might disagree on my take on the quests.

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 RaulDuke 27 Jul 2020
In reply to jdh90:

They are the only proper walking boots I've owned so my experience is pretty limited but I appreciate your opinions and If I remember right I think someone actually recommended scarpa boots at the time I bought them. 

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 jdh90 27 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

This blog post explains the difference between different types of boots and suitability for crampons.

https://www.stevenfallon.co.uk/blog/2018-02-16-winter-boots.html

Or a similar UKC article https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/skills/series/top_tips/ten_top_tips_for_buying_winter_boots-11445

If you get proper winter conditions, or that's the sort of thing you aspire to, then new boots might be in order (I know its never a nice thing to hear!).  Also, some instruction on how to use the equipment properly, if you don't have an experienced mentor to learn from.

As mentioned up-thread, it hard to predict if the lakes will see those conditions at that time of year, sometimes it comes in, other times it doesn't.

Otherwise, go in with the mindset that you might need to change the objectives in order to stay safe.

And with some research, the new scarpas I have are still only B0 so still wouldn't take a crampon safely - I'll stick to my Nepals.  And I should have a word with that friend of mine about wearing crampons with his quests!

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 RaulDuke 27 Jul 2020
In reply to jdh90:

Thankyou very much, those links are great, me and my friend did actually speak about sorting out some sort of crampon/axe training at some point in the future 

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 Dave the Rave 27 Jul 2020
In reply to RaulDuke:

The jacket you’re looking at has some good reviews and should more than suffice with your other layers. 

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 RaulDuke 27 Jul 2020
In reply to Dave the Rave:

Thankyou  

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